Democrats on Education Proposal: Fair Compromise, Schools Still Deserve Better
JUNEAU Today, House Democrats claimed a partial victory in the debate over school funding as the House passed a bill that provides far more resources to Alaska's schools than what the governor proposed. The governor flat funded education and later proposed what was effectively a $10 million one-time increase, far short of keeping up with inflation.
"We've said from day one that Alaska must make a lasting commitment to education and that it cannot allow inflation to eat into our childrenâ€™s educational opportunities," said House Democratic Leader Beth Kerttula. "This proposal gets us about halfway to meeting losses to inflation from the last two years, and around half of the money is committed for future years as well as this year. So we've come a long way forward since the governor laid out his budget, but even with this, schools will still have to make cuts this year. And unless we take action early next year, our students will still have to bear the burden of inflation next year in years to come."
While failing to keep up with inflation and limiting half of the resources to only one year, House Democrats still found many provisions to applaud. The proposal makes ongoing commitments to pupil transportation and vocational education and includes two proposals advocated for by Democrats. The Parents as Teachers program provides tools to parents who want to get involved in their children's education and the package also commissions an outside assessment to guide the Legislature in how to best improve and fund Alaska's schools.
"Parents as Teachers is an inexpensive and effective way to help parents get involved in their children's education before the kids get to kindergarten," said Representative Chris Tuck who has led efforts to promote Parents as Teachers in Alaska. "With the support Parents as Teachers gives, both children and parents are better prepared for success throughout the students' school careers."
"We know we at least need to keep our schools' resources up with inflation, but it's important we don't just throw money at education," said Representative Pete Petersen (D-Anchorage) whose HB143 called for keeping Alaska's per-student funding up with inflation for the next three years and directed the Department of Education and Early Development to develop a plan for how to best provide resources to Alaska's schools afterward. "I'm pleased that we will now get reliable advice on how to improve our schools and get them the resources they need to build on their successes."
"We're proud of moving the end result this year in that direction, but it doesn't go far enough and we're going to face more cuts next year because of it," said Rep. Kerttula. "In the end, keeping up with inflation and giving schools more fiscal certainty is better for our schools and better for Alaska's children."