Gov. Sean Parnell says a state Senate education proposal lacks accountability, firing the latest salvo this week in a fight over education funding at the State Capitol. The debate centers on how much money the state gives school districts for each student they have.
Parnell spoke in response to the Senate’s passage of a bill that would increase student funding for school districts across the state for the next three school years.
“They have just spent half a billion dollars more on education and they have not required any results or anything transformational to occur within the system,” Parnell said.
According to a fiscal note, the extra money would cost the state just more than $475 million over five years.
“To me, that is the ultimate giveaway,” Parnell said. “To say that we're going to increase by half a billion dollars but we're not going to require any better education for our kids.”
But House Democrats say keeping the per-student funding the same as it’s been for two years essentially amounts to a funding cut because of inflation.
“I guess you have to ask why Anchorage has to close its summer school, and I guess you have to ask why so many staff statewide are being laid off,” said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage).
While House Republicans on Monday echoed the governor’s view that education spending should be given for specific needs like high energy prices, House Democrats say there may be some room for compromise with Republicans.
“I don't think it's as bleak a picture as some people think it is,” said House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau). “I think many of them understand that the way to success is not pulling the rug out from under them.”
Even if the funding does pass both houses of the Legislature, it still has to get past Parnell’s veto pen.
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