Bishop: 'With all due respect, ma'am, that's the wrong answer' - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, October 25, 2021
HomePoliticsBishop: ‘With all due respect, ma’am, that’s the wrong answer’

Bishop: ‘With all due respect, ma’am, that’s the wrong answer’

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Senate Finance members didn’t like the Education Department budget rollout, and Republicans and Democrats alike told the Office of Management and Budget Director their opinions, in no uncertain terms, during a hearing that was at times a bit of an inquisition.

“The question was asked why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’re doing this because the State is out of money, and we need to balance our budget,” OMB Director Donna Arduin had said to the committee.

“We’re draining reserves to do it, and we’ve run out of reserves to drain. We’re proposing this so we can get our budget balanced and our fiscal house in order,” she said.

Sen. Click Bishop

“With all due respect, ma’am, that’s the wrong answer,” said Sen. Click Bishop of Fairbanks, who had asked the question: How does less money lead to better outcomes?

Sen. Lyman Hoffman of Bethel called the 25 percent cut to the state’s portion of education funding “completely unacceptable.”

But Sen. Natasha von Imhof had a different perspective. She acknowledged that overall enrollment in Alaska’s schools has declined from 131,000 in 2006 to 129,000 in 2018, but that funding has gone up and up.

In 2006, state funding for schools was $805 million, but rose to $1.2 billion in Fiscal Year 18, and $1.34 billion in FY 19.

“So student count is going down, money is going up. What is going on? I’m not really hearing that from you. What I’m hearing is, we’re just going to cut it.”

von Imhof then explained that employee benefits had gone up from $302 million in 2006 to nearly $600 million in 2017, the latest figure available to her.

“That is a $294 million increase in 11 years, or 97 percent,” von Imhof said. “So districts are spending less on books and curriculum and more on health care for their teachers.”

Rather than making an across the board cut that leaves all 53 districts to figure it out on their own, a better approach might have been to help districts with their highest cost driver, and see if the State can come up with a solution that makes sense.

“And I’m not really hearing that,” she said. “And I think that’s a problem because Education is dealing with it, all the departments are dealing with it.”

“Why didn’t you address the largest cost driver in Education?”  von Imhof asked.

Arduin was ready: “The first part is that we don’t control school districts and we don’t control how they spend their money. We have data that is similar to that, that shows that money is being spent elsewhere rather than for instruction.”

Only 54 percent of State dollars that go to districts is used in the classrooms, she said. They also receive local funds, referring to those school districts in organized boroughs.

Arduin said that the Education Department would be open to proposals to help drive down the cost of employee benefits, which have exploded.

But Hoffman piled on testily: “It’s all about the checkbook. It should not always be all about the checkbook. It can’t be only about the checkbook. It has to be about our obligations to educate students.”

Sen. Lyman Hoffman addresses OMB Director Donna Arduin.

The Education budget proposed by Gov. Michael Dunleavy cuts the State’s $1.34 billion contribution to education down to $1.03 billion. This doesn’t count the local contribution.

Included in the plan is a 50 percent travel reduction for Department of Education employees, $269 million in reduction to the per-student funding known as the base student allocation, and clawing back $30 million that last year’s Legislature had promised to schools for FY 20. The proposal also plans to end the WWAMI medical school exchange program for a $3 million savings,

At one point committee Chairman Sen. Bert Stedman reminded the members who were getting agitated as the hour went on, that it is not the OMB director’s budget but the governor’s budget.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • What is it that Click doesn’t understand? The state is broke! Very disappointed in his reaction. Ill not forget it. The state is hemorrhaging from the outward migration of people and he makes a statement like that!

    • The knee-slapper in this whole debate is that we could balance the budget at today’s level of spending if we eliminated the Dividend.
      Of course I would like to see a smaller size budget and a larger dividend too but one where we live within our means.
      Spending $3 billion a year on dividends while running a $4 billion annual deficit is sheer lunacy!

      • Sure, then give us back the mineral rights that this state has squandered.

        • That is exactly the point they want to take the dividend but still want us to give up our rights to what is below our land.

        • You have no mineral rights. You own no state property in which to personally claim as your own. You’re just an old Lefty Democrat who lost.

  • “bit of an inquisition” Poor! It is called accountability. Don’t wilt under the pressure. It is just priorities. There is more than enough wealth in this state and country to educate our children and pay the educators a decent wage and do the things that will make us better.

    • I agree with paying the teachers and not all of the unnecessary administrators that seem to inhabit the the schools and district offices!!

      • Exactly right.

