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Funding Our School Budget to the Cap

By Sidney Hartley


August 27, 2019
Tuesday AM

John Dewey once said, “Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself.” When we look at our Ketchikan School District, we need to be asking ourselves if we are breathing enough life into the future of our children. Last year, by no easy task, Ketchikan Education Association (KEA) successfully reached a negotiated agreement with the school board to provide Ketchikan educators with competitive pay and affordable health insurance. KEA’s effort to negotiate an agreement spanned three years, and required robust, committed meetings with an all too dismissive school board president and certain other board members. Amidst the advocacy and protest for the board to hear the concerns of our educators last summer, (then) school board president Shaw resigned in response to facing the recall petition I spearheaded, along with incredible support of eight other co-sponsors: Matt Hamilton, Austin Otos, Kevin Staples, Lindsey Johnson, Jackie Yates, Penny Johnson, Cassidy Patton, and Christine Furey.

The recall sort of set off this domino effect, changing the environment of the school board entirely. After Shaw resigned, Boyle, Hodne, and Thompson followed, all within less than a year. While this is never the legislative process we would want to resort to, years of negotiating and a sexual abuse case of former teacher Edwards, led concerned allies to act in support of a better academic environment for our children. Now, most would argue that attending a school board meeting is a breath of fresh air, welcoming of staff and community voice.

To accompany Ketchikan Board of Education in excellent displays of leadership and advocacy for our students and educators, community members should retain the words earlier noted by John Dewey. If we are not all a part of a collective effort to provide our children equitable opportunities to be leaders in their own right, we are essentially detracting the future of Ketchikan itself. If a student’s first thought upon graduation from Ketchikan or Revilla High School is, “I can’t wait to leave this town forever,” then we have assured the inability to retain professional roles in our own community. We need to be working toward making Ketchikan a place where students strive to (one day) contribute to the economic and creative development of our community, and that simply won’t happen when our schools offer so little to attract such a diverse body.

As of now, our district is very close to meeting the cap with a current budget of roughly 10.8 million dollars. Funding our school district to the cap would require an estimated 11.5 million dollars. While Borough Assembly Member Dial makes a good argument for taxation of flight tours, rental cars, and hotel rooms, which I agree with, monies collected from these ordinances would not equate the funding we need to sustain an equitable learning environment for our school district. Money collected from property taxes entirely go into funding our schools, and while some argue, dollars being allocated for that purpose should rely upon academic performance, we need to look closer into the improvement of academic performance if we fund our budget to the cap.

Talking with community members, trending concerns have come up; particularly, the lack of academic and extracurricular options in our district. One concerned voice said, “the [ED Rising] class was cut this year, with about 30 kids signed up for it.” Additionally, our schools provide very limited options for Indigenous Language learners, even after the Linguistic Emergency was issued by Former Governor Walker in September, 2018. Perhaps a major contributing factor to our district’s academic performance is a lack of options that appeal to our diverse student body, with diverse learning paths. It is our duty to support all academic journeys, and thus, the educators that provide them.

According to the fiscal analysis provided by School Board President Matt Eisenhower, “the district has a reserve fund held by the borough containing about $4 million. The analysis states that those reserve funds could be used to pay new contract expenses without requiring additional taxes” (Kheiry, 2018). The question is not whether we have the money to support funding the budget to the cap, the question is whether we act upon the money we have. Our students and the future of our community depends upon that choice. I urge you all to support the future of our children, and the future of Ketchikan.

Sidney Hartley
Ketchikan, Alaska


Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received August 24, 2019 - Published August 27, 2019

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