With the budget process for the 2015-16 school year just finished, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education and administration already are looking at next year’s spending plan.
While so much of next year’s budget is in limbo — and will be for several more months — what is clear is that the state’s budget crunch will continue, and districts around the state will need to be prepared for additional reductions in funding.
What also became clear during the state’s budget process is that, while roughly 90 percent of the state’s revenue is dependent on oil, very little planning has previously gone toward developing contingency plans in the event that oil prices do what they’ve been doing.
We’re glad to see the school district taking a proactive approach, and developing a list of options — as well as weighing the potential impacts of those options. It would be easy and understandable to take a wait-and-see approach — maybe oil prices will rebound, maybe the Legislature will come up with more money for schools — but the longer a situation is left unaddressed, fewer and fewer options become available.
Certainly, the options the school district will consider aren’t ideal — cutting education means taking away opportunities for our youth. Over the next several months, administrators and school board members will be weighing the impacts of things such as increased class sizes. Board work sessions, school site council reports and feedback from community meetings will be used to prioritize district spending. Superintendent Sean Dusek said the district will be examining a number of “what if” scenarios with regard to next year’s budget.
These are things that no one wants to talk about. But if policy makers are able to evaluate cuts with a thorough understanding of the consequences, they need to start talking about them now. We hope other elected officials and government agencies are following the school district’s lead, rolling up their sleeves and looking at the “what if” scenarios now, so that when it comes time to make some tough choices, decisions will be based on which ones will have the least harmful impacts.