It's unfortunate that a legal glitch grounded this week's planned trip by parents to talk with legislators about the financial woes of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
Parents -- and students -- are the ones who need to speak out about this issue. After all, they have the most to lose if it's not resolved. Unfortunately, it's too easy to see educators, no matter how sincere they are that students are their No. 1 priority, as being at least as concerned with their paychecks as they are with the quality of education. And school district administrators and school board members may be perceived as having too much of an investment in the "system" to be the most effective voices for more money for education.
Of course, not every parent or student has the financial resources to go to Juneau for a face-to-face meeting with lawmakers. Still, that doesn't mean parents and students don't have a way to be heard.
Individual legislators can be reached by e-mail, phone, fax or regular mail. A public opinion message, or POM, also is available via the Web and at each of the three legislative information offices on the peninsula. With a POM, constituents can weigh in on the issue of their choice, in 50 words or less. Links to a POM can be found at the Legislature's Web site, located at http://www.legis.state.ak.us.
We would encourage parents and students to let legislators know how education has been hurt by the budget squeeze. Personal stories that illustrate the harm caused by years of belt tightening are helpful in driving home the point.
Of course, it's not just families with children who are affected by the school district's budget crunch. It affects every aspect of our community. Are you an employer who hires students? Do you enjoy watching high school athletic events? Do you make use of the swimming pools located in the schools? Do you enjoy concerts and plays at high school theaters? Is the school the heart of your neighborhood? Do you want peninsula students to be prepared for the future?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, the school district's problems are yours, too.
With the school district being the peninsula's largest employer, it's not a stretch to say that the morale of the community is closely tied to the morale of the district. That being the case, if the school district is hurting, the peninsula is hurting.
As community members tell legislators about specific problems they've encountered related to the school district's budget woes, they also should be willing to offer specific solutions. This is not a just a problem for legislators or school administrators to solve; it's a community problem that needs a community solution.
It would be ludicrous to separate education funding from the state's budget woes. We encourage residents to let lawmakers know what they are willing to do to help bridge the state's budget gap. Accept a smaller dividend? Live with fewer state services? Pay an income tax? Pay a state sales tax? Pay higher user fees?
The Legislature is just finishing its eighth week in session; it has about nine and a half weeks to finish its work. Your voice needs to be heard now.
Here's how to contact peninsula legislators:
Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof
Toll Free: 800-964-5733
Address: Room 427, State Capitol, Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Sen. Jerry Ward, R-Nikiski
Toll Free: 800-283-7996
Address: Room 423, State Capitol, Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski
Toll Free: 800-469-3779
Address: Room 432, State Capitol, Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Rep. Ken Lancaster, R-Soldotna
Toll Free: 800-463-2693
Address: Room 421, State Capitol, Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Rep. Drew Scalzi, R-Homer
Toll Free: 800-665-2689
Address: Room 13, State Capitol, Juneau, AK 99801-1182
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