Community groups in Anchorage are continuing to protest the state legislature’s cuts to education funding. The Alaska PTA spoke publicly about the issue for the first time at a rally in downtown Anchorage, where about 100 people gathered with signs and balloons.
Community members and advocates were speaking out against the $48 million dollars in statewide education funding cuts included in the budget passed by legislators earlier this week.
“It’s all about the children,” said Alaska PTA president-elect Juan San Miguel. “That’s what we’re here for. If we don’t give them the tools that they need to succeed, we’re not going to make it as a country.”
San Miguel said the 7,000 member group is non-partisan and cannot lobby, but they felt they could not be publicly silent on the issue any longer. He suggested that the lawmakers cut their own budget before cutting education.
Other rally goers shared their messages directly with legislators and the governor by pulling out their cell phones and calling Juneau en mass.
Rev. Michael Burke from St. Mary’s Church spoke to the crowd saying education is one of the core values of the state and is important for everyone, including the faith community.
“This is the one thing that unites us all as Alaskans,” he said before taking the microphone. It “is the belief in the wisdom of investment in our children.”
The Anchorage School District is planning for the cuts, though final numbers could still change. The district needs to inform tenured teachers about any layoffs by May 15.
School Board Member Tam Agosti-Gisler, who attended the rally, said the district will likely cut the pilot programs that focus on early learning and literacy.
“These are all valuable components of how we’re trying to move the needle and improve the educational outcomes of our students, but now we’re being asked to walk backwards instead of walk forward.”
The Anchorage superintendent will present their revised budget on Thursday. The legislature’s current budget also cuts forward funding for education.
On Tuesday evening, the Anchorage Assembly approved the district’s originally proposed $784 million budget.