School Board seeks suggestions for $22 million budget shortfall

Community member giving comments during the meeting at Wendler Middle School.
Community member giving comments during the meeting at Wendler Middle School.

The Anchorage School Board knows that unless the state funding formula changes, they will have a $22 million budget shortfall next year. They’re asking the community to give suggestions on how to deal with the budget crisis during community listening sessions.

Most of the district’s budget is spent on salaries, said School Board President Eric Croft, so they only real way to reduce it is by cutting positions–up to 220 next year alone. But he said community members do offer creative solutions for saving some money.

“We want to hear ideas for cost savings, big or small. People talk about having People Mover move the students, not busing.” He says suggestions range “all the way to here’s the way garbage collection can be done more efficiently in my high school.”

During the listening session, Kristi Wood suggested getting more parents involved to do things like maintenance work on school buildings.

“I think there’s a potential for having a lot of volunteer support in your parent base. I think you need to ask and you will get a response.”

Wood also suggested spending less money on technology and more on teachers.

ASD explains the budget shortfall during a PowerPoint presentation.
ASD explains the budget shortfall during a PowerPoint presentation.

English teacher and parent Janel Walton spoke out against increasing the number of periods in a high school day from 6 to 7. She says each teacher would have to grade for 180 students instead of 150.

“But it hurts the kids. Because what’s going to happen is that you’re going to have teachers start to compromise what they teach in the classroom. Because they know they can’t get it graded in a timely fashion. They know they can’t get it done. It’s just not humanly possible.”

Many community members, like Celia Rozen, also spoke in favor of supporting the highly gifted program.

“People always assume that gifted kids will do okay in school, but they need counselors, they need special classes, they need advanced math,” she said. Gifted children often need help with social issues and with applying to colleges, too.

The School Board will host two more sessions — Tuesday at Alpenglow Elementary and Wednesday at Lake Hood Elementary. Both sessions start at 6 pm.