Face to face: Testifiers plead for better education funding

Face to face: Testifiers plead for better education funding
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 7:01 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaskan parents and educators are calling for more education funding and got the chance to tell legislators face to face Sunday.

A legislative town hall hosted by the Anchorage Delegation on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus was completely packed. It was full of people passionate about changes they want to see in their communities.

While topics ranged from housing and homelessness to climate change to mental health and disabilities, the overwhelming majority of speakers wanted to talk about the importance of education and why many believe it needs to be better funded in the state of Alaska.

“Your jobs as legislators are to protect our democracy and to grow our economy, and that all starts with education,” one UAA student testified.

During the town hall, members of the community were able to talk directly to the legislators who represent them. The lawmakers quickly introduced themselves and the rest of the time was given to the people, who asked for change.

“I’m just begging you, on behalf of teachers, we really need to address this situation before it gets even more scary for the rest of us,” Kathryn Alderfer, a Denali Montessori Teacher, told the legislators. “Our class sizes are too big, we need this money for the BSA to be changed.”

The Base Student Allocation is a funding source that guarantees a minimal amount of money to K-12 education funding. Since 2017, the BSA has been set at a constant $5,930 per student per school year.

Speaker after speaker Sunday encouraged their legislators to address education funding and raise the Base Student Allocation.

“We need to think about what the next generation and the next generation and the next generation thinks, and we’re not going to be able to attract good teachers and good workers and good residents of this state unless we invest in our schools,” Suzanne Fleek-Green, a parent of two in the school district, said.

Dozens wore red, which they said showed support in raising the BSA this legislative session. Teachers, parents, and students spoke out on what they believe has been a lack of education funding for several years.

“It has not increased, as we all know since students walked, biked, or rode to school in August of 2016,” said Celeste Hodge Growden of the Alaska Black Caucus. “The sad reality is this legislation in action has caused added pressure on our educators, forced key support staff to do more with less.”

For many, education is better served for the long term.

“It reduces poverty in the long run. It hires economy in the long run. It decreases violent acts in the long run. It decreases our prison population in the long run,” another testifier said. “What you spend now on K-12 is going to benefit us.”