Senior co-founds org. to benefit charter schools

A nonprofit started by college students aims to link technology with charter schools.

Co-founded by a Temple student, Tech2Educate is a new organization that aims to collect money to buy new technology for Philadelphia charter schools. In response to funding issues for independent city schools, the organization’s foundations hope to bring “up-to-date software and technology” to help modernize classrooms.

“I want to give these kids the technology they need to succeed,” company founder Tony Perry said. “I want people to enjoy their education.”

Perry, a senior political science major, started the company with three other students from Drexel University and West Chester University.

“There was a gap in funding between Philadelphia public schools and Philadelphia charter schools,” Perry said. “We see the emergence of charter schools as a very positive thing. They don’t have the regulations public schools do.”

Pennsylvania charter schools receive state funds based on each student enrolled per year.

A charter school may also request the intermediate unit in which the charter school is located to provide services to assist the school in addressing the specific needs of exceptional students, according to the Department of Education.

The proposed state education budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year allocates just under $4.7 million to intermediate units.

“When we look at the Philadelphia public school district…we’ve seen a move from the students being the concern to the adults being the concern,” Perry said.

The organization asks schools to register via tech2educate.org, which is currently under construction by Temple’s College of Science and Technology capstone students, due for completion in the Fall 2012 semester, James Johnson, president and CEO, said. Donations will be taken once the website is finished.

Tech2Educate has been sending letters to the city’s 80 charter schools, detailing the mission of the organization and how donors may pledge money for technology requests made by charter schools.

Perry said the organization is considering bringing e-readers including Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and SMART Boards to charter classrooms.

“We’re living in a world where kids are using textbooks from 1980, and I understand Spanish may not change, or math might be the same…but textbooks become up-to-date,” Perry said. “And why are we also giving kids 90-pound backpacks when they can just carry around something like the Nook?”

Tech2Educate will accept donations from individuals and distribute the money in one of three ways, depending on the donor’s specified method: People can make a “general donation” to Tech2Educate, and the group will distribute the money how it sees fit, donors may donate to a specific school, the funds for which will be accumulated until the school’s request is reached, or donors may donate for the purchase of a specific device.

“Donor visibility, to actually see their donation being used, is something that we really want to do,” said Johnson, who recently graduated from Drexel with a degree in supply chain and operations management.

Working with Drexel’s LeBow College of Business, Tech2Educate will use a study conducted by the “Non-Profit Consulting” course to judge what technology already exists in the state’s charter schools, and what technology Tech2Eucate feels schools need. Tech2Educate hopes to collect the majority of the study data by the end of April.

“I think education is the most fundamentally important issue facing us today, and you don’t need to be an education major, or a journalism major, or a social worker to realize that,” Perry said. “I love this city and I want to see it succeed.”

Tech2Educate became incorporated by the state in January, and are awaiting 501 (c)(3) certification from the IRS to classify it as a nonprofit. The organization does not have performance requirements for participating schools.

“We’re not trying to fix the education system,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to help out classrooms.”

Perry and Johnson do not rule out the possibility of expanding Tech2Educate’s services to charter schools in other states in the future. Perry said he attended a suburban public high school in New Jersey, while Johnson is originally from California.

“People always ask me, ‘Why are you doing this? Why is a kid from New Jersey that didn’t have any of the issues that somebody in Philadelphia has doing this?’” Perry said. “We care.”

Amelia Brust can be reached at abrust@temple.edu.

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