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Education requires adequate funding

  • Author: Deena Bishop
    | Opinion
  • Updated: March 9
  • Published March 9

Orion Elementary School located on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The Anchorage School District has completed its preliminary assessment of the governor’s budget. It outlines a 25 percent reduction to education funding. The proposed cuts impact four areas: Base Student Allocation (BSA) change, House Bill 287 rescission, bond debt reimbursement and pre-K.

ASD’s operational budget would be impacted by a proposed reduction of $107.48 million. The other fund reduction presented in the governor’s budget calls for a cut to the state’s share of bond debt in excess of $41 million for ASD’s past school construction and major maintenance. While this cut does not directly affect the school district, it essentially shifts costs of the state’s prior debt to the Municipality of Anchorage. The governor’s proposed reductions call for an approximately $148 million deficit to ASD’s school communities for next school year.

In understanding the magnitude of this reduction, ASD has published several documents on the district’s website to transparently share fact-based information. To provide a backdrop with relative impacts to our schools and classrooms, several scenarios are presented. For instance, the administrative costs for the School Board, chief-level district administration and my personal salary combined equate to $1.6 million. Similarly, the amount of funds currently used to hire elementary teachers, district-wide in all schools, including neighborhood, charter, and special mission schools (such as open optional, immersion, etc.), is $126 million.

ASD could essentially eliminate all elementary grade level teachers district-wide, or our entire program, and still not account for the loss proposed in the governor’s budget. Many times, a mind’s eye on real costs enables better decision-making in understanding how state funds impact classrooms and programs.

The proposed reductions will impact class sizes in the district. Presently, the pupil-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten classes across the district is 21 students to one teacher (21:1). The governor’s budget would grow this by 10, to 31 students per teacher (31:1). Fourth grade would increase from 26 students to 36 students per teacher (26:1 to 36:1). Our high schools would move from a ratio of 30:1 to 40:1.

As residents of Alaska, as community members of the Municipality of Anchorage, and as stakeholders in public education, your awareness and participation in the state’s budget are paramount. Currently, the elected officials of Anchorage are in Juneau preparing their budget proposals in the House and Senate. A goal for ASD is to keep the people of Anchorage informed so that you can make the decisions that best meet your desires and needs for public education.

In closing, I ask that you keep your school district’s spending efficient, effective, and responsive to desired outcomes for the children in our city.

To that end, I ask you to hold ASD accountable to do its best for the young people of our community in meeting their goals for a successful future. Reading, communicating and problem-solving are essential skills students must master. Graduates with the dispositions and attitudes to be healthy, happy and employable are contributing community members. Public education is essential to the livelihood of our country, state, and city — ensure your schools deliver.

Deena Bishop, Ph.D., is the superintendent of the Anchorage School District.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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