  • Outward migration will drop property prices and hence property tax revenue. And those who want fossil fuel obsolescence are de facto eliminating oil revenue. Wake up, it’s time to give up the PFD and pay income and sales taxes. Except for the liberal socialized states, the lower 48 states are drawing in record taxes in this economy but Alaska is dying on the vine crying for the return of the 1980’s.

    • You want an income tax then send your money in. I will keep what I earn I already to high of property tax. Maybe the unincorporated boughs can start paying property tax.

  • Campaign finance reports, provide a fairly good explanation of why legislators are so protective of the public education system. In fact, they are a much better predictor of the decisions a legislator will make than the message they try to promote during their campaign or statements they make to the general public. Their campaign finance reports are on the Alaska Public Offices Commission Website. It takes awhile to figure out how to get to the ‘Campaign Donations’ page, but it is well worth your time if you want to cast an informed vote.

  • We need to consider the opportunity of having vouchers for private schools and family choice of education for the K-12. Private school education is a good thing and the vouchers may help. As far as the budget is concerned, the unions for the teachers have helped to dig a hole and now the state is left trying to fill it in an equitable manner. The benefits for the teachers have taken over with the unions pushing the button on the budget for education. Maybe the good senators should ask the unions and teachers what is their purpose because they are the highest paid teachers in the United States and the students are in the lower brackets when tested due to classroom management of the same teachers that have unions negotiating the pay. If the pay produces good teachers that put out great skills for teaching, why are the students left with poor skills at the end of the year and can’t score high on their tests? The students are suffering. Sounds like the real need is the pockets of the teachers and less in the class room books and supplies for the students. Cut the pay of the teachers to a point where they are laterally the same across the United States. Or, cut out the classes and double the numbers in each class so the teacher can really earn their pay.

    • Vouchers are long overdue.

  • Click Bishop doesn’t have much formal education. He was a heavy equipment driver for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302. After the pipeline days he became an organizer within the union. Later he became an officer of the union, which was always under lots of scrutiny for misappropriated union funds, strong-arm union tactics and fraudulent internal union elections. There were even stories by some that Click Bishop was involved at a union meeting in which a rival candidate and his family would be placed in physical harms way. Click has a past that he keeps far in the background. But there are records. He’s not qualified to interrogate a highly qualified person about budgetary matters within the state. A state senator yes. But far from an academic and well-reasoned state senator.

    • Thanks for the background info Tim

    • Yes there were also some underhanded tactics to turn the 302 union away from PERS.

      • The only 302 members who would ever have been PERS eligible would have been some public employees in the “joint crafts council” organizations that the unions put together to represent public employees while not giving them membership in their construction unions.

    • Click Bishop took too many thumps on his brain from driving snowmobiles, race boats, and bulldozers. CTE. Chronic Traumatic Encephalopothy. The guy should have been wearing a padded helmet for the past 45 years.

      • Will Click donate his brain to science, so we can get some kind of confirmation after the fact that legislators show up in Juneau with CTE. Say what???

    • Being the brightest bulb in the lamp has never been a requirement to serve in the Alaska Legislature. We aren’t splitting atoms here. The math seems pretty clear it’s just nobody likes the answer.

  • It’s not all about the check book? Ahh…yes it is. And “wrong answer”. No that is the director’s answer. If the legislators don’t like her answer they actually control the purse strings not her. By telling her wrong answer the legislator is really saying that to the taxpayers through the OMB director. Like he is the boss of the people and not the other way around. Very arrogant actually. Kudos to the governor. And thanks to the OMB director for holding her ground.

    • Im with you Dave

    • Very well said, Dave.

    • That’s the answer Click Bishop gave to his union auditor when the auditor asked, “Click, the money is missing.”

  • Sounds to me like we are pouring our education dollars into the medical insurance industry through the funnel of ACA. It has hit private industry hard too. My health care needs have not changed but the cost of insurance has sky rocketed.

    • Seems to me the state could self-insure the teachers for less than what they’re paying for insurance.

  • I no longer place the responsibility for the poor education outcomes on the education industry. The legislature is totally accountability for the low K12 student achievement. The legislature has thrown money at the K12 system for years and not asked for any Return On Investment. The legislature has incentivized bad behavior and never asked for “What are you doing to improve student outcomes?”. Now, the legislator seems to want even more money for a low performing K12 system. Legislature–you own it.

  • And the beat goes on. By the end of this nobody will be quite Ayn Rand enough to suit. I can play with numbers I don’t understand too. Where do I get signed on for that job and $195k to do it? I think I see a place to cut already.

