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How to Invest Education Dollars

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This is a guest blog post by Liza Holland who is Secretary of the Kentucky PTA and a freelance writer in Lexington, KY. She is a parent representative on the Governor's School, Curriculum and Accountability Council in Kentucky.

The national conversation around adequate funding for schools has been in the press a lot recently. Much of the coverage has centered on restoration of funding or the negative consequences schools are experiencing as a result of cuts. Here in Kentucky, we are actually celebrating a small win in restoring funds to 2008 levels in the recent 2-year state budget. Of course, this is not even close to being enough, but at least things are heading back in the right direction. It has me thinking about resources in general. In a recent meeting of regional education leaders, parents and community leaders, everyone was asked the question, "If money was not an issue, what one thing would you like to invest in as it relates to education?" I found the answers both inspiring and promising for the future of education.

  • Resources to meet every child where they are
  • Differentiated education
  • Early education
  • Every child would have an advocate
  • Extend learning to the family
  • Revamp the College and Career Readiness System
  • Parent involvement (from 4 participants)
  • Apprenticeships
  • Reducing the number of at risk kids
  • Support for Administrative turnover
  • Enough teachers with training
  • Equitable resources for all
  • Parent engagement professional development
  • Close the gaps
  • Ways to encourage boys to read
  • Arts
  • STEAM
  • Dual Credit and Academy opportunities
  • Business and Education working together cooperatively
  • Enrichment in all areas of gifted
  • Technology
  • STEM
  • 21st century skills
  • Students as co-creators of learning
  • Student engagement in all spaces
  • College, career and work ready focus. Leader in Me programs.
  • Increase literacy in all students
  • Professional development for teachers

I think it is time to focus on dreams like this. Time to dust off the "Out of the Box" thinking and creative problem solving skills that we want to instill in our students. Many of the items on this snapshot list of desires can be accomplished by leveraging resources, not all of which are money related. We have time, talent, knowledge, in kind resources, partnerships and opportunities not yet realized.

In Kentucky alone there are great examples of this kind of resourcing. Companies partnering with schools for mentorship programs, community volunteers participating in Operation Preparation, which focuses on College and Career readiness skills, a group of parents offering a kindergarten readiness program at the local park to ensure kids are not starting school so far behind. Citizens care about education and are willing to help. They often don't know how.

Communication is so very important. In my work in education, I am continually running across pockets of excellence that few people know about. Sometimes, it is about connecting different groups working on the same issue. I was so pleased to see parent engagement on the wish list from administrators in my recent meeting. A powerful opportunity that so many schools do not take effective advantage of is the school to home connection. Can we go beyond newsletters that say this is what we are doing and transform them by offering suggestions of how parents can reinforce the learning at home? People will often step up to the plate if asked. How many teachers would not welcome the opportunity for one on one instruction in their classroom? Why not get it at home? Wouldn't it be amazing if everyone were rowing the same boat together - in the same direction? Think of what powerful progress we could achieve together.

On a policy level, we should all work together not only to increase funding, but also to remove obstacles to progress. In Kentucky, we are experimenting with Districts of Innovation, which basically allow districts to experiment with documented best practices to increase student achievement. Why shouldn't all districts have this flexibility? All of the education gurus I hear talk about how our education system is based upon an industrial model and does not work for the information economy of today. Why is it that we allow layers of rules and regulations to keep us from transforming our system so that it works for our needs of today?

Education reform is a complex problem that cannot be solved with just one strategy. We need to engage all stakeholders in a real and authentic way to ensure we are able to produce educated, productive citizens for tomorrow.

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