Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 5:29 PM on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bills would boost school funding; public urged to support legislation

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

The Alaska State Legislature is currently addressing two bills relating to state funding for school districts:

• Senate Bill 171, sponsored by the Senate Education Committee which is co-chaired by Sens. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, and Joe Thomas, D-Fairbanks. The bill seeks to increase the base student allocation. It has passed from the Senate to the House and is currently in the House Finance Committee.

• Senate Bill 182, also sponsored by the Senate Education Committee. It seeks to amend the amount of state funding provided by the state to school districts for pupil transportation, with funding to match amounts agreed to in districts' most recent contract negotiations. A teleconference at 8 a.m. Friday will give the public an opportunity to speak. Public testimony will be taken and is limited to three minutes per person. For information on the teleconference, call Homer's LIO, Legislative Information Office, 235-7878.

During a Tuesday meeting to discuss a $750,000 budget deficit for student transportation and to review proposals being considered to meet that gap, Dave Jones, KPBSD assistant superintendent, urged the public to ask legislators to support the bills.

"Call your senator and your representative or write them and let them know that it's a critical bill to us and we need to be reimbursed for costs," Jones said, referring specifically to SB 182. "For those of you that haven't been political before, you have an LIO here. If they're having a hearing, you will be able to testify telephonically if you like. You need to tell them we need to be reimbursed for true costs of transporting students."

School board member Sunni Hilts of Seldovia, who represents areas of the southern peninsula, excluding the city of Homer, encouraged support of both SB 171 and SB 182.

"I'm asking everybody I know to ask five people to call, write a letter, send an e-mail. The answer to the way funding goes is us. If we all speak up and say we want education funded at a different level, and give our reasons for it ... I think we'll see something happen. As long as there's no pressure from us, there's no action," said Hilts.