Make a difference; support Juneau schools

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, October 03, 2004

Dollars aren't everything, but they make a huge difference in what is possible in a classroom.

The State Foundation program is the largest revenue source for Juneau schools, at $24 million, or 55 percent of the school budget. As residents of the capital, we have the unique opportunity to participate in the legislative process, to testify to the needs of Juneau's classrooms and advocate for change. Last year, concerned parents were pivotal in successful grassroots lobbying efforts that resulted in a $3.1 million increase in foundation funds for Juneau schools. Our concerns have not gone away, and neither have we.

Locally, tax dollars pay for $18.8 million, or 43 percent of the school budget; Assembly decisions play a huge role in what is possible in Juneau schools. This community has a long history of supporting its schools. For over 10 years the Assembly fully funded Juneau schools. This year the Assembly did not, approving funding 5 percent short. It is true the city is under tight budget constraints, but ultimately it is a matter of priorities.

If school funding was a higher priority, the Assembly could do more. It could fund schools to the cap, and beyond. It could offset $156,000 in pupil transportation costs for Valley elementary buses and free up funding for the equivalent of three teaching positions. Three teachers would make a huge difference to kindergarten classrooms now with 27, 28, and 29 students.

To make a difference: 1) Hold the Alaska Legislature accountable for adequate funding of schools, and join grassroots lobbying efforts to that end; 2) Push the Assembly to increase funding of Juneau schools and elect officials who are committed to excellence in our schools; 3) Build the second high school, so that when funding initiatives are successful there is a place to house students and teachers; and 4) Provide a safe and pleasant environment for kids to spend six hours of each school day.

Mary Hakala


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