Eduwonk wants to know....
"What would you do with $5 billion to improve American education? It's about one percent of what we spend annually on public schools. Leave your ideas in the comments section below."
This was my answer...
$5 billion dollars is a seemingly large amount of money that in reality can disappear in a second. I have lots of ideas that range from improving school libraries, technology grants, and additional funding for in school therapies (especially OT), but I think when looking at large sum of money like this it would be most effectively spent by focusing the money into a specific area of education.
I have always been a fan of building from the bottom up. Without a strong and sturdy base a house, a statue, and more importantly an education will crack and fall before it can reach its glory. I don't think I can stress this enough, preK, pre-K, PreK. When I say pre-K I refer to programs where the teachers have been trained the same way elementary school teachers are, four year colleges, student teaching, and a whole lot of experience before they leap into the role of lead teaching. I'm talking about classrooms that have the materials to engage students in important fine motor, gross motor, and emergent literacy activities. I'm talking about the right early interventions for all students...at the appropriate cost (and the appropriate opportunity cost). Teachers must be trained in education, psychology, and how to interact with parents and guide parents to extending the lessons from classroom to home.
So what about the 5 billion? That goes into teacher training, paying teachers, resources for the classroom, and adjunct therapies. I know it's not enough to fix every problem, but it should sure help prevent a lot of problems that might be encountered down the road. Instead of working to close that gap later the money can help prevent the gap.
Free pre-K can have so many hidden benefits. In a world without free pre-K for all the lucky can pay their way into a strong base for the children...and many of those still have the luxury of a stay at home parent or an excellent nanny and team of babysitters. What about those who can't afford either? Well chances are the parents have to work, and without a quality day care or babysitter the children end up at the hands of someone who lets the child watch tv all day, doesn't stimulate vocabulary, and worst of all a situation where neglect and abuse can filter in to a child's life way to young. Pre-K can fix that. The parent who must work to feed the child can work guild free knowing that his or her baby is being taken care of emotionally, physically, and educationally.
I know I'm biased by my experiences in the world of pre-K, I don't claim otherwise. But I truly believe with my heart and soul that $5 billion can help impact the lives of children all over America and end a vicious cycle, starting at the beginning with pre-K.