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A looming budget gap is facing the Juneau School District that will severely effect the quality of education in our public schools. Unless the Legislature increases education funding for the next fiscal year, Juneau schools face a 10 percent increase in class size, making classes with 28 students per elementary school teacher commonplace. Our children will be less likely to succeed in school with this increase and more children will fall through the cracks.
The city of Juneau and the state of Alaska both contribute funding for schools. Currently, the city's contribution is at the maximum legally allowed (the "cap"). Local teachers received a well-deserved raise this year, as their salaries have not kept up with inflation. In contrast to the local support shown for schools, the state contribution to Alaska schools has risen little in the last decade. The Legislature and governor claim they will "protect education funding," but this only means they will not cut from current funding levels. In the meantime, inflation has chipped away at education funding and the real value of student funding has decreased. We are holding our children's' feet to the fire by setting education benchmarks, but we also need to provide the funding needed for each student to have a fair chance at meeting the new testing requirements.
The governor and Legislature need to change the meaning of "protecting education" from "no education cuts" to "increase education funding." For Juneau schools, a $400 increase in the per-student allocation would maintain classes at the existing size, rather than suffering an increase in class size. We urge you to contact your legislators and the governor now, and ask friends up north to do the same. Request that education funding be increased to meet our children's basic public education needs.
Mike Sigler, Mike Ford and Jan Caulfield
Harborview Elementary School parents