(I would like to preface this letter by stating that although I serve as a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly I am writing as an individual citizen and not in any way on behalf of the borough assembly.)
At the April 18 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting, the assembly voted to contribute $36,761,137 of public tax dollars toward support of public schools on the Kenai Peninsula. This figure represents the maximum allowable local contribution under state statute and requires an increase in property taxes in order to pay for it.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough can proudly claim that the taxpayers have so strongly valued education of our local children that they have been willing to pay the maximum allowed for at least the last 20 years.
With the high level of local funding, it would be logical to assume that the schools on the Kenai Peninsula are flourishing. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Due to an inequitable calculation of the area cost differential at the state level the schools in our area have suffered dramatic cuts in every program and in every school for at least the last 10 years. The number of students in each classroom continues to rise, buildings go without the services of an administrator, school nurse or librarian, and the course offerings have been axed to the point of only offering the basic courses needed to graduate from high school.
This means that vocational education, music education, art education, foreign languages and all the other programs which are needed to produce an educated populace in a democratic society have either been reduced or completely eliminated.
The governor has proposed an increase of $90 million to this year’s state education budget. While this is a good starting point, the message needs to be made clear to all legislators and the governor that even with the proposed increase and full funding from the local government, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will still be forced to cut 41 teachers. This cut is in addition to the 10 percent staffing reduction the district made two years ago.
We live in what is arguably the richest state in the nation, and as proud Alaskans we should be striving for an education system that is second to none. Please send the message to all officials in the state Legislature that our schools are in dire need.
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