Who’s winning and losing as the legislature winds down

Johnson, Mauk & Dennison 3SMALLTonight on “Capitol Talk”, our weekly legislative analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about where all the big-ticket items stand a week before adjournment: the budget, Medicaid expansion, state workers’ pay raises and pensions –  and school funding. They also discuss the unlikely hero of the session for gay rights supporters….

Sally, Chuck and Mike preview the upcoming legislature….

Johnson, Mauk & Dennison 3SMALL
The 63rd Montana legislature convenes on Monday, with lots of ideas on how to spend the state’s healthy budget surplus. In tonight’s feature, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about what spending issues are likely to dominate the 90-day session…

Teachers looking online to raise classroom funding

Ashlie Buresh teaches her kindergarten class on Thursday

Teachers find themselves without the all the resources they want sometimes. Those thinking outside the box may be forced back in by budget constraints.

Several teachers around the state are trying new ways to find resources outside their school budgets. One Helena kindergarten teacher is looking online for help.

Kessler Elementary School Principal Craig Crawford says most of our modern education system was designed a century ago as a sort of industrial model, “an assembly line if you will.”

Kids walk through the door, you plug them in,”they’re this age, so this is what we teach and this is how we teach and they all get it and they move on,” Crawford said.

That industrial model is evolving, and a buzz word right now in education—’differentiation,’ or teaching different kids in different ways.

“Some of them learn visually, some of them learn hands-on,” said Ashley Buresh, a Kindergarten teacher at Kessler.

She’s teaching her kids about numbers, letters, shapes, and colors.

And she wants to keep her kids moving while learning. She wants a beanbag toss, which is a blue board you set up across the room with different shaped holes with nets in them.

“There’s beanbags that have all the letters of the alphabet…numbers 1-20,” she said.

Say she has three kids playing. She tells the first one, ‘find the number 7.’

He does, throws it into the net, he goes and gets it, “and brings it back and then the next kiddo goes,” Buresh says.

She says it would be an awesome learning tool.

“It’s making it into a game so the kids are enjoying being here,” Buresh said.

Here’s the thing about a beanbag toss—it costs $150.

Principal Craig Crawford says his finances cover what’s considered basic education funding.

“And we have plenty to do the basic education,” he said. But, that basic funding doesn’t always allow teachers to explore these different methods like ‘differentiation.’ Teachers not getting all the resources they want, that’s nothing new.

But Ashlie Buresh is one of a growing number of teachers using a new tool to get what they want anyway through crowdfunding. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter allow artists, filmmakers, whatever to raise funds for a project they are working on.

And there’s one specifically for teachers called donorschoose.org.

“I guess it just makes it really specific so people know exactly what they’re giving their money too and they know how it’s going to be helping,” she said.

I found 8 Montana projects raising money on the Donors Choose right now. iPods for Victor. Poetry Books for Billings.

Ashlie Buresh has raised $17 toward the beanbag toss on the site, from one donor—a woman from California who says she wants to support kids in Montana.

“I don’t think I’ve known any of the people who have given money to my projects,” Buresh said.

Donors receive photos of successful project in action, thank you letters from the teachers or students. If the total amount isn’t raised by the deadline, the donor does not get charged.

Last year alone, Donors Choose raised $30 million for education projects across the country.

Kessler Elementary Principal Craig Crawford says resources like this could mean big things for the future of teaching.

“It’s just an avenue that didn’t exist ten years ago,” Crawford said.

Ashlie Buresh says she has been successful about half the time in funding projects through Donors Choose.

But, she says even with a 50 percent success rate, “last year I got over $1000 worth of supplies for my classroom that I wouldn’t have been able to get.”

She has until January to raise enough to add some beanbags to that list.

CLICK HERE to see Buresh’s ‘beanbag toss’ fundraising page.