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Additional city funding may preserve classroom sizes

District is requesting $450,000 to keep teachers on board

Posted: Thursday, April 26, 2001

A boost of extra funds from the city would allow Juneau's public schools to preserve the current student-teacher ratio in a time of tight budgets, school officials say.

The Juneau School District is asking the city for $450,000 in federal timber receipts. It would help free up some operating funds and allow the district to keep three teachers who otherwise would lose their jobs.

The district also plans to lay off 12 other teachers because it expects next school year to be the third straight year of fewer students, particularly in the elementary grades. It also plans to lay off an administrator.

"There are reduced students and that's what drives the revenue numbers," Superintendent Gary Bader told the Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on Wednesday.

The school district is asking the Assembly for $17.43 million for operations, the most the city can give for that. The state would provide nearly all the rest of the district's proposed $37.32 million operating budget.

The school district also is asking the Assembly for some money outside of the local cap on operating funds. Among that is the usual $200,000 for student activities and $123,000 for the community schools program. It also wants $450,000 from $900,000 in federal timber receipts that went to the city this year and are earmarked by the federal government for roads and schools.

Traditionally, the money goes for roads. But Assembly member Marc Wheeler said the panel should consider the school district's request seriously.

"I think it is fair to say a portion of it should go to schools," Wheeler said.

The school district would use part of the $450,000 to buy computers, technology-related infrastructure and other equipment such as science lab tables. The timber receipts also would replace operating funds for leasing space for the alternative high school and transportation for students in kindergarten and after-school activities.

Operating funds freed up by that could go toward keeping three teachers and buying textbooks and supplies, school officials said.

The Assembly Finance Committee is considering a host of requests for new funding as it works on the city budget, including for more medics and a transportation planner.

"This $450,000 will be added to the mix of projects we'll be looking at," said Committee Chairwoman Cathy Muoz.

School officials also are keeping an eye on the Legislature, where bills to increase state funding for education could bring Juneau $750,000 to $1 million more next year.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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