Superintendent Says Funding Hinges on SB171

Carol Comeau

Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau started the week off in Juneau meeting with legislators about education funding. Last week the Anchorage School Board made nearly $20 million in cuts to their budget, but state funding could reverse nearly half of them.

“Passing SB171 so early is historic and we’re just hoping and we’ll do everything we can to educate the senate on why this is so important,” Comeau said at a School District Legislative Q & A session in Juneau Monday.

Senate Bill 171 passed the senate Friday, the same day it was introduced. The Anchorage School Board drafted their final budget Thursday evening, slashing nearly $20 million in teaching positions and programs. Superintendent Comeau arrived in Juneau this week to begin a barrage of meetings with legislators about education funding, particularly the base student allocation which is included in Senate Bill 171. Superintendent Comeau says what happens with the bill could change everything.

“If it passes in its current form, the increase for Anchorage would be $9.2 million in additional funds, which would go a very long way towards us having a discussion with the board on possibly restoring the teacher positions that were cut that weren’t restored the other night as well as some of the other important positions that were cut…so yes, it would be a huge benefit to us,” Comeau said.

The cuts the Board made last week include the equivalent of 142 full-time positions including six elementary school councilors and 10 middle school career guides. They also cut several other programs including summer school.

“There’s a small amount left in this summer’s, just for June and it will be a very modified summer school program. If the board put money back in the budget that begins July 1, there’s a possibility that we could extend summer school into July like we used to do,” Comeau said.

Being able to do that, Comeau says, depends entirely on funding from Senate Bill 171. The Anchorage School Board made reductions in nearly every department district-wide. The district’s budget is scheduled for public hearing at the March 27 Anchorage Assembly meeting. Senate Bill 171 is now in the House, and will not likely be decided until the end of the Legislative session.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.