From the school bus gas fund to the cafeteria food bills, schools across the nation are suffering this year. Throw South Florida's deep budget cuts into the mix, and you find schools more dependent than ever on contributions from parents and local businesses.
A Miami-based charity makes it easy to help local schools. At Adopt-a-Classroom, parents can donate money online to a public or private school teacher for supplies.
The entire donation, which is tax deductible, goes to the teacher's efforts. Donors also receive a thank you letter from the class.
Teachers end up spending an average of $1,200 out of their own pockets on supplies each year, said James Rosenberg, executive director and founder of Adopt-A-Classroom.
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"The truth of the matter is that classrooms are inadequately equipped
for teachers to create truly dynamic and engaging learning experiences,'' Rosenberg said. "To truly reach children, especially ones that are the most difficult to reach, you need things beyond the basics.''
Another nonprofit, Donors Choose, has a similar mission, though donations are designated for a specific classroom project.
Parents who use the Target Visa card can designate a public or private school where the chain store will donate 1 percent of purchases made at Target stores. For purchases made elsewhere with the card, Target donates half of 1 percent of the amount charged.
Here's how that can add up: In March, for one of two annual program payouts, Miami-Dade
With General Mills' Box Tops For Education program, participating public and private elementary and middle schools earn money when families clip the tops from specific products, shop online at designated partner stores like JC Penney and buy books through the Box Tops Books Club. Schools, which can earn up to $60,000 a year, must enroll to participate.
Parents can give of their time, too.
Each school has a volunteer coordinator. To help out, parents must fill out an application and undergo a local criminal background and a national sexual predator check.
If volunteers are going to be mentors, or for example become involved as a volunteer coach, they must be fingerprinted for an FBI background check. The checks are done for free, with the school's approval. Applications, and more information on volunteering, are available through each district's website.
In addition, getting involved with the school's PTA or booster clubs is always encouraged, said Anne Thompson, head of Miami-Dade's Office of Parental Involvement.
"Bottom line is for every parent, no matter what their circumstances are, they need to be involved in their child's education in order to be successful. For a lot of parents, that means daily conversations about school and checking homework and reading,'' Thompson said.
Parents also need to be in contact with their child's teachers, she said.
"Some folks are working two and three jobs. It's not easy for them to come to school. Call and leave a message and communicate and understand what is going on in the classroom. That is so vital.''
WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING
Here are some of the ways local businesses have chipped in to help Miami-Dade schools:
- Greenberg Traurig law firm donated $70,000 to fund one teacher for Miami-Dade County Public Schools' Learn to Swim program.
- Women of Tomorrow is donating $37,500 to fund half a position for a career specialist to implement the Women of Tomorrow program, a mentoring that results in scholarships. Last year, the organization donated over $200,000 in scholarships.
- At Riverside Elementary School, parents worked together and volunteered their time to offer a summer camp program. They did everything from planning to implementation.
SOURCE: Miami-Dade School District