ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Anchorage School District is looking to close a projected $10.9 million budget gap by cutting 53 teachers next year and increasing class sizes.
The proposed budget presented Thursday by Superintendent Ed Graff at a news conference would spend more than $562 million during the 2016-17 school year. It would also cut 80 teacher positions, but add 27 new positions to handle a projected increase in enrollment of more than 200 students.
"The reality is that there will be fewer teachers available to distribute to the schools and with fewer classroom teachers, specifically at the elementary level, there will be a corresponding reduction in the number of specialists," said Graff, who himself will not be returning as superintendent next year after the Anchorage School Board decided not to renew his contract.
Class sizes under the proposed budget would increase by an average of one student, The Alaska Dispatch News reported (http://bit.ly/1nqheqJ).
According to the district, the student-teacher ratio this school year ranged from 20 students in kindergarten class to about 29 students in a high school class.
Andy Holleman, president of the Anchorage Education Association teachers union, said he does not think the teaching position cuts will result in layoffs. The school district typically loses about 200 teachers between school years, he said.
Other positions cut in Graff's proposed budget include three assistant principals, a library resources clerk, two maintenance carpenters, a media production specialist and a teacher for gifted students.
The additions to the budget include 15 education positions, five jobs to support students learning English and $150,000 for a director of security and safety.
Graff said the proposed budget, which still must be approved by the school board and the Anchorage Assembly, relies on the $50 increase to state per-pupil funding included in Gov. Bill Walker's own proposed budget.
School Board member Elisa Snelling said Thursday that next school year is "going to be a tough year and I know that."
"I know at the end of the day not everybody's going to be happy, but I appreciate the process," she said.
Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com