Education supporters rally amid funding talks

  • By MATT WOOLBRIGHT
  • Sunday, April 6, 2014 10:06pm
  • News

JUNEAU — More than 150 students, teachers, parents and other Alaskans chanted “BSA! Raise today!” on the steps of the Capitol Friday as the House of Representatives considered the merits of the omnibus education bill.

Dubbed the “Education Session” by Republican Gov. Sean Parnell earlier this year, the governor’s education reform bill has stayed center stage since the Legislature convened two and a half months ago.

“Because of excellent support from my teachers, counselors and family, I’ve been able to achieve all of my goals,” said Ruby Steele, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School and student representative to the Juneau School Board.

Steele said she’s concerned for students following in her footsteps due to the state of education funding here.

“The schools in our state may not have this opportunity in the future,” she said.

Within the bill is a proposed increased funding to the base student allocation, a component of the state funding formula for education, but lawmakers and the public have said it was not enough.

Great Alaskan Schools organized the rally with some supporters flying to Juneau from Anchorage for the event. Their request is for a per-pupil increase, known as the Base Student Allocation or BSA, of $400 this year and $125 in each of the following two years.

“It’s filling back what we lost; it’s not asking for more,” said Alison Arians with Great Alaska Schools. “It’s just, basically, keeping up with costs.”

She said having a physical event like a rally at the Capitol was about drawing connections between the decisions being made within the building’s halls and Alaskans on the street.

“It’s really important to show the faces of people who really care,” she said. “It’s not just in Anchorage, and it’s not just in Juneau. It’s statewide.”

The current proposal contained within the governor’s bill, HB278, is for $185 this year and $58 for each of the next two years. Members of the powerful House Finance Committee rejected an amendment last week that would have bumped that increase to $404 this year.

Students and others distributed pieces of pie to legislators after the rally as part of the message of wanting a bigger slice of the funding pie devoted for education.

“It’s just one crumb of the fiscal reserve pie of Alaska,” said Callie Conerton, an event volunteer and student senator at University of Alaska Southeast.

Juneau Republican Rep. Cathy Muñoz told the Empire previously that she expects this year’s BSA increase to end up around $250.

If passed as-is, the current funding increase proposed would net the Juneau School District an increase of $2.1 million from the state.

Even without further funding, that’s enough to stave off any teacher layoffs this year, school board member Lisa Worl said.

“Anything we get is encouraging because we hadn’t had that last year, and anything we don’t have to cut we’re grateful for,” Worl said.

“We need the funding,” she added. “I know it’s not all about the money, but, really, when you’re making big, deep cuts, it’s hard to make progress and go forward and gain traction.”

More in News

Sens. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, right, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, and Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, discuss a bill proposing a nearly 17% increase in per-student education funding Wednesday at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini /Juneau Empire)
State Senate bill would bump per-student funding amount by $1,000

If approved, the legislation would bump state education funding by more than $257 million

Recognizable components make up this metal face seen in a sculpture by Jacob Nabholz Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at the Kenai Art Center, in Kenai, Alaska, as part of Metalwork & Play. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Metalwork gets time to shine

Metal is on showcase this month at the Kenai Art Center

This 2019 aerial photo provided by ConocoPhillips shows an exploratory drilling camp at the proposed site of the Willow oil project on Alaska’s North Slope. The Biden administration issued a long-awaited study on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, that recommends allowing three oil drilling sites in the region of far northern Alaska. The move, while not final, has angered environmentalists who see it as a betrayal of President Joe Biden’s pledges to reduce carbon emissions and promote green energy. (ConocoPhillips via AP)
Biden administration recommends major Alaska oil project

The move — while not final — drew immediate anger from environmentalists

Homer Electric Association General Manager Brad Janorschke testifies before the Senate Resources Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, in Juneau, Alaska. (Screenshot via Gavel Alaska)
Senate group briefed on future of Cook Inlet gas

Demand for Cook Inlet gas could outpace supply as soon as 2027

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Peninsula voices join state debate over school funding

Lawmakers heard pleas from education leaders around Alaska to increase the state’s base student allocation

Tamera Mapes and a client laugh and joke with one another during a free haircut at Project Homeless Connect on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Caring and connecting

Project Homeless Connect offers a variety of services

This September 2011 aerial photo provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, shows the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, effectively vetoed a proposed copper and gold mine in the remote region of southwest Alaska that is coveted by mining interests but that also supports the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. (Joseph Ebersole/EPA via AP)
EPA blocks Pebble Mine

Pebble called the EPA’s action “unlawful” and political and said litigation was likely

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID-19 cases continue to climb

Statewide hospitalizations decreased slightly

A plow truck clears snow from the Kenai Spur Highway on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna council approves extra $100k for snow removal

At the end of December, the department was already more than $27,000 over their $100,000 budget for snow removal

Most Read