Oklahoma teachers have shouldered the burden of the lack of education funding in recent years, with some expenses being paid directly from their pockets.
DonorsChoose.org has emerged as a tool for public school teachers to receive additional funding for their classrooms.
DonorsChoose.org is a public charity that allows public school teachers to seek funding for classroom projects. All projects are vetted by DonorsChoose.org and then listed on their website to open donation opportunities for the public. Teachers can create projects to receive funding for things such as books, additional chairs, art supplies and more, and can receive donations from family, friends or anybody who wants to donate.
Many local teachers have begun using the website to create projects for their classrooms, such as Rachel Clark, a kindergarten teacher at Eisenhower elementary school. Clark created her first project on the site last week in hopes of receiving funding for a bigger classroom library for her students.
"I remember other teachers using DonorsChoose and receiving donations for projects they needed for their classrooms," Clark said. "So I created a project for a classroom library specifically for my kindergarten students. I'm doing this so that my students can have books on their level."
DonorsChoose.org has partnered with several companies, including Staples, Disney and Sonic. Clark created her project with Scholastic to choose books that would be good for her library.
Clark said she appreciates the transparency of DonorsChoose.org because it gives potential donors a better idea of where their money is going.
"I think it's just nice that you can clearly see where your donation is going," Clark said. "With some things like GoFundMe you don't know if you're money is going to where the person doing the fundraiser says its going. The verification process that teachers have to go through to get their project on the website ensures that people who donate can be confident that they know where their money is going."
The website allows people to search specifically for teachers they want to fund or they can search for teacher projects in their area.
Isabella Crowley, a fellow kindergarten teacher at Eisenhower Elementary, launched two projects on the website that were both fully funded.
"The great thing about DonorsChoose is it makes it easier for people that care about you to support what you're doing," Crowley said. "People can even look up projects in their area and they can even search for key words like 'technology' if they are wanting to fund projects based on technology or anything else. I've seen a lot of Norman teachers take advantage of it."
The companies that have partnerships with DonorsChoose.org may also have fundraising campaigns. On Tuesday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matched any project donations made by up to 50%.
"The people who work for DonorsChoose are doing a good job of networking and finding additional resources for teachers," Eisenhower fifth grade teacher Hadley Shepherd said.
DonorsChoose.org is providing opportunities for the community to provide support for teachers across the country. Shepherd wants people to know that all donations are very appreciated by Norman teachers.
"Even the smallest donations are the best feeling for teachers and knowing that someone out there believes in what I'm doing and wants to help and reach out makes such a big difference," Shepherd said. "No matter how small your donation may be, teachers appreciate every dollar of it."