It is with growing dismay that I watch this legislative session winding down without anything close to adequate education funding. The best we can seem to hope for, and even this is no sure bet, is a $70 million "increase," which will mean cuts to nearly every district in the state, including Juneau. Despite what they might say they want, no Republican legislator to date has voted for anything higher. Promises of a commitment to public education ring hollow if this is the most the Republican majority is willing to do. Between rising costs (just as in every facet of life) and a tradition of inadequate funding for education, we are on a dangerous path. When adjusted for area cost differentials, Alaska ranks 30th among the states in per pupil funding. This is unacceptable.
The Democratic minority, along with 85 percent of Alaskan school districts, supports an increase of $112 million, which will allow for very modest improvements. (It will take an increase of $85 million just to maintain what we have now.)
The students of this state cannot vote, cannot lobby, and cannot begin to compete with the myriad other interests that vie, with money and influence, for the attention and votes of our legislators. They have to trust that these legislators will uphold their sworn duty to dedicate the necessary funds to provide a quality education. These legislators are failing every child in this state.
To not fund for at least modest improvements would be terribly disappointing; to not even maintain the status quo would be nothing less than a crime. Let your voice be heard. Demand that your elected representatives institute substantial and lasting changes, not quick fixes that leave us right back in this lurch next year. Demand that this session not end without the kind of education funding our children deserve.
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