  • WITH “ALL” DUE RESPECT (!!!) … Dunleavy & Arduin just arrived to ‘help’ resolve the financial crisis that has been propagated by many of those on the Inquisition Panel.

    • Right on !!

  • Public education has the only business model wherein the more you fail the more money you get. Time to try another approach.

  • If ‘they’ can’t work on that budget like the rest of us (around the kitchen table) and come up with a workable budget, then maybe it’s time for them to go away.

    • Easy to say but these same people keep getting re-elected, and re-elected and re-elected.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Randy!

      I balance my budget, and have had to endure painful cuts at times. That’s just being honest with life and finances. Doing so is being responsible. Failing to do so is irresponsible and inmature.

      How much do you want to bet that the legislators who don’t want to cut spending as much as Governor Dunleavy has proposed, don’t live within their means at home, and carry perpetual credit card debt.

  • Maybe I’m too simple, but if health care costs of employees are the major driver of reduced funding, has anyone considered having educators join the SOA health care program? Or give districts an opportunity to opt into it? I would think the cost savings would be huge.

    • Yes, there have been bills proposed to do so but none have passed.

      • Does anyone know, regarding educators or other public employees, if they contribute a percentage toward their medical insurance premiums or are they 100% paid by the employer?

        Also, what kind of deductibles do they have? dave

        • There are a lot of public employers and a lot of plans. The one I’m fairly familiar with is the State’s plan, sometimes called “the Commissioner’s Plan” because the Commissioner of Administration is statutorily authorized to offer a health insurance plan to employees of the State. All non-represented State employees are in this plan as well as all unionized employees other than the General Government Unit, the biggest unit of State employees at about 8500 employees, and the Public Safety Officers unit, Troopers, APFOs, CSOs, and others. The latter two units have “trusts” that provide health insurance and the State makes a monthly contribution for each member of the bargaining unit. The trusts not coincidentally were set up by agreements with the unions in Democrat Administrations and are of questionable legality under Alaska law and would be completely illegal under federal labor law.

          State employees and some participating polisub and non-profit employees in the Commissioner’s Plan make some contribution to the cost of their health care. The plan is 80-20 for single coverage with a stop loss in the $4-5K range. There is a deductible for each family member and most things have at least some co-pay. Generic drugs don’t have a co-pay but name brand drugs do. In the early Nineties, we basically told the unions that they’d never see another pay raise unless they gave us some cost containment measures on HI and we bargained “skin in the game” for most things; almost nothing is free. The State’s plan is among the, if not the, least expensive high benefit plans for public employers because of those long ago cost containment measures. The State has been pretty good about refusing to give the union-run trusts more than it pays for the Commissioner’s Plan but when they have a friendly Governor sometimes they’ve gotten more. A Republican AG really needs to take a look at the legality of the union-run trusts. Of course Democrat AGs have more or less said they were legal because all that beautiful money the unions get for health benefits doesn’t have the Constitutional strings attached that dues money has.

          Most teachers are in a plan run by NEA so you can draw whatever conclusion you want from that. MOAs plan is very nice and very expensive, but then MOA’s labor relations policy is usually “ask the union what it wants.”

          • Very detailed, helpful
            answer. Thanks Art!

  • Dunleavy and Arduin just doing the job the legis chose not to do.
    Lame questions by the senators…like a bunch of political sound bites.
    Our kids won’t have a state if we “the parents” don’t fix our fiscal home.

    • Just doing the job the Legislators chose not to do!! Right on, Clay!

  • I agree with Natasha Von Imhof . Over the years more and more money is being asked for from the taxpayers for education and every year reading scores go down. We are at the top of spending money per student and at the bottom of achievement. Something is wrong,however, no one comes up with a solution. Time to clean house. Click more money has never been the solution in this State.

  • University Alaska Campus Conservatives would like to thank you. You do a great job. If you are ever interested in coming to UAS and speaking with us, we are more than welcome to host you on our campus. With he support of conservative thinkers, we hope to bring unbiased education back to Alaska.

    Keep up the good work.


  • Homeschoolers get great results spending a few thousands per student. Private and Charter school students do less well with more spending per student. Public school students do markedly worse with much higher per student spending. Worst of all are the Bush schools which spend outrageous dollars per student and get terrible results. If anything, per student spending is a negative predictor of performance, for the more we spend, the worse the results are.

