"It's going to get more difficult." Proposed ASD budget brings tough choices

Published: Feb. 4, 2020 at 10:56 PM AKST
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The Anchorage School District is looking to close a $19.5 million budget deficit in their proposed 2020/21 budget. That budget went before the school board for the first time Tuesday night and was met with difficult conversation.

Some of the proposed changes to bridge the gap include restructuring the IGNITE gifted program, as well as health classes around the district to have the classroom teachers handle those programs. The budget also proposes the elimination of a number of teaching positions, as well as removing an hour of class time per week to allow teachers more time to plan.

A number of parents, teachers, faculty, and students showed up at Monday’s board meeting to defend the various programs and positions they cared about. One student, Carter Vigel, a 5th grader at Bowman Elementary, listed off, in order, a number of the elements on the periodic table.

“I can go on to name all 118 elements,” he said. “And I learned it at IGNITE.”

There were also a number of people requesting that the budget not eliminate the security officer position at Polaris K-12.

“He unquestionably keeps us safe and secure, allowing students and teachers to focus on learning,” said one student from Polaris.

Many of the other possible changes were discussed, but the underlying theme of the conversation was that no matter what, none of the changes would be easy.

“I don’t think anybody here is happy about the steps we have to take,” said Andy Holleman, one of the school board members.

And outside of the things the school board has labeled priorities, the administration doesn’t have a lot of choices.

“In thinking about operating the district, with the goals for which the board has asked for student learning, I’m not sure what else to redesign or eliminate,” said Dr. Deena Bishop, the ASD Superintendent.

And until the legislature decides exactly how much money to give the district, the numbers they’re working with are projections, and possibly optimistic ones at that.

“This is what they came up for us, in the best scenario,” said Starr Marsett, the school board president. “And it’s going to get more difficult for us.”

The budget was amended at the meeting to add funding for a counselor at every elementary school in the district, something Marsett said has been a goal of the board. They will look at the budget again on Feb. 18, where there will be another chance for public comment and amendments.

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