The Anchorage School Board is debating what to do about next year’s school budget in light of the governor’s proposed funding cuts. Wrapped into the discussion is the future of the middle schools and literacy programs.
ASD’s administration is proposing a $784 million budget that includes 43 new full time positions with teachers for both charter and neighborhood schools.
But if Governor Bill Walker’s proposed budget cuts pass the legislature, ASD will be short about $12 million for next year. That means losing staff, not adding.
Superintendent Ed Graff says they could cut their pilot programs, like literacy coaches, pre-K, and professional development. That includes 36 positions. Or they could cut 120 full-time positions from the district overall.
“You know close to 90% of what we do in our budget is related to people and personnel,” he told the School Board on Monday evening. “And you can talk about a lot of things but it’s still going to come down to FTE [full-time equivalent], or people.”
School Board President Eric Croft says even if they cut the pilot programs, they’ll still have to cut other staff. It could add one more student to each classroom next year. Parents and teachers have told the district they want to keep class sizes down.
Graff says he wants to keep funding the middle school model and core teacher team planning with general fund money because the district is evaluating the effectiveness of the model.
But Board Member Natasha Von Imhof questions prioritizing middle schools when the district’s funding is decreasing.
“I also just want to point out that Anchorage School District is the last district in Alaska to still hold on to the middle school model. Fairbanks has eliminated it. Mat-Su has eliminated it. When oil is at 50 bucks a barrel, I think we have to start making choices.”
Von Imhof says some of those choices could include putting aside some of this year’s $17 million fund balance for the 2016-2017 school year instead of using it all next year. She says she’d rather slide the district’s budget down a slope rather than have it fall off of a cliff.
The board decided to advance the budget to the next reading on Thursday, February 19. They are accepting input from the community.