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Education funding compromise to save some school jobs

Posted: April 15, 2012 - 12:11am

Legislators Saturday proposed an education funding compromise that’s likely to save most — but not all — of the Juneau School District jobs at risk this year.

The compromise was announced Saturday morning by House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, who called it “a nimble balancing act that should leave all parties satisfied with the proposed results.”

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said, the compromise was the best way out of the Education funding stalemate.

“This is the time of year when you see compromises, and this is a compromise,” she said. “It goes halfway between the governor and halfway between what House Democrats and school districts have been wanting.”

The compromise brings together parts of the operating budget, the capital budget and some individual bills.

What it doesn’t do is increase the base student allocation, the per-student amount that goes to individual districts from the state.

What it does do is add increases to two other formula-driven programs that will continue in future years, as well as provide some one-time funding.

One of those increases extends vocational education into middle schools, providing voc-ed funding for grades 7-12, at a cost of $5.9 million.

The compromise also provides $8 million for pupil transportation, which continues for the next two years with inflation increases.

The one-time funding amount is $25 million, and comes out of the yet-to-be finalized capital budget.

Kerttula said the continued use of single-year funding wasn’t the fix schools need.

“One-time funding isn’t a solution, it is just a Band-Aid,” she said. “It’s a big, fat Band-Aid, but it’s not going to save all the Juneau jobs, that’s the hard part,” she said.

Rep, Cathy Munoz, R-Juneau, called the compromise “good for Juneau, but also somewhat problematic for Juneau.”

The pupil transportation and voc-ed funding will bring the Juneau School District and additional $546,000, while the one-time funding will mean an extra $927,000 for Juneau, Munoz said.

That’s about the equivalent to a $150 increase in the base student allocation,” she said.

The agreement also includes funding House Bill 49, the Parents as Teachers program, at a cost of $3.9 million. That bill creates a three-year pilot program to help parents enhance early learning.

The total extra spending comes to $42 million, $12 million more than Gov. Sean Parnell proposed midway through the legislative session for additional money, according to Will Vandergriff, spokesman for Chenault and the House Majority.

Complicating the education funding compromise was a change in how local community contributions to schools are calculated.

It sets the mill rate for calculating local contributions at 2.65. Juneau legislators were still working Saturday to determine what effect that change might have on Juneau.

It appears that the state will now pick up $2 million the city is now providing to schools, but it is not clear whether Juneau may provide any additional money for its schools next year, Munoz said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com

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