The Ongoing Case for Adequate School Funding will Continue in FY 2008 The Holiday Season is a festive time

for schools, students and parents. As an individual, I wish all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. As a school board member, I cannot help but look beyond the Holidays to this Springs budgeting process for the 2007-08 school year. Unfortunately, this year’s case for adequate and equitable state funding for local schools already appears to have the makings a colossal effort that will require the support of our entire community. The primary issue surrounding the challenges that face Alaska’s schools next year involves recent changes to the Alaska Retirement Management (ARM) Board, and a repeal of a 5% annual rate cap that allowed school districts to adapt to increased employer contributions to the Teacher Retirement System. As a result, the ARM Board voted this Fall to increase the rate that school districts must contribute from 26% to 54% in one year. This doubling of the school district’s retirement contribution rate equates to a nearly $3 million shortfall in operating dollars relative to this years $15 million budget, and equals a $207 million shortfall for all of Alaska’s schools combined. In a district like ours, where nearly 85% of our budget is dedicated to personnel, flat state funding this year would force Draconian cutting that would cripple our District and have a terrible impact on our kids. Also of significant concern to our district is the expiration of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self Determination Act of 2000. This Federal Legislation, enacted to help offset the reduction in National Forest revenue sharing with local governments that was once generated from commercial timber activity, has provided approximately $1 million annually to the Sitka School District. Prior to the November election, the likelihood of a one year extension of this law was presumed and supported by the White House, yet a recent correspondence with a Staffer from Senator Murkowski’s office indicated that this extension is not yet secure. In addition to the $3 million shortfall that the district must pay in Teacher retirement, the potential loss of $1 million in revenue is definitely unwelcome news. Further adding stress to the Sitka School District is the manor in which schools are funded under the State foundation formula, and the inequity that exists in how the Sitka receives its share of State dollars. Since the most recent formula was crafted in 1998, Sitka has received eighty cents on the dollar of what it should have, according to the most recent school cost-differential study done by the University of Alaska Institute for Social and Economic Research. Our local state delegation is well aware of this inequity, and will fight to correct it during the upcoming legislature, yet it is an important point to raise as we make our case for full educational funding. Finally, this is a contract negotiations year for both Sitka’s teachers and classified staff. Anyone who has paid any attention to public education since the late 1980’s knows that no state has seen a steeper decline in teacher pay than Alaska over the last 20 years. Furthermore, as wages rise in other areas, baby boomers prepare to retire, and the demands on professional educators continues to increase, our ability to continue to recruit

the best and brightest will become increasingly difficult. Having said that, in the context of our funding forecast, I do not know where additional dollars will appear that will even allow our teacher pay to stay level with the rate of inflation in the coming years. Despite school boards being the only publicly elected political sub-divisions in Alaska that are totally beholden to other elected bodies for 100% of their operational revenue, I believe that our board will do all it can to advocate for the dollars needed to recruit and retain the excellent staff we need to provide the exemplary education our community expects. As we come together to enjoy the school activities that enrich our community during the Holiday’s, I hope that all have the opportunity to enjoy our school district at its best. Please feel free to stop me, or another board member, and share your thoughts and concerns regarding the district. Scott McAdams President Sitka School Board