Education Activists Wary of Latest School Funding Bill

Sen. Kevin Meyer (File photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)
Sen. Kevin Meyer (File photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

In Juneau, the latest version of the education funding bill emerged today, and it isn’t what school advocates were hoping for. Senate Finance co-chairman Kevin Meyer says it’s a comprehensive bill that would add $100 million to education, and he says the Republican majority is committed to keeping that money in the budget for each of the next three years. He distributed copies of the bill in his committee room this afternoon.

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“Some things you’re going to like, some things you may not like, but hopefully overall it’s going to be a balanced package that everyone can support,” he said.

As they studied the pages, education advocates in the front row looked grim. Alyce Galvin, an Anchorage parent and activist, left the room to study it further.

“My first reaction is Ooo, this sounds a little scary, like we’re still going to have severe cuts, now and particularly even more so in the future because if it is flat, that means it’s not keeping up with any sort of inflation costs,” she said.

Sen. Meyer says the funding amounts to a $300 increase in the BSA, referring to the per-student allocation, but Meyer says the money would not come through the BSA. The bill describes a series of special programs, for Internet upgrades and charter schools, boarding schools and vocational education. Galvin says the special programs may look good, but they are funds the Legislature can give and take.  She says the BSA provides stable funds schools can rely on.

” I think that their methodology is different than what parents want to see,” she said. “I think they’re missing the boat, that most kids are in neighborhood schools, and most parents are seeing neighborhood schools get cuts.”

Meyer says only about a quarter of the $100 million would fund special programs and the rest will go to school districts to use as they like. The bill may undergo more changes and still has to be passed by both chambers.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz