The Alaska House is gearing up for what could be a lengthy floor session Friday on a 35-page piece of legislation, known as the Governor’s Omnibus Education Bill.
"I’m encouraged by it,” said Rep. Mia Costello, (R-Anchorage/Sand Lake) “Does it make everyone happy? No.”
The original version of the bill called for an $85 increase this year in Base Student Allocation -- the state’s annual funding to school districts for every student they teach -- with $58 to be added in each of the next two years.
On Tuesday, the House Finance Committee voted to add $100 to the governor’s 2014 BSA proposal. A measure by House Finance member Rep. Lindsey Holmes (R-Turnagain) to add another $100 increase failed by one vote.
"If that amendment passes, that still gets us inadequate funding,” said fellow Finance member Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage). “It's not a victory to lay off teachers.”
Most House Democrats have maintained a sizable BSA increase is needed for 2015, and 2016 to ensure districts can retain teachers beyond the 2014-2015 school year.
Earlier in the week, Democrats criticized House Finance’s BSA plan. They say the $100 increase is being shifted from $25 million already budgeted outside the BSA formula.
"I’m personally a little disappointed that the increase isn't seen as a message that is reflective of what we're hearing from the public, (which) is that ‘we want teachers,’” Costello said.
According to Costello, decision makers aren’t often privy to how state education dollars will be used in school district budgets.
The legislation also deposits $1.4 billion into the state’s Teacher Retirement System. Parnell had wanted to put $1.1 billion up front for the state’s TRS liability.
“Part of the reason it's in there is the teacher retirement is one of the cost driver's for education,” said House Finance co-chair Rep. Bill Stoltze (R-Chugiak).
Supporters say under their plan, they will be able to make lower payments each year for a longer period of time than under Parnell’s proposal.
“There are too many moving parts in this bill,” said Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Wade Hampton/Fairbanks).
House Minority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) says his counterparts in the majority waited too long to address the BSA issue. They plan on offering more amendments during the floor session Friday.
“It's going to be a long one,” Tuck said. “I think it is going to be one of the longest bills we take up on the floor this year."
Should the legislation pass, it will head to the Senate where it will be vetted in committees.