News: Proposed Cuts to Public Education Funding Dangerous and Unacceptable

Reps. Kito III and Ortiz Oppose Cuts in Finance Subcommittee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 25, 2015

Juneau – Education is Alaska’s best investment and the members of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition adamantly object to a proposal to reduce public education funding by over 18 percent.  The House Finance Budget Subcommittee for the Department of Education and Early Development approved the FY 2016 budget proposal Tuesday night despite the objections of Rep. Sam Kito III (D-Juneau) and Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan).

“This proposal far outpaces the 2.5% cut proposed by Governor Walker and, if ultimately approved, will devastate the public education system in Alaska,” said Rep. Kito III.  “It’s not too late to stop these irresponsible cuts and I am confident they will be rolled back during the deliberations of the House Finance Committee.  However, this can only happen if the Republican controlled majority comes to the realization that Alaska has a constitutional obligation to properly fund public education, despite our ongoing budget crisis.”

The proposed FY 2016 budget for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development is $347.4 million, which is down 18.6% from the approved FY 2015 budget.  The budget proposal that moved out of the House Finance Budget Subcommittee for the Department of Education and Early Development eliminates the Statewide Literacy program, the K-3 Literacy program, the Pre-K Grants program, and the Live Homework Help program. The proposal also seeks to cut $1 million for STEM program expansion and $5 million for the Broadband program.

“The deliberative process of the subcommittee was manhandled by the Majority with very little time to examine these proposed cuts,” said Rep. Kito III. “We were not allowed to offer amendments and the Chair tried to limit debate and discussion.  This is not the way to do the people’s business and we in the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition will battle through the committee process to roll back these cuts.”

Despite the objections of Reps. Kito III and Ortiz, the House Finance Budget Subcommittee for the Department of Education and Early Development approved eliminating state funding for the Online with Libraries Program and Parents as Teachers.  The subcommittee also voted to eliminate $937 thousand for Best Beginnings, which is a public-private partnership focused on childhood literacy.

“Everyone knows that the budget deficit demands cuts in spending but we must cut smartly,” said subcommittee member Rep. Ortiz.  “Cutting education is not smart. The members of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition have made protecting our public education system a priority because we understand that education funding is an investment in our future and not just numbers on a page.”

The proposed education cuts now go to the full House Finance Committee, which includes three members of Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition.  Reps. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks), and Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) have all pledged to work tirelessly to roll back the cuts to education supported by the Majority.

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