FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 12, 2013
Democrats Move to Restore Education Opportunities for Alaska Students
Budget amendments would stave off teacher layoffs, pre-K cuts, and University class wait-lists
JUNEAU – Today, House Democrats offered a series of amendments to the state operating budget to stave off teacher layoffs, restore preschool funding, and help the University of Alaska meet the demand for its most popular classes.
“Education is what gives children opportunity and trains them for the workforce,” said Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage), a member of the Finance Committee who introduced a number of amendments to help students in Alaska. “Alaskans want to prepare themselves and their children to get good jobs, and we’ll keep pushing to reverse Alaska’s three year course of damaging educator cuts.”
Rep. Gara and Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) offered the education-related amendments to the proposed budget during the House Finance Committee meeting. The preschool-related amendments would have restored funding levels to the amount requested by the governor before cuts made by the House Finance Committee’s education budget subcommittee to Best Beginnings, Parents as Teachers and the voluntary state preschool program.
“Alaska’s preschools serve only two percent of Alaska’s four-year-olds, yet countless studies show investing in preschool is good for the economy and helps students get ahead and stay ahead,” said Rep. Gara.
Rep. Gara also introduced 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.
Rep. Kawasaki proposed 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.
“We need to help the University meet demand for those courses so Alaskans can get the classes they need to get the good jobs they want,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “We’ve asked the University to work with private sector to offer these opportunities to help train Alaskans and so they can get good jobs here in Alaska, and we should support their efforts.”
The committee added $100,000 back to the budget for Best Beginnings but failed to support the other preschool, public school, and university amendments.