• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
4m 46s

House expected to unveil education spending plan

By Rhonda McBride 8:00 AM April 1, 2014
JUNEAU –

With less than three weeks left in the 2014 legislative session, the race is on to come up with a legislative spending plan for education.

The House Finance Committee is expected to roll out legislation Tuesday that would include increases in the Base Student Allocation — the amount the state spends per student — which currently stands at about $6,000. The BSA is one component of how the state funds education.

Last week, the Senate Finance Committee said it would increase education funding by $100 million over last year’s level. This includes a $25 million increase already in the budget.

Sen. Pete Kelly, one of the co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said there would also be a $100 million increase the following year.

So would this increase go towards the BSA? If it did, it would increase it by about $300. Proponents of increased education funding are pushing for a $400 increase. The governor has recommended an $85 boost in the BSA.

“The greatest purpose of it was to give us time over the next two years to look at education funding while not arguing about money,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the finance committee simply put the money on the table, but has not dictated exactly how it will be spent. The money wouldn’t necessarily go to the BSA, he said.

He said it’s hard to say how the money will be distributed across the various components of education funding.

“There’s so many pieces in motion right now,” Kelly said. “That’ll be an agreement between the bodies. That’ll be a larger discussion.”

Rep. Mia Costello, an Anchorage Republican who is a member of the House Finance Committee, said the language of the legislation her committee is introducing was still being worked on by legislative attorneys Monday. But she believes the public will be happy with the final result.

“We are here to listen and we are working on some of the concerns we have heard this session,” Costello said. “I am encouraged by the engagement of the public.”

Costello was one of a number of lawmakers who were bombarded with cell phone messages from people attending a rally on Saturday at the Loussac Library in Anchorage.

Costello’s staff logged 68 calls urging her to increase education spending.

Great Alaska Schools, the group that organized the rally, said it counted 850 people who participated in the event over the course of the afternoon — several hundred more than at a previous rally.

This week the group has a delegation in Juneau, monitoring the progress of education legislation.

Alyse Galvin, a parent of children in the Anchorage School District, said she’s using airline miles and her own savings to be here.

“I have a jar of coins on my counter that I call my dream jar and I’ve emptied that out,” Galvin said.

Organizers said Great Alaska Schools — formed in January — now has about 1,200 supporters, up from last week’s 1,000 members. They said most of the members are parents.

Galvin said she expects those numbers to grow after a rally the group is planning in Juneau this week.

Alison Arians, another organizer, said the group wants to capitalize on its momentum and keep up the pressure.

“We’re not angry. We just really want the legislators to know we care about our kids’ education,” Arians said. “When people really care about an issue, we will do just about anything we can to make this work. I mean, you are talking about our kids. That’s something we will go to the mat for.”

Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat and member of the House Finance Committee, believes Great Alaska Schools could be the tipping point in the education spending debate.

“Usually parents are busy with their day to day lives. When they start taking to the street, I think this really helps,” Gara said. “When parents get involved, then you know you probably have done something wrong.”

Gara is hopeful that the BSA can be raised to avoid more teacher and support staff layoffs.

Gara said the Senate Finance Committee’s first year of increased funding falls short of fixing the problem. The second year amounts to flat funding.

Kelly said lawmakers are unwilling to write educators a blank check — that they want to know what kind of improvements they’ll see for their money.

“We also want to be able to go over the years and find some substantial innovations and structural changes in education that gives a better product,” Kelly said.

Gara said it’s wrong to pass judgement on an educational system that’s underfunded.

“They cut school staff three years in a row and they expect schools to improve by cutting staff three years in a row,” Gara said. “That’s like knee-capping a kid and asking him to run faster.”

House majority leaders initially resisted pressure to increase education funding, because they say it has risen every year — and the BSA is not a true indicator of what the state spends on schools.

Kelly applauded the Senate Finance Committee for its spending plan, which he said took a lot of creativity in a year with a $2 billion revenue shortfall. He also said it should be noted that the money was carved out of the budgets of other state agencies.

As for Great Alaska Schools, they’ll be watching what happens this week.

“As a parent, I’ve learned it’s complex,” Galvin said. “Even though they say you’ve got more money, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to translate into what we’re looking for.”

“The end result is we want to make sure our kids get what they need in class,” she said.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Yupik speakers get ballot translation help from radio station

    by Kate McPherson on Oct 31, 7:21

    With only a few days before the general election, Bethel radio host and translator John Active is reading information to voters in Yupik. “In the past it was not adequate, not at all, not at all,” said the 66-year-old, who was born in Bethel and raised by his Yupik-speaking grandmother. Active says Yupik speakers don’t […]

  • News

    In Kenai, search continues for missing family

    by Bonney Bowman on Oct 30, 22:46

    Kenai police are making a last push to find a missing family of four and their dog. Rebecca Adams, her two daughters and her boyfriend, Brandon Jividen, have been missing since late May. Kenai police conducted what could be their last search for the family Thursday. They focused their efforts on the large wooded area […]

  • News

    LNG project open house draws large crowd, many questions

    by Dave Leval on Oct 30, 22:39

    It’s the biggest project for the state since the trans-Alaska pipeline. Backers of a proposed LNG pipeline hope they have more support for it. People packed the Crowne Plaza of Anchorage for the latest open house Thursday. The Alaska LNG Project would build a gas liquefaction plant near Prudhoe Bay. The natural gas would then travel […]

  • News

    Judge rules on National Guard document release

    by Emily Carlson on Oct 30, 21:30

    On Friday, Alaskans will get a glimpse into what Gov. Sean Parnell knew about the Alaska National Guard scandal, and when he knew it. Thursday afternoon, a Superior Court judge ruled the state must provide a detailed log of hundreds of pages of emails by Friday at noon. Judge Greg Miller lectured state attorneys on Alaska […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Oct. 30

    by KTVA Weather on Oct 30, 20:06

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound: It will be turning mostly cloudy along the coast with a chance of snow and rain by afternoon. Western Kenai will have mostly dry conditions tomorrow. Southeast: There will be rain showers for the panhandle. Interior/Slope: The Interior will have mostly cloudy skies with a flurry or two. Heavy snow […]

  • News

    Keeping kids safe on Halloween

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 30, 19:20

    The key to Halloween safety starts with the costume, and Dooley’s Tuxedos and Costumes in Anchorage has dozens of options for little ones. Many manufacturers have avoided adding masks and instead found a unique way to create characters. “We have a lot of ones that come with the hoods,” explained owner Starla Heim. “They don’t want […]

  • News

    ConocoPhillips unveils shrinking capital budget plans

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 30, 18:10

    While oil giant ConocoPhillips announced a reduced capital budget during a Thursday earnings call, a spokeswoman for the company said there are no plans to decrease spending in Alaska. “Capital reductions reflect the tapering off of major project spending as well as reductions in some of our less mature unconventional areas,” said Amy Burnett, a […]

  • Politics

    Campaign 2014: Forrest Dunbar

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Oct 30, 16:14

    This week, KTVA is running a series of interviews with the main candidates for office. Today, the focus is on Forrest Dunbar. He grew up in rural Alaska, became a wildland firefighter and a fisherman, joined the Peace Corps and wound up with degrees from Harvard and Yale. Quite the resume for a 30-year-old guy, […]