FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 9, 2018
Bill Introduced to Increase Student Success and Reverse Teacher Cuts
Reps. Gara and Drummond to Push Needed Increase in School Support
Juneau – Today, Representatives Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage) introduced legislation to increase the Base Student Allocation (BSA) in Alaska by $100. The BSA is the amount provided to school districts each year for each student enrolled. Funding for public education in Alaska is roughly $25 million less today than compared to 2015, according to the non-partisan Legislative Finance Division. The loss is even greater, $90 million if you consider the effects of inflation.
“School funding cuts are demoralizing teachers and parents to the point they are leaving the state,” said Rep. Gara, the bill’s lead sponsor. “We can’t shortchange our youth and deprive them of opportunities they need to succeed. Sunday, I met a teacher whose science class went from 28 to 32 students this year. The increase is undermining her ability to help individual students. More failure isn’t an acceptable education policy.”
School districts across Alaska are struggling to do more with less, which often results in teacher cuts. 394 teachers and support staff have been cut in the Anchorage School District and 90 teachers and staff have been lost in the Mat-Su School District. Since 2011, the Juneau School District has been forced to cut 92 full-time positions. Schools warn that additional cuts are looming with flat or reduced funding from the State of Alaska.
Rep. Drummond, who chairs the House Education Committee, stressed that the House had worked hard to keep cuts to education to a bare minimum.
“Our bipartisan Alaska House Majority Coalition has worked to maintain an adequate level of education funding, but school districts continue to lose ground to inflation and increased costs for things like health care and energy,” said Rep. Drummond. “We must draw the line somewhere, and for me, it’s excessive class sizes. When class sizes grow too large, safety and well-being are compromised, and it becomes increasingly difficult to foster student success.”
The impact of budget cuts and flat funding for public education has prompted school district superintendents and education advocates to endorse the proposed increase to the Base Student Allocation.
“State funding through the Base Student Allocation has not been increased to keep pace with costs,” said Anchorage School District Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop. “It takes every Alaskan working together to provide the best education for every child in every school, every day.”
“Budget cuts include increasing class size through a reduction in the teacher workforce, eliminating instructional support positions, reduced supply budgets, and increasing activity fees,” said Mat-Su School District Superintendent Dr. Monica Goyette.
“School funding cuts have increased class size and harmed our ability to allow students to achieve their potential,” said Alaska PTA President Candy Jo Bracken.
Reps. Gara and Drummond recognize that a budget plan is needed to move the state, including schools, forward. In addition to supporting an increase in education funding, Reps. Gara and Drummond both support House Bill 287 to ensure timely funding for Alaska’s public education system in Fiscal Year 2019. The bill would also avoid hundreds of unnecessary layoff notices. HB 287 was passed by the Alaska House of Representatives Wednesday night and has been sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.
“We hope all legislators will keep their minds open and listen to the concerns of parents and educators,” said Rep. Gara.
House Bill 339 was formally introduced this morning and referred to the House Education and Finance Committees. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), Tuck, Josephson (D-Anchorage), and Parish (D-Juneau).
The House Education Committee is scheduled to hear testimony Monday about the adequacy of education funding in Alaska. The hearing begins Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. in room 106 of the Capitol Building in Juneau.
For more information, please contact:
Rep. Les Gara at (907) 250-0106
Rep. Harriet Drummond at (907) 465-3875
Anchorage School District Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop at (907) 742-4312
Mat-Su School District Superintendent Dr. Monica Goyette at (907) 746-9255
Juneau School District Superintendent Dr. Mark Miller at (907) 523-1702
Alaska PTA President Candy Bracken at (907) 388-1394.