Superintendent’s Corner

January 16, 2020

Dear IDEA Families:

I trust that the holiday festivities treated you and yours swimmingly and that everyone is now back in the daily rhythms of life and learning. The Romans named January after Janus, their god of beginnings and endings with faces looking forward and backward. I hope that you find yourself this January counting your blessings from 2019 and looking forward to the limitless potentials of 2020.

As we begin the second semester continuing the education of our youth, GCSD’s many programs of educational choice and excellence are firing on all cylinders. Second semester also marks the time when the legislature decides funding for the next school year and when the district prioritizes needed infrastructure improvements.

The Alaska legislature will gavel in on January 21, 2020. Alaska’s fiscal realities will, once again, constrain their work. As you might remember from last year’s legislative session, Governor Dunleavy’s proposed budget for this current 2019-2020 fiscal year included 300 million in cuts to K-12 education funding. GCSD’s portion of that proposed cut in funding was approximately five million dollars (20% state funding cut). After a lively legislative session and two follow-on special sessions, K-12 education received flat funding (a cut because of inflation) for this 2019-2020 school year. Also, this past July Alaska’s legislature filed a lawsuit challenging Governor Dunleavy’s assertion that the legislature cannot forward fund K-12 education. In early November, the superior court judge deciding the case ruled in the legislature’s favor. The executive branch is appealing to Alaska’s Supreme Court, which could take up to a year to rule on the case. Regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, Governor Dunleavy’s proposed 2020-2021 budget agrees with what last year’s legislature forward funded and it calls for flat funding for K-12 education for the 2020-2021 school year. As we all know, flat funding cuts K-12 education because of inexorable inflationary expenses like negotiated salary increases, rising energy costs, etc. All that to say, while the odds are against a K-12 education revenue increase for next school year, GCSD plans to lobby for some increase in K-12 education funding, remaining hopeful and determined to fight for what is best for our students.

Additionally, the spring semester begins the district’s process of determining major and minor facility upgrades to improve our educational programs. The Department of Education and Early Development recently ranked GCSD’s Composite Building Renovation project #2 out of 102 district-submitted projects. If the legislature provides enough major maintenance funding this spring session to fund both the #1 and #2 ranked projects ($6,850,000), GCSD’s #2 ranked project will receive $4,946,648 in state funding to renovate the aged “Composite” building on the GILA campus into an energy efficient state-of-the-art instructional facility. GCSD plans to lobby for K-12 major maintenance funding. Additionally, replacing the old, threadbare, and discolored carpeting with a more durable flooring option in the student dorm rooms of our residential living facility on the GILA campus is under discussion for a possible summer 2020 project.

In closing, GCSD delights to serve all of our new and returning families and students. Please contact me at the phone number above or the email address below if you would like to discuss any aspect of this letter in greater detail, or if you would like more information on any district initiative.

Respectfully yours,

Jim Merriner, GCSD Superintendent