Senator Berta Gardner

March 27, 2015

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Serving Midtown, Spenard, and UMed

State Capitol Bldg. Rm 9
Juneau, AK 99801
 
Phone: 907-465-4930
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Sen.Berta.Gardner@akleg.gov
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Governor Bill Walker
Anchorage Office
550 W. 7th Ave, Ste 1700
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 269-7450
Gov.alaska.gov
 

Lt. Governor Byron Mallott
Anchorage Office
550 W. 7th Ave, Ste 1700
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 269-7460
LtGov.alaska.gov

Education on the Line

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

East High School artwork on display at the Capitol.
East High School artwork on display at the Capitol.

We’re less than a month away from end of session and the heavy lifting on the budget is in full swing.

The House passed their version of the operating budget early last week.   Now the Senate has been working to close out our budget subcommittees in anticipation of the budget being on the floor late next week.

I serve on the finance subcommittees for Education, Labor, and Public Safety. I’ll go over what we’ve talked about in our budget subcommittees and discuss the closeout decisions.

One important factor to remember is that the budget is a work in progress. The subcommittee closeout is one of several steps taken in crafting the operating budget. Subcommittee “reports” are actually just recommendations and not necessarily incorporated into the next version of the budget.

Next week the Senate Finance Committee will take public testimony on the operating budget. This is the time to make your voice heard. I’m sharing the actions of the Education Budget Subcommittee below in hope you can use the information to testify.   Anchorage residents can testify Tuesday, March 31st starting at 9am.  Call 844-586-9085 or go to the Legislative Information Office in downtown.

Education:

As usual, education is my focus and passion.  The funding we are talking about here is not operating funds for schools but rather funds for the Department of Education and Early Learning, much of which is used as grants for a variety of services.

I’ve supported some suggestions for painful cuts made by the majority.  Today, however,  some of the suggested cuts put forward in the Education Budget Subcommittee give me grief:

  • Pre K grants zeroed out
    • This is one of my biggest concerns in the education budget. We’ve been fighting for years to get pre k funding and it was just a few years ago we achieved $2 million per year for a few pilot programs. The data is there and we know the great outcomes possible when children have an opportunity for quality pre k services. To eliminate the program entirely I think is misguided.
  • $1.1 million from Statewide Teacher Mentoring
    • Nurturing and retaining highly effective teachers should be a top priority as an effective strategy to improve student learning.  The reductions to the mentoring program, along with a $400,000 unallocated reduction in the department may be so deep, I fear, as to damage the mentoring effort.
  • Elimination of the K-3 Literacy Project
    • As with the previous two provisions, a student’s success is largely influenced early in life. Getting children into pre k, with qualified teachers, and making sure they are at reading level by third grade is in line with national data demonstrating the keys to student academic success.

I am very happy to see the Senate changes to WWAMI.  We have fully funded WWAMI and removed the House language to end the WWAMI program.   Again, this isn’t the final word on the education budget, or the WWAMI program for that matter, but I think it’s safe to say that the lobbying for that program by Alaskans across the state has had an impact.

The education budget took many more hits than what I just mentioned, but those are the ones that I intend to fight for.  Cutting off resources for our children in early education is short-sighted. A number of other great programs were cut, but I agree with the chairman that these programs were cut not because they aren’t valuable, but because we cannot ignore our fiscal crisis.

You can find the rest of the subcommittee recommendations here: legfin.akleg.gov/BudgetReports/LY2015/Operating/SenateSubNumbers/DOE-Narrative.pdf

           I’m Berta and I’m still listening,

           If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office

signed: Berta


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