House Finance looks at early education cuts

Apr 8, 2019


Early literacy programs were a target for budget hawks last week in Juneau, including some of the Kenai’s delegation to the House Finance Committee.

That committee has been working through pages of budget amendments, sometimes going with what has been proposed by Governor Mike Dunleavy and sometimes not, with most decisions made along party lines.

One amendment offered up would eliminate funding for a task force that helps identify young students with dyslexia. Nikiski Republican Ben Carpenter stood by the proposed cut of $400,000 after a clarification as to its amount.

“Reading is essential. Combating dyslexia is essential. But there are other ways than spending $4.9 million to do so...Four hundred thousand is still a big number so, again, that’s why we need to reduce it.”

The $400,000 was added during the subcommittee process as a way to pick up a little slack left by other, far larger education cuts. Carpenter and other members of the finance committee argued there are other avenues to not only promote early reading skills, but also identify setbacks early on as well.

“I’d just like to point out that it’s a fallacy to say the only way to encourage children to read is to spend additional state money. I understand it’s well intended, but if we’re having a problem recognizing dyslexia, I don’t know that I would be able to recognize the symptoms, but I think I could probably check out a book from the library, read about dyslexia and that would enable me to help see it and I wouldn’t need state funding to do that. I would just need to care to do it.”

The following day, Carpenter would move to cut funding to a Juneau library by $215,000, enough to effectively close that facility. That cut was not approved by the committee, but Carpenter moved for several other early education cuts which also failed along party lines.