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Democrats Introduce Bill to Protect Schools against Future Cuts

Alaska’s Schools Need a Lasting Commitment to Build on Successes

JUNEAU – Today, House Democrats introduced legislation to make a lasting commitment to Alaska’s schools by guaranteeing inflation will not lead to more school staff cuts.  Nine members of the House Democratic Caucus signed on to the legislation.

“For three straight years, the governor has flat-funded education, and for three straight years schools have cut staff needed to improve academic outcomes,” said Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), the bill’s primary sponsor. “If we want Alaskans to be ready for tomorrow’s jobs, we can’t keep taking away the resources students need to succeed.”

The bill (HB95) would make up for the last two years of inflation and ensure that the resources schools count on each year will continue to keep up with rising costs due to inflation.

“If our schools are going to build on their successes and plan for the future, they need to know they’ll have at least the same tools to work with next year as they have this year,” said Representative Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), a former school board member. “This bill gives our schools the lasting commitment they need so they can focus on where to improve, not where to cut.”

“We all want to see graduation rates improve, but we can’t get there by letting inflation undercut our schools,” said Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), a certified teacher who has taught in rural Alaska and at the University of Alaska. “It’s time Alaska’s schools know they can count on having the resources they need.”

While student enrollment in the Anchorage, Kenai, and Juneau school districts has only declined between one and two percent since the 2009-2010 school year, these districts have been forced to reduce teacher numbers at almost four times that rate due to insufficient resources from the state. The Mat-Su school district has had to cut 69 teachers, or eight percent, since 2010-2011 even though it added 690 more students since the 2009-2010 school year. Last week, both Anchorage and Juneau school districts announced they were facing further staffing cuts due to insufficient support from the state. Parents, teachers, and others have expressed concern over growing class sizes and fewer available classes.

“As a parent, I want to know my child is getting the best education one year to the next,” said David Noon, father of a first-grader at Harborview Elementary School in Juneau. “And when I talk to teachers, they have a hard time planning because they don’t know what they’ll have to work with each year from the state. If we want our students to get the education they’re going to need, we need to make sure our schools can count on having the resources to do the job.”

“I don’t think continually cutting school staff reflects this community’s priorities,” said Anthony Banker, a father of three children who attend Anchorage public schools.

The base student allocation (BSA) is the primary source of state resources Alaska’s schools can count on receiving each year, and it has not increased in three years. The Democratic legislators’ proposal raises the base student allocation exactly the amount necessary to make up for inflation from the last two years, based on the consumer price index. It also requires that the state adjust the BSA for inflation in future years to end the current cycle of tutor, counselor, teacher, support staff and summer school cuts in districts across Alaska. 

In addition to the legislators above, co-sponsors include House Democratic Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau), House Democratic Whip Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), Representative Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage), Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Southeast), and Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage).

Read the new Legislative Research reports on inflation and teacher losses:

“Inflation Adjustments to the Base Student Allocation FY2011 to FY2014”: http://akdemocrats.org/gara/012313_Research_Memo_BSA.pdf

“Teacher and Selected Staff Positions in Selected Alaska School Districts 2010-2013”:

http://akdemocrats.org/gara/012913_research_brief.pdf

Chart showing most recent proposed staff cuts for Anchorage School District

(as published in the Anchorage Daily News):

http://media.adn.com/static/images/graphics/SchoolCuts.jpg

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