Like many other educators, I was taken aback by the degrading and disparaging comments about teachers made by Rep. Barbara Ehardt in the House Education Committee meeting. As I sit down to write this, I made note of the time. It is currently 6:40 p.m. I have just arrived home and it is dark. It was also dark when I left this morning exactly 12 hours ago. I went in early today because one of my calculus students asked me for help, and I had an 8 o’clock meeting, so I told him to meet me at 7 a.m. so we could work for an hour before I went to my meeting. I taught all day, administered a make-up exam after school, worked on lessons for a student who is going to Disney World tomorrow for 10 days, so she doesn’t fall too far behind, and I still have at least three hours of grading and lesson planning to do. And I know some of this is my fault because instead of working for eight hours Sunday, my husband and I helped my son move into a new apartment at school, so I was only able to work about four hours. But that’s on top of the four hours I put in on Saturday.
So, yes, I am upset that with one statement, Rep. Ehardt has tried to defend her desire to not fund education by stating that students are suffering because they are in classes with teachers who “don’t want to be there teaching.” My 12 hour “in the building school day” is typical for me at least four days a week. Outside of the five days in the building, I put in at least 15 additional hours at home — all for a frozen salary, budget cutbacks and one of the lowest funded public education programs in the country.
I certainly don’t do it for the money. I am an engineer by my first degree, so becoming a teacher meant I took a 60% pay cut from what I was making in the engineering field. I did so because I love teaching, and I love my students.
Through this entire pandemic, there was no question that I would be there for my students — teaching every day, making sure they had what they needed from me to be successful in their coming years, regardless of the modality. Failing these students is not an option. We started four days a week, then switched to hybrid (where I still taught all four days live and my students that were remote simply joined my classes live on Zoom), and now we are back to four days a week preparing to go to five days a week. I created lessons for my students in person and virtually. I worked to catch up kids that were home with COVID-19 or quarantined, as well as many kids whose families take vacations. I have made so many “Loom” videos teaching kids how to work on problems they are stuck on that I have had to purchase an account because I have used my allotment of free video space. I purchased an iPad and apple pencil because it is so much easier to use as a remote whiteboard when working with kids remotely. I have spent hours researching the best ways to fill the gaps these students have because of last year and how to get them prepared for the future. All to have our local representative degrade teachers by claiming we are causing students to suffer because we don’t want to teach.
There are several teachers in our district with compromised immunities or family members in at-risk categories. It is unfair, unkind and unprofessional for Rep. Ehardt to use their desire for a safe work environment to explain why she doesn’t want to fund education. Every teacher and every student should feel safe. Without that basic need being met learning cannot happen.
Our students deserve better from their legislators. The students in Idaho deserve a quality education and they deserve to not be part of an education system that is ranked 51st in the nation. We are funding our students, our future, at 52% of the national average. But Ehardt and other anti-public school legislators want to blame the teachers because some of them voiced concerns over a pandemic that has killed our neighbors, friends, family and community members.
Rep. Ehardt is not a friend to education or to students. She should not be allowed to continue serving on the education committee. Teachers are in the trenches, working with almost nothing. Many are not even earning a living wage. They face frozen salaries, no money for classroom supplies and textbooks, and many other obstacles. Please do not sit back and allow Rep. Ehardt to degrade public school teachers. Please stand up for us, stand up for our students, stand up for education.