ASD Board Taps Reserves to Pass Budget

Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff listens to Jose Santiago testify about English Language Learner Counselor Cuts
Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff listens to Jose Santiago testify about English Language Learner Counselor Cuts

After weeks of number crunching, the Anchorage School Board unanimously passed a budget that cuts $23 million and 200 positions on Thursday night.

More than a dozen people testified. Then the board made small changes that will make a big difference to the community.

High School’s will maintain a 6-period school day instead of going to 7 periods, something student and parent groups had been fighting for. The board also made amendments that added 16 teaching and 3 counseling positions back into the budget that had previously been on chopping block. But they had to dig into their savings to do it, suspending a longtime policy that insured the board keep a minimum of 8 percent of funds in savings.

None of the School board members seemed happy about having to tap into reserve funds, especially the chair, Tam Agosti-Gisler.

“I’m hoping that we can get beyond this funding crisis and find solutions in this state to do what we are constitutionally mandated to do and that is to fund education so that this board can dedicate its energies to supporting this administration to make the innovations that are required, that are needed in our global economy,” Agosti-Gisler said.

The 16 teaching positions spared will be for classes helping students who are at risk of not graduating. The 3 counseling positions saved will likely be English Language Learner counselors. The board still plans to cut 200 positions, which includes 17 teachers and 5 counselors. More than a dozen people testified.

The Anchorage School District 2014-2015 budget is $743.449 million, slightly less than last year’s. The budget now goes to the Anchorage Assembly for approval.

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Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.