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Senate Finance Committee Proposes Education Funding Increase

By Adam Pinsker, Multimedia Political Reporter, apinsker@ktuu.com
Published On: Apr 01 2014 12:00:00 AM AKDT

The Senate Finance Committee has included an additional $75 million for school district funding for next year in its version of the state operating budget.

JUNEAU -

The Senate Finance Committee has included an additional $75 million for school district funding for next year in its version of the state operating budget.
    
That’s on top of the $25 million in additional aid that was already included in the bill. A total of $100 million also would be included for the following budget year.

“If it's outside the Base Student Allocation, 5,680 (dollars), then in year three there is no guarantee that we're going to get a third 100-million-dollar increase,” said NEA President Ron Fuhrer.

Separate legislation proposed by Gov. Sean Parnell would increase the BSA by $196 over a three-year period.

“Most school districts are not complaining, and they really shouldn't be,” said Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “When you put money into the base like this again, it's one-time money -- but history has shown us that once you put the money in, the Legislature doesn't take it out.”
    
The Associated Press reports that the amendment, adopted Friday, is intended to help public schools maintain operations at a level "sufficient to educate children" while providing time to the Legislature to identify ways that, over time, will lower costs "while maintaining a quality education system."

"There are a lot of pieces and parts moving through the system right now,” Kelly said. “The education omnibus bill in the House, that is going to inform and impact -- that is going to inform and impact what happens with this money.”

Kelly’s budget amendment must be approved by the Senate and House before the governor can sign it.

Critics of Parnell’s proposed BSA increase say it won’t be enough to cover the rising cost of classroom instruction.

"Because of the Alaska academic standards, the implementation is going to have an impact on professional development, as well as curriculum materials,” Fuhrer said.

Parnell added $58 million in funds for grade kindergarten through 12 in this year’s budget. Those funds covered pupil costs, public transportation, security and safety upgrades.
    
The Associated Press contributed information to this story.