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With songs and speeches, Alaskans rally in Juneau to fund more education

With songs and speeches, Alaskans rally in Juneau to fund more education
Students, parents and teachers hold signs for increased education funding outside the Alaska State Capitol on Jan. 23, 2023. (Katie Anastas / KTOO)

Teachers, students and parents gathered on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol on Monday night to demand more funding for education.

Tom Klameyer is president of NEA-Alaska, a statewide union of public school employees. State funding is at the core of stalled talks with teachers’ unions across the state, he said.

“Districts want to hire the best and brightest for their students,” he told the crowd. โ€œThey want to provide concrete health benefits, and they don’t want to cut programs and close schools. But they are stuck between a rock and the BSA.

The BSA โ€” or base student allocation โ€” is the amount of money per student school districts receive from the state. It has not increased significantly since 2017. Last year, the state approved a $30 increase that took effect in July. But many school heads say this is not enough to keep up with rising inflation.

Juno Teachers Association declared stalemate In his interactions with the district last month. Superintendent Bridget Weiss said the $30 increase isn’t enough to give teachers the contract they deserve.

Juno School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss speaks at a rally for education funding on Jan. 23, 2023. (Katie Anastas / KTOO)

โ€œIf we commit the $243,000 we will get from that $30 BSA to fully teacher salaries and nothing else, that would mean a 0.25% increase each year for the next three years,โ€ she said. “It’s insufficient.”

Village. Mike Dunleavy have proposed Keeping the BSA at $5,960 next year. The Alaska Association of School Boards is seeking an increase of at least $860.

“We are meeting increased needs with fewer resources every day,” Weiss said. “When is the legislature going to be held accountable for putting us in this impossible position by not fully funding one of the most important aspects of our Alaskan communities?”

Some rally-goers gave signals for a rise to the $1,086 BSA.

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But the legislator isn’t the only challenge considering this session. Juno Sen. Jesse Kiehl has introduced a bill to give teachers the option of paying into pensions, which he said would help with teacher retention.

“That’s a lot of money,” Kiehl said, referring to the $1,086 increase. “It’s about $220 million. Are our kids worth it? You bet they are. I got your first $15 or $20 million, because pensions cost less than the system we have today for retirement.” is taken.”

Students like Dzantik’i Heeni eighth grader Inde Eckerson are experiencing Shortage of teachers across the state direct. He noted that large class sizes are hard on teachers and distracting to students.

โ€œI think our classes are too crowded. We have too many people,โ€ he said. โ€œI mean, it’s fun, but it gets a little crazy and then you can’t really learn.โ€

Several new legislators joined rally organizers on the steps of the Capitol. JUNO Representative Sarah Hannan highlights three legislators who gave up teaching jobs to come to JUNO: Representative Maxine Dibert of Fairbanks, Representative Rebecca Himschut of Sitka and Sen. Jesse Bjorkman of Nikisky.

“We have dozens of new partners working with campaigned on the issueHannan said.

The rally ended with a song led by Dzantik’i Heeni music teacher Mike Buki.

“Education builds the nation,” he sang. “Increase Aadhaar student allocation. Pass this legislative test, and give the best to our children.

Buki said he expects the 33rd Legislature to significantly increase school funding this year, and that reading and math scores Will rise together

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Teachers, students and parents rally outside the Alaska State Capitol on January 23, 2023, to demand an increase in the basic student allocation. (Katie Anastas / KTOO)

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