• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 29s

Anchorage School District braces for budget setbacks

By Rhonda McBride 10:52 PM December 13, 2013

With rising costs, some educators contend flat funding is akin to a cut

ANCHORAGE - Count Alaska schools as among the most disappointed by Gov. Sean Parnell’s new spending plan for the coming fiscal year. On Thursday, the governor announced $1.3 billion in cuts.

Although schools escaped the budget axe, funding remains flat. Educators contend, in the face of rising costs, it basically amounts to a cut.

On Friday, the Anchorage School Board and the Anchorage Assembly held a joint meeting to assess the impact.

The district cut $25 million last year — and unless funding is increased, expects to cut $23 million this year and $27 million the following year, $75 million in three years.

Mark Foster, the school district’s chief financial officer, blames rising costs for health care and energy, which take a bigger bite out of the budget every year.

“Here’s our challenge,” Foster said in a presentation at the joint meeting, “How do we continue in this environment where we’ve got flat funding and significant staffing reductions?”

Several board members told the group they are worried about the impact on the district’s graduation rate, which in recent years has shown steady improvement.

Natasha von Imhof, vice president of the school board, talked about the importance of helping ninth graders who struggle in school. The district surveyed dropouts and found that 95 percent of them had failed one or more classes in ninth grade, she said.

Mike Graham, the chief academic officer for the district and the former principal of East High School, worries about the impact of recent cuts to programs like summer school and tutoring for at-risk students.

“Our graduation rate has continued to climb every year, and I’m very proud of that,” Graham said. “The concern right now is that momentum, which is all going in the right direction, could get jeopardized when we take out those supports.”

Assembly and school board members also debated the merits of the School Resource Officer program, which puts police officers in the schools. Assembly member Paul Honeman said he hopes the city will continue to fund the resource officers, so that it’s one program the school district won’t have to worry about.

The SRO discussion came not long after both the school board and the Assembly took time out for a moment of silence to mark the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.

Then their attention returned to troubles here at home. The district expects to cut about 600 jobs over the next two years — too many positions to trim through attrition, which means lay-offs are likely, unless Republican majority lawmakers and the governor consider increasing the per pupil allocation, known as the education funding formula.

Parnell has said he’s willing to meet with educators and Democrats, who are pushing for more education money. But rather than increasing spending, he wants to focus on finding ways to stretch state dollars. He did include $5 million in the education budget to promote the use of new technology, which he believes could lead to future savings.

Latest Stories

  • Crime

    Former Anchorage substitute teacher sentenced for child pornography

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 09, 23:03

    For distributing child pornography and photos of Anchorage students, a former school employee will spend 15 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason handed the sentence down to 34-year-old Daniel Brown on Friday after Brown pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual exploitation of a child by distributing child pornography. Anchorage police were […]

  • Sports

    Dimond, Chugiak advance

    by Dave Goldman on Oct 09, 23:01

    There’s more football next week for Dimond and Chugiak high schools. Each advanced to the state semi-finals after victories on Friday. The Lynx got three touchdowns from Rafa Zavala in a 34-26 win. The Lynx went up 34-14 in the second half on J.J. Tanuvasa’s catch and run, but Colony fought back. Steven Bilafer accounted for all four […]

  • News

    Four-legged first responders ready when tragedy strikes

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 09, 22:42

    A group of Anchorage dogs and their handlers are training to be an emotional rescue team for Alaskans facing terrible times. The pups are practicing to become crisis response canines. That’s a step beyond therapy dog. They’ll actually respond when tragedy strikes, like a school shooting or a natural disaster. “Wherever people are having a heck […]

  • News

    Berkowitz on SAP: ‘It will get finished’

    by Eric Ruble on Oct 09, 22:22

    In 2011, former Mayor Dan Sullivan first proposed the SAP Synergy system as a more efficient way for the Municipality of Anchorage to keep track of payroll and other programs.  It was planned to take 18 months to implement and cost $9.6 million. Four years later, the project is far from complete and has already […]

  • News

    Trio of suicides leaves Alaska village in grief

    by Associated Press on Oct 09, 20:09

    An entire village on Alaska’s western coast is grieving the back-to-back suicides of three young adults -with each subsequent death influenced by the preceding one. A regional tribal health organization is sending an Alaska Native suicide-response-and-prevention team to Hooper Bay next week in what essentially will be a community debriefing. But in a region with […]

  • News

    Community rallies to rebuild Silver Fox Inn

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 09, 19:39

    A faulty fuse box was to blame for Wednesday’s fire at the Silver Fox Inn in Wasilla that caused more than $100,000 of damage, managers said. The roof needs to be repaired and there’s a massive hole in the floor, as well as smoke damage all around the restaurant and bar. Michelle Alley said they’re […]

  • News

    State says Alaskans should test for radon

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 09, 19:20

    The Alaska Department of Health is recommending that every Alaskan test their home for the presence of radon. According to the latest Bulletin from the Department of Epidemiology, the colorless, odorless gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the U.S. The Department calls radon “an under-recognized health risk that warrants widespread […]

  • Crime

    Murder convictions overturned in 2006 homicide case

    by Shannon Kemp on Oct 09, 18:53

    An Anchorage man has been given another opportunity to go before a jury and defend his actions that led to the death of two people on New Year’s Eve in 2006. Ryan Sanders, now 31, applied for a hearing to include a key piece of evidence excluded in his original trial, which resulted in a […]