New Prelim ASD Budget Reinstates Middle School Model

The Anchorage School Board unanimously passed next year’s $784 million preliminary budget at their meeting Thursday night. It includes money for giving equal planning time to all middle school teachers and supplements the language immersion programs. But until the state legislature passes its budget, this one could still change.

The School Board voted to redirect $2 million away from a technology upgrade fund in order to reinstate the middle school team planning time, including for elective teachers. Board member Bettye Davis said the middle school model works and needs to be followed.

“I prefer that the money go toward the students rather than towards things at this time,” she told the board.

The money pays for an additional 20 full-time middle school teachers. The administration says they will continue to collect data on the effectiveness of the middle school model.

One hundred and fifty thousand dollars from the same technology fund will be used to hire teachers for primary school Chinese and French language immersion programs. In total, the preliminary budget adds in more than 60 new teaching positions.

However, ASD’s final budget will depend on the state legislature. Governor Bill Walker has removed some one-time education funding from his budget. That could leave the district with a $12 million shortfall. Board member Pat Higgins says the budget is not yet final.

“And I look forward to really addressing more issues later in late April, once the legislature gets out. That’s when we really finalize the budget. So for those who think this is it, it’s a long way from it.”

The district is required by the municipal charter to submit a budget to the Anchorage Assembly for approval by the first Monday in March.

Board member Kathleen Plunkett says this early deadline forces them to review the budget twice, which is inefficient. She’s looking to change the charter.