School Board reviews budget

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Juneau Board of Education put the final touches on a proposed $86 million spending plan for the 2018-2019 school year tonight.

    The School Board voted this month to include six nurses and four nurses aides. They also voted to remove the AVID program at the middle school.  A motion to remove the AVID program at the high schools failed. The district is also unsure of earlier plans to expect a $100 per student increase in base student allocation from the Alaska legislature. 

    Director of Administrative Services David Means said the proposed budget would be presented to the CBJ Assembly on Friday.  The Special Education District Level budget totals $15.7 million.  The CBJ Finance Committee plans to meet on April 4 to review the budget.  The CBJ Assembly is expected to determine how much they will provide for general school programs on April 25.

    The Board of Education also plans to request $400,000 from the CBJ for activities.

    The Board started discussions with a $3 million shortfall. 

    Board member Jeff Short proposed a cut of $500,000 for special education programs. 

    "We have to take this issue seriously.  Every year a good chunk of the budget is put before the board and were told you can't touch it.  Its the highest in the state.  We have a high rate of students with special education needs.  We spend near the highest per student in the state."

    Short said the administration has been silent about some of his questions, "There is no evidence to suggest we are a regional magnet school.  Consequently I feel like if we are facing a $3 million shortfall and we are going to continue to agree on scant evidence that $16 million we can't even look at, I don't see how I can credibly say that I have done the job I need to do and respect the shortfall, balance the need between special education and all the other programs which are suffering needlessly."

    He suggested a three percent decrease in special education funding could be done.  "Were uncomfortable cutting stuff we don't know about.  Were not going to know about it when you get no detail year after year.  Are we going to do that another year.  We need to draw a line, find the savings, and deliver services so expenditures are more in line with other districts in the state."

    Dr. Bridget Weiss said Special Education is very complex.  She said they will reexamine the eligibility criteria for students.  The last policy update was in 2013. "Students will cost us because they need intervention.  They struggle with reading, writing and math.  They will still cost our system."

    She said some districts have faced legal battles over cuts to special education.

    The board approved a motion from member Dan DeBartolo to cut $160,800 from special education and spend that money instead on classroom specialists for elementary schools.

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