Michelle Obama surprised the staff and children of Randle Highlands Elementary School in D.C. by bringing them a box filled with $100,000 cash to buy whatever they need for the schools.

Valerie Strauss wondered why the school is unde-resourced, why teachers have to dig into their own pockets, when the city has a large surplus.

What about the schools where Ellen doesn’t send a gift of $100,000?

It really is a wonderful gesture, but public schools should not have to depend on charity to meet their basic needs.

Watch the video if you can. It really is heartwarming, and almost makes you forget that the city is failing to fund its schools.

Strauss writes:

Former first lady Michelle Obama recently walked into an elementary school in the nation’s capital and delivered a box with a stunning gift: $100,000 in cash, courtesy of entertainer Ellen DeGeneres. Children and adults screamed and jumped for joy when they saw the money in a genuinely heartwarming scene (that you can see below in the video Obama tweeted). And why not?

For one thing, Obama is, according to some polls, the most admired woman in the world. Having her show up at your school is a treat by itself. What’s more, the school can certainly use the money.

All of the mostly African American students at Randle Highlands Elementary School in Southeast Washington come from economically disadvantaged homes, according to D.C. Public Schools’ website, and Principal Kristie Edwards said in the video that many of the children are homeless or in the foster care system. Edwards says in the video that her school is in one of the “roughest” areas of the city, but that her students know they can expect “love and a hug” when they come to school — and that they will be safe.

As the box was opened, Obama said, “Ellen is giving you guys $100,000 to help you cover whatever business that you have for the schools, whether it is for the food pantry or whether it’s computer programs. We hope this will make sure that you will not have to go into your pockets any longer for these kids because we know how amazing you guys are.”

So what’s wrong with this picture?

“I had so much fun putting a smile on all of these little faces from Randle Highlands Elementary School in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the @TheEllenShow for letting me be a part of !”

The problem certainly is not a visit from a former first lady or an entertainer trying to help a school.

Rather, the problems are:

  • The funding system in U.S. public education leaves the poorest schools with the fewest resources
  • School system budgets do not provide most teachers with all the supplies they need to do their jobs — and this has been baked into the process for many years.
  • The D.C. government has had multimillion-dollar budget surpluses the past few years, and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is in charge of the school system. Why are there campuses that don’t have all of the supplies they need?

In her comments at Randle, Obama said she and DeGeneres hoped the $100,000 would “make sure that you will not have to go into your pockets any longer.” The reference reflected the fact that at least 94 percent of teachers nationally, according to the latest federal data, spend an average of nearly $500 of their own money on supplies, often for basics such as paper and pencils, tissue and furniture.