Saturday, September 06, 2008

School is in session: Daily Kos, New York Times, go to the back of the classroom

Just finished reading the NYT piece on Palin and special education. The article is here.

I have a friend who has a special needs daughter in the the Anchorage School system and she has worked with Sonja Kerr on issues. I have talked greatly about the problems with special education here in Alaska.

And the story will be set straight on Palin. Daily Kos and the NYT get to sit in the back of the room on this one.

First to special education funding in Alaska. A good synopsis on special education funding can be found here:

A second part of the measure raises spending for students with special needs to $73,840 in fiscal 2011, from the current $26,900 per student in fiscal 2008,
according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

Now what has the Daily Kos put out there? It can be found here:

Palin cut Special Education budget by 62%
by Night Runner
Wed Sep 03,
2008 at 01:39:06 PM PDT
Sorry for the shortness of this diary. But the Palin stuff is moving so fast it's hard to keep up. Yes, you read it correctly, Palin, as Governor of Alaska, cut the Special Education by 62%.
Follow me..

The funding for special needs children was increased from $26,000.00 to $73,840.00. Sound like a cut in special education by 62%? Did Daily Kos correct themselves? No.

There is one important piece of information that is left out of this special education funding. A legislative task force was set-up by the Legislature to tackle education funding in the state.

In an ADN article this fact was written about. (Source: Anchorage Daily News, Task force may tackle education fix, May 16, 2007 )

With a sharp debate slowing progress on education funding, lawmakers Tuesday proposed to create a special joint task force to examine the current formula applied to school district costs in different regions of Alaska. The task force would be made up of 11 lawmakers and would meet this summer with district superintendents, mayors and teachers' unions to try and come up with an alternative mechanism for distributing educational funding across the state.

Lawmakers hope such a task force would free the Legislature to craft a more short-term solution for school funding this year.

"It's definitely the first step in loosening up the logjam," said Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.


There were problems with the task force and Palin stated how she felt.

Over the weekend, the House Finance Committee proposed adding $35 million in additional appropriations to the capital budget to address education needs. The one-time appropriation was viewed as a "Band-Aid fix, but a good Band-Aid fix," according to Rep. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, co-chairman of the committee.

Meyer and others have argued that lawmakers should pass the one-year funding included in the capital budget now with the intention of returning next year to find a long-term solution.

Gov. Sarah Palin said Tuesday she agreed with getting the added funding approved now, but reiterated her commitment to wanting a lasting solution to the problem. She expressed disappointment in how lawmakers were meeting outside the committee process to work it out without involving public debate.

"It's a frustration process, and I've been told that's just the culture in state government," Palin said. "Well, I think that culture needs to change."

It was the Legislature's job to come up with a funding formula that would address all problems with the state's education budget. But the Legislature was falling short was stated by Palin.

Moreover, a lawsuit was brought into Superior Court by a coalition of groups that included the NEA of Alaska. The lawsuit challenged the school funding formula by saying not enough money was being provided by the State of Alaska.

In an Op-Ed piece in the Anchorage Daily News, Bill Borjk, former Alaska NEA union President stated the following:

Judge Gleason ruled that the inflation-ravaged school funding formula does not violate the Alaska Constitution. She did, however, find that the education system violates the constitutional due process rights of some students in a few small districts. She called for additional state oversight and aid to these districts--a positive step in raising student achievement. (Source: Anchorage Daily News Compass, Students pay for school funding losses, September 23, 2007 )

The Judge ruled accordingly that the State of Alaska was not inviolation of its constitutional duty in funding education.

When it came to school funding, Palin wanted to increase student funding by $200.00 per student while the Legislature wanted to fund only $100.00 per student. This being done when a Superior Court ruled that the the State of Alaska's student funding was found constitutional.

Again in another article written in the Anchorage Daily News it is stated:

Gov. Sarah Palin wants to give substantially more money to schools and change how the state distributes the dollars to increase the share going to rural Alaska. Palin on Friday announced a three-year proposal to boost statewide school funding by $141 million in the coming year and an additional $80-plus million in each of the subsequent two years. Her recommendation would bring total state spending on schools to more than a billion dollars a year.

Palin said the Alaska Constitution demands education funding.


Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau was smiling at the school plan. Comeau said her district hasn't calculated just how much more money it would get under Palin's plan. But she said it would be significant.

She said the additional funds could go to decrease class sizes, cut back on student activities fees, decrease counselor case loads and invest in technology in the state's largest school district.

Comeau also said having a multiyear plan would eliminate the uncertainty districts face in not knowing how much they have to spend. Sometimes districts send out pink slips to teachers only to rescind them once their funding comes through.


The Legislature will have the final say on Palin's proposal. There was a little sticker shock among legislators Friday but also support for her ideas among key lawmakers. One reason is that Palin lifted her plan from the recommendations made this summer by the Joint Legislative Education Funding Task Force.

Anchorage Republican Rep. Mike Hawker, chairman of the task force, likes that approach. The difference is that Palin wants to increase base funding by $200 per pupil in each of the next three years, while the task force suggested a minimum increase of $100 per pupil.

Hawker said the Legislature would have to carefully look at whether to go all the way up to $200. He said it's important the money goes directly where it's needed.

"We're putting a lot of money out there in a very short period of time," Hawker said. "Potentially there could be problems with too much additional funding too fast not getting to the classroom," he said. (Source: Anchorage Daily News, Palin aims to boost spending on schools, December 8, 2007)

Interestingly in the New York Times article, they quote Hawker saying:

Ms. Palin recently signed legislation that rewrote the state’s school financing formulas, in the process dramatically increasing the budget for school districts that serve children with extreme special needs. “She had no role whatsoever” in the development of the legislation, said its author, Representative Mike Hawker, a Republican. “Her role was signing. She recognized the importance of what we did and endorsed it.”

Take note that Palin wanted to increase funding by $200.00 per student while Hawker and the task force only wanted to increase it $100.00.

Sound like Palin wanted to cut special education and had no role in the increase? Once again lies are being told about Palin.

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