American Education Week bannerAmerican Education Week is here again. The annual observance was created 90 years ago by the National Education Association and the American Legion to bring public attention to illiteracy among World War I draftees.

Nearly a century later, our students and educators still face steep challenges. “In Idaho, schools have seen three straight years of budget cuts totaling nearly a quarter-billion dollars. Districts are now wrestling with the harmful new education laws passed earlier this year by the Legislature,” said Penni Cyr, Idaho Education Association President. “This week, we want to pay tribute to Idaho’s hard-working educators, but we must also point out the stressful conditions and inadequate resources that our children and school staff face every day.”

For example:

  • At Liberty Elementary in Boise, fifth-grade teacher Sue Peck has at least 32 students in a class that just three years ago had only 23. Dan Haney, a parent who had children in the class both years, wrote on Facebook that kids are “stacked like firewood … you can barely navigate the maze of desks crammed into the room.”
  • Eighth-grade students at Kooskia Junior-Senior High School don't have health class textbooks this year. Teacher Krisi Pratt did not have sufficient health books in sixth through eighth grades until about a month into the school year, and she has had to ration the available books among her three junior high health classes, including a seventh-grade class with 35 students. Computer access to supplement the textbooks is limited, too.
  • At the Hayden Kinder Center in the Coeur d’Alene School District, some kindergarten classes have 25 students, larger than ever. Extra duties, children with special needs, and testing demands make it difficult to get every child off to a good start at school.
  • The Hansen School District has lost five teachers, an administrator, and nearly all its high school elective classes including art, drama, and family and consumer science. Students are leaving for other districts that offer a full range of classes. After $330,000 in budget cuts since 2008, the state is “starving us out,” said Superintendent Dennis Coulter. The situation is much the same in other small districts around Idaho
  • From Saturday’s Wall Street Journal: “In Idaho, Alan Dunn, superintendent of the Sugar-Salem School District, says that he may cut entire departments and outsource their courses to online providers. ‘It's not ideal,’ he says. ‘But Idaho is in a budget crisis, and this is a creative solution.’”

Idaho’s schools face these and many other challenges that have been forced by bureaucrats and budget cutters in Boise, but Idaho parents, students, educators, and concerned citizens know what their neighborhood schools really need to succeed. Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, the grassroots organization that put the state’s new education laws on the ballot in November 2012, is asking Idahoans statewide to suggest ideas for stronger schools. Three people who complete the four-question survey before December 5 will win $100 for the Idaho school of their choice. (Be sure to provide a valid e-mail address to be entered the drawing.)

“Idahoans are tired of our children being treated like widgets on an assembly line,” Cyr added. “We know that by working together, we can continue to have strong schools that meet our children’s needs, rather than the profit agendas of corporations and career politicians.”