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Pledge to fund L.A. classroom projects over 2 years fulfilled in 12 weeks

February 1, 2012 |  4:37 pm

When the Wasserman Foundation pledged $4 million to fund classroom projects in Los Angeles through the website DonorsChooseLA.org, it was set to be a two-year project.

Twelve weeks later, the money has been spent.

The Los Angeles-based family foundation doled out the money through gift cards to the website, distributed to families of Los Angeles public schoolchildren and at Starbucks stores in the city. On Wednesday, the foundation said 143,000 Angelenos have used the gift cards to help fund classroom projects, spending all the allotted money.

Los Angeles Unified encouraged its teachers to post items that they need for their classrooms -- books, iPads, art supplies -- that they either would have had to purchase themselves or go without because of budget cuts.

The foundation said that more than 8,000 projects were funded through the site. The gift cards helped teachers obtain items ranging from laptops and sound equipment to materials for science projects and even sidewalk chalk.

Parents used 107,000 of the $15 gift cards given to the families of L.A. Unified students, and almost 40,000 people used $10 gift cards that were handed out at Starbucks in Los Angeles.

Charles Best, the founder of DonorsChoose.org, the site on which the projects were posted, said the level of participation was unparalleled in the site's 11-year history.

The Wasserman Foundation pledge tied with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- which also donated $4 million -- as the largest contributors. The Gates donation was distributed nationwide while the Wasserman donation was centered on Los Angeles public schools.

On DonorsChooseLA.org, 4,000 teacher requests still need funding, the foundation said. L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said the need remains and the site is active, so he hopes that contributions will continue even though the funds from the pledge have run out.

"This is only the beginning of the endless possibilities of ways we can help our teachers and improve education in L.A.," Deasy said in a statement.


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