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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Strong and effective schools

By Rep. Dan Ortiz


February 11, 2017
Saturday AM

This session, I am honored to be serving as Chair of the House Finance Department of Education and Early Learning Budget Subcommittee, which reviews Alaska’s education budget. In this capacity I will closely examine Alaska’s school funding, and the unique programs and services that support effective learning.

My years as a Kayhi teacher and coach, as well as a principal at the elementary level, offer a good base for understanding the practical impact of budget decisions. I understand the value of education for our students, and its importance to the economic health of Alaska. It is through this lens that I evaluate budget decisions.

Fortunately, the Walker-Mallott Administration’s budget – the starting point for legislative budget work – includes full funding for K-12 school operations. Full funding offers our communities stability, and gives administrators and teachers a chance to plan ahead and focus their attention on student learning.

As a constitutionally mandated function of Alaska’s government, school funding is a top priority. However, without a long-term fiscal plan in place, the State of Alaska will be hard pressed to meet its obligation. This is ever more reason that your legislature must address Alaska’s fiscal situation head on this session.

Our Education budget subcommittee hit the ground running, meeting multiple times in the first weeks of Session. We heard from the 2016 Alaska Teacher of the Year, and representatives from Alaska School Boards and School Administrators to gain perspectives on current happenings in schools across Alaska. In our review process we scrutinized the Foundation Formula - the primary means of funding schools in Alaska’s fifty-three school districts and tackled topics as diverse as pupil transportation (funding for school buses) and federally funded Head Start programs.

This session, I will dig through numbers, graphs, and spreadsheets to get to the heart of the matter: how we can have strong and effective schools in the midst of a fiscal crisis. I’ll be looking for ways to support our schools, while asking that we all look for efficiencies and strategies to improve student learning. If you can see ways in which our school system can be more efficient with its budget, please contact me at 247-4672. I am excited about the opportunities Alaska’s future holds for our students.

Rep. Dan Ortiz
Ketchikan, Alaska

Received February 10, 2017 - Published February 11, 2017

About: Dan Ortiz is an independent member of the Alaska House of Representatives, who has since 2015 represented the 36th District.




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