What I would do with stimulus money
Sent to Language Magazine, invited commentary in answer to the question "What would you do with the stimulus money?"
My first priority is improving libraries in high-poverty areas.
Better libraries are related to better reading achievement. This has been confirmed at the state level, national level and international level when researchers control for the effects of poverty. The reason for this is obvious: Children become better readers by reading more and the library is a major source of books for children.
Keith Curry Lance's studies confirm that the presence of librarians and overall staffing contributes to reading achievement independent of other measures of library quality. The most obvious way librarians contribute is helping children find books, in addition to selecting books and other materials for the library and collaborating with teachers.
The library is especially important for children of poverty, because they have very little access to books at home, at school, and in their communities. The school library is often their only source of books. Unfortunately, children of poverty are the least likely to have access to quality school libraries, and are less likely to attend schools that have libraries with credentialed librarians.
No stimulus money is needed. It has been repeatedly shown that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has not made any difference for literacy development. If one year's worth of NCLB federal funding ($26 billion) were invested at only 2%, it would generate about $500 million per year, about $30 for every child in poverty (There are currently about 15 million children living in poverty in the US.). Dedicated to school and classroom libraries, and to support for librarians, this would make a powerful, and never-ending contribution toward closing the achievement gap.