Financing Public Education via Crowdfunding: K-12 Teachers as Social Entrepreneurs
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This study explored the practice of crowdfunding by certified teachers in public schools and the methods they employed to finance learning materials and resources on behalf of their respective classrooms and schools. While there are numerous studies pertaining to crowdfunding for-profit ventures, there is a lack of research on this method of crowdsourced, online fundraising in educational institutions. This study included the insights of 12 certified teachers and 4 principals. The four sites selected for the study consisted of campuses from a Texas school district that raised the most money over a ten year period on the website DonorsChoose. Grounded theory methodology was utilized as a means of generating a theory from the data. Teacher and administrator interviews were the primary form of data utilized by the researcher to inductively develop conceptual categories and an integrated theory. The collection and analysis of data also included: proposal text, photographs, thank-you letters, and archived statistics. The findings indicate teachers utilized crowdfunding as an alternative to spending their own money for student supplies. Although teachers wrote crowdfunding proposals at home, participants explained that investing their “free time” yielded improvements in their teaching and their students' learning and self-efficacy. Across each site studied, teachers demonstrated a willingness to share information and resources with fellow teachers. The practice of crowdfunding led to the formation of informal learning communities and formal professional development. The teachers that authored the most crowdfunding proposals and raised the most money were from Title I elementary schools. The teachers, many of whom work in dual language classrooms, identified equity as the primary goal of their online efforts.