January 21, 2014
Contact: Heather Roach
Phone: (907) 742-4151
Proposal includes reductions to close $23 million gap
Today, Superintendent Ed Graff released his administration's proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year. The budget focuses on the student experience, providing a high-quality education and supporting goals while closing a $23 million budget gap.
"I believe this budget recommendation is the best we can offer our students with limited resources," said Superintendent Graff.
With no increase to the public school funding formula and declining federal revenue due to sequestration, the district is facing a $49 million budget gap over the next two years.
"The board and I are deeply concerned by the impacts of our budget shortfall," said Anchorage School Board President Tam Agosti-Gisler. "We are calling to action all public education supporters to communicate with their legislators about what they value in public education and urge them to increase funding to the Base Student Allocation."
For the 2014-15 school year, the proposed $566 million general operating budget calls for a reduction of 219 positions, which includes administration, instructional support and classroom teachers.
Under guidance provided by the school board, the reductions include an increase in the pupil-teacher ratio.
Included in the reduction of teaching staff are 44 teacher positions due to a decline in student enrollment this school year and a projected continued decline next school year.
The total reduction of direct classroom instruction equates to 159 positions, 6.1 percent of classroom teachers.
The reduction to non-classroom instruction and support, including many administration positions from Maintenance, Business Management, Information Technology, and Curriculum and Instruction departments, is also significant. Central district administration faces the largest reduction again this year, approximately 20 percent of positions over this current year and next year combined.
Over the course of the past four years, the district has reduced its budget by 491 full time equivalent positions which amounts to roughly 718 employees. That doesn't include the 219 positions slated for elimination in the coming year.
“These reductions are unlike anything I’ve seen in my 23 years with the Anchorage School District. I believe any further reductions will jeopardize our momentum,” said Superintendent Graff.
In an effort to offset the loss of teaching positions but still provide opportunities for students and reasonable class sizes, the district is proposing to move comprehensive high schools from a six-period to a seven-period schedule.
"With fewer teachers, it will become logistically impossible to continue providing core instruction, meet the need for increased academic support and intervention classes, and still offer quality electives such as advanced placement, world languages, art and music," said Superintendent Graff. "Through our budget meetings and public comments, it is clear the community wants the district to maximize opportunities for students."
The move will align middle and high school students on a seven-period schedule.
To ensure middle school students receive as many educational opportunities as possible, middle schools teachers will transition to teaching six of seven periods, rather than five of seven. Though the district is proposing the elimination of a daily planning period for team teachers, Superintendent Graff said he believes teachers and staff will do everything in their ability to continue to provide learning experiences that meet the needs of every student.
“I recognize things will be different. I believe our dedicated and outstanding staff across the district will do its best to meet the challenges presented in this budget,” he said.
The budget proposal calls for a reduction of approximately 10 specialty counseling positions at the secondary level, including those currently focused on English language learners and Highly Gifted students. Counselor allocations for schools will be based on student enrollment needs.
In order to help close the budget gap, the superintendent is proposing the elimination of high school swimming classes. The move will reduce payments to the municipality for municipal swimming pool rentals during the school day. Swimming is not a required course, nor is there a swim test requirement for graduation. The reduction should have no effect on after-school swimming and diving team activities and rentals.
Other non-staff reductions include a $1.3 million decrease in supplies and materials, $170,000 from high school sports which includes a reduction of costs from outsourcing girls' hockey and reduction of out-of-district travel, and $150,000 from the Facilities Department.
The administration is currently reviewing a 10 percent increase in student activity fees based on the cost of sports. A proposal will be made to the school board at a later date.
The district is not proposing to reduce JROTC instructors, however due to sequestration cutbacks by the federal government, the armed services have begun to announce reduced support for the JROTC program. The district will match those reductions as they occur in accordance with ASD's contractually negotiated arrangements. The anticipated reductions will result in a savings of $140,000. JROTC positions could be reduced if vacancies occur, depending upon the branch of service and their current protocols regarding vacant positions.
A full breakdown of proposed position reductions is available at www.asdk12.org/budget. The budget memo to the school board and presentation documents will be available on BoardDocs at www.asdk12.org/school_board at least two days prior to each meeting.
The board created a document, "10 important things the Anchorage School Board wants you to know about the budget," in an effort to inform the community about the district’s funding situation. The flier is available at www.asdk12.org/budget.
Superintendent Graff will present his administration's budget recommendation to the school board at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 23 in the Education Center boardroom. The board will hold two public hearings and votes on the budget proposal. The first reading and vote will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3 and the second reading and final vote will occur on Thursday, Feb. 20. Both budget readings begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Education Center boardroom.