The National Priorities Project (link), Scott Walsten (link) and other sources estimate that the war in Iraq has cost greater than $300 billion. Some estimates are higher. Let’s do some arithmetic and see what that might buy in education.
Add one reading specialist (at $48K salary, $16K fringes, and $11K materials budget [most teachers have less than $1K materials budget] per year) for each school 100 students in schools (there are about 61 million students) would require ~$46 billion. If one figures that only about 30% of those students need special reading instruction (a generous estimate), then one could provide extra help to the most needy students for about $16 billion (and that’s allowing ~$1 billion for slop!).
Suppose that one said that the teachers in elementary classrooms should be provided high quality professional development so that they could deliver the most effective reading instruction we know. What would that cost? Well, it might be an extra (very generous) $3000 per teacher per year for each of the 2.1 million teachers in elementary schools (See Schools and Staffing Survey), or $6.3 billion.
So, I’m just talking about improving early reading instruction. It appears (someone should check my numbers, please) that for less than the cost of 10% of this military operation, we could put a huge boost into the literacy of our children.