What big ideas can help America solve its most pressing problems? In an ongoing project, Yahoo News is soliciting creative, outside-the-box and possibly controversial (but still credible) solutions. Here's one about education.
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COMMENTARY | Last year, the local school district where I reside decided to buy a new laptop computer for every student. Students could take the laptops anywhere they want, but they had to check them back into the school at the end of the year, much like a textbook.
This idea got me thinking: If we are giving students an internet-ready laptop to take home, then why do they need to be at school five days a week? They don't, in my opinion. Why not have two days of in-class contact with students a week and three days of online contact. This would allow school districts across the country to cut building costs in half, while providing a higher-quality education.
According to the Department of Education, $65 billion in federal taxes were spent last year on capital expenses for education, and a little more than $20 billion to transport students to and from school. This doesn't include local and state spending on capital expenses. I think schools can close two-thirds of their buildings just by putting all students on a two-day schedule and instead of issuing teachers a classroom, they'd a small office much like college professors. They are then assigned classrooms based on the classes they are teaching. The same classroom can be used all day by different teachers. During the three days of online classes the teachers would spend time in their offices, be available for students to meet with them individually while also instructing students through the internet. This would allow all K-12 students to attend school in the same building on different days, thus allowing for the closure of the majority of the buildings a school district uses. Also, transporting students to and from school only twice a week would create additional savings.
I estimate the federal government can save about $40 billion a year that is currently earmarked for education. This extra money can be used to offer free internet access to every household in the United States where a student resides. With about 40 million students in the United States and internet access running at about $50 dollars a month, every child in America can receive internet at a cost of less than $24 billion a year to the federal government.