$768M Anchorage school budget gets chilly reception

Liberals and conservatives alike criticize city's education system during testimony.

The Anchorage Assembly passed the school district's FY2016-17 budget by a 7-to-4 vote.
The Anchorage Assembly passed the school district’s FY2016-17 budget by a 7-to-4 vote.

A budget to fund the Anchorage School District passed Tuesday, but not without serious criticisms raised by liberals and conservatives alike.

The preliminary budget passed by the Anchorage Assembly totals $768,401,726, a decline of $4,935,000 from what was approved last year.

Funding at that level means a reduction of 49 positions from the district, which Superintendent Ed Graff told the Assembly could happen through attrition rather than layoffs. Unlike earlier years though, losses will be felt in classrooms rather than among support staff.

During public testimony, Mike Bronson with the Anchorage branch of the NAACP asked for the budget to be reexamined, saying spending has outpaced achievement among district students.

Four conservative members of the 11-person body voted against the budget for similar reasons. South Anchorage Assembly Member Bill Evans said during comments that he believes the current spending was going toward “institutionalized mediocrity.”

ASD maintains that in recent years it has improved student achievement in several critical areas like graduation rates and attendance.