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Legislature hears requests for youth funding from Juneau residents

Local tourism businesses also ask for help with marketing efforts

Posted: Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Juneau community members appeared before the House Finance Committee Tuesday, seeking to keep their programs in the state budget, or desperately trying to restore them if they’ve already faced cuts.

MICHAEL PENN / JUNEAU EMPIRE
MICHAEL PENN / JUNEAU EMPIRE

Former school board member Margo Waring said a legislative subcommittee that cut money for the state’s pre-kindergarten pilot program, including classes in Juneau, had made a mistake.

The Head Start classes at Glacier Valley and Gastineau elementary schools need to be expanded with voluntary pre-kindergarten made available for everyone, she said.

“The pre-K programs really ensure that all students, regardless of their family background, start kindergarten ready for school,” Waring said.

Regional testimony from around the state began before the House Finance Committee Tuesday, with Juneau leading of the parade of citizens speaking out.

Much of the testimony revolved around Alaska’s neediest, including children, the developmentally disabled and the mentally ill.

Current school board member Andi Story urged legislators to add additional money to the base student allocation, the main school funding formula. Rising costs from insurance to electrical service are all facing the Juneau School District’s budget, which was also scheduled for a public hearing Tuesday.

“Our community is very concerned about the budget changes,” she said.

Juneau and other districts have been working hard improve results, and while new money in the last few years has been helping, stability is very important.

“Please talk with your school board members about what your districts are doing to improve results,” Story told the legislators.

Joy Lyon of the Association for the Education of Young Children-Southeast Alaska said the state needs to protect the “Best Beginnings” program, and praised her hero Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program to provide high quality, developmentally appropriate books to young children to help them succeed in school.

“I ask you to be a children’s champion,” she said. Funding that prepares children for school would be “the best value I can think of.”

Tourist industry representatives also told the committee that the state’s small businesses needed additional help with marketing, especially after the cruise industry’s marketing dollars diminished.

A legislative proposal to have the Alaska Travel Industry Association pick up a larger share of the state’s marketing effort was the equivalent of a tax on small businesses who are the association’s members, said John McConnochie of Cycle Alaska.

“I personally rely on the ATIA marketing program to attract people to Alaska,” he said.

The cruise ship industry cut its contributions after the head tax and other taxes were imposed, but bed and breakfast owner Maryann Ray said the association was crucial to small businesses.

“We require the support of ATIA in getting marketing out there that we can’t afford to do ourselves,” she said

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at Patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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