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ANCHORAGE – Today Rep. Les Gara (D-Anch), a lead sponsor of legislation to start reversing the last three years of over 600 layoffs to teachers and educators across the state, called the “three-year” education bill that passed “two, and likely three more years of layoffs on top of the more than 600 teachers staff Parnell and the GOP have cut since 2011.” Since 2011 Alaska schools have lost over 600 teachers and staff due to flat funding.
“You move education forward by giving students the opportunity to reach their potential, not by six years in a row, or a minimum of five out of six years in a row of lost staff, educators, and opportunity. The Legislature unfortunately prioritized a $1.7 billion Knik Arm Bridge that doesn’t cut a minute of commute time to Palmer or Wasilla before student opportunity, as well as a $50 million check to a company, Tesoro, that admitted it didn’t need the money,” said Rep. Gara.
Democrats and parents in the parent-organized grassroots group Great Alaska Schools called for funds that restored many of the last three years of GOP education cuts, and stopped future cuts. The bill passed by the Legislature, which Democrats voted in amendments to fix, “failed to reverse three years of cuts, failed parents and failed students,” said Gara.
The legislative bill led to a rise in Anchorage property taxes, and still leaves most students in Alaska, including in districts such as Juneau and Fairbanks, behind. “In Year One of the ‘Three Year Plan’ Anchorage will face a roughly $4 million deficit. That deficit, under the Legislature’s plan will balloon to roughly $20 million in the second and third years, after the November election,” said Gara.
“Evidence shows that students prosper when they receive individual attention from teachers. Failing to restore 600 lost teachers, career counselors and staff, and keeping summer school closed in places like Anchorage, is contrary to the evidence on what works in schools,” said Gara, a former foster youth who received a strong public education and benefitted from it by earning college scholarships at Boston University and Harvard Law School.
“I had opportunity through good public schools. The next generation of Alaskans should also get a fair shake and not just continued cuts.”