School District Faces Potential Employment Cuts
Elementary librarians, counselors, graduation coaches and career guides are all at risk
It was a full house Wednesday night at Anchorage School District's (ASD) headquarters, as the community spoke out for the first time about next year's budget.
For the next school year ASD is proposing to cut several jobs and services to make up for a close to $20 million dollar shortfall. Money is tight on state and city levels – which poses a problem for ASD in figuring out if any of the jobs and services can be saved.
The testimony was passionate and direct ,as a collection of employees, parents and students told the Anchorage School Board exactly why they should keep certain positions.
With a national push to raise the bar on education, here in Alaska that bar is limited to how much lawmakers are willing to spend on it.
“It's never enough for some districts and it's a struggle for all,” said Governor Sean Parnell on January 19. “I get that, but that's part of the give and take of the legislative process.”
Facing a $19 million shortfall, the district is proposing to cut $24.3 million dollars of services and jobs.
They are jobs like Nunaka Valley Elementary Librarian Janell Larson's, who said her impact is strong. “Through your window you may see an empty quiet space,” said Larson. “Through our window we see a bustling vibrant learning center filled with enthusiastic, certified librarians engaged with all students.”
Libraries are hubs for students like second grader Matteo Yoon, who said they couldn't do without them. “Reading is very important because you get information to feed your brain,” said Matteo. “If students have less [of a] chance to pick out books they like they will be less interested in reading.”
Airport Heights Elementary Counselor Christy Jordan, who helps students on a daily basis succeed, is also at risk of losing her job.
Jordan told a story of helping a third grade girl who refused to work in her class. After walking and talking with her, the girl did her work. “Less than 15 minutes [later] she returned to class engaged with her teacher, apologized, completed her work, even wrote a thank you note,” said Jordan.
It's something Carly Caudle, who is hearing impaired, said her counselor has done for her.
“She does everything in her ability to help students with [the Individualized Education Program] and to meet their needs to be successful.”
Summer school is on the chopping block as well.
Krystal Moulton, a senior at Bartlett High School, says if it gets cut, graduation rates would drop. “Sometimes we get mixed up with the wrong people and we fail our classes; it happens,” said Moulton. “Summer school offers that second chance for us to improve for us to graduate.” These are successful programs and positions that put the school board in a tough spot because something has to go that could potentially help a student succeed.
“Please help us, because that's really our big salvation,” said school board member Don Smith, referencing getting more money from the city and state levels.
As part of this initial proposal, elementary counselors, librarians and special education services would be reduced, and summer school, graduation coaches and career guides would be eliminated.
This is only the first public hearing so there is still time to voice an opinion. The second and final one is scheduled for Thursday February 9.