FAIRBANKS — The president of the Fairbanks school board is hopeful that legislators will block the deep cuts to public education proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The Board of Education holds its first work session Monday to discuss the proposed 2019-20 school district budget.
Board President Wendy Dominique, who was in Juneau over the weekend talking with state legislators about education funding, said she wants to hold back on planning for cuts until the legislative session progresses.
“There is no sense in saying, ‘We have to cut this. We have to cut that,’ and putting people on edge,” she said. “I just think it’s early and things are going to change dramatically.”
The school board’s adopted budget is due to the Fairbanks North Star Borough by April 1.
The superintendent has proposed a “status quo” education budget of about $243 million, which depends on flat funding of about $130 million from the state.
On Wednesday, Dunleavy proposed cutting state support to public education across the state by 24.3 percent. That translates to an estimated $30 million cut to Fairbanks area schools.
It’s the deepest cut any education leader contacted by the News-Miner can remember.
Tim Doran, a retired elementary school principal now on the school board, said he hasn’t seen a cut this severe in his 43 years in Alaska.
Doran was also in Juneau last weekend and shares Dominique’s faith that legislators will protect education. He said in a text message that he is confident lawmakers will “follow through on their commitment to education.”
Superintendent Karen Gaborik said in a prepared statement that school officials hope legislators will support schools.
“It’s in the legislators’ hands now and we hope they will stand up for the kids in our school districts,” she said. “We are hopeful that the Interior delegation and the legislators around the state recognize the value of public education.”
Gaborik is in California at the annual conference of the School Superintendents Association, said district spokeswoman Sharice Walker.
Last year, the school district faced about $8 million in cuts and made plans to eliminate about 50 jobs including teachers, custodians, librarian assistants, after-school activities coordinators, psychologists, physical therapists and occupational therapists. There was public outcry, and the cuts were reversed.
School board member Allyson Lambert said she finds the prospect of cutting $30 million “frightening.”
“I knew the governor was going to do some cuts. I did not fathom the extent,” she said.
Dunleavy’s proposal is likely to color the discussion at Monday’s work session, Lambert said.
A budget forum via Facebook Live is planned for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The superintendent will be joined by Chief Operating Officer Andy DeGraw to answer questions online.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMborough.