Talks to change public education funding continue
State lawmakers are still looking for ways to avoid public school teachers from getting pink slips because state budgets aren’t ready.
On Friday, the Senate Finance Committee heard bills from Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) and House Finance co-chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).
Seaton’s plan calls for early funding just for this year. Stevens wants early funding to be permanent and start next year.
“I really don’t care how we do it as long as we find a way to solve the pink slip issue,” Stevens, who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, told his colleagues.
Both bills were held over to future hearings, but there seems to be agreement on the need to fund public education separate from the state’s operating budget.
They want to eliminate guess work for local school districts.
School 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, in hope that schools will be able to re-hire them once budgets get approved.
“What happened last year was difficult for districts, there is no question about it,” said Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna). “I certainly hope this Legislature this won’t put Alaskans in that position again. It wasn’t just education. There were state employees that were living in fear of a layoff. It was completely unnecessary and due to our inability to find agreements."
“I certainly hope that we can get there this year in a reasonable amount of time. And if not, I think we need to start looking at ways to ensure that we don’t lose talent, we don’t lose our very best that have to take jobs in other places and other states.”
Both bills were held for further review. Senate Finance co-chair Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) says both bills still need work and lawmakers still need to determine the revenue source for the funding, which could come from projected revenue or from one of two savings accounts.
“I think everyone does not want pink slips to teachers,” MacKinnon said. “I think it’s a common goal to eliminate pink slips to teachers and try to provide some certainty.”
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