Education bill fails
Compromise sends teachers packing and guarantees more cuts
The House-Senate conference committee on the education bill touted its compromise on school funding late Wednesday and early Thursday.
What was compromised was good public education.
Conferees agreed to an increase in the base student allocation (BSA) of $150 this year and $50 a year for the next two years.
According to superintendent Ed Graff and chief financial officer Mark Foster of the Anchorage School District, that's still likely to mean teacher layoffs this year. Foster said that if the Anchorage School Board decided to allot every penny of the bill's increases to prevent layoffs, most of the teaching positions due for cuts could be retained -- for one year. Support staff on the block would still be gone -- counselors, teacher's aides, tech staff, special education aides.
Graff explained that the entire reason for an increase in the BSA was to provide stability and sustainability. Schools in Anchorage and throughout Alaska cannot improve with continued cuts where learning happens -- between teachers and students.
Great Alaska Schools, the grassroots group of parents, students, community leaders and teachers that organized this year against continuted cuts, gave lawmakers a simple, sensible path. Raise the BSA by $400 next year and by $125 a year in the two subsequent years to restore Alaska schools to 2011 levels, and spare us the loss of teachers.
That would have been a morale boost for our schools -- three years of no cuts, steady funding and secure time to consider further reforms and improvements.
Instead, the compromise merely reduces this year's losses and guarantees more cuts to come.
Lawmakers who supported this path instead of full funding shouldn't wonder at the frustration of Alaskans who see them easily allocate tens of millions or hundreds of millions to projects which may never be built while they take their constitutional duty to schools and turn it into a torment -- in overtime.
As of Thursday afternoon there was still time to do right by our schools. Don't compromise. Go the distance.
BOTTOM LINE: Lawmakers should end the drama and fund our public schools to keep teachers at work and programs running.