After a 14-month moratorium, Dayton’s school board has approved a new policy allowing Dayton Public Schools employees to raise money for certain classroom-related projects via crowdfunding.
The new policy has some strict limits — requests can only be placed on one site (donorschoose.org) through the school’s treasurer, and only if the school board first approves the employee’s formal request.
2018 STORY: Dayton schools ban crowdfunding after concerns
Educators cannot seek funds for needs the school district is legally required to provide — such as an intervention required in a student’s special education plan — or snacks/treats that “would be in violation of the district’s wellness policy.”
But the policy also says the school board “commends school employees for their efforts to secure outside funding,” acknowledging that “desired enhancements to education programming have always and will always exceed school resources.”
School board vice president Jocelyn Rhynard said DPS went through several variations of the policy before settling on the final version.
“It’s taken a really long time for us to come to consensus … in terms of giving teachers the flexibility to meet the demands and needs of their classrooms, while also balancing the fact that the district is responsible ultimately for things that happen in the classroom,” Rhynard said. “We didn’t want anything to fall through the cracks that could put the district or its students at a liability.”
Crowdfunding generally means posting a request for funding on the internet, hoping that many people, often those you don’t even know, will make small donations to cover the cost of a purchase or project.
Currently, there are more than 100 Miami Valley school projects posted on DonorsChoose.org. The requests range from calculators to art supplies to flexible classroom furniture, and come from teachers in both wealthy and impoverished communities from Centerville to Vandalia to Trotwood to charter schools in Dayton.
In September 2018, Dayton’s school board prohibited employees from launching crowdfunding campaigns to benefit any DPS school. That came after the Ohio Auditor’s office encouraged schools to set formal crowdfunding policies, citing risks that included improper project requests or diversion of donations for private use.
At the time, Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said DPS didn’t want to make “an error in judgment” by allowing crowdfunding and then not having the manpower to control it.
Since then, the board researched the best approach. The new policy was delayed in part because two meetings of the board’s policy committee were canceled for lack of a quorum, Rhynard said.
That delay disappointed some teachers in August, when musician Lady Gaga agreed to fully fund all DonorsChoose classroom projects in Dayton and two other cities hit by mass shootings. Fourteen classroom projects in the Dayton area were funded, including several in charter schools and a few in districts like Mad River that are adjacent toDayton.
Dayton teachers union President David Romick said the union is happy the policy change will allow for responsible fundraising. Rhynard said academic success is the district’s priority, and DonorsChoose is not the only option for extra requests.
“We have some work to do as a district to let teachers know what resources are available to them,” she said. “We have the principal funds, we have the DPS Foundation. There are many ways that we can get extra resources to classrooms before they have to go to the crowdfunding option.”
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