More than 100 protesters, most of them teachers, rallied for increased state education funding Saturday outside the Alaska State Legislative Information Office building downtown. The rally came in response to an announcement Friday that the Anchorage School District planned to cut 215 jobs as a result of rising expenses combined with flat funding in Gov. Sean Parnell's proposed budget.
Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat who spoke at the rally, said Parnell has "dealt a bad hand" to the School District by failing to keep pace with inflation costs in his budget.
"This governor has been launched on a three-year plan of staff cuts across the state," Gara said, "That's not the way to improve education."
Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the governor included $1.2 billion for education funding and student transport in his budget -- not a cut, she said -- and $25 million for expected school energy cost increases.
Leighow referred a reporter to recorded comments the governor made at a press briefing Thursday. At the briefing, Parnell said the legislative session was just getting under way and "everything's open for discussion."
Still, Parnell said at the briefing that he would stand by his principles in regards to any proposals to increase education funding. "It's got to deliver results for our kids and parents," Parnell said.