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Parents and community members have a new way to support their local teachers.

The La Crosse Public Education Foundation rolled out the online Support-a-School program earlier this summer, in which teachers and school staff can post project ideas they would like to bring to their classroom. The site allows community members to pledge money to specific projects they are interested in backing, similar to the way sites such as Donor’s Choose and Kickstarter work.

Foundation executive director David Stoeffler said the group decided to test a pilot project for the Lincoln Middle School show choir last spring. The foundation was able to raise more than $4,500 through online donations to send the choir to a competition in Chicago.

Like other crowdfunding sites, Support-a-School allows teachers and staff to post a project and a description, as well as a funding goal to be met by a certain deadline. Unlike other sites, Stoeffler said, the foundation’s portal allows the district to review and approve the projects, which is district policy for requests for outside funding.

The foundation portal also assesses a lower fee than other sites, he said, and any money donated to a project stays with that school regardless of the outcome of the request. This helps make the system a more transparent and reliable choice for supporters, Stoeffler said, and because the foundation is a nonprofit, all donations are tax-deductible.

“A donor knows that if they give money to a project, that money still goes to the district,” Stoeffler said. “If a project is partially funded we will complete as much of the project as possible.”

There are five projects listed at lacrosseeducationfoundation.org/support-a-school, one of which reached its funding goal by its Sept. 2 deadline. The projects range from equipment requests for specific classes to literature resources.

One of the projects is $325 for an easel students at Hamilton Early Learning Center can use in their outdoor garden classroom. A Logan Middle School teacher’s request for $756 would be used for subscriptions to Scholastic Choice magazine and Kids Discover, an online program.

Another Hamilton project requested $260 for five Hokki stools to be tested in a third-grade classroom. The project was sponsored by Principal Steve Michaels, who said the chairs would be used to help kids focus in class, as the stools allow students to wiggle and fidget during class time.

Michaels said with school budgets getting tighter and tighter, he keeps a wish list he gets from staff and teachers. When he heard about the new fundraising program, he thought it would be a great fit for some of these smaller items that might not fit into a regular budget.

Fundraising online isn’t something he is accustomed to but is a nice option for projects that didn’t make it into a round of the foundation’s grants, which are awarded twice a year. It’s also another way to show parents and the community what schools are doing and get support.

“It’s nice for a parent to see that their money is going to a specific cause,” he said.

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Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

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