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15 ways more funding could change education

"I would provide buses that would take less fortunate families on group trips on weekends to enhance their child's education and open our students' eyes to a world of opportunity," said one reader.

If money were no object, what would your “dream school” look like—and what it would offer today’s students and teachers?

In the spirit of creativity, we recently asked in our Question of the Week: “If your school/district/state had unlimited education funds, what’s the one change you’d make and why?”

Perhaps surprisingly, given the whimsical nature of the question, many readers responded with practical, down-to-earth, common-sense ideas—which suggests just how strapped for funding many schools really are.

Here are what we consider to be our readers’ best 15 ideas. How would you respond? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

1. Every student would have access to the internet.

“If money was no object, I would provide every household a computer with internet access.” —Susan M. Prichard, community/parent/volunteer liaison, Hawaiian Avenue Elementary School, Wilmington, Calif.

“If we had unlimited funds, I’d re-institute and expand the program we had last year to open the school computer lab in the evenings. I’d keep the lab and media center open M-F 6-8 p.m. and on Saturdays 10-12 to facilitate homework, long-term projects, test prep, and college/career searches.” —Alicia M-B. Hall John F. Kennedy High School, Montgomery County Public Schools, Md.

2. Class sizes would be smaller.

“Have more academic teachers so class loads could be smaller and therefore more attention given to needy students. It might also allow for more resource teachers to assist in classes with large IEP [Individualized Education Program] loads.” –Jennifer F. Johnston, M.A., M.Sp.Ed., TVI, 11th grade English, 12th grade English, Gardendale High School

“The change that I would make if given unlimited funds would be to have a maximum of a 10-1 student-teacher ratio, with each student having his/her own laptop or iPad. With fewer students, the teacher would be required to develop an individualized learning plan based on each student’s strengths, weaknesses, areas of interest, and individualized learning goals. Students would work on project-based lessons, with their teacher monitoring their progress and providing feedback along the way. Parents would receive bi-monthly updates on their child’s progress.” —Kate Mathews, assistant principal, Anne M. Dorner Middle School

“I would change class size. There would be a maximum of 20 students in a class. This would enable teachers to respond to and assess students in a meaningful way. This is true, irrespective of the quality of the teacher (assuming competence, which I do).” —Kay Rothman, director of college counseling, New York City Lab School, N.Y.

“Without a doubt, I would hire more teachers so we could lower class sizes. I would love to be able to work with only 10–15 kids at a time instead of the 26 I usually work with.” —Mary Grassett, 8th grade social studies teacher, Goffstown, N.H.

3. Teachers would have access to better professional development.

“Teachers should be sent to specific core academic professional development conferences to learning the latest strategies to present content to students with different learning styles.” —Johanne Ferdinand

4. Teachers would make more money.

“I would pay teachers what they are worth.” —Rose Brandmeyer

5. Teachers would have better classroom resources.

“Teachers would have access to internet visuals when needed, and they would have internet-friendly TV monitors hooked to their computer.” —Dwight McArthur

6. Infrastructure would exist to fully support school technology.

“I would: hire a qualified technology facilitator in each school to provide support for integration of technology into the curriculum; hire additional qualified district curriculum coordinators for each grade level that would focus entirely on technology integration and work closely with the school technology facilitator; hire additional qualified district-level staff to provide more on-site professional development to support teachers in the use of technology with teacher stipends included; provide funds for teachers to pursue certification and additional degrees in educational technology; hire more qualified technicians to provide hardware support; provide more funds for maintenance/repair of the equipment already in place; create a district-level job position to investigate new technology and its relevance and benefit to each grade level, as available technology changes daily; create an additional district-level department to coordinate and support digital media, as video and photography are exceptional tools but are time and training intensive; and only then use funds to purchase new equipment.” —Honey Martin, Technology Facilitator, W.T. Lewis Elementary School

7. Every student would have a mobile device.

“I would buy a laptop for every student and download the programs that the students need. This way, I’ll get rid of the paper homework and assignments.” –Ghania Hamrani, teacher of engineering, Technology High School, Newark, N.J.

