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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

RE: Ketchikan School District's Budget Slush Fund

By Michelle O'Brien

March 08, 2016
Tuesday AM

Dear Sitnews Editor,

Please note, the views expressed here are my own and do not represent any official position of the Ketchikan Gateway Board of Education.This is a long one folks, but hopefully well worth the read if you are in Ketchikan.

In regards to Ms. Moran’s latest letter to the Editor as it pertains to education funding in our community, I cannot let her latest diatribe go without comment. It can only be seen as her latest red herring swimming in a sea of others she has produced over the last several years.

You would think that with oil prices and our state’s struggles, education funding would be taking a hit at the state level. That remains to be seen. Remarkably, state funding has fared much better than local funding in the past several years.

In fact, education funding has been taking a much larger beating here locally, and Agnes Moran has been leading the charge for years.

The fact of the matter is, your School District has been effectively “penalized” annually for SAVING money. When we manage the District’s finances in such a way to operate below the budget and have a carryover savings, I consider that responsible. You should, too.

Sure, we could have taken the mindset that “if we have it, we should spend it.” We have chosen to not go that route. We save money, and we take that savings forward to bridge the gap in our budget every year, and we report those anticipated savings. Previously, your Borough Assembly has taken that as a license to further reduce the local contribution to education. I sincerely hope that this changes, especially in light of the fact that your School District has not asked for funding to the CAP in years, and we face catastrophic cuts this year.

Currently, the carryover amount that Ms. Moran refers to, is already being accounted for ABOVE the red line. What that means is that we are already planning to use that amount for necessary direct education. So her argument that we can fully fund items below that line are untrue. Her assertion that additional funding should only be granted as a one time grant is overreach and control, at best.

Similarly, I would ask the public to take a look at the following:
Why is it that Ketchikan’s local contribution to education ranks among the lowest in the state? (And this contribution does not include contractual service fees)
Why is it that our student population has increased, while our local contribution has decreased?
Why is it that the Borough has chosen to include Contractual Services in its description of their local funding when these funds are truly not used to educate students?

Moreover, Ms. Moran’s assertion that the School Board has expended too much time on local funding issues is EXACTLY what you should want to see out of your School Board.
Lobby for quality education? Ask questions in the face of reductions? If we aren’t advocating for a quality education, we aren’t the folks that you should have elected.

I believe that our community wants, and deserves, a quality education for our students.

Ms. Moran, don’t pretend through your letters and public speeches that your are in the least bit concerned about quality education. You have been a champion in defunding local education for years, and you have yet to offer a real, results-oriented, solution.

I have full confidence that our School Board and community is interested in a constructive conversation regarding what we envision for a quality education and future for our students... and, one that makes sense financially for our community’s future.


Michelle O’Brien
Ketchikan Gateway Board of Education
Ketchikan, Alaska


Received March 07, 2016 - Published March 08, 2016

Related Viewpoint:

letter Ketchikan School District's Budget Slush Fund By Agnes Moran



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