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Frustrated parents discuss proposed school budget cuts

By Charlo Greene 11:02 AM January 26, 2014

"This isn't the Alaska I grew up in."

ANCHORAGE -Parents concerned and frustrated over proposed budget cuts at the Anchorage School District met Saturday to find solutions.

“Year after year after year I’m seeing so many cuts happening and we’re getting down to the point where it’s bare bones and it’s very directly affecting my kids,” said Janel Walton.

Walton was one of the many parents, students, educators, politicians and community members who attended the meeting at Winterberry Charter School. Three parents, who wanted to educate and initiate a school budget battle plan, organized it.

“As we all know, there are cuts that are being proposed for the Anchorage School District and districts across the state,” said Becca Bernard, one of the organizers.

The cuts are a result of flat funding for education across the state, she said.

Gov. Sean Parnell proposed to increase school funding for the first time in four years during his State of the State speech Wednesday.

Even with the proposed increase, ASD would still be left with almost 150 position cuts this year, said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage.

“Something close to losing a thousand staff, teachers, guidance counselors over the last four years,” Gara said. “That’s moving education backwards.”

Some of the ideas mentioned during the meeting were to rally, to contact lawmakers, to do away with SB 182 — which caps municipal funding for schools — and to file a class action lawsuit.

“Ketchikan is deciding that they’re going to be suing the State of Alaska.” Walton said. “Anchorage needs to investigate it as well.”

Walton believes there is a violation of what is supposed to be done in terms of adequate school funding.

“This isn’t the Alaska I grew up in,” she said.

“We’ve got to keep it strong,” said Tina Bernoski, another meeting organizer. “I’ll use the governor’s quote, ‘Alaska strong’ but let’s mean it. Let’s not just throw out chump change. Let’s mean it and do it for our kids.”

Organizers said they hope the ideas proposed will serve as a call to action for the hundreds of thousands of people that call Alaska home and that count on its school systems to educate their youth.

They hope people will attend the next school board meeting to voice their concerns about the budget plan.

The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 3 at the ASD Education Center at 6:30 p.m.

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