Residents can’t afford to be just observers in school funding debate


Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2007

Supporters of more funding and more equitable funding for Kenai Peninsula Borough schools should take a page out of the halibut charter fleet’s recent success story. Concerned about a recommendation by the International Pacific Halibut Commission that would have limited halibut charter clients in Southcentral waters to one fish per day during two weeks in June, those in the charter business and others who opposed the change worked hard to prevent the proposal from being implemented.

They succeeded.

The secret of their success? At least in part, it was telling their story to anyone and everyone. They signed petitions. They faxed. They phoned. They e-mailed. And then they did it all over again. They were tireless in their efforts. From the highest level of government to their next-door neighbor to friends, relatives and would-be visitors in other states, they gave their perspective on how damaging the rule could be.

And that’s exactly what parents, students and other Kenai Peninsula Borough residents must do if this issue of school funding is ever to be resolved in a way that’s in the best interest of students.

It’s not enough to let school board and assembly members know that what’s happening to peninsula schools is a travesty. That’s preaching to the choir; they think it’s a travesty, too. That’s why the assembly is correct to pursue the avenues of lobbying and litigating to help right the wrongs of the state’s school funding formula and the area cost differential.

It’s not enough to let the peninsula legislative delegation know; they, too, are sympathetic.

And it’s certainly not enough to let school and borough officials bear this torch alone.

This is, or it should be, an issue that concerns every single person who lives within the borough, not just those with children in the school system. This particular school funding issue isn’t just about class sizes. It’s not just about whether kids get to learn foreign languages or play sports or choose from a wide variety of electives. It’s not just about teacher salaries or school closures.

It’s about fairness. Why should peninsula students suffer because lawmakers don’t have the will or desire to change a funding formula that cheats and robs students out of the education they deserve? Would lawmakers stand for this if it were their children who were being cheated? What about the governor?

It’s about the economy. Quality schools provide a strong foundation for a healthy, local economy. They attract businesses and people to an area. They prepare students for bright futures. They’re an incentive for those who grow up here to raise their own children here. Think a one-fish limit for two weeks would have wreaked havoc on the community’s economy? Well, think of the damage the slow deterioration of peninsula schools is having on the future.

It’s about values. Everybody talks about how much they value children. Properly and fairly funding the state’s school district is one way for the state to put its money where its mouth is.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there should be no greater priority than resolving this issue once and for all. If the halibut charter fleet can make enough waves in a few short weeks to make sure a regulation isn’t implemented, surely peninsula residents speaking with one voice can show the rest of the state that this wrong needs to be righted sooner rather than later.

Enough is enough. The inequities in how the state funds education have to go.

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