Education bills headline weekend legislative work
The House and Senate on Saturday will each debate education funding bills.
The House is expected to vote on legislation that adds $100 per student under the state’s funding formula. That’s about $25 million.
Meanwhile, the Senate will hear a bill to fund public education early and separate from the state’s operating budget, which is the normal process. Both are expected receive separate floor debates as lawmakers enter their eighty-ninth legislative day.
With lawmakers in the home stretch, Rep. Les Gara (R-Anchorage) has been making a final push for additional student funding.
“I filed this in the beginning of the session because I think students have a right to achieve and a right to reach their dreams,” he said. “But laying off teachers year after year after year, we’re facing over 100 teacher layoffs under the current inadequate education funding formula. It needs to be adjusted. You don’t teach students better with fewer teachers.”
One day after approving an operating budget, the Senate also began discussions on an early funding bill that will get further debate and vote Saturday.
Those favoring early funding want to eliminate guesswork for local school districts. Districts rely heavily on state funding and must have their budgets submitted to municipalities by May 1.
But in recent years, the Legislature has dragged its budget talks well into June. This means school districts would issue pink slips to teachers. It’s done with the hope that districts will be able to re-hire them once budgets get approved.
Senate Finance Co-chair Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) says lawmakers have worked hard to show educators the Legislature takes funding seriously, even in times of a $2.3 billion deficit.
“Educators are wary,” she said. ”They feel unsupported. That has never been the intent of the Legislature. We understand those classrooms are stressed. This is a way to show respect and understanding for those districts.”
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