Boise, ID – Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna goes before legislative budget writers Thursday morning. He’ll make the case for why public school funding should be increased. Idaho teachers including Carly Hill watch this budgeting process closely. She teaches U.S. history and government at Boise’s Timberline High school. Hill says years of cuts to education have hurt her school and colleagues. She talks about a couple she knows … both teachers who’ve just finished masters degrees.
Carly Hill “They did it in good faith they would see a pay raise, but because of the cuts they did not get a pay raise. So now they’re having to pay student loans back. I’m soon to be in that same boat because I’m almost done with my own graduate degree.”
And that’s not all. She says class sizes have gone up at her school. A few years ago, her largest class at Timberline had thirty students. Now she has two classes with 35 students in each.
Lesley Hollister teaches English and reading at West Junior High. She says class size has gone up at her school too.
Lesley Hollister “So if you’re a student who doesn’t want to work real hard and you don’t want to draw attention to yourself you think great I’m in a big classroom. To me that’s the biggest concern, that class size. Our kids are going to suffer for it.”
Both teachers watch the legislature closely. Carly Hill used to enjoy it.
Carly Hill “I feel like every year you know when it’s time for the legislature to get started I’m excited because I’m interested in government. But I also kind of…I’m starting to get scared for my job.”
This year Hollister is paying attention to the governor’s recommendation for the education budget.
Lesley Hollister “He is recommending that the general fund increase by 2.6%. But other funding that we get like dedicated funds and money we get from the federal government is actually down so there’s actually a decrease.”
In Governor Butch Otter’s recommendation, public schools would get one point two billion dollars from the state’s general fund. That’s a two point six percent bump. But the general fund is only part of the total education budget. In 2012 the general fund put in one point two billion, but with things like federal grants and money from state endowment land the total was one point eight billion. There is less money from those for next year so even if the general fund goes up, in the governor’s proposal the total budget for K though twelve schools will be smaller next year.
Hollister says that’s not good enough.
Lesley Hollister “I know they can find the funding, and I want them to do that. I want them to make education a priority. And I want them to know they are just as accountable for our student’s success as the parents and the teachers are.”
Carly Hill says she wants to believe lawmakers are doing all they can to restore funding to education.
Carly Hill “I trust that most…most of the time that a lot of them do have the best interest of schools at heart.”
Hill wants lawmakers to make school funding a top priority. But she’s sympathetic to lawmakers. She says legislators have a difficult task balancing all the state’s financial needs. Hollister is frustrated. She says the new Students Come First laws tie the hands of districts by funneling money into technology. In her view that means even less money going to things like reducing class sizes.