Alaska Municipal League Offers A Vision for Education

By Nils Andreassen, Executive Director, Alaska Municipal League

The Alaska Municipal League (AML) is comprised of the 165 incorporated cities and boroughs in Alaska, where nearly 97% of all Alaskans reside. AML is committed to offering a vision for Alaska that goes beyond doing less with less. When it comes to education, a race to the bottom does not benefit educators or students, nor does it fulfill the State’s Constitutional obligations.

It is not enough to compare Alaska to national spending averages, or to use that to determine the size of our expenditures per pupil. The way to address low educational attainment doesn’t feel like it should be a 25% reduction in resources. In fact, where there are systemic challenges, the disconnect only increases when funds intended to increase capacity, capability and competency are removed.

A recent statement from AML, in response to the proposed FY20 budget, makes clear our objection to preemption (removing the ability of local governments to adapt or have local control), rescission (filling the State’s budget gap by taking back funds committed to schools and municipalities) and unfunded mandates (communities asked to do more with less). It is clear from this Administration’s budget that budget is less about right-sizing State government and more about shifting costs to others.

Those municipalities within Alaska most directly responsible for economic growth that contributes to the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be hardest hit. Statutory sharing of resource (petroleum and fisheries) wealth with those municipalities has been proposed to be taken away, even as the expectation to make up for services (especially education) is increasing. This is a fundamental shift in the nature of the State-Municipal relationship, with 1) the potential for some of the largest local tax increases in the state’s history, 2) local governments assuming an increasing share of the State’s responsibilities, and 3) Alaskans experiencing the greatest loss of services in decades.

Change of this scale and with the potential for negative impacts should not occur in 90 or 120 days. AML looks forward to being part of a negotiated process that accommodates the State’s needs and mitigates local impact. Community leaders must be part of this dialogue, and in fact help to facilitate it across Alaska. Municipalities can do this in partnership with school districts and educators.

AML applauds any effort to support early childhood development, increase educational attainment, increase recruitment and retention of teachers, and increase student health and safety. It is our hope that local elected officials – both municipal and school board leaders – can work together to offer a principled approach that achieves these goals.

We must stand together to offer hope to school administrators and teachers, and a vision for Alaska’s students that does not determine their future based on budget cuts today.

AML review of Governor’s FY 20 proposed budget for municipal impact.
ACoM response to Governor’s FY 20 proposed budget.

About the Alaska Municipal League
The Alaska Municipal League (AML) represents the 165 incorporated cities and boroughs in Alaska, who together include 97% of Alaskans. Local elected officials and municipal leaders engage daily with citizens and taxpayers who demand essential public services and a commitment to improved quality of life. The Alaska Conference of Mayors (ACoM) is an affiliate of AML.

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The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Association of Alaska School Boards. AASB welcomes diverse perspectives and civil discourse. To submit a Guest Column for consideration, see our Guest Column Guidelines and email your 400-1000 word submission HERE.