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March 14, 2013


Democratic Amendments: Invest in Education Now, Proven Payoff Later

Even with amendments, total budget would still be less than governor’s

JUNEAU – Today on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives, Democratic legislators offered a series of amendments to the state operating budget to save Alaska money by investing wisely in its human resources today. If each amendment passed, the total budget would still be smaller than that proposed by the governor.


“Our proposals would’ve kept the budget smaller than the governor’s budget and given more Alaskans the education and opportunities they need to be successful contributors to their communities and all of Alaska,” said Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), the senior Democratic member of the House Finance Committee.


Rep. Gara offered an amendment to add $60 million of classroom funding to Alaska’s public school system to prevent further teacher and staff cuts across the state and restore teacher and staff positions lost over the past three years.


“We cannot keep cutting teachers if we want our students to succeed,” said Rep. Gara. “We’re trying to make a commitment to moving our schools forward and not let them slip back.”


Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) and House Democratic Whip Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) offered amendments which would have restored funding levels to the amount requested by the governor before cuts made by the House Finance Committee to the voluntary Parents as Teachers and state preschool programs. Numerous studies have shown that each dollar spent on preschool education saves between seven and fifteen dollars in future remedial education, prosecution and corrections costs.


“Children who have the opportunity to go to preschool do better in school, get better jobs, and are less likely to end up in jail,” said Rep. Tuck. “Alaskans know the benefits to the students and to the state, that’s why there is such high demand for preschool in Alaska today.”


Rep. Kawasaki, who also sits on the House Finance Committee, introduced an amendment to restore $4 million to the University of Alaska budget to help it reduce wait lists for high-demand courses including mining training at University of Alaska, Fairbanks.


“These courses are designed to train Alaskans to get the jobs available in our state today,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “There’s a demand for miners, nurses and accountants in Alaska today, and a long wait-list of Alaskans who want to get the training they need to get those jobs. Making more of those courses available would have an almost instant payoff as more Alaskans could get the good jobs that are going to those from Outside now.”


In addition to the education-related amendments above, Democratic legislators offered amendments to restore funding for: the Department of Labor’s State Training and Employment Program that provides job training; Behavioral Health Services which include substance abuse treatment, special needs training, and other services to prevent the need for future costly social services; and for Therapeutic Courts which save the state millions of dollars in prosecution, incarceration and recidivism costs.