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Teachers face insecurity in wake of Anchorage School Board budget cuts

By Shannon Ballard Photojournalist: John Thain - 8:43 PM May 5, 2015

Today, several Anchorage teachers are asking, “Will I have a job?”

Bryan Bearss is a literacy coach. For the past year, he’s helped third graders at Abbott Loop Elementary get a better grip on reading and writing. But now, he’s learning that loving your job doesn’t mean that job is always going to be there.

“Just the idea that it’s one less support for the kids that need it, that’s the hard part,” said Bearss.

The Anchorage School Board decided to scale back its budget and, as a result, 70 district positions will be cut.

Lawmakers in Juneau are still trying to finalize the state budget, though most of them have taken a break until May 12. That’s left Anchorage school officials making budget decisions without knowing what’s going to happen with state funding.

It’s been a frustrating process that’s left a wave of insecurity. Literacy coaches, like Bearss, in the Anchorage School District are among the positions that have been eliminated from next year’s budget.

Bearss is tenured, so he says he’s not out of a job but will have to find a new spot to fill within the district.

“We saw some great results with the kids,” Bearss said. “And it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen with that.”

That insecurity is a big problem, says Andy Holleman, president of the Anchorage Education Association.

“This whole thing is just sort of a poison pill,” said Holleman.

People are looking for answers and wondering what’s next for them, but Holleman says there’s still too much uncertainty in Juneau to say.

“People are calling and trying to figure out where things are at. I don’t think it’s going to be as severe as people might think from looking at the budget, but it’s not settled yet and that’s unsettling,” said Holleman.

While funding for jobs like Bearss’ have been zeroed out, he’s hopeful the influence of a good teacher can never be erased.

“I can worry all I want. It’s not going to fix anything,” Bearss said. “I know I’m going to be a teacher. That’s all that matters to me right now. I’ll be teaching and I’ll be helping kids in some format.”

It’s possible that lawmakers in Juneau could reinstate some education funding. If so, the Anchorage School Board says bringing back literacy coaches is a top priority, but Bearss says he’s not counting on it.

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