Gara says teachers’ stagnant pay a result of falling state funding

Democratic candidate for Governor Les Gara attributed stagnant pay for Alaska teachers to falling state funding in a press release issued earlier this morning.

“Teachers are rightly concerned about stagnant pay. A big culprit is falling state funding. Taking away pension benefits for new teachers, police, firefighters and other public servants was also wrong, and harms our ability to recruit and retain good teachers,” said former Rep. Les Gara, who voted against ending pension benefits for new teachers (SB 141, 2005), and pushed the last school funding increase bill to pass the House in 2018.

Gara’s comments come at a time when Alaska teachers and school districts are engaged in contract negotiations that have not yet resulted in what many teachers regard as fair pay and benefits.

Hundreds of educators and Anchorage School District staff rallied outside the Anchorage Education Center ahead of last week’s Tuesday school board meeting. Many ASD staff members testified that evening expressing concern that the school district has proposed a 0% salary increase over the three years of the contract.

Reported this week was that the state’s education department is willing to pay up to $300,000 in an attempt to figure out how to retain more teachers in the state. A reported 1 in 5 teachers leave the state. Alaska is the only state in the country that does not offer teachers a pension or social security benefits.

As a legislator, Gara was a proponent of smaller class sizes and sponsored bills to restore pension benefits in an attempt to keep school funding in pace with inflation.

You can read the press release below.