Evergreen eyes rules for raising money

Audit: Controls needed for sites used by teachers

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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As teachers turn to crowd funding for school supplies, Evergreen Public Schools has put a moratorium on fundraisers through websites like DonorsChoose or GoFundMe.

The district in May initially prohibited teachers from using the websites, but is now considering “strict parameters, signoffs and inventory control” that would allow teachers to publicly fund classroom projects and supplies, said Gail Spolar, spokeswoman for the district.

“You have to provide the infrastructure, no matter what it is,” Spolar said.

The moratorium comes after the Washington State Auditor’s Office advised the district that a policy needs to be put in place to ensure districts have a contract with whatever third-party fundraising service they’re using, that the money is properly handled, and that the items are designated as district property and put in the district inventory.

“Are you using the district name and doing it in the name of the district?” said Cheryl Thresher, schools program manager for the auditor’s office. “Then it becomes public dollars.”

She added: “If it’s something the teacher is doing on their own, that isn’t something we would necessarily audit.”

The same standards don’t apply for items like pencils, books or other items a teacher may buy with their own money, Spolar said. Teachers continue to own those items after they’ve purchased them. And teachers don’t typically fundraise for those types of items, according to posts from Clark County teachers on DonorsChoice, a school-specific fundraising website.

Instead, teachers are seeking several hundred dollars for larger items, like wobbling chairs and balance balls, or the supplies to build a quiet spot in the classroom where students with disabilities can take a break when they become overstimulated. There may also be school money or parent teacher organization money available to cover those extra supplies, Spolar said.

“If they’re going out and soliciting, the implication is this will become a supply,” she said. “You’re soliciting in effect as the school districts.”

Evergreen Education Association President Rob Lutz said while there has to be a policy in place on teacher fundraising, eliminating the program entirely would be too strict.

“The reality is we have a high expectation of the services we provide to our students,” Lutz said. “Not all the resources are there.”