Anchorage School Board discusses more options to cut costs in district

Anchorage School Board discusses more options to cut costs in district
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 9:44 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With a budget deficit of almost $68 million staring them in the face, officials with the Anchorage School District are still working to find ways to close the gap.

Tuesday night’s Anchorage School Board meeting featured more discussion over options for cutting costs in the district, including the possibility of changing immersion programs, eliminating the IGNITE program for advanced students, and even potential school closures. The hope, the board says, is that it can do that with minimal disruptions to students and staff.

“While the decisions will be difficult, the path towards passing a balanced budget will require a number of changes and reductions across the district,” district Superintendent Dr. Jharrett Bryantt told public listeners. “For the public’s understanding, these budget reductions are an outcome of declining enrollment and also unstable and insufficient funding from across the state.”

The district superintendent maintains that if education funding is not increasing, it’s essentially being cut, and that’s where he says the district has been since 2017, when the district began receiving the same flat revenue funding each year from the state using a Base Student Allocation formula.

On Tuesday, a crowd was at the meeting to hear budget options and listen to the board’s options for school closures or repurposing. The potential school closures include Abbott Loop, Birchwood ABC, Klatt, Nunaka Valley, Northwood, and Wonder Park elementary schools.

Attendees at the meeting stood up in support of their schools.

“I look foward to playing and watching soccer in the future,” one student said. “In conclusion, I feel that high school soccer pushes you to do good in school and let’s you think about your future,” one student said.

“I am here tonight to speak to you, not only as an affected educator, but as an advocate for my students’ families that are not able to have a voice because they have not been given the chance to understand what ASD is proposing,” one Klatt Elementary teacher said.

“I urge you to seek to understand the impact and be willing to make equitable decisions based on vision for our children, rather than deficits,” another Klatt Elementary teacher added.

The board also analyzed new math proficiency data and says it hopes to increase that from 40 percent to 55 percent by may of 2026. That follows members reviewing reading proficiency last week. Another goal the district has is a graduation rate of 93% by 2026. As ASD crafts a budget for the coming year, now is the time, it says, for people to speak up about what they want funded.

“While ASD will pass a balanced budget in February, this is also the time for the community to advocate for sensible policies that fund our schools adequately,” Dr. Bryantt said.

There are six more town halls scheduled for the month of November, including the third, fourth, 14th, 16th, 21st and 22nd days of the month.