• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
News Alert: DIRECTV Customers. Tell DIRECTV to bring back KTVA. Call 800-531-5000. - Read More
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 13s

House passes education spending bill after marathon session

By Rhonda McBride 5:35 AM April 8, 2014
JUNEAU –

Lawmakers started at 5 p.m. Monday and voted just before midnight: That’s how long it took to pass House Bill 278, the governor’s omnibus education bill.

The vote was 29-11, largely along party lines.

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Sean Parnell said he wanted 2014 to be remembered as the “education session.” But was Monday’s marathon, seven-hour House floor debate what he had in mind?

HB 278 was a stuffed suitcase to begin with; loaded with a number of education reforms such as money for charter schools, vocational and technical programs

Then the House Finance Committee added more features to HB 278, including a $300 increase in the base student allocation (BSA) to be spread out over three years. The BSA is one of the components the state uses to decide how much to spend per student

Democrats attempted to boost the BSA to $400 for next year to avoid what they claim will be drastic layoffs of teachers and support staff.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Am I going to be able to raise my child in this state that I love?’” said Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat. “Not only are we going to lose students who can be our next workers, our next businessmen, our next entrepreneurs, we’re going to lose the parents too.”

Rep. Steve Thompson, a Fairbanks Republican, cautioned lawmakers about the need to strike a balance between spending and saving.

“We’re struggling to try to get control of our budget. That savings is going to run out, and then there’s going to be a reckoning,” Thompson said. “What do we do then? It’s going to hurt schools because we won’t have any more money.”

The amendment to raise the BSA beyond what was in the bill was defeated.

There was one controversial amendment that passed. It stripped a provision to pay down the state’s debt to the teachers’ retirement system by making payments over a longer time frame. Supporters dubbed it the “pay as you go” plan.

The governor had asked the House to drop the provision because he wants to address both the teacher and public employee retirement systems at the same time by using $3 billion in budget reserves to reduce the debt, while at the same time lowering the annual payments.

“The pay-as-you-go system impacts the amount of liability on the state’s balance sheet and increases or extends the liability out to 2073,” said Rep. Cathy Munoz, a Juneau Republican.

She said the governor’s plan only has a 25-year payoff. Munoz also noted that a financial consultant said the “pay as you go” plan might wind up costing the state an extra $15 billion.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, a Fairbanks Republican, compared it to a house payment. She said most people would love to pay off their mortgages sooner, but the question is: Can they afford the bigger payment?

Wilson said she doesn’t think the state can afford the governor’s plan.

“How are you going to make these payments when you’re not even making the annual payment this year?”  she asked. Wilson said revenue shortfalls will require the state to use reserves to pay off the debt.

Another amendment, which passed, added another $30 million in one-time funding to schools. It was a substitute for a provision that would have changed the way students are counted to favor larger schools.

The Senate also has an education spending plan that doesn’t include increases to the BSA, but would add $75 million to the education budget.  One of the next steps in the process is for the Senate and House to meet in committee to reconcile their budgets.

A grassroots group of parents, Great Alaskan Schools, had representatives watching in the House gallery Monday. They’ve held rallies in Anchorage, Juneau and the Mat-Su, pushing for the $400 BSA increase.

Latest Stories

  • News

    After open-heart surgery, Alaska babies try to lead ‘normal’ lives

    by Sierra Starks on Feb 22, 22:21

    Hearing their 3-year-old son splashing in the pool is a harmonious sound to Adriana Fischer and Damon Hampel. “The pool was really a lifesaver for him,” says Fischer. Malachi Hampel was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which simply means he’s missing the left side of his heart. “The left ventricle is the workhorse of […]

  • News

    Efforts to fill $15-million budget gap mean big cuts in the Anchorage School District

    by Shannon Ballard on Feb 22, 20:12

    “We have trimmed any of the fat that was in our budget, but now we are cutting into bone.” Like each of her fellow board members, Anchorage School Board president Tam Agosti-Gisler voted on Tuesday to approve next year’s money-saving budget, which eliminates 123 full time jobs, including 99 teaching positions. “Fortunately, many of those […]

  • News

    Alaskans work out to end veteran suicide

    by John Thain on Feb 22, 19:15

    A special workout took place on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Wednesday in an effort to raise awareness for suicide and depression. On average, 22 of our nation’s veterans take their own lives every day, according to Mission 22. This workout, organized by 907 Crossfit, aims to get people together and put the issue out in the […]

  • Stunning space discovery: 7 Earth-size planets found orbiting dwarf star

    by William Harwood / CBS News on Feb 22, 19:00

    Astronomers have discovered seven roughly Earth-size planets very close to a cool dwarf star some 39 light-years from Earth, including three orbiting in the star’s habitable zone where liquid water, a key ingredient for life as it’s known on Earth, could be present, researchers announced Wednesday. The record-setting star system is the first to feature […]

  • Weather

    Alaska Weather Forecast – Feb. 22, 2017

    by KTVA Weather on Feb 22, 18:51

    A blizzard warning was issued for St. Lawrence Island, and a winter storm watch is in effect tonight for parts of western Alaska, according to meteorologist Carlos Faura. Follow KTVA 11’s Weather Team on Facebook and Twitter. Got a weather-related photo or story idea? Email the team at weather@ktva.com.

  • Lifestyle

    Food stamps and sweets: Should they be kept apart?

    by Aimee Picchi/CBS News on Feb 22, 18:32

    The food-stamp program is credited with helping 44 million people in America afford groceries, providing what supporters say is a needed benefit for some of the country’s most vulnerable. Yet critics of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) say the anti-hunger program is easily abused, and the latest questions about the program are stirring a […]

  • DayBreak

    Workforce Wednesday: Engineering in Alaska

    by Daybreak Staff on Feb 22, 16:11

    Alaska is home to dozens of engineering specialties, ranging from civil to mechanical, aerospace to ship building. If there’s a big infrastructure project, chances are there was an engineer involved. Engineers also make a broad salary, averaging anywhere from $46 to $73 per hour, according to Cassie Ostrander, a spokesperson for the Alaska Process Industry […]

  • Lifestyle

    Public asked to help count Anchorage moose

    by Heather Hintze on Feb 22, 15:54

    Biologists at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game need your help to count moose around the Anchorage Bowl. They haven’t been able to do their annual aerial surveys for the past few years because of bad weather and low snow. For the first time, the department is asking for the public’s help to track moose […]