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State this wealthy can provide for students, schools

Editorial

Posted: Friday, February 09, 2007

Recent news stories reveal the paradox that is the state’s budget. On the one hand, Gov. Sarah Palin has proposed depositing $1.3 billion into the body of the permanent fund, which requires a constitutional amendment to tap. She also wants to reinstate the Longevity Bonus program, which was eliminated in 2003, at a cost of $33 million.

As of Monday, the permanent fund’s market value totaled $37,458,800,000 — $37.5 billion. The fund grew by $2.1 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31.

On the other hand, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is looking at cutting 75 teachers. After years and years of cuts and making do with less and less, Melody Douglas, the district’s chief financial officer, says there are no more rabbits to pull out of the district’s budget hat. While Palin’s budget does include money to cover increased retirement costs to the district, that doesn’t mean more money for classrooms.

As of Monday, the permanent fund’s market value totaled $37,458,800,000 — $37.5 billion. The fund grew by $2.1 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31.

Alaskans do a lot of talking about investing in the future and about how their children are the future. They wring their hands over the number of young people who leave the state never to return. Yet, year after year they have witnessed the deterioration of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District due to an inequitable funding formula that determines how the state distributes money to school districts and nothing is done.

Kenai Peninsula Borough students have no reason to believe the state truly values them as its “greatest natural resource,” as so many people are fond of saying. The funding formula treats them like second-class citizens.

As of Monday, the permanent fund’s market value totaled $37,458,800,000 — $37.5 billion. The fund grew by $2.1 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31.

That the district and its employees have managed so well under the stress of years of cuts is testimony to their creativity, their professionalism and their determination to provide the best education possible no matter what the circumstances. Their dedication is proof that they value peninsula students. But enough is enough. The district needs the governor and legislators to step up to the plate and make right the wrongs in the state funding formula.

As of Monday, the permanent fund’s market value totaled $37,458,800,000 — $37.5 billion. The fund grew by $2.1 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31.

It’s been said that our checkbooks are a reflection of our hearts, our values. Surely, if there’s money to reinstate the Longevity Bonus program, put $1.3 billion into the permanent fund, study building the Knik Arm Crossing, ask for money for all kinds of road projects, there is money to prevent the kinds of cuts the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is facing.

If Alaskans truly believe their children are the future, they won’t dismantle the education foundation out from under them. That foundation is truly the building block for everything else, including healthy communities, good jobs and an infrastructure on which the future can be built.

As of Monday, the permanent fund’s market value totaled $37,458,800,000 — $37.5 billion. The fund grew by $2.1 billion in the quarter that ended Dec. 31.



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