Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How the IRS Can Be Your Friend Too, and Important Information for Those Applying for an EIN as a Non-Profit

April 8, 2011: Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan approves the EEC's Articles of Incorporation. We are an official Missouri non-profit organization!

April 18, 2011: Elad, the EEC's executive director and current legal staffer attempts to apply for 501(c)(3) status from the IRS so the EEC can be tax exempt and receive tax exempt donations. But to complete the forms, I find that I need an EIN (Employer Identification Number). The IRS has an online application program that provides an EIN within minutes.
All goes smoothly until the confirmation page.

Here's where those applying for an EIN as a non-profit should pay attention.

When the user selects "Social Assistance" as the primary business category, the confirmation page shows that the user actually chose "Health Care" as the category!

I wasn't about to mess up what was supposed to be the easiest part of the process. So I tried again. And again. And again. And a couple more agains. Yet to no avail!

Per my Constitutional duty as a US citizen, I proceeded to notify my government of the problem with their online application. I chose to communicate in the most technologically efficient and communicationally deficient manner available today: E-mail.

April 20, 2011: The IRS Help Desk responds to my e-mail saying they can't respond to it by e-mail.
Are the horror stories true? Will my spirit be crushed by a massive government bureaucratic machine? Am I about to voluntarily enter Dante's Inferno?
The IRS provides me with a phone number to call at my convenience.

April 21, 2011: My convenience rolls around. I call up the IRS. Soon the elevator music starts playing. Speaker phone deployed and the wait begins. I start wondering why some underground rapper or country singer doesn't try to sell on-hold music. Maybe I should start a for-profit business for on-hold music...? My attempt to distract myself has failed. I'm still on hold. Time to work.
37 minutes later, a man answers the phone. Within 7 minutes, I'm done and I have an EIN!

So important thing for non-profits to note: If you select "Social Assistance" as your business category, it will change to "Health Care" on the confirmation page. When the IRS guys do it for you over the phone, they see "Social Assistance" an "Health Care" as one category. And if all else fails, just select "Other".

So fear not! You can skip the 37 minute on-hold time with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Turner v. Clayton Column: Documents from the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation

I'll link my column here and comment a bit once it goes live on, but here are two documents the Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation (VICC), the organization that runs the desegregation busing program in St. Louis, sent me.

The first is their Amicus Filing in support of the School District of Clayton and the St. Louis Public Schools. You can find it here (short but good read).

The second document includes the testimony of David Glaser, the CEO of VICC, in the Turner case. You can find it here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why Neighborhoods Are Important: Shooting in St. Louis

A shootout in St. Louis gained national attention today. Two US Marshals and one St. Louis Police Officer were shot and injured by a St. Louisan, who holed himself up in a house in south city.

Why am I posting this on our blog? Because only a couple blocks away, a few hundred elementary school kids were supposed to be focused on learning.

Froebel Elementary, one of our partner schools, is located at Point A. The shootout took place at the corner of Osage and Minnesota, at Point B.

A local man interviewed by a television reporter wished he could live somewhere safer. While the nationwide attention isn't ordinary, the occurrence of violence isn't particularly unique. The standoff was ended when the suspect was killed.

So for those who believe our education struggles can be solved through unilateral or a singular action, maybe this incident can serve as a reminder that community-wide problems really require community-wide solutions.

One of the US Marshals is in critical condition. Please keep those who were injured today in your thoughts.

Updated: One of the US Marshals, John Perry, passed away tonight.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Friend Passes

A seat at Lexington Elementary has gone unfilled for the last week. It's not a seat that was vacated by an absent student, or the chair of a teacher on hiatus. It's a dark chair in the
school's front office, a chair situated between the front door and staff meeting room. It's a chair that often swiveled its occupant between window views of children entering from the playground to peeks at photographs of family members sitting on the nearby desk. It's a chair that was invariably filled by Debra Sharp, the school's secretary.
It's a chair that, although it will one day be filled by a new occupant, will remain forever empty in the hearts of those who had the pleasure of knowing Ms. Sharp.

Ms. Sharp passed away this week.

Her frank manner, her conversational warmth, her deep interest not only in what folks were doing at her school but also in who those folks were, her optimism for a better tomorrow will be remembered by all who knew her.

The last time I saw her, she was in that same chair at Lexington. We talked about her family. We spoke about her plans for her upcoming wedding. She was thinking about getting married at Lexington, with all of the little kids there to celebrate her special moment with her. She couldn't help but laugh at the thought.

The Lexington family did not get to share in that moment. Ms. Sharp's time here on Earth wasn't long enough to accommodate such a well deserved celebration. Certainly the world could have used many, many more years of Ms. Sharp.
But there was enough time for Ms. Sharp to leave her mark as someone who would get the job done, both professionally and privately. There was enough time for her to give so much of her life to a social endeavor, namely education, that too often gets too little respect.

