Teachers call on Legislature to shrink class sizes, expand kindergarten

Teachers from across Idaho visited the Statehouse Monday, asking lawmakers to fund reduced class sizes, classroom technology and expanded, full-day kindergarten.

Idaho Education Association President Kari Overall and six public school teachers spoke to the House Education Committee as part of the IEA’s Celebrating Idaho Teachers and Public Education activities at the Statehouse.

Teachers from Troy, Twin Falls, Boise, Kuna, Post Falls and Bonneville spoke about their daily classroom experiences and offered suggestions for improving education.

Karen Lauritzen, a veteran teacher from Post Falls, said Idaho has increased the rigor of kindergarten education through academic standards, but has not increased instruction time. She also said she’s seen a great disparity in how prepared students are when they reach first grade.

“We must understand full-day kindergarten can produce long-term educational gains, especially among minority and low-income students,” Lauritzen said. “Any amount of time we can give children more opportunities would be a good thing.”

In Idaho, kindergarten is optional, and the Legislature funds half-day kindergarten.

Shelley Hopkins, a seventh-grade teacher in Kuna, said her students have responded positively to inquiry-based learning exercises and individualized instruction. She said funding to shrink class sizes would allow her to give her students more individual attention.

Crystal Tibbals, Aaron McKinnon, Dave Gibson, Kari Overall, Karen Lauritzen, Hannah Henry and Shelley Hopkins spoke at Monday’s House Education Committee meeting.

“I don’t think (school districts) should have to chose between paying educators a livable wage and lower class sizes to the students,” Hopkins said.

As part of her presentation, Hopkins showed legislators photos of her classroom that depicted broken chairs, lopsided desks and a whiteboard with a crack in it.

“These make it difficult to create the learning environment I want to give my students,” she said.

After House Education adjourned, several legislators thanked and congratulated each teacher who spoke.

A similar presentation is planned for Monday afternoon’s Senate Education Committee meeting.

State Board of Education 

In other action Monday, the Senate voted to confirm the reappointment of David Hill to the Idaho State Board of Education.

David Hill

Hill has served on the State Board since 2014, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy and serve out the balance of former member Milford Terrell’s unexpired term.

In June, Gov. Butch Otter reappointed Hill to a term of his own, which runs through Jan. 1, 2022.

Nobody spoke in opposition to Hill’s reappointment Monday.

Hill is active in a number of organizations and groups, including the STEM Action Center, Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) and the Governor’s Workforce Development Task Force.

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