School District Announces Budget, Proposed Cuts
Superintendent says teachers' jobs won't be cut
ANCHORAGE - The Anchorage School District said it needs to fill a $25 million budget gap for next year, and Friday the administration came out with the cuts it’s proposing to make that happen.
District Superintendent Jim Browder said they looked first at their own administrative staff, an area that is often criticized for being top-heavy. The plan is to reduce jobs there by 8 percent. Browder said one area that won’t see cuts are classroom teachers.
“Our focus is clearly on the classroom, and if you look at the reductions you'll see a real clear understanding that we are avoiding that at all costs,” said Browder.
But individual schools will feel cuts. Many of the positions eliminated are teacher’s assistants. Browder said the district has more people in that job than it needs.
“If you look at best practices and do comparables with other districts in the nation,” said Browder, “our number is extremely high. So, through attrition, we hope to get that back into a manageable number.”
Attrition is a big part of the budget plan. Brower said if pink slips were handed out tomorrow, about 100 people would lose their jobs. Browder said he is hoping that by the time next school year starts, that retirements and moves will bring that number down to 50.
But officials said the bigger problem remains: the fact that the state has not increased the school funding formula while fixed costs for school districts continue to rise. Without some sort of inflation proofing, districts say, budget gaps will continue to grow every year. Anchorage School Board President Jeannie Mackie said in the coming years, those gaps won’t be filled by attrition alone.
“We do have difficult years from now on out, and there is only so long that we are going to be able to balance the budget using managed attrition as we have here today,” said Mackie. “Tough times are ahead.”
Browder said he’d like to see more money from Juneau, but also feels a responsibility to work with the dollars he has. He said one thing that would help is if teachers and other unions would pledge to take a pay freeze for next year. He said he plans to ask them that question next week.
As for the coming year, Browder said parents shouldn’t worry. He said the cuts should not affect their child’s education in a negative way, and that the district is more focused than ever on meeting improvement goals by 2020.