Cutting education without a plan, led by an administration without a clue

The “he said, she said” ADN coverage of the Alaska education budget doesn't reveal the depth of the insanity. Analysis is required to make sense of it all.

The Senate Finance Committee hearing Monday demonstrated that there is no plan to improve education and no analysis to justify a proposal to eliminate thousands of teaching positions statewide, while forcing severe classroom overcrowding and local tax increases.

Another part of the “plan” would dismantle the University of Alaska and a third element would confiscate local property taxes in several boroughs, meaning the cumulative impact on communities would be severe and has yet to be calculated.

The rote responses by temporary budget director Donna Arduin and Education Commissioner Michael Johnson about the education budget were unimpressive. It was almost as if Johnson couldn’t speak for the department, but needed permission from Arduin before saying anything.

The two couldn’t explain what a 25 percent education cut would mean to Alaska families. Sadly, it appears that almost no real thought has gone into the biggest attack on public education in state history.

I’ve heard back already from critics who believe the Dunleavy master plan is to gut public education. Possibly that is true. What we don’t have is any evidence that this is the proper way to meet one of the fundamental state responsibilities under the Alaska Constitution.

“We're doing this because the state is out of money and we need to balance our budget," said the temp.

Wrong answer, as Sen. Click Bishop said.

In Anchorage, cutting $150 million from the school district through the Dunleavy Debacle would mean getting rid of half of the district's teachers and doubling class sizes.

Nearly 90 percent of education spending goes for personnel. Using $100,000 per position for salary and benefits, that is 1,500 positions. Support personnel earn less than teachers, but those would be cut as well.

This is already damaging the state economy and communicating to high quality teachers that they should be looking now to get out of Alaska.

The Dunleavy administration has done no analysis on the economic impacts of any part of its reckless plan. The Legislature would do well to toss it out and try to build a compromise budget that three-quarters of the Legislature can support, enough to override line-item vetoes.

Dermot Cole14 Comments