‘Education session’ not as easy as it sounds

  • Thursday, April 3, 2014 8:21pm
  • Opinion

In his January State of the State address, Gov. Sean Parnell declared the current session of the Legislature to be the “education session.”

But with just over two weeks left in the session, the current debate in Juneau hasn’t been much different than most every other session as lawmakers haggle over the details of temporary fixes and one-time funding sources for public education in Alaska.

This week, members of the House Finance Committee proposed — and then rejected — the addition of $485, over the next three years, to the current per-pupil education funding formula. The committee’s rewrite of Parnell’s education bill includes an increase of $300 over three years; the governor had proposed an increase of $200.

Meanwhile, school districts around the state are facing budget shortfalls to the tune of millions of dollars, and pink slips are being handed out to teachers. The Kenai Peninsula School District is in better shape than others — its projected budget deficit is $4.5 million, and district administration has said that an increase in the base student allocation of $268 would solve its current funding issues.

Solving current issues should be a priority for the Legislature, which is constitutionally tasked with overseeing the delivery of education in Alaska. But addressing future issues — before they overtake the state — should be higher up on lawmakers’ list of things to do.

Simply funneling more money to school districts, whether through increases in formulas or targeted appropriations, isn’t a long-term solution. It’s a Band-Aid. It would stave off the immediate problems for another year and leave quality and delivery of education for another Legislature to address. With the state looking at a decrease in revenue, that might be the best course of action for current lawmakers. A number of education-related bills are still moving through the Legislature, and whether they can be pieced together in an education package by the end of the session remains to be seen.

Providing for meaningful change to public education in a state as diverse as Alaska is a far more complex issue. To do it well requires at least as much focus as the Legislature has spent on oil taxes over the past few sessions — and an argument can be made that Alaska’s children are just as valuable a resource, if not more so.

More in Opinion

U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka and former President Donald Trump stand on stage during a July 2022 rally in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tshibaka’s insincere defense of democracy

There are a lot of possible explanations why fewer votes were cast last November

Capitol
Opinion: Humanism and the billionaire class

Compromise is the right thing to do and they should do it.

tt
Opinion: The challenged truths of 3 elected representatives

“Politicians lying is nothing new.”

This photo shows the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The wrong way to define demand

And as glaciers go, the Mendenhall is only a minor attraction.

Zachary Hamilton (Courtesy photo)
Borough mayoral candidate: ‘The best is yet to come’

Zachary Hamilton is running for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor in the special election

Love, INC in Soldotna, Alaska, provides homelessness prevention and housing services to people on the Kenai Peninsula. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: COVID relief funds help homeless children in Alaska

We need to sustain this kind of investment.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Alaska must act now to capitalize on carbon markets

Alaska has vast forests and coastlines that can provide natural carbon management

1
Opinion: MLK Day clinics offered in the ‘spirit of service and advocacy for equality and social justice’

Attorneys across the state will be spending their holiday as “A Day On, Not a Day Off”

The M/V Tustumena comes into Homer after spending the day in Seldovia in 2010. (Homer News File)
Opinion: New federal funding could aid Alaska Marine Highway System

The evidence is clear that the AMHS is in grave danger of failing and moving into Alaska’s history books

(Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: I’ve seen the union difference

As a community we can show solidarity…

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Sullivan’s irrelevance in defense of democracy

Two years ago this week, supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol…

People vote in polling booths at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: What’s on your 2023 schedule so far?

There is a Kenai Peninsula Borough Special Mayoral Election coming up in February