I am a parent in a family of two middle and one high school student. To my dismay, class sizes will be up to 35 students per teacher this fall, at their Juneau schools if the Legislature fails to add funding for public education.
This is similar across the state. Hundreds of school employees, including teachers, para-educators, nurses, janitors, clerks, and administrators are slated to be laid off. This includes 50 positions in Fairbanks, 66 in Juneau, 42 in Anchorage, 35 in Kodiak and 144 in Mat-Su, and this doesn’t take into account other Alaskan communities.
The Juneau Economic Development Council analyzed the impact of losing 66 jobs in Juneau with a projected net loss to the community of $11.5 million given the ripple effect of diminished purchasing power that comes with fewer jobs. Other communities face a similar situation.
The proposed state budget includes a 3.2 percent increase for State Agencies, recognizing that utilities, fuel, supplies and employee costs continue to rise. Also, the State budget includes $66 million for state employee labor contract settlements. Yet there is no increase in the foundation formula for schools; No recognition that the same pressures and rising costs also impact school districts. It is this failure to meet rising costs that are forcing School Districts to cut positions, and eliminate or curtail programs. All of this will impact the classroom, our kids and our communities.
There is a huge loss of human capacity each time schools face a budget-cutting scenario like we’re now facing. This can be prevented if the Governor and Legislature meet rising costs in a responsible, timely manner.
Parents are the most effective advocate a child can have and it’s time we speak up. There is only a week left in the regular legislative session, and the Legislature has not yet settled on school funding. Contact your legislator and let them know it’s time to invest in Alaska schools. For information on who to contact or background information, go to www.greatalaskaschools.org, a non-partisan statewide citizen coalition advocating for great Alaska schools.
Our children deserve quality schools, with reasonable class sizes, a full array of course options (including foreign language, art and music) — all of which is in jeopardy. It’s time the State increased its investment in our schools and our kids. Our kids are the future Alaska.