Cordova educators participate in a statewide demonstration on April 24, 2024. Photo courtesy of NEA-Alaska 

Cordova School District is still in a waiting game, with no further information forthcoming from the Alaska Legislature on whether the critical Basic Student Allocation (BSA) will be raised to an amount that would accommodate basics in the local school budget, from staff to sports. 

Cordova School Superintendent Alex Russin said the school district is still facing a deficit for lack of state support and a number of reductions are being considered, with no final action taken. 

“We are keeping our fingers crossed, hoping there will be some funds coming our way,” he said. 

As the school district wrestled with budget options, events staged in over a dozen communities statewide encouraged the Alaska legislators to boost the BSA and restore a pension option for the state’s public employees. 

The Cordova School District is tasked with delivering a draft budget to the city of Cordova around May 1 and Russin said the school district would ask for the maximum contribution from the city.  

“We anticipate they will give that consideration,” he said.  

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The school district is also tasked with delivering its budget to the Alaska Department of Education by July 15.  

Among the programs under consideration for cuts is the district’s $48,000 sports program, which includes all extracurricular sports, supplies and related expenses. When the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is providing ferry service to and from Cordova for sporting events it helps a lot because the ferry system offers a group rate not available on Alaska Airlines, Russin said. AMHS currently does not provide service to Cordova between October and December, he noted. 

Educators statewide, including Cordova, are participating in community events focused on encouraging lawmakers in Juneau to pass stalled legislation to boost the BSA and restore a pension option for Alaska public employees — the most recent demonstration on April 24.  

As noted by Tom Klaameyer, president of the NEA-Alaska union, educators have been pleading with lawmakers since 2017 to address the state’s public education crisis.  

“What we saw today in communities of all sizes should send a clear message to lawmakers that the time for indecision and inaction is unacceptable for students, schools, and our communities,” Klaameyer said.  

Events in support of boosting the BSA last week took place not only in Cordova, but also in Anchorage, Craig, Delta Junction, Dillingham, Fairbanks, Haines, Juneau, Kenai, Ketchikan, Kodiak, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Petersburg, Sitka and Yakutat. Thousands of educators participated in activities outside the contractual duty day to not disrupt student learning, Klaameyer said. 

The April 24 demonstrations come after Dunleavy’s veto of a statewide education bill that would have included a $680 per-student BSA increase has sparked statewide protests, including a student walkout in Cordova last month.   

“We have students, parents, educators and community members who are absolutely fed up with how the state of Alaska supports public education,” said Corey Aist, president of the Anchorage Education Association. “What we’re seeing is unprecedented in terms of scope and scale of educators leaving for lower urban school districts or leaving the profession entirely. Alaskans want action from their legislators right now to raise the BSA and provide a pension option for public service. Schools support communities and help grow our economy.”  

“Fairbanks families want strong public schools for our students,” said Danette Peterson, president of the Fairbanks Education Association. “Our community values public education and recognizes that education shapes and strengthens our local communities. I would anticipate a great deal more direct advocacy in support of our public schools in the fall unless a permanent BSA increase is passed, funded, and survives the governor’s veto pen.”  

This story originally ran in the May 3 issue of The Cordova Times.

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