Classifieds | Place a class ad | PDF Edition | Home Delivery
EDITOR, Daily News:
Funding for Alaska’s schools is one of the most important pieces of our state budget. Yet, each year, school funding gets caught in the cross fire of budget debates and ends up being one of the last measures passed by the Alaska Legislature.
The delay wreaks havoc on schools and communities who are forced to play a guessing game on what their bottom line will be. It forces school districts to draft multiple budgets and contingency plans. It creates a climate of uncertainty, especially given the state’s fiscal situation and the possibility of last minute funding cuts. Overall, it impacts staff morale and makes for an inefficient way to do business. It certainly doesn’t help schools do the best they can for their students.
That is why I am working with my fellow members in the House Finance Committee to change this process. Earlier this week, the Alaska State House of Representatives passed House Bill 287 with a vote of 33-3. The bill separates school funding from the regular budget, creating a new appropriation bill solely for K-12 education. As a separate bill, the Legislature can tackle it earlier in the session and pass it more quickly. It does not increase funding for education.
The goal is to provide a stable, predictable revenue stream so schools can move forward efficiently — without the distraction of budget uncertainty — and focus on the important work of educating Alaska’s students.
Unfortunately, because of our state’s deficit, the source of funding is challenging. Where would the funds for an education appropriation bill come from? To pay the $1.3 billion price tag, the House Mmajority Coalition suggested tapping two of the state’s savings accounts — the Constitutional Budget Reserve and the Statutory Budget Reserve. Use of the CBR requires approval by three-fourths of the House and Senate, which was not secured on the House side earlier this week. It’s still possible to use the CBR if it is approved by the Senate and three-fourths of House members during a final concurrence vote. I will continue to work with legislators to secure early funding for K-12 education.
Let’s keep our schools focused on what matters most — providing an excellent education for every student — rather than on budget battles.
REP. DAN ORTIZ
House District 36