I thought the next time I would see Ms. Sharp would be at her wedding day. I would finally get to meet those people in the photographs she kept on her desk. Last night, I did meet those same people, and Ms. Sharp was dressed in all white as most brides are. But rather than marry the man she loved, it was her time to bind with eternity.

When someone is so cherished as Ms. Sharp still is, death is but a word that serves only to remind us that a seat in our world will remain empty, while the whispers of memory preserve a spirit ever-flowing.
The emptiness of the chair reflects the emptiness we feel within. But the fullness of spirit of its former occupant serves as testimony to the indelible song the whispers of memory will sing in the halls of Lexington Elementary.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cranky System and Economics

With volunteers and college students about to start their placements this semester, the online system is about to get tested.

My main goal is to make this as easy as possible for our partner schools to use. So I'm now creating an "Easy View" section of the website that allows teachers and administrators to bypass all the editing options and just see who is coming to their school on any particular day.

But Google is getting cranky and doesn't want to show me my calendars right now. Not like I took weeks to make them or anything....

On a side note, I'm doing some research of my own that will hopefully end with something I can publish. (I'm sure it's not easy for a recent college graduate without any advanced degrees or past publications outside of editorial columns to get published, but I'm feeling lucky.)
The research is centering around the idea of parceling out responsibility and enabling more folks to get involved in our larger social challenges, like education. Now, I'm specifically looking into the economics of scheduling, and I am struggling to find any way for people to coordinate schedules efficiently without the use of a third party arbitrator.

Say we assume that we make decisions based on what's best for ourselves, and let's say there are two people trying to coordinate schedules.
If we set up the scheduling system with Person 1 revealing all of their free time and Person 2 then selecting a slot of that free time, Person 2 would pick that slot which works best for Person 2. So Person 2 would maximize his utility given the situation, but this doesn't mean that the utility of the system (Person 1 + Person 2) is maximized.

Think about it like this: When Person 2 picks the "Best" time slot for himself, that same slot might just happen to be the "Worst" time slot for Person 1. Even though Person 2 might be a little worse off personally picking his second or third most favored time slot, the gains in convenience/happiness for Person 1 in moving from the "Worst" to something better might be enough to offset Person 2's losses.

In other words, "Best" + "Worst" might be less than "Good" + "OK".

In subsequent posts, I'll actually draw out diagrams to explain this all a bit better (if you're familiar with Game Theory, you may have already done this in your head).
Long story short, I'm trying to find a way to set up this whole process that will get people to coordinate and make choices that benefits the whole rather than just one individual.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Debut of the Education Exchange Corps Online Placement System

It sounds cool, videos make it look great, but the EEC Online Placement System really consists of a bunch of free online applications cobbled together in an expansive network.

That's right. I just debuted a real-time, online scheduling system that costs $0 to maintain (of course, if you don't include the time it takes out of the designer's and maintainer's life!).

I'm a big believer in parceling out responsibility. Education is an issue too big for anyone to tackle alone, but a lot of folks are too busy to dedicate a ton of time every day to making the world a better place.
So why not help them dedicate just a little bit of time to making the world a better place?

Unlike a lot of other civic engagement organizations, the EEC prides itself on the flexibility of its scheduling.
You can only come in on Mondays from 1:00pm-3:00pm? COOL!
You can only get a babysitter every other Friday? FINE BY ME!
You can get off work all day Thursdays? COME HELP OUT SOME KIDS!

The online system takes this process to a new level. Now these folks can go online and CHOOSE the slots they want.
Don't get me wrong. The #1 priority here is helping the kids we work with. There are rules for choosing placements that prioritizes a regular commitment and continuity by those folks looking to share their time.

But more on that later. Let's keep you readers entertained by taking away the reading. Time to crank out some home movies!

Check out how the placement system works from an EEC Member/Volunteer's perspective here:

Still a few kinks to work out, but you can check out the whole system at our website at

More to come!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dr. King Column

You can find the dataset for the column in the previous post, and you can find the column here:

I'm planning on using the data in a few other columns too, so here are some highlights:

  • Missouri and St. Louis are both ranked 7th as the most segregated state and large metropolitan area, respectively.
  • To fully integrate Blacks and Whites residentially in Missouri and St. Louis, almost three quarters of the minority would have to move (or a combination of Black/White movement would have to produce an equal net effect).
  • Out of the 74 schools in the St. Louis City school dataset I produced, 51 are at least 75% Black, 36 are at least 90% Black, and 18 are at least 99% Black.
  • Without addressing poverty, we cannot really see how much of today's de facto segregation is still a racial issue v. a socioeconomic one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dataset for Patch Column

In my column (which I will link once it's online), I reference a dataset that I created from Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For your benefit, here is the dataset. It includes the St. Louis City Schools and their demographic compositions from 2010.

Feel free to download and play with it. I'll comment more on this once the column comes out tomorrow.

Connecting Blog to Column

In an attempt to get this blog up and running consistently, I am going to connect some posts to my twice monthly education column at

My column can be found here.

Now to upload the dataset that will go with tomorrow's column.