Josh Smith is a diesel mechanic at Alaska Waste in Juneau. Without the Juneau School District’s automotive program, he is not sure what he would be doing with his life.
Smith was one of a handful of people who testifed at the City and Borough of Juneau special Assembly public hearing about the district’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget cuts at Assembly Chambers Wednesday. Part of the planned cuts would involve eliminating the school’s automotive program — which costs the district $40,000 to rent the space at the University of Alaska Southeast Technical Education Center, across from Juneau-Douglas High School.
“The classes really shaped my career,” Smith, a 2009 JDHS graduate, said. “I really like working with my hands and fixing things. That is the great thing about these classes. It drove me to come into school everyday because I knew I could work on my vehicle that day.”
Smith said he feared the cut of one vocational program could just be the beginning.
“I see where vocational classes are getting shrugged off,” Smith said. “You are not only eliminating a vocational class; you are eliminating people from the workforce.”
Kimberly Vaughn, President of Juneau Dipsticks — a car enthusiasts program that offers scholarships to students in vocational programs — said for the budget to be truly considered a success, losing funding for programs should not be included.
“The first drip (of losing a program) causes a ripple,” Vaughn said. “Could it spread to college students? Our community, our city succeed with people qualified in different fields.”
According to JSD Chief of Staff Kristin Bartlett, more than 90 students have requested to take auto mechanic classes for the 2018-19 school year. This school year, 56 participated in the program.
Brenda Taylor, co-chair of the district’s site council, said the problems she sees without proper funding to the district, could impact the way students learn about subjects they need to talk about. With less funding, there are less teachers able to look over assignments. Taylor said she has heard that teachers are reaching out to parents to have them look over assignments. While they do not grade the assignments, the parents act as another set of eyes on students’ work. However, Taylor said doing this is not a way to solve any of the school’s problems permanently.
She also feared with the movement towards online and correspondence classes, subjects like health are not getting the proper attention they deserve.
“There are things that need to be talked about like safe sex, smoking and ‘just say no,’” Taylor said. “They need to be talked about out loud and not answering multiple choice questions.”
The CBJ Assembly plans to adopt the Juneau School District general operating budget during its regular meeting on May 14.
Finance Committee listens to funding requests, Bartlett Regional Hospital’s budget
The CBJ Finance Committee also heard from the Youth Activity Board, the Downtown Business Association and from staff at the Bartlett Regional Hospital.
The Finance Committee moved to approve the YAB’s request for funding of its programs. However, it was not the amount requested of about $415,000, but of the amount already slated in the budget that stands at approximately $316,000. The vote for the approval of the amount requested failed 2-5.
The Committee also moved unanimously the DBA’s $75,000 request for additional funding to the pending list.
Bartlett Regional Hospital’s budget is stable, according to Chief Financial Officer Joe Warner. The FY19 budget expenditure is approximately $106 million. The committee unanimously approved the budget.
The committee also approved adding the manager’s request to add discussion of a new Downtown Coordinator position. The position, with a cost of $125,000, would be the person on all downtown issues including tourism, DBA, parking and other project management issues.
The next Finance Committee meeting will be 5 p.m. May 3. This is a change from the originally scheduled meeting time and date.
• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.