Parnell says Senate ed bill is “giveaway”

Gov. Sean Parnell says an education funding bill that recently passed the Senate is the “ultimate giveaway,” because it doesn’t require results.

SB171 increases the Base Student Allocation over the next three years. That’s the amount the state pays local districts for each student.

The governor says he doesn’t favor formula increases, but would cover specific one-time needs. During a news conference yesterday, he expressed his message to local districts this way:

“Come in and justify your increases. Come in and tell us what you’re going to do with this money,” Parnell said. “I can understand it when you say we have increased heating costs and I can write a check out of the state treasury and the people know what they’re getting. They’re buying increased heating costs and they’re also buying greater instruction in the classroom because the school district doesn’t have to pay that increase in heating costs, they’re paying for increased instruction in the classroom.”

As the House takes up SB 171, there also doesn’t appear to be much support among majority Republicans — though there’s no loss of lobbying by school board members from across the state in Juneau this week to push for more money.

Juneau School District Superintendent Glen Gelbrich says a one-time infusion of funds does not resolve the fact that education costs increase annually, even if districts hold the line on spending.

It would take a BSA increase of about 84 to 86 dollars (per student) just to get to the level we have this year,” Gelbrich says.

The district is projecting about $5.8 million in cuts next year, but a hopeful budget committee Tuesday night asked Gelbrich to outline his plan for adding back programs and positions, if more money becomes available.

A revised budget proposal includes restoration of four of the six nurse positions that are on the current cut list. Gelbrich also says it restores elementary music min-grants by using activity funds.

“This proposal identifies items that would be added back to the budget if additional funds are allocated by the legislature,” Gelbrich says. “Those items include adding back cultural para-educators, elementary specialists, reducing the pupil teacher ratio, (restoring) middle school counselors, and the high school drug testing program.”

Public testimony will be taken during the school board’s meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 21) in the Juneau-Douglas High School Library, at 6 o’clock.

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