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Tenured ASD Teacher Leaves Job over Budget Uncertainties

Published On: May 14 2014 06:00:00 PM AKDT

Calling it quits, an Eagle River High School math teacher is leaving her Anchorage School District job to go into another career. She says doubts over school funding forced her to give up her passion.

In a lot of ways, the classroom is just like real life -- and when you're talking about first-year teachers' lives, 11-year educator Helen Wood says the math doesn't add up.

With the Anchorage School District originally slated to cut 143 teaching jobs, she's seen her peers brace for the worst.

"Some of these people don't know how they are going to pay their bills, or pay their rent, its just like we are chess pieces," Wood said. "Can you imagine spending your whole summer not knowing, 'Should I go get another job?' It just breaks my heart."

That's why Wood, a tenured teacher, is walking away so a new teacher isn't out of a job.

"I'm going to take my real-estate test and start selling real estate," Wood said. "I remember what's its like to work super-hard and get your degree and go through student training program which is very rigorous, and then how hard your first year is, and in good conscience I can't take someone else's job."

While the decision to walk away was tough for Wood, she says if the funding uncertainty continues, others will be following in her footsteps.

"We're very frustrated, we feel very devalued," Wood said. "I think we are going to lose a lot of really good teachers. and I think a lot of people that might have wanted to come here."

Anchorage School Board president Eric Croft says he understands Wood's feelings.

"We are sad about it and we want to fix that problem," Croft said. "That is, we want funding we can rely on, so we can tell those teachers we can keep you."

Croft says ASD's plan is to use $8 million of city money to keep 80 teachers. He says new state Legislature money that will give districts $300 million over three years, however, is a one-time funding source that doesn't help ASD for the long term.

"Reliable funding that accounts for inflation will make this stop," Croft said.

In a written statement, the Alaska Senate Majority says beyond money designated for certain programs, the remaining dollars can be used by school districts any way they choose. If districts are still choosing layoffs, according to the majority, it is because they are deciding to put the money elsewhere other than teacher jobs.

From Wood's perspective, something has to be figured out before its too late.

"It's just going to be a spiral effect because people that right now that are deciding what they want to major in college, in good conscience, if they asked me right now and they wanted to stay in the state, I wouldn't recommend teaching," Wood said.

The Anchorage School District hasn't made a final decision yet on how to use both the city and state funds. That decision is expected May 19.