Anchorage School Board reinstates most classroom budget cuts after passage of bipartisan education bill

Anchorage School Board members Dave Donley, Carl Jacobs and Pat Higgins.
Anchorage School Board members Dave Donley, Carl Jacobs and Pat Higgins at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2024 (Tim Rockey / Alaska Public Media)

The Anchorage School Board passed a budget Tuesday night that reinstates funding for 69 full-time teachers. Of those positions, 18 work for the IGNITE program for gifted students. The board heard overwhelming support for IGNITE from teachers, parents and students who testified.

The Legislature passed a bipartisan education bill in the past week that included a significant increase to the base student allocation, the formula that determines state funding for schools.

Although Gov. Mike Dunleavy cast doubt that he would sign the bill in a news conference Tuesday, board members cited the bill when they added positions back into the budget. 

“This amendment is made possible in part due to recent action by the Alaska Legislature regarding SB 140,” Board Member Carl Jacobs said.

Jacobs noted during the discussion on the amendment that the board did not reinstate all the additional funding they would receive with the $680 BSA increase included in the education bill. Instead, Jacobs said he hopes the amount of funding appropriated to schools will be cleared up by June 30, when amendments to the budget are due. 

“This would inject roughly $8.7 million or what I believe equates to roughly a $110 BSA increase,” Jacobs said, “specifically to appropriate funds to the classroom, to direct instruction and related support services, and to items that we know benefit student outcomes.” 

The amendment passed unanimously and was the only change the board made to the budget last night. 

District Chief Financial Officer Andy Ratliff noted that while many of the classroom positions were saved from being cut, many departments have shrunk in recent years. 

“Just from my departments, I’ve cut half the CFO staff, I’ve cut a third of the budget staff, we’ve cut a quarter of the accounting staff, there’s not a lot more we can do without risking mission failure at least from my directive,” Ratliff said. 

Every one of the dozen people who testified at the meeting spoke in favor of the IGNITE program, including IGNITE teacher Katharine Thomas, who praised her students.

Chugiak IGNITE teacher Katharine Thomas testifies to the Anchorage School Board about the program.
Chugiak IGNITE teacher Katharine Thomas testifies to the Anchorage School Board about the program. The program was not cut after the board passed a last-minute amendment on Feb. 27, 2024 (Tim Rockey / Alaska Public Media)

“They ask phenomenal questions and I’m able to take the time to answer them and I feel that just because what I teach isn’t measurable by a test doesn’t mean it’s invalid,” Thomas said. 

The budget still cuts about 20 full-time positions and reduces spending from last year by 2%. Originally, the district had proposed cutting nearly 100 jobs and to cover the deficit. During a meeting last week, the school board opted not to remove art classes from elementary schools.

During his news conference, Dunleavy reiterated his desire to see bonuses paid directly to teachers, one of the parts of the bill that was removed before it passed the legislature. 

“Regarding the governor’s speech today you know one of the things that he said that I wrote down was ‘it’s the teachers that matter’ and I couldn’t agree more,” Board Member Kelly Lessens said. “This amendment saves more than 71 teachers from being displaced in our district and I’m really proud of that.” 

The final vote on the budget was 6-1. Dave Donley was the lone ‘no’ vote. 

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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