Teachers from across Washington state share stories of how the education funding debate has affected their experiences in schools. We also want to hear from you -- what story can you share that illustrates how the education funding debate has affected your life?
Now we want to hear from you. The process of funding schools is incredibly complex, and one good way of understanding its impact is to hear from those who work and learn in schools.
So we want to know: How would more or less money in your school affect you?
Submit your story using this form or if you’d like use photos or video to tell your story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. (Updated 4/8/16: Here’s what readers said about the difference money could make in their schools.)
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In the meantime, here are some stories to inspire you to think of your own. They are from teachers who are part of the Washington Teacher Advisory Council, a group of 15 Washington state and regional Teachers of the Year.
Ashley Leneway, curriculum & technology integration specialist, Morgen Owings Elementary, Chelan Public Schools
Last June, I turned in my title as a third grade teacher so I could work with 600 K-5 students and 30 teachers in my building as the curriculum and technology integration specialist. I was excited for the new journey.
My first task was to get more of our students reading at grade level. Only 52 percent of our students tested at grade level in reading this fall. Half is failing– it was time to do better.
I organized data, collaboration and professional development for grade-level teams. We focused on each student to make decisions about how to best serve each one. We accomplished this through release time — time for teachers to step away from their classroom responsibilities for professional development. We scheduled substitute teachers to cover classrooms. Then I got the call.
“We have to cancel the grade-level meeting tomorrow. We don’t have enough subs to cover classrooms.”
And it just kept happening. In just two months we had to cancel two precious days of professional development learning and overload classes to avoid canceling more.
In three months, we progressed to 63 percent of students testing at grade level. But was that good enough? Could we have done better if we had had those 15 hours of professional development?
Teaching is a reflective practice. Just like any other profession, we need time during the workday to collaborate with colleagues and test new techniques in real time if we are to transform the learning experience for all students.
While time and energy is spent debating what fully funding education looks like, a teacher shortage crisis has arisen. This shortage impacts many aspects of education from class size to teacher retention. In my school it’s impacting one of the most basic promises we make: to teach reading. Our kids– my kids– deserve better.
Ashley Leneway is a 2016 Regional Teacher of the Year. She has taught at Morgen Owings for three years.
Dave Gamon, science teacher, Northwood Middle School, Mead School District
Every year my middle school students team up with physics students from Whitworth University to design near-space experiments. The teams build their experiments in pods, launch them into the near-space environment between 80,000 and 120,000 feet up, track and recover their pods and analyze the data.
Sarah, one college student in the program, was so impacted by the experience that she is now considering becoming a teacher. She’s brilliant, and she’s a teacher– a natural.
Too many students, like Sarah, are unaware of their inner teacher and hyper-aware of student loans. They are looking for a career with competitive compensation. Teaching in Washington is not even on their radar. I’m trying to recruit Sarah for a position in our summer STEM Academy. I’m hopeful she’ll decide to become a teacher, but it’s a hard sell.
Washington is already in the midst of a historic teacher shortage. Teacher salaries have stagnated and even cost-of-living increases are a rarity. We need gifted STEM graduates like Sarah in our classrooms, but they often can’t afford to choose teaching. We must fully fund education if we want to draw the best and brightest to this great work.
Dave Gamon is a 2009 ESD Regional Teacher of the Year. He has taught at Northwood for 20 years and is an adjunct professor at Whitworth University.
Lyon Terry, 4th grade teacher, Lawton Elementary, Seattle Public Schools
Like most nine-year-olds, Linda loves animals. She took home the classroom fish we observed for science. She always writes about her pets and constantly seeks out books with animal characters.
I have more than 1,000 books in my classroom library – a collection I have built over many years. For a while, I had the right books for Linda. She read one a day for about two weeks. Then I ran out.
Luckily, we go to the school library for 30 minutes every Thursday. In the library, Linda discovered The Warrior series all about cat clans. She was hooked. She clutched her book to her chest as she said goodbye to me each day.
One Friday, she told me with pride that she had finished the latest book (all 200 pages!) in one day. Her eagerness for the next installment was coursing through her whole body. She hurried off to the library to get the next book.
The door was locked.
At my school, we can’t afford a full-time librarian. Linda was crushed. She had to wait until Monday to get the book she knew was right behind those doors.
So instead, I sent her out to recess. Unfortunately, the slide broke over a year ago, and we can’t afford to fix it.
Lyon Terry is a National Board Certified Teacher and the 2015 Washington State Teacher of the Year. He has taught at Lawton for 12 years.