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Jobs will be lost with $25 million Anchorage School District cut

Katie Medred

The Anchorage School District announced Friday it will cut $25 million from the 2013-2014 budget, including 115 jobs, mainly of "support" employees, not teachers.

In response, the National Education Association Alaska plans to host an impromptu "flash mob" in downtown Anchorage on Saturday in protest.

"This budget process began in July and has been very thoughtful,” said Anchorage School Board President Jeannie Mackie. “The board gave clear direction to the administration to make strategic decisions and focus on the classroom.”

The budget was announced by Superintendent of Schools Jim Browder after a press conference at the Anchorage School District's Education Center. The $25 million is a 4.4 percent cut of the district's overall $573 million budget.   

This latest district cut comes just after some 100 school district jobs were eliminated in late November. Those jobs were mostly administrative. Similarly, the administration says new cuts will have a limited direct effect on students.

Not everyone agrees. "Cutting classroom aides, specialist and support to Anchorage schools makes it even more challenging for teachers to deliver the quality education that Anchorage students deserve," NEA-Alaska President Ron Fuhrer said. "And statewide it's the same thing."

Last week, Browder told APRN that the district plans to "reduce instructional support. There will not be any teachers in classrooms reduced, (but) there will be some certified people (people with teaching certificates). Special education and curriculum services and nurses are in that category."

"These cuts are upsetting," AEA president Andy Holleman said Friday. "The reality is that the kids are not all alike. There are some kids that are easy to educate, but as you move along the continuum there are kids that start to struggle," Holleman said. "These are the kids that need our help. They're the kids that go to see counselors and graduation specialists. They need these resources to succeed and this is what we're cutting," he said. "A lot of parents will feel its effect, they're going to feel it when support systems go away."

An annual delegate assembly in Anchorage of some 300 NEA Alaska education professionals coincides with the release of Browder's budget cuts. Consequently, the "impromptu public education flash mob" at 11:45 a.m. at 630 W. Fifth Ave. in Anchorage was organized to voice concerns about education in Alaska.

"Teachers are frustrated that they're being handicapped and at the same time criticized that their students aren't doing as well as they could," Fuhrer said. "Basically, there's a great deal of frustration. It's unfortunate that we (educators) have to fight and lobby just to get resources for our students."

NEA is asking parents and local teachers to participate. According to NEA, "The message is loud and clear -- the legislature's failure to increase funding for public education is having an impact on students."  

Browder is expected to present his proposed budget to the Anchorage School Board at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com