In February 2012, the Idaho Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee held a public hearing. Most educators could not attend since it was during a school day, but Lois Buck – a kindergarten teacher at Carberry Elementary School in Emmett – took time to tell JFAC her story via email. We thank Lois for sending us a copy of her letter and allowing us to reprint an edited version of it here.
I began teaching in 1972, 40 years ago. For the majority of my teaching career I have taught Kindergarten, with a few years in first grade. I, myself, attended public Kindergarten in Iowa in 1955-56. Nearly 20 years later, when I began my teaching career, Idaho still did not have public Kindergarten, so I taught in a private Kindergarten. Over the 40 years of my career I have seen more and more requirements and demands placed on teachers, and, especially lately, less and less respect and appreciation for the time and energy that we put in for our students. Forty years ago I never would have imagined that I would be putting in 12- and 14-hour days just to try to keep up with those demands.
Forty years ago when I began teaching in that private Kindergarten we had full-time aides in our classrooms. When Idaho finally decided to add public Kindergartens in 1975 we still had full time aides in our classrooms. When I moved to a new school district in 1989 we had full time aides in our Kindergarten classrooms yet again. When my local district needed to make big cuts financially we still managed to keep our full-time aides in our Kindergarten classrooms. Later when things got tighter, we managed to have three-quarter time aides in our Kindergarten classrooms. (It is quite difficult to find capable people to take and keep a three-quarter time job.)
As the legislature began cutting education money our Kindergarten aides became building aides who still spent some time in our Kindergarten classrooms. Due to more cuts from the legislature over the years our building aides soon spent more and more time away from our Kindergarten classrooms. This year, for the first time since 1972, I have no permanent aide in my Kindergarten classroom. I do have two wonderful parapros who come into my classroom at specific times of the day. They are both absolutely amazing with the students. I don’t know what I would do without them. I know if we had a disruptive child, either of them would be able to take care of the class or take care of the child. However, neither of them is in my classroom for more than thirty minutes at a time.
Last year when one of my students began purposefully stomping on my sandaled feet, I had an aide available to take over the class. I was able to remove the student from the classroom so the other five-year-olds wouldn't have to watch this frightening display. Would you want your child or your grandchild regularly subjected to viewing that kind of behavior?
However, this year when one of my students had “melt-downs” at the beginning of this school year, there was no other adult in the classroom to either deal with him or take over with the class. All of the other students just had to sit and watch and wait every time until he either calmed down or someone could come from the office to remove him from the class. (You can't have five-year-olds just take out a book and read while you deal with the disruption.) Would you want your child or your grandchild regularly subjected to viewing that kind of behavior? Well, 24 someone’s children and grandchildren were regularly subjected to viewing that kind of behavior for several weeks!! Some of them had bad dreams, some didn't want to come back to school, some were afraid to sit near him. Would you want your child or your grandchild to have to deal with that? The young man has made huge strides this year, and his behavior is very much improved. But that can't take away the fright felt earlier in the year by children who had never before witnessed or heard such things. Would you want your child or your grandchild subjected to that? Who do you suppose loses in a situation like this? Our children do.
Please work to restore the funding for education. Our children are our future.
Carberry Elementary School