Hundreds of schools in Washington state — 329 of them, to be exact — are in for a surprise.
Microsoft co-founder and Vulcan Inc. CEO Paul Allen is funding 611 classroom projects — every project posted by Washington state teachers on DonorsChoose.org, a portal for educational philanthropy.
He joins other stars of the tech world, as well as actors, athletes, venture capitalists, and well-known philanthropists in a “flash funding” effort to support education, announced today. Others participating in the broader initiative include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
A core group of 58 big names have committed a collective $14 million to fund nearly 12,000 projects posted by teachers on DonorsChoose.org prior to March 7. Many of the projects involved requests for art supplies, technology, books, science equipment, field trips, and other tools for educational enhancement that teachers could not afford on their own.
This group of well-known donors hopes that its contributions will inspire the wider public to fund more classroom projects on DonorsChoose.org. They are promoting the fundraising campaign on social media under the hashtag #BestSchoolDay.
The total amount of funding by Allen for the Washington state school projects was not disclosed. His donation will fund a total of 611 projects from 528 teachers.
“Our founder Paul Allen’s best school days were spent in a computer lab, and the result was Microsoft,” said Dave Ferrero, senior program officer for education philanthropy at Vulcan, in a Huffington Post essay about the donation.
The flash funding effort began when comedian and television host Stephen Colbert, a board member of DonorsChoose.org, announced that he was funding of all classroom projects in his home state of South Carolina in May 2015. Livia and Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, then decided to fund all the projects in Boston and Contra Costa County, Calif. Their gifts spurred Twitter co-founders Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams to commit to the states where they grew up. From there, the concept gained traction with other big names.
Currently, Washington state spends less than most other states on its students, ranking 43rd in the nation for per-student spending, according to the most recent census report. Teachers make up some of that difference, spending an average of $500 out of pocket each year to provide students with projects, supplies, trips and tools.
Allen’s donations are meant to help Washington state teachers with the classroom projects that they could not otherwise afford so that they won’t have to choose between paying themselves or losing out on an educational opportunity. His contributions come through the company that manages his philanthropic and business interests, Vulcan Inc., of which he is the founder and CEO.
Teachers at over two-thirds of all the public schools in America have created project requests on the site, many of which remain unfunded, despite today’s $14 million effort.
Since its founding 16 years ago, DonorsChoose.org says it has funded more than 700,000 projects through the efforts of more than 2 million donors. This recent flash funding campaign is the largest such effort that organization has ever undertaken, it said in a release.
Here are some of the other big names in tech who participated in the flash funding:
- Marc Benioff, chairman & CEO of Salesforce, supporting Hawaii
- Bezos Family Foundation, supporting student-led projects from high-need schools
- Jack Dorsey, co-founder & CEO of Twitter, and co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Square, supporting Missouri
- Bill & Melinda Gates, supporting South Bronx, NY
- Elon Musk, supporting Los Angeles, CA; Washoe, NV; and Coryell and Cameron, TX
- Craig Newmark, founder, craigslist and craigconnects, supporting Detroit, MI and New Jersey
- Alexis Ohanian, co-founder, Reddit, and best-selling author, supporting Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY
- Alison and Mark Pincus, co-founder of Zynga Games, supporting Long Beach, CA
- Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook, and founder, LeanIn.org, supporting Imperial, Modoc, Tehama, Tulare, Trinity, Siskiyou, Merced, Lake, Glenn, and Madera Counties, CA
- Alys and Brad Smith, chairman and CEO, Intuit, supporting West Virginia
- Livia and Biz Stone, co-founder, Twitter, and co-founder and CEO, Askjelly.com, supporting Boston, MA and Contra Costa County, CA
- Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO and co-founder, Yelp, supporting Oakland, CA
- Jeff Weiner, CEO, LinkedIn, supporting San Mateo County, CA
- Sara and Evan Williams, founder of Medium, co-founder of Twitter, supporting Nebraska and San Francisco County, CA