The Senate today passed the bill increasing funding for local schools by $30-million in next years’ budget. During both Education Committee and Finance Committee hearings, school boards and administrators have said that they need much more than that to avoid laying off teachers and cutting programs. In floor debate, Education Co-chair Joe Thomas – a Democrat from Fairbanks – called it a modest increase of about two percent on an annual basis. He said the cost of not funding education is too expensive. He pointed to the correlation between education and corrections, saying that the money spent on the new Goose Creek Prison would be equal to a $1-thousand per student increase. And operating it wil equal a $200 per student increase – every year.
Unfortunately a recent report indicates that facility will be over capacity in just a little over four years. It seems to me that building up our schools and increasing education opportunities makes more sense than building more prisons. As a percentage of state funding, our percentage of education is decreasing.
The bill passed on an 18-2 vote and goes next to the House. Governor Parnell has already announced that he opposes using a formulaic approach to increase spending.