School Superintendent and Board President Speak on Proposed Rural School Funding Legislation

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Some lawmakers in Alaska have proposed legislation that would raise the minimum number of students for a school to be eligible for state funding from 10 to 25. Kodiak Island Borough School District Board of Education President Duncan Fields says it has become a hot topic in the state.

“It sent a shockwave throughout all of rural Alaska. It pits the needs of rural communities against railbelt communities. It would disadvantage numerous school districts as well as the kids that they serve. I hear a rising crescendo of opposition to this in recognition of the needs of rural Alaska and those schools.”

He says, so far, school administrators and public figures are doing what they can to express that opposition.

“At the recent Alaska Association of School Boards, there’s a resolution passed resoundingly in opposition of this concept and there was also an editorial – I think it was published in the Dispatch – signed by our senator and representative here from Kodiak indicating that there’s really very little – comparatively little – economic gain for this initiative.”
Four different legislators including Senator Gary Stevens wrote that article and published it with the Alaska Dispatch News in early November. Fields encourages others to speak up and says the initiative to lower the minimum number of students would do more harm than good.

School District Superintendent Stewart McDonald says communities that could be affected include those in the Kodiak Archipelago.

“Larsen Bay, certainly Karluk, now Danger Bay, Chiniak, and right now, Ahkiok is hitting that mark between 25 and 29, but Ahkiok’s actually could be in line with this ruling as well, if proposed it should pass.”

McDonald says the proposed legislation comes in a package.

“This is being proposed in an omnibus bill that has many other provisions to take a look at. Changes in education funding. And we haven’t had a chance to review all of them, so it’ll be an interesting budget session. I think there’ll be many more things proposed other than this, and when that is available to review, we’ll know more.”

The legislative session will begin mid-January.

KMXT conducted a full interview with McDonald and Fields on Tuesday’s Talk of the Rock. If you want to learn more on this topic and about projects going on in the Kodiak Island Borough School District, you can find the entire segment here.         

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