It’s disheartening to hear comments made in the legislative halls and offices of Juneau which are based on incorrect information and hyperbole. At a time when state legislators are making important decisions which will have far-reaching impacts on our state, it’s critically important they use facts to inform their decisions.
Here’s how the Senate Majority’s 5.7 percent proposed reduction in state education funding would impact the Anchorage School District (ASD). ASD stands to be cut $19,838,000 from the State. Additionally, ASD is one of only five districts in the state which also will be impacted by a state-mandated corresponding local reduction in support. That adds another $4,562,000 for a total of $24.4 million in cuts. This reduction would be on top of the $15 million ASD has already cut from the operating budget in February, preceded by several years of additional cuts!
It’s also disconcerting to hear a statement that ASD could reduce its administration by 4.72 percent. In fact, ASD spends the least on district administration of the “Big 5” school districts (including Mat-Su, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Kenai). The total expenditures on district administration, as well as district administrative support, is nearly $29 million — or 4.79 percent — of total operating budget expenditures. Let me paint a ludicrous picture of the consequence of a cut that large in district administration and support:
Human Resources — no hiring or firing of employees, no contract bargaining or administration, no benefits management, no labor law compliance, no workmen’s compensation, no risk management nor liability claims processing, no health clinic contracting, no coordination of school nurse services
OMB/Finance/Payroll — no payroll for employees, no budgeting, no fiscal management or audits
Information Technology — no use of the Internet or technology for operations or educational purposes, no device maintenance or repair
Communications — no ASD website, no ASD communications with the community via electronic newsletters, news releases, social media, or local news media
ESEA Federal Programs — no compliance with federal laws with resultant suspension of federal funding
Grant Writing — no grant applications with resultant loss of numerous district and school programs
Security/Emergency Preparedness — no coordination of safety and security in the district or with the Municipality
Community Services — no rentals or use of ASD schools for community events, no field trip coordination
Purchasing — no bidding, no district procurement, no interschool mail, no supply delivery
With the remaining 0.07 percent, the Superintendent could have an academic chief and an operating chief to run the instructional (regular and special education and support services) and operational functions (transportation, food services, school maintenance, and construction), but without the above-stated services, I’m confident the board would have a hard time retaining any leader.
I’ve also heard inaccurate statements that many of the district’s administrative services could be handled on site by the school administration. Once again, that shows a gross misunderstanding of the work performed by ASD principals and assistant principals.
The district has already increased the workload of principals in some schools by reducing the number of assistant principals. Yet, their duties continue to include: staffing and teacher evaluation, instructional leadership, course scheduling and teacher assignments; student registration and scheduling; student decorum: referrals, reports, behavior expectations and consequences; attendance monitoring and truancy processing; student assistance: peer helpers, and drug/alcohol intervention; assessment planning and oversight; staff professional development coordination; parent and community relations,; unit budget preparations and oversight; procedures and approvals for requisitions; supervision of student activities; staff and student recognition; school climate; accreditation reporting; building maintenance supervisions; student remediation efforts; graduate support services and graduation planning; student records; department chair supervision; Freshman fair and fall orientation; open house planning; zone exception determinations; student activities; and more!
Here are the facts:
- Public education is a people intensive industry.
- 79 percent of ASD’s budget is dedicated to instructional functions.
- For all school district functions, 90 percent of ASD’s budget is applied towards payroll and benefits.
- The largest percentage increase in personnel costs for the last 35 years is medical costs; salary costs have remained steady with inflation and are not inflated.
When the cries of “cut the fat in administration” are heard, please know this is a smoke screen. The proposed funding reductions will result in more administrative trimming on top of the 25 percent the Board has already reduced, but the majority will be in teacher reductions because that’s where the vast majority of ASD funds are spent. Those positions most vulnerable are the new hires whom staff has worked so hard to recruit and train.
If the budget is not finalized within a few weeks, the churn will begin as state law mandates districts issue pink slips by May 15, regardless of whether the state budget has been finalized. How many of those treachers are going to stick around Alaska in the hopes they are recalled in August when they have rent or mortgages, groceries, or other bills to pay?
Is this healthy for our students, their families, and our community? Does this community want our public education system dismantled? Give your answer to your legislators.