For many days we heard that the proposed cuts to public schools budgets were going to mean cuts to number of teachers across the state. Fewer teachers for already over-full classrooms, jobs lost, kids sitting in desks, raising their hands, teachers running from one to the other, hoping to get to them all.
Each day in the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (know as JFAC, the budget writing committee) a different part of state government stands before us to tell us what they do with your tax dollars. They describe how many employees they have, which Idahoans they serve and under what conditions. They tell us if cost are increasing or needs are. They answer our questions, which are sometimes pointed. Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Moderates, all probing to find out if there is money sloshing around in this part of the budget, hunting for funds that might be used for something else or asking leading questions to help the presenters convince the committee that the budget is appropriate or even that the cuts the Governor has proposed will hurt real people or cause us more costs in the long run.
The Superintendent of Public Instruction was in the committee yesterday. He is in charge of representing the hundred and something public school districts, all the teachers in their classrooms in the snow of the mountains or the dry flats of the desert a long days drive from the capitol here.
I'm glad to say he must have heard the groan of parents, the long sighs of kids at desks, the frustration of principals -- because, though he proposed many cuts, those cuts were not to the number of teachers given to Idaho public schools.
Let me just say one more time, Idaho already has some of the largest class sizes in the nation. I have taught kids from kindergarten to college age, and, in public school classrooms, from sixth to tenth grade. I can't speak for all teachers in this, but I do want to explain something.
You can put me out in a field with my 20 or so students. Out there in the weeds, with little physical support, it is not ideal, but for awhile I'm just fine. I can still teach and, with pencils and paper and a spot in the shade, my kids will learn just fine. However, leave me in that high-tech classroom with every possible book, every bit of technology and other amenity and then double my class sizes, and it is much, much harder, much slower and more frustrating for me and especiallyy for the kids. Given a choice, I'd give up all the technology and choose the smaller class, teaching them out there in the weeds of the field.