Dozens of Anchor Point residents made the trek to Soldotna on Tuesday night to give the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly a unified message: Fund education to the cap and don’t shut down Chapman Elementary School.
Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget includes a 19 percent decrease in funds to the Department of Education and Early Development, which has residents of Anchor Point worried about teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and school shutdowns.
Parents, teachers and pastors were among those in attendance at Tuesday’s borough meeting to express their support for Chapman Elementary, which some felt could be first on the chopping block if the current proposed budget is passed. Community members also urged the borough to keep education funding at the highest level possible for the borough’s upcoming budget, in order to mitigate any potential cuts at the state level.
“I realize that the state level cuts are not your fault. However, we look to you as borough assembly members to help soften this blow,” said a teacher at Chapman.
“Putting small schools on the chopping block means that small communities, whose lifeblood flows through the local schools, would become ghost towns,” said another teacher from Nikolaevsk school.
“By not fully funding education to the maximum, it will exasperate the shortfall from the state, resulting in additional cuts that the school board will be forced to make,” said a concerned parent.
Because of time constraints and the number of people who wished to speak on behalf of Chapman, that portion of the public comments was limited to 20 minutes, to which one man in the audience responded “Doesn’t education deserve more than 20 minutes?”
Another opportunity for public comments was given towards the end of the meeting, but by that time most of the citizens attending the meeting had already gone home.