As a teacher for over 30 years, I have always looked forward to this time of year. The beginning of a new school year is always exciting with all its many firsts: the first day of school, riding the bus, participating in a school sport, learning a musical instrument to name just a few.
For students, school is a time full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. It is the culmination of these experiences, which enrich their adult lives and ultimately benefit society.
For that reason, it is so important that Alaska adequately fund public education. There are no "do overs" for the kindergartener who gets lost in an overcrowded classroom or for the budding artist whose school has eliminated art, or for the high school student who drops out because the electives that kept her engaged are no longer offered.
We all have a role in ensuring Alaska's children receive a quality public education. Parents, administrators, school boards, teachers, and support professionals all play a direct part in a student's education. But it also takes committed community members, business partners and government leaders.
While states across the country have been slashing education funding due to budget deficits, Alaska has been in the unique position of having a budget surplus. Last year the Senate voted to increase the funding per student, otherwise known as the base student allocation. The Senate legislation would have increased funding for the next three years, enabling school districts to better plan and budget for the future. Unfortunately, that bill did not pass the House.
The 2012-13 school year will be the third year of flat funding of the base student allocation. With the cost of inflation in Alaska, what our schools can afford to provide for students and communities is declining.
Our students deserve better. The state of Alaska has the resources -- we just need to find the will. We should continually be striving to improve the opportunities provided to our students to prepare them for a world that is ever changing and increasingly demanding.
NEA-Alaska wishes all the students of Alaska a wonderful school year ahead. Our 12,000 members in your schools and classrooms are working to ensure that you are afforded the best possible education opportunities for your future success.
Ron Fuhrer is president of the National Education Association-Alaska, which represents Alaska's public school teachers.