“I would most definitely put into each and every student’s hands a laptop that they could bring into the classroom to type their notes for every class, eliminating the use of paper products, or use of some type of tablet, allowing them to write notes digitally.” —Missy Cunningham, 6th, 7th & 8th grade technology, Amherst Middle School, Amherst, Va.

8. Blended learning could happen.

“I would have the districts receive more money to assist them in providing coordinated, blended learning models crafted around curriculum-calendaring with heavy support from curriculum development departments.” —Leonard P. Miller, Camp Verde, Ariz.

9. Incentives would be given to help recruit top talent into education.

“Having taught for nearly four decades in public high schools, I can attest to the fact that no amount of money spent on buildings, materials, or programs can compensate for the lack of academically qualified teachers and administrators in the U.S. public school system today. As long as this country’s top students no longer become (and remain) teachers or administrators, no real improvement can be expected. If unlimited funding were available, offering competitive salaries and benefits (e.g., tax exemptions and health insurance) to top students graduating with legitimate degrees from top colleges might help—provided those financial inducements could be tied to teaching for at least ten years in underachieving public schools.” —Alita Mantels, retired teacher

10. The school year would be longer.

“I would initiate year-round school with one-week breaks to provide students and staff the opportunity to recharge their batteries. School would be in session four days a week, and the fifth day would be used for professional development in the form of professional learning communities. I believe that increased, sustained, and focused professional development used for the purpose of continuous improvement in student learning is the most effective way of reforming education. Simply testing more is not going to make them smarter.” —Carmen Martin

11. Students would have more enriching, real-world experiences.

“I would provide buses to schools’ parent centers. These buses would be used to take less fortunate families on group trips (museums, libraries, etc.) on weekends to enhance their child’s education and open our students’ eyes to a world of opportunity.” —Susan M. Prichard, community/parent/volunteer liaison, Hawaiian Avenue Elementary School, Wilmington, Calif.

“I would restructure STEM student-teaching at the university level to include one entire semester out in industry, in addition to the traditional student-teaching experience.” —Paul M. Rutherford, Ph.D., physics educator, Project Lead The Way, engineering design & development instructor

12. School counselors would be available to all students, 24/7.

“I would have school counselors available to all students, not just to push paper, but to be there on a daily basis; going into classrooms and having groups about needful things like grief and loss, divorce, living with drugs or alcohol in the family, stress management, anger management, dealing with mental illness in the family. Going into a classroom and trying to concentrate on school subjects, when the child is terrified of what he or she will find when they get home after school, is a major challenge in itself. Having a counselor available from K-12 would be one of the healthiest things we could do for our kids to help assure their academic and emotional success.” —Susan Deitrick, Lakeview Intermediate school counselor, K-Kids and Club USA Facilitator, Stow, Ohio

13. The arts would be mandatory subjects.

“If there was unlimited funding for school districts, I would want music made a mandatory subject. I remember a quote I heard from an educator 20 years ago: ‘It’s not the smart students [who] are in music, students are smarter because they are in music.’ I firmly believe that the discipline needed to learn the second language of music transfers into other subjects. The rhythmic breathing needed to complete a passage, whether vocal or band, balances your physical and mental well-being and provides for clearer thinking and improved hand-eye coordination. Mandatory music class would improve overall student test scores as well as provide a life-long hobby.” —Teresa Chrisler, Natoma, Kan.

14. Every subject would have a teacher.

“I teach in a wonderful K-6 school in Lincoln, Vermont. However, we are losing funding for programs and accompanying staff, one by one, and our building is in need of such repair that we just barely passed a multimillion dollar bond just to keep the existing structure functioning and up to code. And as our programs have expanded to rise to the call of the 21st century, we have been unable to meet our space needs. If we had unlimited funds, I would first assure that we are able to support a full staff of teachers, including specialists in the areas of art, music, library, literacy, physical education, wellness, counseling, and technology. I would then assure that our building has adequate space, storage, heat, and ventilation to house the valuable programs we have developed for our students.” —Alice Leeds, grade 5/6 teacher, Lincoln Community School, Lincoln, Vt.

15. Students would be paid for achievement.

“Instead of pay for performance for teachers, let’s provide that concept as incentive to students who are not being successful.” —Bob Liles, director, Core Systems & User Support, MIS, Pinellas County Schools, Largo, Fla.

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