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School funding plans raise concern

Posted: April 3, 2012 - 8:46am

As a retired teacher from Kenai Central High School in the early 90s I have noticed the effect of inflation on the budgets for Kenai Peninsula schools. This past week I attended several legislative hearings in Juneau on school funding.  I was disappointed to find that many House members have disregarded the facts presented by School Boards from across Alaska that inflation has taken a significant bite out the base foundation program resulting in increased class sizes and major reductions in education programs. The House members may not inflation-proof the educational funding which would  be a major mistake.  Districts cannot plan their budgets with any certainty if they don't know what to expect from the state to fund schools for the next year.

The governor's office agrees that educational funding has had a major negative impact but believes that the best correction is to not increase the base allocation but offering one time monies that may disappear for the following years,resulting in Districts laying off more staff and cutting programs which will (and has) increased class sizes since they do not know what level of funding to expect.

It does not allow the School Boards to make the best financial decisions for the following year. The Districts have local committees which are far more involved and aware of the needs of the local communities than the State House members and the Governor. Yet the Governor and a few of the House members "seem to think they to know best." They do not.

The State Senate passed a bill early this session, Senate Bill 171, to provide very modest increases to the BSA over the next three years. This bill will provide an increase in each of the next three years. For FY 13, the increase would be $125 on the BSA. In FY 14, the increase would be $130, and in FY 15, the increase would be $135. The amount of increase is modest and almost every superintendent has clearly stated that even if this bill passes, there will be reductions across the state by way of increased class sizes, layoffs of staff, and programs being diminished or eliminated. However, the Districts will know what funding to expect and not need to beg for more.

The Governor and the State House must be encouraged to allow School Boards to meet the rising costs in the most cost effective manner and raise the base student allocation at least to the level of inflation and no less than SB 171.

Please contact our Governor and our local House members today and tell them to listen to local school boards and provide at least a level of funding equal to that of Senate Bill 171.  Ask each legislator how they can support letting our local school districts face unnecessary cuts to public schools while considering lowering taxes to the major oil industries in the state. Let them know that we will follow their votes carefully and will remember in the fall. Our kids on the Peninsula are too important to let them down.

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