School funds will be talk of Capital this week

Feb 11, 2019

This week there will likely be an acute focus on education funding in the halls of the capital. School board members from throughout the state are converging in Juneau to lobby for sustained funding. 

This year the districts are facing an even more urgent need — Governor Dunleavy wants back the $20 million that the legislature granted schools last year.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the $1.4 million it received as its portion went to hire 11-and-a-half teachers in various schools and grade levels, as well as on support staff. If the district loses that money, it will have to absorb those costs in an already deficit budget. Assistant Superintendent Dave Jones was on last week’s Kenai Conversation.

“When we go to teachers and offer them a contract for the year, we think we should honor that. If we started letting people go in the middle of the year because funding from the legislature dumps, that would affect our ability to hire teachers in the future,” he said.

School district Communications Liaison Pegge Erkeneff says that the jobs of those 11-and-a-half teachers hired for this year are safe, and none will be let go. But if the legislature doesn’t approve the funds — again — it will require other cuts. 

But since this week is School Board Week in the Capital, legislators will find out how important this one-time funding is to districts, especially those who’ve already started spending the promised money.

“Three of the school board members and myself will be in Juneau over the weekend and then meeting with our legislators on Monday and Tuesday through the Alaska Association of School Boards,” she said. “So we’ll have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with our legislators and other legislators to talk about school funding and all sorts of school issues, and any legislation or bills coming up.”

And then on Wednesday, the governor will unveil his FY-20 budget, which could threaten the $30 million that last year’s legislature granted for NEXT year. Jones says it’s an important date for school districts statewide.

“We will be — I will be — listening to see what is proposed, and then I will need to put a face on what those reductions would mean to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and how much money we would lose, and services and those type of things,” he said.

We have more with Jones and Erkeneff talking about school funding from Wednesday’s Kenai Conversation linked here.