Dunleavy's budget holds deep cuts to education at University, K-12 levels

Published: Feb. 13, 2019 at 3:51 PM AKST
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As Alaskans read over the governor's proposed budget many parents, education advocates, University of Alaska officials, teachers and many, many others are worried about the impacts on education.

It's a $134 million reduction to the state's university system with about $50 million in losses to the Anchorage-area campuses.

"I have made no decisions yet," Dr. Cathy Sandeen, the chancellor at UAA said. "I think it is really important that I make sure that I support our faculty and our employees and our students and that we keep calm for the moment while we work through this process."

For K-12 education, in Anchorage, it's about a 20 percent overall reduction. It's even more complex since state bond debt reimbursement -- which covers school construction and fixes -- would be eliminated. That's a cost that would be sent to the city of Anchorage, and its taxpayers, at $41.1 million according to ASD.

Dr. Deena Bishop, the Anchorage superintendent, says 88 percent of its costs are associated with people--teachers and support staff.

"Ninety percent of those reductions could be in human resources," Bishop said.

Asked how that makes her feel, Dr. Bishop said not good.

"It's not good today. Really it's going to be tough."

The president of the Anchorage School Board, Starr Marsett, says the governor's budget isn't realistic.

"With this, we have no choice," Marsett said, "if we can even open our doors I'd be surprised."

Both urged people who are worried about the budget and its impacts on education, to rally their state representatives.

"It has to be the whole community that says, 'Education is important to the state of Alaska and to its future and if we don't support it, there won't be a future for Alaska,'" Marsett said.

Parents and education advocates say class sizes have already grown over the past few years and the budget could have devastating impacts.

"I'm disappointed and frustrated," Val Buckendorf a fifth-generation Alaskan with two children in the Anchorage School District said. "I don't know how you cut 25 percent from any school and expect it to function."

"Our schools have challenges, they certainly aren't failing that's one of the things that gets exaggerated a lot, unfortunately by people who want to radically reform our public schools, but certainly a funding cut like this isn't going to help anything," Aaron Poe with Great Alaska Schools said.

During his budget rollout, Gov. Mike Dunleavy told reporters it's up to the school districts to figure out where to spend money.

"We'll be looking at proposing reductions in the BSA (Base Student Allocation)," Dunleavy said. "Again the core functions of education and public education remain intact. There is no proposals for private education, at this stage in the game, don't anticipate any, but it's going to have to, it's going to compel school districts to evaluate how they spend their money."

Former lawmaker Les Gara said he expects Republicans and Democrats to work together to make changes.

"If you want a formula for making people leave the state he's come up with that formula," Gara said about the governor's budget.