NEWS: GARA: Parnell, GOP “Education Year”: 3 Years of Anchorage Educator Cuts; Property Tax Hike

Rep. Les Gara

SEPTEMBER 30, 2014

ANCHORAGE – Today Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) said legislators could have avoided the major staff cuts the Anchorage School District is facing according to their recently released tentative “3 year” forecast.  That forecast shows a loss of over 500 teachers and staff over the next three years.  (See link) The Anchorage School Board is holding public listening sessions today and tomorrow to determine how to address the major shortfall they face, even after the Assembly increased property taxes to minimize the damage caused by this legislation.

Gara and other Democrats voted and presented legislation to avoid these cuts and reverse three years of over 600 statewide cuts since 2011. (See link)

These cuts are the result of the “three-year education plan” Parnell and his Republican allies passed during what they called the “Education Session.”  “The public hates party-line voting, but Republicans and Governor Parnell did exactly that while ignoring parent and school district testimony that their legislation would continue cuts to our public schools,” said Gara, who offered amendments and legislation to prevent these cuts, which were voted down and blocked along party lines. 

“You can’t call cutting teachers and those who help our students learn, for three more years, an ‘Education session.’ Taking credit for cutting more teachers, and possibly more job counselors and guidance counselors, just because you ‘spent more’, is like bragging you spent a lot of money on the Titanic.” said Gara of Parnell and Republican claims that they “increased the budget.” 

Parnell and legislators were told repeatedly during the 2014 session that this budget would cause educator losses in many school districts over the next three years, including in Anchorage and the growing Mat-Su School district.  

Parents were so concerned, after three years of over 600 educator cuts since 2011, that they formed a parent and student activist group this year, Great Alaska Schools.  That group confirms the Parnell and GOP three-year plan will result in major cuts in the schools most Alaska students attend.  “You know you’ve done something wrong when parents organize to fight what their elected representatives are doing.”

“We have a duty to give students the teachers and support staff they need to succeed.  We should increase opportunity, not stifle it, which is what more cuts will threaten in Anchorage.”

Gara and Democrats have consistently voted, and filed legislation to stop these cuts, and this year voted for amendments reverse cuts since 2011.

Rep. Gara can be contacted at 250-0106.



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