One teacher’s plea for adequate school funding

Note: Holly Koon attended the 42nd District Legislators’ Town Hall meeting on March 16, 2013, and presented these remarks to those in attendance.

by Holly Koon

Senator Erickson, Representatives Overstreet and Buys, thank you all very much for taking the time to come and meet with us today. I truly do appreciate it. My name is Holly Koon and I am a National Board Certified science teacher from Mt Baker High School in Deming.

Over the past 4 years, declining revenue and increased operating costs have impacted my school with the loss of our district curriculum director, loss of our assistant superintendent, loss of a principal, part of a math teacher, part of a science teacher, a reading support teacher, loss of money for new curriculum and materials that support changing standards and assessments, lost staffing to support our collaborative planning time, loss of all of our state funded professional development time, and the loss of our entire alternative program for very at risk students; putting those students back into the regular classrooms with 30+ other kids while simultaneously decimating the wrap-around support services we’ve provided in the past. 

The economic downturn widened the gap between those students who “have” and those who “have not” and increased disparities in readiness to learn. Yet just this past year, the kindergarten sections in our Title I elementary school increased from 18 to 24 students and, in my high poverty high school, the class sections offered to students who need remediation and extra support decreased by 50%.

Because I have such a short time to speak, I brought two handouts with me today. The first is titled The Stakes are High for Students. In this handout I try to convey some of the genuine impacts the last 6 years have had on students. Please read it. Because, those criteria for graduation? Without your help, they increasingly will become barriers to graduation for many of my students.

The second handout is a bit of an afterthought, I am calling it McCleary 101. With a potential “contempt of court” hanging over your head, I didn’t think I needed a handout to tell you the stakes are also high for legislators, but recently I’ve heard from several different sources that Senator Erickson has regularly and publicly commented at stakeholder meetings that “McCleary is essentially meaningless”. Whether or not he actually said those exact words, listeners walked away with that understanding –more than once. It is so frustrating to me, that anyone could imply a supreme court ruling that we are failing our children is meaningless.

So, I decided I needed to put some effort into trying to explain why educators, and education advocates ARE taking the ruling, (that we must fully fund the education of our children), seriously. Very.

Here’s the deal: if all of us, (the adults in the system), don’t each do our part to get this right? Our failure is not hypothetical, explained away in platitudes, and statistics. What we are failing are real children, one by one. What we are failing is the real, future, prosperity of our state.

Thank you so much for you time and if any of you’d ever like to come visit my school, I’d be so pleased to see you. I’ve included my card with the handouts.