A straight hand, please
Lawmakers need to ante up for Alaska schools, period
We hope the state Senate will act with more clarity than some of their colleagues in the House on the issue of school funding.
Public school advocates, finally fed up with four years of cuts where their children go to learn, have laid out a simple course for the Alaska Legislature. Raise the base student allocation by $400 this year and $125 each in the subsequent two years. Those will suffice to restore cuts and avoid losses planned for this year and give schools more room to keep teachers in classrooms over the next two years -- although the $125 increases probably won't be enough to restore every position and program lost since 2011.
The idea here is simple, and lawmakers do not need to make it more complicated or confusing.
Raise the BSA to spare us teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and fewer counselors. That's the purpose. We want to keep our public schools strong, not scrambling. Neither what the House has passed nor what the governor has proposed get the job done.
Lawmakers should get this job done, and clearly. No sleight of hand, no robbing Peter to pay Paul, no shorting rural districts to shore up urban districts, no attempts to mollify school advocates with one-time money.
Legislators might remember that the leaders and members of the resurgent Great Alaska Schools are people who went to school. They recognize smoke, and they don't appreciate it.
Some lawmakers have rather condescendingly sought to remind school champions that the state faces deficits. The increases our schools' need just to hold the line amount to roughly $160 million over the next three years. Compare that to a proposed $1.9 billion capital budget, and ask some questions about priorities.
Set aside the question of inflation-proofing for now. Let's just restore sufficient funding for our public schools. These schools are where most of our children go to learn, where most of our teachers do their essential work. Let's treat them that way.
BOTTOM LINE: No games, no half measures: Keep our public schools strong.