March 29, 2012 | Vol. 42, No. 13

Commentary

By many measures, the Haines Borough School District is doing a good job. It’s keeping up with “No Child Left Behind” standards and addressing long-range issues, including pre-school literacy and improved vocational education.

That’s why school board members seeking a long-term funding bill from the Alaska Legislature should push for full local funding.

Currently, the Haines Borough funds the school district only to 87 percent of the maximum amount allowed by the state. Increasing borough funding of the district to the maximum allowed by law would add about $65,000 annually to a $5.8 million district budget.

The extra $65,000 would not be enough to keep the district afloat after an anticipated decline in federal timber funds, but it would send an important message to legislators: That we care enough about our schools to fund them as much as the law allows.

school board members could lobby the Haines Borough Assembly to give the full amount, or ask them to put the question of 100 percent school funding on the fall ballot as an advisory question.

Interestingly, right now we’re heading in the opposite direction. The Haines Borough has asked the district to accept a 1 percent cut in the borough’s contribution. On the face of it, that’s a mixed message: Telling the state our district needs more money, while contributing less ourselves.

Haines Borough representatives Debra Schnabel and Darsie Culbeck performed a good piece of public service by attending a recent mining conference and then reporting their findings in a five-page document that clearly spells out some of the hurdles Haines faces if it hopes to serve Yukon mines as an ore port.

It would be a good idea to require all municipal representatives traveling on the taxpayers’ dime to write at least a one-page report on what they learned for the benefit of the community. Some verbal reports on such conferences in recent years have amounted to little more than name-dropping. A requirement for a written report would provide a written record and show taxpayers exactly what they’re getting when they pay to send public officials afield.