Two Eagle Rock Middle School students from Idaho Falls just wowed the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and the audience with their testimony in favor of improving school funding in Idaho. Shandy Gillman said, “Currently our class sizes are getting bigger and bigger.” Derik Johnson said, “Our textbooks are falling apart at the bindings.” He said laptop computers aren’t suitable replacements, because they take 20 minutes to warm up. “We’re losing our teachers to other states,” he said. Shandy said Idaho spends more to keep a prisoner locked up for a year than it does on students’ education. “Are people in prisons worth more than Idaho’s future?” she asked.
They were among several people testifying this morning about severe problems that a funding crunch has created in Idaho’s schools. “I have dried-up markers and dried-up glue sticks, and I hoard the few things that I have for my classroom,” said Terri Bentley, a teacher at Skyview High School in Nampa. Kim O’Neill, a parent and teacher from Idaho Falls, said, “There’s no funding for remedial classes, so these kids get farther and farther behind. … Our librarians have been cut. … The paraprofessionals, they’ve been leaving the schools, all the good ones.” She said, “Our janitors are really struggling to keep up.” She teachers special-ed job skills, and, she said, “Two days a week we clean the lunchroom.” She said a friend who was teaching in Idaho for $40,000 a year, including coaching, left for a job in Wyoming paying $62,000 a year, without coaching.
Mike Martin, a teacher and FFA advisor from Marsing, said, “I urge you as legislators to adequately fund education, so that the good children of Idaho can have the education they deserve.”
Kris Carte, a Nampa school teacher for 24 years, said, “Students are very perceptive, and they understand: The message that’s being sent right now is that education isn’t important. We need to change that.”
Matthew Allmeier, a senior at Skyline High School in Idaho Falls, said, “I’ve seen … the toll that the lack of money takes on my teachers, my classrooms and me.” He said, “Investing students in pays off, because where there is a student, there’s always going to be a hunger to learn and a teacher to feed it.”