A letter from a Boise teacher to Sen. Steven Thayn

Thank you for your work for the people of Idaho, and for your interest in education. I have concerns regarding your op ed piece on 2/23/22, and want to offer some counterpoints to consider:

  • Socioeconomic status is the strongest predictor of student success (Krashen, 1996).
  • All-day kindergarten is one of many tools we should utilize to increase student success.
  • We do not need to choose between funding schools or funding parents, but need a community based approach to help all students succeed.

I want to first address your claims regarding the NAEP tests and time spent in kindergarten. While it is tempting to draw conclusions based on correlations, one of the first rules in science is that correlation does not prove causation. Again, SES is the strongest indicator of student success. If children do not have a roof over their heads or food to eat, they will also suffer academically. The states you listed with full day kindergarten and low NAEP scores also have high rates of childhood poverty. The states with higher NAEP scores are much wealthier and spend more per pupil than lower scoring states (educationdata.org).

You made multiple statements that when full day kindergarten is in place parents cease to be involved in their child’s learning. This is certainly not the case with my own children, who I help with homework and read to every night, even after I work all day. I also have many wonderful parents of my junior high students that volunteer to help in my classroom, volunteer with the PTA, and more. Parents reading with their children every night is meant to supplement school instruction, not replace it. Reading together is easy, even when tired, and in addition to the literacy benefits, it also improves the parent/child bond, helps children relax before bedtime, and establishes a positive lifetime relationship with reading.

Parents are certainly welcome to opt out of public education altogether of course, but again SES comes into play. Only families of higher SES have the means to homeschool their children and enjoy supplemental educational activities. If we want parent involvement, we must first enable parents to choose to be involved, not disparage them for needing assistance. Some ideas on how to spend our massive state budget surplus:

  • Invest in free public preschools and daycares.
  • Invest in more libraries: access to reading material is also a strong indicator of student success (Krashen, 2011).
  • Increase access to existing resources, with free admission to the zoo and the science center, expand free parenting classes (which are offered at some public schools already), expand free extracurricular music and athletic programs, and expand the EBT and WIC programs so hunger never interferes with learning.
  • Invest in existing public schools that currently depend on funding from levies.

Finally, no individual person can replace the expertise of a whole team of professionals that entered the field of education driven by their love of learning and the joy they find working in the classroom. My children take advantage of a dual language program, and learn from professionals specializing in physical education, music, and have access to a professional guidance counselor, a school psychologist, a librarian, a nurse, and a multitude of paraprofessionals helping in the cafeteria, playground, parking lot and crosswalks, all to make sure my children are safe, healthy, and ready to learn. What an amazing gift we have in free public education.

You end your letter by saying you would like to see a paradigm shift, but unfortunately you limit the scope to parents versus schools, pitting the two against each other. The paradigm shift needs to be to equal the playing field for students by eliminating poverty as a factor in student success. Invest in parents by enabling them to help their children succeed, regardless of SES. Finally, give parents the option to stay home with their new babies by providing state funded maternity/paternity leave for everyone. This is when one on one interaction is so vital to prime a child’s brain for learning and growth.

Thank you again for your interest in education, but I hope you expand your work to resolve childhood poverty in Idaho, and work to improve schools by improving our entire community and bringing us together. Thank you for reading.

Ainsley Boan

Ainsley Boan

Ainsley Boan has worked with children ages 2-18 years old in Maryland, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and now Idaho where she teaches music at West Junior High in Boise.

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