Superintendent, Governor Disagree on ASD Budget
Could a $19 million budget gap affect your child’s education? According to Anchorage school officials, yes. But the governor says the school district will learn to make do.
The Anchorage School District is out with its budget proposal today, which includes millions of dollars in cuts that administrators say will definitely affect the classroom.
Superintendent Carol Comeau says the budget gap is about $19 million, and that’s just to provide the same services as last year. Comeau is proposing to eliminate summer school and increase classroom size beginning with the third grade. She says classroom teachers won’t be getting layoff slips, but a lot of the staff members they depend on will.
“There will not be any teacher layoffs, but are reducing the number of counselors, some elementary librarians and we are reducing the number of available teaching positions so that means there will be some extra students in a class,” Comeau said.
Comeau says those proposals are based on the fact that Governor Sean Parnell has not increased the per-pupil funding formula in his proposed budget. She is hoping the public will contact lawmakers in an effort to get more funding from the legislature.
Although the Anchorage School District’s budget is still in its preliminary stages, some of the proposals have members of the community worried about what the cuts mean for their kids. Because for these parents, the priority is to educate their kids, and some of these key services and positions on the verge of being slashed. The fear is what students will be learning will be drastically different.
It’s the results parents like to see. “My fourth grader she reads constantly,” said Heather Ireland, a parent whose kids go to Chugach Optional School. “Reading is valued starting at a young level, and throughout the curriculum no matter what they are studying.” Various programs taught by different people. It’s a team approach but with a proposal to increase class sizes and cut jobs next year, these teams could be working with fewer resources.
The plan also includes eliminating some library and special education positions. It’s a plan most parents oppose. “I’m devastated,” said parent Meridith Rothstein. “That scares me, because the student-teacher ratio right now is what has made things be the way they are.” The children get one on one time with the teachers.
“Literacy is so important and developing good research skills and comfort level is essential at an early age,” said parent Debbie Mole.
Now the school district has to balance those priorities with the funds available. “They are faced with tough choices and we live in a community that doesn’t necessarily value education and the district is limited by what people are willing to spend,” said Ireland.
But with those effects going beyond just kids now, parents say they hope the choices won’t be the wrong ones. “If you want the future generations to be responsible adults, it starts right at the beginning,” said parent Deborah Greenberg. You can chime in on what you think of the district’s budget in person February 1 and February 9 at the school board’s meetings or you can email your thoughts to email@example.com.