NEWS: Last Minute Assault on Public Education Hits School Children

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Students, Teachers, Lawmakers, and Parents Caught Off-Guard by Proposed $50 Cut to the Base Student Allocation

May 18, 2016

Juneau – As the Second Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature reaches the constitutionally mandated end of session, lawmakers and advocates for a healthy K-12 public education system are reeling from a surprise cut to public education. On Tuesday night, the House and Senate Operating Budget Conference Committee slipped a $50 cut to the Base Student Allocation (BSA) into the proposed FY 2017 budget in violation of funding promised by state law.

“Our fiscal challenges are due to the sudden drop in oil prices and a failure in leadership to properly respond.  Our children are at risk if we sacrifice their future to help pay for mistakes they did not make and factors out of their control,” said House Education Committee member Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage).  “The people of Alaska, especially those who work every day to help our children, deserve the respect to have their voices heard on this dangerous cut.  This is not the way to conduct the business of the people of Alaska.”

Five of the six members of the Conference Committee are members of the House and Senate Majorities.  The only member of the Minority on the committee, Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage), was the lone member to oppose the last-minute cut to education funding.  Rep. Gara and Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) took to the House Floor Tuesday night to alert lawmakers and the public of what was quietly slipped into next years proposed budget.  The news was a surprise to nearly every member of the Alaska Legislature.

“At no point during the last 120 days was I ever given a chance to vote on this irresponsible cut to Alaska’s irreplaceable public education system.  As a former public school teacher and someone who knows first-hand the challenges faced by our schools, I will vote no to such a cut if I am ever given the opportunity,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan).

The different versions of the FY 2017 Operating Budget that passed the House and Senate both included damaging cuts to the University of Alaska and early education, but Republican lawmakers never hinted at a cut to the K-12 Base Student Allocation. 

“What we witnessed in the Republican-controlled Conference Committee Tuesday night was just another example of a bad public process,” said Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage).  “The people of Alaska were excluded from giving any input on the proposed cut because it was not unveiled until day 120 of the session.  Our children, parents, and teachers deserve better from the Alaska Legislature.  This shortchanges our future.”

The proposed cut to the Base Student Allocation will likely increase class sizes and continue the loss of needed educators. It will also force school districts and municipalities across the state to scramble to change their budgets to accommodate the lack of state support.

For more information, please contact Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.



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