Monday, October 15, 2018

Amazon Donates $2M For "Immediate Needs" Fund for SPS Students

Via GeekWire:
Amazon is announcing a $2 million grant to help Seattle school students. But the focus isn’t the latest shiny education technology. Instead, it’s that missing raincoat, a weekend backpack full of food, or unaffordable school supplies.

Amazon’s donation to the Alliance for Education, which is an organization that works closely with Seattle Public Schools, will create what the company calls a new “Right Now Needs Fund” to meet the urgent needs of individual students. The Alliance will administer the grant, designed to cover the current 2018-19 and the following 2019-20 school years
Amazon says the Alliance will distribute the funds to schools based on student needs, with higher poverty schools getting more support.
The only condition, Amazon says, is that fund spending has to directly benefit students and can’t replace items currently in the district’s budget.
This is great news.  Naturally, though, I have a few caveats.

I want this money to be tracked down to the penny as to how much actually goes directly to SPS students or classrooms.

I'd like to know how much the Alliance will charge for the bookkeeping (as they currently do for PTA funds).

I want to note that SPS has no official, documented relationship with the Alliance for Education.  That MOU was severed several years back when the Alliance overstepped - multiple times in multiple ways - in district work and function.

I also see that an Amazon VP is also a member of the Alliance's Board.  Could this be a move to get the Alliance back into the good graces of SPS?


Anonymous said...

This is great, but is exactly what InvestED has been doing well for a long time. Maybe it would have been harder to target money straight at SPS going through them. InvestED uses counselors to identify need and disperse funds- hope Alliance does not try to reinvent the wheel!

Nonprofit fan

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, school supplies are a cost of basic education and funding for them is provided by the state. Classroom supply purchases are voluntary contributions by families, so I am not sure they fit within the parameters of this fund. Food, backpacks and raincoats do make sense - but who is going to administer this program at individual schools? A food backpack program is labor intensive. It seems to me that a contribution to local food banks to be used to deliver packages to schools or student homes makes more sense.

Fairmount Parent

Anonymous said...

The Alliance hasn't announced how to access the funds, but if they don't have a contract/MOU with SPS it does NOT seem like personal data about SPS students should be shared.

I suppose a teacher could submit a request ("I have three students who need jacket and warm shoes") or maybe a principal/school admin could ("We have 100 FRL students and many need such and such, so we want to set up a supply cabinet filled with these items so we can disburse them to FRL students as needed"). Potentially families could apply on behalf of their students, too--although those most in need are probably least likely to access the fund?

It will be interesting to see how they set this up in a way that maintains student privacy.


muh said...

Any chance this can be used to supply lunch to students who need it, but aren't receiving free lunch already?
How would one go about making that happen?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Advocate to the Board on possible uses of this money - spsdirectors@seattleschools.org

Perhaps they could divide the money into pots:

- food/hunger - for free lunch/take home food
- clothing - for winter gear/sports uniforms (not sure if this gets covered anyway)
- academic needs - books, etc.
- field trips - Juneau brings this up frequently as an equity issue.

Another NW said...

I've been encouraging our school to move away from using the Alliance for Education as a fiscal sponsor as I think 6% of all donations is too much of a fee.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another NW, I agree with your statement and have told past boards that. Staff says they can't find anyone to do it more cheaply.

wsmom said...

A lot of high needs schools like Lowell have backpack programs already in place. They are run by a combination of volunteers and staff.

Anonymous said...

Ingraham HS has a running wish list of items on Amazon and available through the Ingraham Pride Pantry. It's stuff like shampoo, socks, food gift cards. Seems that would have been an interesting idea to explore....by Amazon, with Amazon. I'm guessing other schools have similar programs.
-Long Road