    Online / distance education is coming like a freight train. It is revolutionizing education worldwide. it is also making it far less expensive. Alaska should be adopting what works with online education rather than engaging in messenger shooting. CHeers –

  • Having been a school teacher in a former life, I would respectfully suggest that our local school districts take a hard look at how they teach students of all ages in our schools. Not only do I suspect that school districts waste money, but I also suspect that those same school districts are not focused on educating students. Reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, art and music make a well-rounded individual. Can our school districts truthfully say that each discipline forms the bedrock of public education in Alaska? I doubt it.

  • The next cut we need badly, is the University of Alaska. The three campus triangle needs to be split up for good. Each campus of UAF, UAA and UAS is separately accredited and should have their own budget, and designation. UAF cannot manage all of the campus problems in the state no matter how big the budget to fill the greed of the President Johnson of the UA system. He has repeatedly requested and gotten almost a billion dollars, ($1B) a year in funding from the State of Alaska during the Walker Administration, filled his pockets ($450K+) a year plus perks and a few professors the same in salaries, that do his bidding with the cronies in Juneau Legislature like Sen. Stedman to pull off the biggest PONSI Scheme using the university as the scape-goat while creating huge debts for students and parents. It costs twice as much to put a resident student on campus in Alaska. It is half that for a student to go to a university in the lower forty-eight states. How long is he going to be allowed to fool the legislature and the public. Its as obvious as the nose on your face.. SB-20 is being worked on now!! Call in and write to the whole group to have the budget in education seriously looked at the the cuts to the system put in place. End the gluttonous budget and put a plan out there that can look at these problems and take care of them. CUT THE BUDGET!!!

    • And…..since the president of the UA wants to turn the whole university into a world class organization, with high tuition and fees, screwing up the university system, re-organizing each year with programs in and out of each campus, it appears he does not want the residents to attend and get a degree of any kind at any campus. Its called driving the students out to other universities. My grandson got a four year degree at UAF and his debt is about 35% larger than my granddaughter at a university in Idaho for her four year science degree. So, the debt that is left is what the students have to live with. This president of the UA system has a track record with Doyon and what was the reason he was let go?

      • World class organization? You gotta be kidding me. The entire UA system is nothing but a joke. Professors who have been around since the 70’s and 80’s have stated that the students (including grad students) of today have a hard time putting logically constructed sentences and paragraphs together. No critical thinking skills and no reasoned arguments. Some of this is attributed to severely weakened concentration efforts (think cell phone and texting). The man-made global warming HOAX is the main thrust of studies and conversation topics. It drowns out basic studies. This school system is going down the crapper. My kids go out of state to college.

    • Thanks, Diana. Those are some very interesting details.

      I’d love to see some investigative reporting into the University’s budget, how it’s spent, and what the salaries are for all employees. Sounds like some house cleaning is in order.

  • It’s times like this and comments like Bishop’s that make me embarrassed to be a Republican.

  • Agreed!

  • Just want to throw out a positive note. Judie, my children received a great education at UAS in Juneau. My son got accepted to 7 dental schools UW, OHSU, etc… and all with a degree from UAS. He’s holding his own with other dental students. I for one am extremely thankful for UAS and UAA. As in any college, students can graduate and not be successful.
    I’ve seen many come out of our colleges and be successful. Back in the ‘80s I went to school when it was UAJ and had excellent professors. I went to college in Washington and can’t say my education was any better. Of course there are exceptions to everything! Having the option to wait a couple years and get basics completed before heading down south or coming back to Alaska to finish up a degree has been invaluable to my family.

    • Dear Fan: I am so happy to hear that your kids weren’t brainwashed by man-made global warming rhetoric and women’s studies while at UAS. My aching teeth feel so much better now.

      • LOL

  • Click Bishop was involved in lots of union scandals, IUOE Local 302. As I’m informed by some current and retired members of Local 302, he was involved in fraudulent union elections so he could benefit himself with huge union salaries and hours. His best friend in Local 302 ran for state representative until he was outed by a competitor for having a prior conviction for cocaine distribution.That guys’s wife was also involved in the cocaine ring. She won an assembly seat on the FNSB, but lost the subsequent election when she was finally exposed. Someone please look deeper into Click Bishop’s background. Due to the dubious associations of his past, an investigation would be warranted. Governor Dunleavy, please take note.

    • Marla, my husband was a 30-year plus member of Local 302, IUOE. He has related many stories to me about the corruptness and theft of the union treasuries by union bosses. Click Bishop was a union boss of Local 302. Before Bishop sits in judgment of a qualified, experienced budget expert, someone ought to look at the financial records of Local 302 and see how Mr. Bishop made off.

  • Mr. Bishop. With all due respect, YOU are the wrong senator.

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