Note from Rep. Les Gara

Note from Rep. Les Gara


Education Matters: Cutting 500+ Teachers & Educators Doesn’t Increase Educational Opportunity

Note from Rep. Les Gara

March 29, 2018

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I will keep pushing for a fair and needed budget plan, so Alaska doesn’t keep – for a fourth year in a row -deficit spending its way through what little remains of our disappearing savings accounts.  I’ve written about that before.


But public school students shouldn’t suffer because their elected officials can’t get their act together.  Rep. Harriet Drummond, I and others (who have voted to balance the budget along with our bi-partisan House Majority Coalition) need your help. We believe in a student’s right to reach their potential and be given the best education possible.  Our House Bill 339 seeks to make up for some of the inflation-adjusted classroom funding cuts the legislature has adopted in its school budgets since 2014.  Please write your legislators – all of them if you can.  Here is an easy link to legislator contact information.  Feel free to also send me your letter and I’ll add it to our bill packet.


A student’s success in life, and right to reach their full potential, shouldn’t be harmed because hardline legislators won’t adopt a solution to this budget deficit mess.  Students shouldn’t be harmed because the most extreme legislators think $3.5 billion in state budget cuts (40% of the state budget), that are hitting schools and basic services hard, aren’t enough.  We can’t tell the parents of a 4th grade student that in a few years, 4th grade will be better, and to send their student back again.  Lost opportunity is lost for life.


Education should be more than crowd control.  We know there are climate change deniers out there--now we have inflation deniers. 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.


My job is to make sure we give students the right to work hard and achieve their dreams.


Here are a few examples of what’s happening to public schools around the state. 


In Cordova students are only offered chemistry every other year.  If they miss it as a sophomore, as one student tells me she did because she had other required courses to take, then it’s not available until they are a senior.  That can affect a student’s chances of getting into the college of their choice. 


On the Kenai Peninsula many schools don’t have “frills” like music classes or band.  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, grades 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 sports, 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.


As always, let me know if you have any questions, or need our help.


My Best,

[signed] Les Gara



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