FAIRBANKS- A new study has inspired some House Democrats to push for more school funding during the upcoming legislative session. The study shows 600 school jobs were lost in the state during the last three years. Superintendent Pete Lewis says the quality of our local schools is good, but we need to keep them that way. In the past three years, Fairbanks has lost 36 teachers and other support jobs as well. He says, this year the board struggled with growing class sizes. “We raised them by half a student at the elementary level and one and half at the secondary level, and it was agonizing for [the board] and it’s very difficult” Lewis said.
According to Lewis, it's very difficult to balance the budget and not affect classrooms because that’s where most of the funding goes already. The main mechanism to fund our education system is called the Base Student Allocation. According to the state Department of Education, the BSA has stayed at $5,680 for the last three years.If it continues to stay the same Superintendent Lewis can foresee, “further cuts and loss of programs and opportunities for students to get into college and and be career ready.”
On the lighter side, he says says interior students are out-performing students in the state and the nation on standardized tests, they’re qualifying for the Alaska performance scholarships, and the drop-out rate in the borough is at 4.4 percent, lower than it has been in the past two decades. “We’re doing some good things here, but we want to be funded to continue those things and also to try some new things and to innovate, to be to go for the future for our kids,” Lewis said.