Pawluk: Needs, costs must balance

Candidate Views: School Board, Seat 5

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2006

I believe we have several challenges in the Kenai Peninsula Borough and KPBSD:

— Increasing annual cost per student;

— Increasing population of retirees and declining student population

— Significant teacher retirements by 2010

— Lack of technology in the classroom; and

— Minimal career and trade preparation

Annual Cost

The national average to educate a public school student is $12,000 per year. KPBSD’s 2006-2007 cost per student is $12,637. For a 1st grader today, by graduation, taxpayers have invested over $150,000 in each and every student. The KPBSD budget has increased 23 percent in two years, or $21 Million, but most of the increase has come from the state. Of the $21 Million, KPBSD taxpayers paid $3 Million, the Federal Government $4.8 Million, and the State of Alaska funded $13.2 Million.

Retirement Population

We have an expanding retirement population and declining student enrollment. As 2010 approaches, the first wave of the baby boomer generation will further increase the retiree ranks. As a community, we need to start re-directing our resources to service the needs of an aging population. KPBSD student population is expected to continue the present 1-2 percent decline rate. We will have to dust off the old consolidation study from 2002, and update it. If we have to consolidate schools, it has to be done with the students best interests in mind. When the population in two schools decline to the point where both can no longer offer many choices, then it makes sense for the schools to merge.

Teacher Retirements

Many of our current teachers will be retiring, and experienced teachers will be in short supply. We need to look ahead and prepare for the future. According to a 2005 National Center for Education Information Study, “Half (50 percent) of current high school teachers expect not to be teaching in K-12 schools in 2010. One-third (34 percent) of high school teachers expect to be retired by then.”

Technology in the Classroom

Computers, High Speed Internet Access, and Video Conferencing have their place in education. Computer Based Training/Web Based Training needs to be incorporated into our classrooms, to both broaden the methods of knowledge transfer, and to lessen the dependence on the tightening teacher pool. Teachers will always be needed to teach the necessary hands-on classes, and to direct student behavior. Teachers will also be needed to focus students on problem solving and creative thinking.

Career and Trade Preparation

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) survey of the class of 1999 shows only 17.5 percent of the district-wide freshman class of 1995 obtained a four-year college degree. I strongly believe we should allocate more of our limited school resources to reflect the needs of the other 82.5 percent.

As of Spring 2006, 82 percent of KPBSD Sophomores had passed all three sections of the high school graduation exam. KPBSD is in the initial stages of development of the Workforce Center (WFC), with 55 students in the program as of Fall 2006. I believe there are only two Full Time personnel assigned to WFC, and this level of staffing is not near enough. Apprenticeships and internships have not yet been fully developed.

My vision for KPBSD is a school district with a well-rounded Workforce center, using both internal and external resources to obtain the best mix of training. I envision a strong bridge for students to transition from high school to work with apprenticeships and internships, so students can learn first hand what their choices are.

I see new technologies like Computer Based Training-Web Based Training in the classroom, to broaden the range of classes, relieve pressure on finding replacement teachers, and to hold costs in check. We must consider new ideas that will teach our students outside the four walls of a classroom. My ideas may not be the best solution, but if everyone contributes new ideas to solve our challenges, we’ll all be better for it.

If you elect me, I will do my best to balance the needs of students with the costs to taxpayers, and will promote the solution that both improves our education system and holds our local costs in check. My personal motto: Ignorance is bliss until you get the bill.

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