Sunday, May 19, 2013
Assembly Approves $19M Increase To ASD Budget
Money will be spent on energy upgrades, teacher retirement plans, new hires and new assessment program
ANCHORAGE—As thousands of students across the Anchorage School District return to classes, they’ll have a little something extra to look forward to: A new evaluation and assessment program.
It’s called Response to Instruction and it’s taking effect across the district this year.
"RTI is really a practice of providing high quality instruction to meet the needs of students,” said Assistant Superintendent Ed Graff. "The important thing that I think we all want to be able to do is understand where our students are when we have them in the classroom."
The program involves testing students three times a year, individualized instruction and monthly evaluations to follow their progress.
But, there’s a catch.
“We were fortunate to receive state fiscal stabilization funds, or stimulus funds, and that was really the point at which we could expand our assessment system and purchase universal screening tools,” Graff said.
The funds are a one-time deal, and there’s no guarantee the money will be there in years to come.
"If next year there's not enough money to fund all the programs that are in place, whether it's this one or any other existing program, they're going to have to make tough decisions, prioritize what they think are the most effective programs,” said Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. “If the money's not there next year, something will have to be cut."
The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday unanimously approved a nearly $19 million increase to the district’s budget, but it was an increase vehemently opposed by the city’s budget advisory committee.
The committee said the money, which comes in part from a state energy grant, is a “one-time stop gap” wrongly used to support a long-term educational system.
"I think really the main issue that the budget advisory committee looked at was using one-time monies for recurring programs,” Sullivan said.
However, district officials are optimistic.
"We really believe, through the board's support and the commitment that we have for providing high quality instruction for all students, that this is going to be an initiative that continues to uphold in the district,” Graff said.
So who’s going to pick up the bill in twelve months?
That’s a question for next year.