In my state, Hawaii, our governor wants to use the stimulus funds to replace money the state already has legislated for schools and to instead use the budgeted money to cover our current shortfall ("Operation: Save Our Schools," September 2009). From what I understand, this follows the letter of the law, but not the intent. Teachers, who will not see a pay raise and are facing cuts in benefits and positions, are understandably upset. Parents ought to be upset, too, because their children's educations are also being compromised.
Federal funds should be used to wire the students, not the schools. Imagine if this money were spent to buy every U.S. student a netbook. You could lower the costs if you limited the money to those students who could not afford to buy a netbook on their own. Finally, you'd save millions by reducing state spending on textbooks and switching to open electronic texts instead.
More money will have a negligible effect on educational reform, just as it has had little effect on changing the bad behaviors that caused the current recession. Educational reform comes from encouraging innovation, identifying best practices, and influencing behaviors. It is a process that respects the unique individuality and creativity of independent schools without imposing top-down standards such as NCLB. Let's imagine a better system in which the best teachers lead the reform effort with the blessings of supportive communities.
I appreciated the creative fundraising strategies you outlined for teachers ("Fabulous Freebies," September 2009). But this strategy should be considered in the larger context of a neighborhood's economics. Private bolstering of public school budgets will surely widen an already large divide.