Local educators stand up for education
Hundreds of educators and members of the AEA voiced their frustration in front of the Legislative Information Office as the legislative session nears its 90-day end. Educators feel flat funding has led to layoffs, higher class sizes less one on one time with students fewer in-school support systems such as guidance counselors and curriculum specialists.
"When you flat fund education with increasing costs you're taking away from education," Romig Middle School teacher Ben Walker said. "It's been long enough where its come to a breaking point I mean when you have 35 to 40 kids in a classroom, that's a ridiculous place to have kids learn. We're seeing classrooms of 35 kids but we only have 32 seats. Some schools are worse than that."
Turnover rates are also on the rise and the effects are now very noticeable in the classrooms. The hope is that legislators will get it together and stop flat funding education.
"I feel like for years we've been taking the lumps," Laurie Templeton who works at Chugiak High School said. "It's been that kind of environment where we've just been taking the hits and we're like okay, okay, and at some point, you just can't get knocked down anymore. You just have to be able to stand up and say hey, pick on somebody else, pick on something else, how about not a person."
The current strain teachers feel in the Anchorage School district is at an all-time low. The situation so bad, many teachers are leaving the state.
"I have so many talented teachers who are fleeing the state of Alaska because they can not deal with this political climate anymore," Templeton said. "And that's an abomination that should never happen to any state let alone the great state of Alaska."
In Juneau, Lawmakers are working overtime on two education funding bills. The first one will cost the state $25 million dollars by giving districts an extra 100 dollars per student for funding. Meanwhile, the Senate will hear a bill to that would give those districts their funding earlier.
The goal is to avoid a recent problem where some districts have had to hand out pink slips to teachers. This year the Anchorage School District cut 93 teacher positions with another 63 planned for next year.
"We're really starting to see the effects of years of flat funding our class sizes are going up a lot," Walker said. "We're not getting a lot of support from counselors, those positions have been cut. There is an elementary school here in town currently, their PTA is raising funds for a special ed teaching assistant, not field trips or animal visits they are raising funds for classroom people."
Sunday will make the ninetieth and final day of the legislative session in Juneau. The state constitution allows lawmakers to work until May 6 if extra time is needed. Educators hope the future of the current students is enough to push legislators to take positive steps in funding education but they aren't getting their hopes up any time soon.
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