NEA Alaska says student improvements are tied to funding

by Angela Denning-Barnes on July 9, 2013

Ron Fuhrer, NEA Alaska President, courtesy of NEA Alaska.

Ron Fuhrer, NEA Alaska President, courtesy of NEA Alaska.

The head of Alaska’s teacher’s union was in Atlanta, Georgia recently for the annual National Education Association meeting. Ron Fuhrer, is President of the NEA Alaska, representing about 15,000 teachers and educational professionals in the state. He says one of the big challenges right now is a stagnant state budget for the base student allocations.

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It’s remained at $5,680 dollars per student for the last four years which Fuhrer says doesn’t meet the rate of inflation.

“And unfortunately, when that happens, school districts have to start looking at cutting programs, cutting curriculum offerings, summer school gets cut,” Fuhrer says.

Fuhrer says the lack of funding is cutting student opportunities. His education association supports increasing the student allocation in order to improve student performance. That’s on the opposite end of the spectrum from Governor Sean Parnell. He’s been holding off on allocation increases until he sees concrete student improvements in the classroom.

But Fuhrer says you can’t get those improvements without funds.

“It’s a downward spiral,” Fuhrer says. “It’s just like starving education, if you will.”

Fuhrer says school districts in both rural and urban Alaska are being forced to choose between school programs or school educators.

Gary Baldwin agrees. He recently retired as LKSD’s Superintendent, which manages 27 schools. He says although the state in recent years has been increasing funds for specific uses, like a school district’s utilities, that too is like flat funding.

He says it’s unstable, there’s no guarantee that those specific funds will be there from year to year and it only just meets inflation.

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