School Board prods Palin to accept education stimulus money

Funds could reduce need for proposed cuts, including loss of 13 teachers

Posted: Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Juneau School Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday urging Gov. Sarah Palin and the state Legislature to accept federal stimulus funding for education, money that could offset job cuts and bring an extra $1.6 million to the district over 30 months.

Palin has criticized the stimulus package, particularly parts used to fund programs that could end when the stimulus funding expires in September 2011. The specific stimulus funds the Juneau School District is interested in could be vetoed by the governor with no legislative recourse, according to the district's staff memo on the resolution.

These stimulus funds could reduce the need for any of the dozens of cuts proposed in the district's budget for the 2009-10 school year, which includes the elimination of 13 teaching positions.

"We are in a holding pattern right now" awaiting word on the stimulus funding, Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling said of the district's budget.

In other meeting news, the School Board:

• approved a new three-year union contract that includes pay raises for about 300 non-teacher district employees represented by Juneau Educational Support Staff;

• renewed a food service contract with NANA Management Services that would price school lunches next school year at $2.92 each, up from $2.50. A 25-cent portion of that price would go toward using biodegradeble materials instead of Styrofoam;

• discussed changes to the lottery system the district uses to admit students to optional programs such as the Montessori, Juneau Community Charter School and a Tlingit language and culture program. The suggested changes are geared toward improving diversity in these optional programs. The board requested more time to review the changes and did not take action.

• authorized a request to the state Department of Education to modify the school calendar at Mendenhall River Community School to accommodate a pilot program called Launching Literacy. The board's action essentially endorses a renewal of the pilot program, which has been run since the 2005-06 school year.

Additionally, Scandling reported that the district applied for a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts that could prevent a job cut of one of three art instructors responsible for educating classroom teachers on art instruction.

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