Members of both the Idaho House and Senate Education Committees were schooled Feb. 5 when educators from every corner of Idaho appeared before the lawmakers with a message: Many classrooms are overcrowded and too many school districts are underfunded.
"I don't think we should have to choose between paying teachers a livable wage and providing a manageable class size," said Shelly Hopkins, a seventh-grade English teacher in the Kuna School District, adding that she usually works 15-hour days. "I don't think teachers are compensated enough to work 70-hour weeks."
Hopkins also showed Senate and House representatives photographs of dilapidated classroom furniture.
"I can only ask that everyone has a learning space [with furniture] that isn't broken or isn't 50 years old," she said.
Hannah Henry, who teaches first and second grades in the Bonneville School District, has 22 students in her class.
"Every single one of them needs different instruction every day. We don't have full-class instruction," said Henry. "It's all individualized because everyone is at a different level. I would love to give my students authentic learning from field trips. It would be an incredible resource, but we can't because of funding."
Karen Lauritzen, a second-grade teacher in the Post Falls School District, urged lawmakers to find adequate funding so more school districts could offer all-day kindergarten.
"Any amount of time where we could give our children more opportunities would be a good thing," said Lauritzen. "A solid, full day of kindergarten would help prepare our students for the first grade."
Dave Gibson, a 24-year educator who teaches music in Twin Falls, reminded legislators that music is key for core learning.
"Every child should have music every day," Gibson said. "Test scores increase an average of 10 to 12 percent."
Meanwhile, the legislative budget writing committee is still crafting a spending plan for Fiscal Year 2019, the lion's share of which will be dedicated to education. Just how much or how little that is will be revealed in the coming weeks.