Even though most members of the Alaska State Legislature have left Juneau for the weekend, that hasn't stopped the governor -- and some lawmakers -- from having a brand new heated debate over education.
The fuss began this week when Governor Sean Parnell recommended what he called $30 million dollars of added funding for school transportation and energy. He's making the funding request to the state senate.
But almost immediately State Representative Les Gara (D) complained that the increase was far smaller than it seemed -- just $10 million dollars over last year. Then Gara pointed out that the funding was a one-shot deal. It could easily disappear next year.
He said it was like a man -- who's paid a $20,000-a-year- salary being offered $150 -- a bonus of less than 1%. Gara points out that when the following year comes around, the employee is still just a $20,000 employee without any permanent raise.
He complained that all too often, that is the way Alaska is now funding education. It's now wise, he believes, because it doesn't allow school districts to plan for the future.
State Representative James "Pete" Petersen made a similar complaint. And he said that the governor's funding request was inadequate.
Petersen says that even if lawmakers give the governor the new money he's asking for,substantial numbers of teachers and other staff will be laid off at school districts throughout the state.
Petersen argues that Alaska's funding of its public schools is not keeping up with inflation, and that if things keep up this way, he fears the student drop out rate will increase.
Lawmakers are expected to take on school funding issues when the legislature reconvenes next week.