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Day 77: House approves extra school funding
With a catch.
Good afternoon, Alaska! It’s Day 77.
In this edition: The House got underway with the budget, leading off with a big-ticket amendment to increase school funding. It passed but with a big hitch. Meanwhile, it’s the eve of the Anchorage elections, and we’re once again reminded of the violence lurking around the edges of the political scene of Alaska’s largest city.
Current mood: 😡
Programming note: I’m headed out of town for a friend’s wedding this week. I’ve got a few things in the can that I think I might be able to get to, but apologies in advance if it ends up being light for the next few days.
House adds one-time school funding to budget
The House got underway with the operating budget today, frontloading what’s likely to be a several-day process with a big-ticket amendment to increase school funding. While the House Education Committee debates would’ve led you to think there’s not much support among Republicans for increased school funding, the measure passed the House with the only “no” vote coming from Rep. David Eastman.
The catch, however, is the funding doesn’t deliver the permanent and dependable increase to school funding that a change to the base student allocation would provide.
Instead, it’s a one-time increase of $175 million. That’s roughly equivalent to the $680 increase to the BSA currently proposed by House Bill 65, according to the changes made in the House Education Committee last week. School advocates say an increase closer to $860 would keep most districts whole heading into the following year, though the need for rural school districts can be much higher.
House Finance Committee co-Chair Rep. DeLena Johnson, the Palmer Republican who oversees the operating budget, said the temporary increase could address the immediate need while legislators mull over more extensive changes to how schools are funded. However, she called an increase to the BSA a “permanent liability” for the state and added that it’s unlikely legislators will be able to pass a change this year.
“A BSA increase is unlikely to occur,” she said on the House floor.
The House Finance Committee heard its first hearing on the BSA legislation last Thursday. The Senate’s BSA legislation has been in the Senate Finance Committee since mid-March and has yet to receive a hearing.
Legislators who’ve fought for higher funding and those who’ve pushed for far, far lower funding for schools supported the amendment. Those who have opposed increasing the BSA so far said the extra time could be used to understand better and research changes to the state’s foundation formula, which uses the BSA to determine just how much funding schools receive based on factors like location, size of schools and the needs of students. But, on the other hand, school funding supporters generally supported it because it was better than nothing.
In essence, though, the vote sets what is likely the baseline minimum for an increase in school funding this year. The budget still needs to clear the Senate, which has appeared to be generally supportive of a more significant and permanent increase to school funding passing this legislative session, so it’s unlikely that they’ll come in lower than the House. The House budget language is also contingent on a BSA increase not passing this year, so a BSA bill could still pass.
However, including one-time school funding in the budget would expose the funding to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto pen. Dunleavy has been reluctant to weigh in on a permanent increase in school funding this year, instead proposing a dividend-like program that rewards teachers with cash payments for sticking with a district each year for the next three years. Then, the governor could reduce or eliminate the funding as much as he wants.
Follow the thread: The House gets underway with the operating budget
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Targeted vandalism of progressive and moderate candidates in the state, local and federal races has seemingly become the norm in the Anchorage area in recent elections, and it’s a trend that has grown increasingly coordinated, aggressive and, as of Friday, physically violent.
Anchorage Daily News photographer Loren Holmes was assaulted while reporting on the recent vandalism targeting political signs. According to the account published by the paper, Holmes had been set to meet someone from Ship Creek at a popular sign location at 100th Avenue and Minnesota Drive in Anchorage when he ran into a man already messing around with the signs. The man initially claimed he was there to fix the signs before attacking Holmes, knocking him to the ground and stealing his phone before fleeing on foot.
Where knocked-over signs seemed to be the go-to method of destruction, the vandals have only increased their destructive efforts. From The Alaska Current on the issue:
Anchorage School Board candidate Andy Holleman filed a police report Thursday morning after finding sexual images duct taped to a campaign sign defaced with the words “child porn” and “ASD approved.”
While defacing or knocking down a campaign sign isn’t out of the ordinary, there has been an increase in vandalism in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s municipal election. In addition to the sexually explicit materials, signs for Assembly candidates Anna Brawley and Zac Johnson were sliced out and stolen with the frames destroyed. Nearby, campaign signs for Assembly candidates Brian Flynn and Rachel Ries and school board candidates Mark Anthony Cox and Irene Boll remained standing.
The vandalism has become an almost nightly trend targeting moderate-to-progressive candidates. Signs have been sawed down, cut out with knives or box cutters, destroyed, stolen, and defaced. Sandbags have been sliced open, rendering them unusable, and the wooden frames destroyed. Paula DeLaiarro, treasurer for Holleman’s campaign, estimated the damages to be $1,000 for the Holleman campaign alone.
A police report was filed, and an investigation is ongoing, but it paintsa bleakm look at the current state of politics in Alaska’s largest city. It’s a stark reminder that there’s an individual—or, very likely, a coordinated group of individuals—out there working to oppose a certain groparticularandidates and isn. It isn’tut using destruction and violence to do so, and they’re willing to do it in broad daylight.
And if you live in Anchorage, remember to turn in those ballots!