IGNITE funding restored, School Board passes 2020/21 budget

Published: Feb. 19, 2020 at 12:14 AM AKST
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The school board voted to pass an amended 2020/21 budget at their meeting Tuesday night 5-2. Two amendments passed to restore funding to the IGNITE gifted program and funding for security personnel at a number of schools.

The decision came after 3 hours of public testimony with over 50 speakers and a similarly long discussion by the school board.

Overwhelmingly, the testimony was dominated by parents, teachers, and students opposing cuts to the IGNITE gifted program.

"Why would bright kids ever want to stay in Alaska, and invest in Alaska, if we're not willing to invest in them?" Asked Bob Kaufman, a parent who started an online petition opposing the changes.

Many others spoke out against other cuts, including the restructure of elementary school health classes, but the vast majority were there to defend IGNITE. The board, hearing that testimony, discussed how to restore funding to the program using different sources, ultimately landing on the district's reserve funds.

"We are doing a stopgap," said School Board member Andy Holleman. "We are doing something we can't sustain."

The move came with the caveat that something similar could not be done in future years, and that a serious discussion about the program's future would happen over the next year.

"The program will continue," said Board member Margo Bellamy. "How will it continue?"

The amendment restored funding for Security personnel at schools around the district by cutting administrative costs.

The board also discussed an amendment to restore the health class structure by fractionally raising class sizes, but that amendment failed 6-1.

The budget will now go before the Anchorage Assembly for approval.

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