All the money in the world cannot reform education ("Operation: Save Our Schools," September 2009). It's open-minded and creative people who have the ability to make reforms.
The stimulus funds can really make an impact if they are spent to buy real equipment, materials, and lab space in each district ("Is enough of the stimulus money going to school technology?"). Students will then discover the bonds linking science, engineering, and mathematics.
Fully equipped labs where kids can build prototypes and model solutions to real-world issues will bring solutions for so many of our most urgent problems. Our nation needs to produce the best minds, so let's get to work and create great school programs.
Lockport, New York
Does Cash Lead to Reform?
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.
John K. Vickrey
Coos Bay, Oregon
Though it's a fact that public education is underfunded, the issue of true reform is a much larger problem. To change our public schools, we must have more oversight of how funds are spent. Our school systems have become for-profit machines in which administrations are better staffed than the teaching staff. But we put teachers in front of the NCLB firing squad when their students don't test well.
Out of Pocket
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.
Chula Vista, California
Technology can provide students almost unlimited access to information, people, and a range of creative tools ("When the Money Isn't There," September 2009). But how long will the spark of curiosity and enthusiasm for learning last if the first three adults a child asks for help (teacher, parent, librarian) don't have a clue or if they don't have the resources to help the child follow through?
Hampton Falls, New Hampshire
Technology can improve students' academic performance in so many ways, but teachers need to feel as though the administration supports them so they have the confidence to help their students learn through technology.
Technology no longer supplements instruction; it's an integral part of everyday classroom teaching and student learning. It's the best way to prepare students to compete and thrive in today's society.