By DAVID BOYLE
In a recent school board meeting, Anchorage School Board member Dave Donley offered six amendments to the preliminary financial plan (budget) for the next school year. All six amendments were shot down by the remaining six board members even though none of these amendments reduced funding to the classroom.
These amendments reduced funding to special interest groups that the taxpayers pay for. The total funding to these groups was about $75,000.
In the first amendment Donley wanted to reduce funding to the Alaska Association of School Boards by $30,000 because it did not fairly represent Anchorage. The AASB also supports student surveys regarding sexual activity, which many Anchorage parents oppose.
Board member Andy Holleman said, “It would be a sad thing if Anchorage withdrew membership (from the AASB).” He did not explain the “sadness” nor did anyone else.
The next amendment by Donley was to cut the dues to the Coalition for Education Equity (formerly CEEAC). This would save the ASD $32,000. He stated that the CEE only supports the rural districts with lawsuits. None of the other five large school districts (Juneau, Kenai, Fairbanks, MatSu) support this organization. And this organization supports positions not favored by Anchorage voters.
The next amendment was to delete funding for the Council of Great City Schools, a group that receives $44,000 from the ASD. It represents the larger urban school districts, but Anchorage no longer meets that criterion due to loss of students. The CGCS also advocates extreme firearm restrictions, according to Donley. Thus, it is not a good fit for Alaska.
Donley then offered an amendment to discontinue the extra planning period for teachers in the middle school model, which was adopted in the early 2000s. This would save $2.93 million by eliminating 24 middle school positions. Member Holleman said it would take awhile to implement so he opposed the savings.
President Bellamy then tried to ramrod through the final vote on the budget by saying that the board had discussed all these items at its work session. Then the discussion got rather heated when Donley asked for a “Point of Order.”
Donley said, “You (Bellamy) just implied that a thumbs up or thumbs down of an informal poll at a work session was controlling over our vote tonight. You just said we already have a deal here. That’s completely wrong. You can’t bind us by a work session.”
President Bellamy responded, “I am entitled to my opinion. And you may not like it.”
Donley responded, “We are using $65 million in one-time funds to balance this $960 million budget and we need to chip away as much as possible.”
The sixth amendment offered by Donley was to reduce administrative cost not directly related to the classrooms by 5%. This would save $2 million. But there was no second to his motion so there was no discussion—a convenient way to hide from the public.
The final amendment presented by member Donley was to remove the $8,600 dues to the National School Boards Association. He did not believe that the ASD should support an organization that referred to parents as “domestic terrorists” as it did in its Sept. 29, 2021 letter to the White House.
Already 26 states have left the NSBA because of the “domestic terrorist” letter.
Member Pat Higgins defended the NSBA because it apologized for the letter. He did not defend the original letter that called parents “domestic terrorists.”
Member Andy Holleman said that the NSBA did not call parents domestic terrorists. He said it was a red herring to say so. He may want to apologize to the public at the next meeting for putting misinformation into the record.
Here is the portion (paragraph 2) of the NSBA letter to the White House referring to parents at school board meetings as domestic terrorists:
There is a resolution buried in the board’s governance committee concerning the NSBA’s letter condemning parents as domestic terrorists, but it has not been brought forward to the board. Thus, there is no public discussion and members have been protected from taking a position.
Note that all the above organizations are essentially lobbying groups that go to the Alaska Legislature to ask for more funding for public schools. The ASD also pays its own lobbyist $50,000 to go to Juneau to seek more money from the State.
The preliminary financial plan(budget) for next school year passed by a vote of 6 to 1 with only member Donley voting “no” due to his concerns regarding one-time funding and the pupil-to-teacher ratio.
The Anchorage School Board is putting its efforts into getting more money from the Legislature this session and the majority six of the ASD Board can keep kicking the can down the road and not do the hard work of trimming the budget, despite the continual loss of students from its schools.
David Boyle is Must Read Alaska’s education writer.