Anchorage School District restores elementary art classes in budget proposal

People dressed in red watch a school board meeting.
People wear red at the Anchorage School District meeting Feb. 20, 2024. (Tim Rockey / Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage School District reversed course at a school board meeting Tuesday night, opting to keep regular elementary art classes that were slated to be cut to balance the budget. 

The so-called STEAM proposal would have lumped weekly art classes into a single course that included science, technology, engineering and math. 

Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt made the announcement at the beginning of the meeting.

“I am no longer recommending that the STEAM proposal be implemented next school year and I recommend that art and health education continue as it currently does,” Bryantt said. 

Bryantt said during a work session ahead of the board meeting that “such a major change requires more community engagement.” 

The district faces nearly a $100 million budget deficit, and plans to spend $70 million in savings to balance the budget. The district’s Chief Financial Officer, Andy Ratliff, said that 96 jobs will be cut under the current proposal.  

Anchorage School District Chief Financial Officer Andy Ratliff speaks to the Anchorage School Board.
Anchorage School District Chief Financial Officer Andy Ratliff speaks to the Anchorage School Board on Feb. 20, 2024. (Tim Rockey / Alaska Public Media)

“The key takeaway is our class sizes are going to increase, our services are going to be diminished, our user fees are going to go up,” Ratliff said. 

The district’s program for gifted and talented students called IGNITE would also be reduced from 20 teachers to just two. 

Dozens of people spoke out against the cuts to the IGNITE, including Sam Dixson, a fourth grader at Bear Valley Elementary. 

Anchorage School District students speak to the school board
Bear Valley Elementary School fourth grader Sam Dixson speaks in favor of the IGNITE program to the Anchorage School Board as Ethan Powers waits to speak on Feb. 20, 2024. (Tim Rockey / Alaska Public Media)

“Why do our leaders in Alaska want to take away the one class that thousands of kids look forward to each week? Why are they not talking about expanding a program like IGNITE to all students,” Dixson said.

The board had planned to vote on the budget Tuesday night, but opted to postpone the vote to a special meeting on Feb. 27. 

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here

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