Now it's Juneau turn to support schools

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2004

During this past legislative session, Juneau citizens played a pivotal role in securing the $82 million dollar increase for public schools, of which Juneau will receive $3.1 million for the coming school year. This increase also triggers a change in the amount Juneau can contribute to schools, and is often described as "going to the cap."

Juneau now has the opportunity to increase its local contribution by $712,000. These funds can make a meaningful difference in our schools.

The municipal budget is under severe budget constraints and we appreciate the level of support the municipality has already committed. However, the community of Juneau is clearly concerned about the quality of our schools and classroom size. A strong, clear message from the Assembly is critical to assure parents that as a community we support our schools to the maximum extent possible, and are committed to making our schools the best they can be.

Only a small increase in property taxes - .26 mills - is necessary to generate the $712,000 increase Juneau can now contribute to schools. For a $250,000 home, this equates to $5.42 per month - the cost of a few snacks. This $5.42 per month is well worth the direct, positive impacts it would have on Juneau's classrooms.

Participants in Alaska Kids Count! support using these funds for classroom teachers, high-risk students/dropout prevention, crossing guards and after-school buses. This funding could be used to add or reinstate up to nine teacher positions which would directly, measurably, positively affect the lives of at least 225 students in Juneau. One of Alaska Kids Count!'s primary goals in its advocacy for increased funding has been and continues to be increasing the number of teachers, thus lowering the pupil-teacher ratio.

Ultimately, the use of these funds will be determined by School Board members, who are elected to make those decisions. We will continue to advocate for maximizing the use of each dollar to benefit students directly.

The $712,000 can't do all we would like, but it keeps us moving in the right direction.

We urge the Assembly to move our community forward, with a positive affirmation that Juneau is a great place to raise and educate our kids. Fund Juneau's schools to the cap.

Mary Hakala


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