School board considers new approach to lobbying for funds

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014 11:24pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education members on Tuesday considered options to lobby for education funding.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, asked the school board to identify targeted or specialized programs that address gaps in education statewide. Legislators may be more swayed if they see results coming from what they are spending money on, he said.

When it comes to foundational funding, there are schools in the Alaska education system, certain locations or demographics, that aren’t meeting the mark, Micciche said.

Education is funded for the state as whole, not by individual districts, Micciche said. Lobbying for funding is achieved in a group, he said.

“The legislature is frustrated because they are funding more and not getting results,” Micciche said. “Educators are frustrated because they are not getting the leadership from the state that they need.”

The discussion between Micciche and the board came just before the board’s second meeting for developing the fiscal year 2016 budget.

The school district needs a basic amount of money to function every year, said school board member Sunni Hilts. The fight in Juneau is every year is about the basics.

Micciche said by comparison, the Kenai Peninsula school district generates academically sound students, but the same progress is not consistent statewide.

“You can’t think district by district in this state,” Hilts said. “We should see what we do well and offer those methods to other districts.”

Superintendent Steve Atwater said funding for education in rural areas is an underlying tension in Alaska. Further, not all districts have a board of education providing leadership within the community and guiding local decisions regarding education, he said.

Kenai Peninsula school locations range from populated city centers to isolated villages, said board member Penny Vadla. Educators spend a shorter amount of time teaching in rural areas, she said. Students need stability to learn.

A factor in their exodus is administrative frustrations stemming from lack of funding and support within the community, Atwater said.

Micciche asked the school board if there was a way to fund education that evenly affects the rural populations. No one from the board had a quick answer.

“To squeeze funds out of legislators, I have to give them a program that has results,” Micciche said. “This is not, ‘What Peter said,’ this is what I am hearing in Juneau.”

While offering competitive salaries may keep teachers and administrators in one place, a high paid educator does not make a strong student, Micciche said. It’s about funding the right programs, he said.

There needs to be a connection between funds and results, Micciche said.

“The state should not have this struggle every year in Juneau for determining what is the adequate level of funding,” Micciche said.

With the promise of large, economy boosting projects that will be creating jobs in Alaska in the next few years, the students going through the state’s education system need to be competitive enough to ensure they will be the ones filling those positions, Micciche said.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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