Kodiak Island Borough School District is facing uncertainty until the legislature passes the final budget.
Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget would cut more than $5 million from the KIBSD budget.
Kodiak Island Borough School District is facing deep uncertainties in the process of budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year. The governor’s proposed budget cuts of almost $300 million from the state education budget, which amounts to a cut of more than $5 million for the borough school district.
“You have to maintain a positive attitude,” says superintendent Larry LeDoux, talking about the struggles of crafting a budget in the face of cuts he calls catastrophic.
“A $5 million cut would pretty much eliminate every program that we have,” he says. If we eliminated all activities that would be about $700,000. We could close 3 elementary schools completely and still have to cut more. It’s a catastrophic cut, I don’t know how any district in the state could even consider that level of cut.”
The state budget likely won’t be resolved until at least June or possibly July. The district’s fiscal year 2020 begins on July 1, putting the district in a state of limbo as they try to plan for the next year’s programs and hiring requirements.
Higher class sizes, cuts to after school programs, and even a school closure are possibilities, LeDoux says. The one thing they’re trying to avoid is reduction to staff. “The most difficult challenge is that education institutions aren’t about our buildings, our curriculum, its about our staff, our teachers, our aides, our secretaries. It’s a human endeavor,” he says. “When you inject this kind of uncertainty into planning, it really affects the morale of the very people you depend on to take care of our kids and educate them. That’s really the concern.”
Of the district’s approximately 200 teachers, LeDoux says about 67 are non-tenured. As of April 1, the school board has offered contracts to all non-tenured teachers, not only because they are needed to to educate children, LeDoux says, but also because they want to reduce the stress of uncertainty among district staff. He noted, however, that both teachers and administrators are forgoing raises this year — the only pay increases being issued are for additional years of experience or professional training.
Other budget-related stressors to the local economy, including the potential elimination of school bond reimbursement, the ferry system, and the borough’s fish tax revenue, would have a compounded effect on Kodiak families. And LeDoux says, that transfers over to kids.
“When kids are stressed or families are stressed, it comes right into the schools … you can’t teach a child that is suffering emotional trauma because of economic stress in the home or other areas.”
Kids from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, including some who enter the distrct not speaking English, would be most severely affected, he says. But as budget discussions continue, LeDoux says the district will look to preserve quality education for all kids, no matter their background.
Listen to our full interview on Talk of the Rock: