Local News

Assembly: Reform state education funding

With a resolution approved Monday evening, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough continues its campaign to change the way the state funds education.

Led by Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst, the borough has for about five years challenged what it calls state underfunding of basic needs for schools. The state requires that borough governments fund local schools, but communities in unorganized parts of the state are exempt from that local contribution.

The borough contends that the state’s actions are unfair and unconstitutional, and that required school funding is an unlawful de facto tax.

In unanimously approving Monday’s resolution, the Assembly praised Bockhorst’s continued efforts.

Assembly Member Todd Phillips said, “I would just like to applaud the diligence and …”

Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer quickly interrupted, laughing that, “It goes beyond diligence. He’s going to be in the next Webster’s. There’s going to be ‘Tenacity’ and Dan’s picture.”

Bockhorst updated the Assembly on the issue. He says he met with Sen. Bert Stedman on Saturday, and school funding was one of the topics they discussed.

“In five years of efforts there’s been very little if any indication of support among state officials for reform,” Bockhorst said. “I think we saw more than a glimmer of hope that that’s going to change … in conjunction with our discussion with Sen. Stedman.”

Stedman sits on the Senate Education Committee, and Bockhorst said the senator could have some influence through that position. Stedman requested additional information on the topic to share with the rest of the committee.

According to the borough, students in just the Class of 2013, for the entire time they have been in school here, will have cost the community about $61 million by the time they graduate.

Borough representatives also have talked to Rep. Peggy Wilson about the issue. Kiffer said her office has requested more information.

Also Monday, the Assembly approved a $150,000 grant plus the donation of land for a skatepark, which Ketchikan Youth Initiatives hopes to build at the corner of Park Avenue and Schoenbar Road.

The Assembly also approved the $105,000 purchase of a modular restroom unit from the City of Portland. The “Portland Loo” will be installed in the Thomas Basin area next to the Salvation Army building.

One of the longest discussions of Monday’s meeting focused on the proposed purchase of iPads for Assembly members. The Assembly eventually agreed to allow individual members to request tablets if they want them for official use.

The next regular Borough Assembly meeting is Feb. 4th.

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