• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 13s

House passes education spending bill after marathon session

By Rhonda McBride 5:35 AM April 8, 2014

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

  • DayBreak

    Workforce Wednesday: Aviation careers

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 25, 12:37

    From pilots and dispatchers to air traffic controllers, the Alaska labor department projects the need for more than 4,000 workers in the aviation sector over the next few years. Cari-Ann Ketterling with the Alaska Process Industry Careers Consortium (APICC) and Ravn Alaska’s Chief Pilot, Aaron Rocereta, joined Daybreak Wednesday to talk aviation careers. “The aviation field […]

  • News

    Alaska, British Columbia leaders sign cooperative agreement

    by Associated Press on Nov 25, 12:10

    Gov. Bill Walker and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark have signed a cooperative agreement, committing to work together on issues of shared interest, including the ongoing discussion over Canadian mining impacts on Alaska waters. The non-binding memorandum of understanding was signed Wednesday. In a release, Walker said it’s important the state foster good relationships with […]

  • DayBreak

    Medical Myths: The real and imagined risks with vaccines

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 25, 11:08

    Physicians and health officials have been battling misconceptions about vaccines over the past several years. Many parents are now choosing not to get their children vaccinated — a move, doctors say, that prompted the recent measles outbreak at Disneyland over the summer. Wednesday, Dr. Michael Reeves, a family physician at Medical Park Family Care, joined […]

  • Sports

    Making Waves: Pepperdine’s Ogwumike leads the climb back

    by Dave Goldman on Nov 25, 10:55

    Erica Ogwumike is blazing her own path in Malibu. The freshman guard is leading the rebuild of the Pepperdine University’s women’s basketball program. “I’m just trying to play these four years, play basketball, and get a great degree at Pepperdine University, so that’s all I can — the future is far,” she said. There’s another […]

  • DayBreak

    6th annual ‘The Pour’ event helps feed the hungry in Anchorage

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 25, 10:17

    Helping feed the hungry by celebrating the flavors of the season — the 6th annual “The Pour” event is a fundraiser for Bean’s Café and the Children’s Lunchbox. On Thursday, Dec. 3, people are invited to the Alaska Native Heritage Center for some fine wine, craft beer and gourmet food. Dana Applebee, event chair or […]

  • Crime

    Not guilty plea entered in rural Alaska abduction case

    by Associated Press on Nov 25, 9:55

    A not guilty plea has been entered in the case of a man accused of repeatedly raping a woman and holding her captive for five weeks in Alaska. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://is.gd/4IJCFS) reported that 37-year-old Daniel Selovich of Manley Springs was arraigned Tuesday in Fairbanks Superior Court, where his public defender entered the plea […]

  • News

    Alaska wants Fairbanks area split into 2 air quality zones

    by Associated Press on Nov 25, 7:50

    The state of Alaska is calling on the federal government to split Fairbanks and North Pole into separate smoke pollution non-attainment areas. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1PNxtJE) that the state’s request comes as the Fairbanks North Star Borough faces tougher rules for smoke emissions, mainly due to worsening emissions in the North Pole area. […]

  • News

    Freezing rain closes schools again in Mat-Su Borough

    by Daybreak Staff on Nov 25, 5:52

    The following schools will be closed today, Nov. 25, due to freezing rain, according to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District: * Willow Elementary * Trapper Creek Elementary * Talkeetna Elementary * Su-Valley Junior, Senior High * Houston Middle and High School * Big Lake Elementary * Beryozova K-12 School All but one school was closed yesterday […]