School underfunded

Letters to the editor

Posted: Sunday, September 19, 2004

I would like to express my dissatisfaction with the Senate Finance Committee and the Murkowski administration in regard to the lack of appropriate funding for the Mount Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) expansion. As a teacher at the school, I learned that the Senate Finance Committee, during the last legislative session rejected the funding request for positions needed to meet the enrollment increase. Although the funding to adequately care for the increased number of students is absent, the children have been sent to the school regardless. To date, the school has received no additional money to feed, house or transport this year's new students.

The new students bring additional cost to Mount Edgecumbe. With the expansion, the unfunded additional costs include round-trip air fare for each student from their home community to Sitka, additional dorm staff to supervise students during non-school hours, an amended food service contract to feed the students three meals a day, seven days a week, transportation (including van purchase, gas, maintenance, and van driver's salary) for students housed off campus, and increased janitorial needs for off-campus housing and added teaching space.

The boarding costs listed above are not even close to being covered by the foundation formula monies generated by these students.

While the school will receive foundation funding for some of the new students' education costs, this funding is not sufficient for a boarding school. For example, while a traditional day school can hire one teacher to teach 30 new students, a boarding school must have additional staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. One position will not do the job.

The Senate Finance Committee's opposition to additional funding needed to help feed, house and care for the new students attending Mount Edgecumbe should be publicized. As the only state-run boarding school in Alaska, we have a responsibility to care for the children sent to us. If Mount Edgecumbe is to continue its success, we must have adequate funds to feed and house the children in our care. If the Murkowski administration wishes to send more students to Mount Edgecumbe High School, the state Legislature needs to fund their care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I encourage anyone who has benefited from the education provided by MEHS to contact Senate Finance committee co-chairs Lyda Green, Gary Wilken and Gov. Murkowski, and encourage them to fully fund this historical institution.

Lu Seapy


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