Rep. Harriet Drummond

The Drummond Dispatch newsletter

RepHarrietDrummond.com

E-News
April 11, 2018

As your representative,
I am here to listen and to help. Please don't hesitate to contact me.

Rep.Harriet.Drummond
@akleg.gov

IN JUNEAU
January to April

(907) 465-3875
State Capitol Rm  108
Juneau, AK 99801

IN ANCHORAGE
May to December

(907) 269-0111
1500 W Benson
Anchorage, AK 99503

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Dear Neighbors,

The legislative session is approaching the 90-day scheduled end point, and a long term fiscal plan that is fair to regular Alaskans is looking increasingly unlikely. 

I became a member of the House Majority Coalition to put politics aside and do the right thing by passing a complete plan which shares the burden fairly through difficult budget cuts and broad-based revenue measures. I am disappointed that the Senate has blocked all of our efforts to this end, instead supporting a Permanent Fund-only plan. This would effectively tax lower income Alaskans at a rate of twenty times that paid by the wealthy, and leave highly paid out-of-state workers and multinational corporations untouched. I will not violate the trust you placed in me by supporting such a plan.

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Rep. Harriet Drummond and Sen. Tom Begich, top left, recently helped visiting Alaska Girl Scouts conduct a mock hearing at the Capitol.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that public school students shouldn’t suffer because there are not enough legislators who support prudent economic policies rather than “trickle down” economics. We can’t give up just because times are tough. I am working doggedly as chair of the House Education Committee to do everything I can to move forward with ways to help school districts save money and operate more efficiently, and I am very excited to report that many members of both the House and Senate, and of diverse political persuasions, are on board with the effort.

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Rep. Drummond was recently visited by  Deanna Beck, principal of Northwood ABC Elementary in Anchorage and Robin Jones, principal of the “Chief” Ivan Blunka School in New Stuyahok, who were in Juneau with the Alaska Council of School Administrators.

We all understand that we can’t tell parents of a fourth grader that in a few years fourth grade will be better and to send their student back then. Lost opportunity is lost for life.

SAVING MONEY AND OPERATING MORE EFFICIENTLY

There are several innovative solutions that I am excited to be working across the aisle on which will save us money on education, and help us spend the money we do have in effective ways to allow young children to grow into healthy adults with good jobs that grow the economy.

HB 406 and SB 216—School Funding for Consolidated Schools
These bills will fix an unanticipated obstacle to school consolidation found in state law. Currently, shrinking school districts are not incentivized to consolidate because they would abruptly lose revenue even though it would otherwise make sense to do so. The legislation gradually reduces funding over four years, providing districts time to adjust to the reduced funding amount, after which they will operate with greater efficiency and increased savings. The Anchorage School District wants this bill and they will put it to work immediately.

HB 221—Workforce & Education Related Statistics Program
HB 221 will help Alaska to better spend money available for education and workforce training through a statewide workforce and education related statistics program. This bill is about taking a bird’s eye view of the statistical outcomes of public investment, from pre-K to student loans, to learn what works and what doesn’t. Alaska spends more than $2 billion annually on education and workforce training, and we need to know which programs produce well-trained Alaskans who are more likely to remain in Alaska and contribute to our economy.

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Representative Drummond recently attended the “Go Blue 4 Kids” Rally to highlight April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

SB 104—Cost Savings through School Curriculum Sharing
Alaska has 54 school districts, each which are in charge of developing their own curriculum, and this takes a lot of time and money. This legislation tasks the Department of Education and Early Development, in consultation with school districts, to search globally for the best English/Language Arts and Math curriculum. The department will advance curriculum that they find appropriate and effective to the Alaska Board of Education to review, approve, and adopt and make it available for all school districts so we don’t have 54 school districts working independently to come up with 54 different plans. This bill originated in the senate, but I am committed to helping it move forward through the House Education Committee and the Alaska House in general as soon as possible.

HB 287—Funding Education on Time
As I reported earlier, education is an expense that must be paid. Our constitution mandates it. Yet due to the timing of the state budget, school districts are often unable to properly plan the upcoming school year on time. This costs school districts a lot of money and they often lose good teachers who go elsewhere after receiving layoff notices, even though their jobs may end up being saved. We were able to pass HB 287, which would fund education early and separately from the rest of the budget in the house but didn't have the votes to fully fund it. I am hopeful the Senate will move forward with a fix to pay our bills on time and save school districts from needlessly wasting time and money, and creating stress for teachers and staff.

FLAT FUNDING EDUCATION IS CUTTING EDUCATION

Children have a right to reach their potential and get the best education possible. I am cosponsoring House Bill 339 to lessen the impact of some of the inflation-adjusted classroom funding cuts the legislature has adopted in its school budgets since 2014. Students shouldn’t be harmed because some legislators think cutting 40% of the state budget, hitting schools and basic services hard, isn’t enough. 

Education should be more than crowd control. Adjusted for inflation, classroom funding for teachers and support staff has fallen by $90 million since the 2014 legislative session. That’s why Alaska, which once had some of the best schools in the nation, has lost well over 500 teachers and other school staff; increased class sizes; cut programs; inadequately funded English as a Second Language classes in an increasingly ethnically diverse state; and, damaged academic opportunity for many children.

In Cordova, students are only offered chemistry every other year. If they miss it as a sophomore, then it’s not available until they are a senior. That can affect a student’s chances of getting into college. 

On the Kenai Peninsula many schools don’t have “frills” like music classes. Education is more than sitting in an overcrowded classroom learning basics. A good education includes courses and activities that excite and inspire students. In some Bristol Bay schools, grade levels are now being combined to save money.

In the Lake Iliamna region, school has been cut by 20 days to avoid laying off teachers, and that is likely to happen in Nome if we keep giving schools less support than they need. In Kodiak, the district lost 18 positions last year, and they are on pace to lose 16 more next year with flat funding, funding that again falls behind inflation. 

Class sizes are going up from already excessive levels, from Juneau to Anchorage to Fairbanks and if a school doesn’t cut teachers, they cut courses, or school days, or other student activities. Right now, many students in rural Alaska take online courses that involve no teacher interaction, just written materials they read on their computer.

We. Must. Do. Better.

BUDGET UPDATE

I have pushed for a quick and efficient legislative session. As we approach the voter enacted 90-day limit, I am increasingly hopeful that we will wrap up business on time. We are waiting on the Senate to pass the budget before we can enter those end-of-session negotiations.

I have heard from school districts, the business community and industry leaders that it is vitally important to pass a timely budget. An on-time budget helps instill confidence in Alaska’s economy. The House budget improves funding for public safety and education. These investments will protect Alaska’s families from crime and continue building the economy into the next generation.

WHAT DOES A TIMELY BUDGET LOOK LIKE?

The budget is not just a financial document. It is a moral document that must reflect the values and priorities of all Alaskans. Our budget:

  • Pays a $1,600 PFD to all Alaskans—$500 more than 2017’s PFD.
  • Inflation-proofs the Permanent Fund for the first time in three years so that the fund continues growing into the future.
  • Continues fisheries monitoring so that commercial, sport, and personal use fishermen can harvest fish for their livelihoods and the family dinner table.
  • Slightly increases from last year to address increased crime rates and increased poverty during this multi-year recession.
  • Has been decreased by 40 percent over the last several years.

Thank you for reading my update. As always, please call or email with any thoughts, ideas, or concerns.

Sincerely,

Harriet Drummond[signed]

Harriet