As students closed their books and celebrated the beginning of the summer, the Anchorage School District says it was mixed emotions on the last day of the school year as it was forced to lay off hundreds of teachers.
220 pink slips were hand-delivered to teachers by their principals. The District says it all boils down to uncertainty in state funding. With a fiscal plan still yet to be decided, the House is proposing flat funding for public schools while the Senate is calling for a nearly six percent cut.
“We did an analysis of whether or not we would be able to afford the teachers that we currently have employed and the answer is no, if additional cuts come forward,” said Todd Hess, Chief Human Resources Officer for the Anchorage School District.
Those left without a job—largely first and second year educators. Hess says the district will now have to eat the cost of recruiting and training those teachers, meanwhile livelihoods are affected.
“We have people that have moved up here from out of state, we have people that have recently purchased homes, their whole future is in doubt,” said Hess.
Public school advocates say the hundreds of educators lost is more than just numbers.
“Those are relationships with real students, those are class sizes that are going to increase, those are programs that are potentially going to be cut. What is most important to students in their learning is that relationship with a quality professional teacher,” said Deena Mitchell, a member of the grassroots group Great Alaska School.
Hess says the consequence of uncertainty goes beyond teacher positions, with school district decision-making put to a halt as state funding hangs in the air.
“All of the planning that’s taking place for next school year has stopped. We have to take a look at where we’re at, we have to wait for the deliberations of the legislature to be concluded.
Until then, the layoffs, many fear, will result in even bigger class sizes putting a strain on already cramped classrooms.
“It really hurts our students ultimately,” said Mitchell.