Last night this contest mercifully ended, and the twenty winning schools were announced. There was even one school here in Charlotte that won. A private school with 110 students. And yes, I voted for them.
One thing that struck me about this contest though, was how flawed it was. If you look at the winning schools, you’ll see that most of them are private. You’ll also notice that most of them are founded on religious principles, but that doesn’t bother me (no really it doesn't – so don't make this about religion). What bothers me is that Kohl’s just gave away 10 million dollars to schools that don’t need the money. Private schools are businesses. If you say you're going to use the money to make your school better, that's a great business move and one that will definitely affect people who can afford to pay your tuition. But don't think for a second that this contest was ever about helping educate children in this country.
Our children attend a public Montessori school with one of the longest wait lists in Charlotte. It’s a popular choice not just because of Maria Montessori’s brilliant and popular foundational curriculum, but because of an extremely close-knit school community that treats each other like family. Our annual fundraiser occurs when two major events take place at a convention center next to our campus and we charge patrons to park on our grounds. Parent volunteers facilitate this effort and it earns us about 20K a year – every penny of which is poured back into our school. Our school has over 300 students. And we are lucky. Trust me, I’m not complaining that we didn’t get the money from Kohl’s. We don’t really need it. In fact, had we jumped on this contest early and we were the ones in the hunt for the prize – I guarantee you we’d figure out a way to take only what we needed and give the rest to other public schools that really need it.
So when I see Kohl’s giving money hand over fist to the wealthiest schools in the educational system for no other reason than getting people to click on a Like button – it makes me wonder why Kohl’s didn’t turn this into a legitimate competition based on legitimate plans and legitimate needs rather than a popularity contest that begged you to click a button five times.
But why should Kohl’s care? This kind of money is nothing to them. So instead of anonymously stashing it into random NFPs to dodge taxes, they’ve just scored a public relations win while developing a massive database in what can only be called the biggest social media coup in history.
Congratulations to all the private schools who won this contest. You’re popular. And rich.