Homer community ‘walks in’ to support education funding

The protest called for an increase to the BSA and legislative support for public education

Homer City Council members, retired teachers, former legislators, a school board member, current teachers, faculty and the general public gathered outside Homer High School on Wednesday, April 24, at about 8:40 a.m. for a scheduled “walk-in” to support public education. Approximately 65 people attended.

Prior to the event, high school students and families received an email from counselor Paul Story explaining, “as a show of support for our public schools, and the students, families, and communities they serve, and as a public display of discontent for our state government leaving public schools in the lurch yet again this year, HHS staff will be participating in a state-wide ‘Walk-In’.”

The event follows several “walk-out” student protests organized statewide and locally in response to the governor’s veto and lawmakers’ subsequent failure to override a comprehensive education bill passed by the Legislature. Among other things, the bill would have raised by $680 the base student allocation, or the amount of money spent per K-12 student.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, which has called for an increase to the BSA, recently passed a budget that included cuts to pools, theaters and other programs to offset a $13.7 million deficit, according to previous Homer News and Peninsula Clarion reporting.

At the April 24 event, Story welcomed attendees at the flag poles outside the high school and explained that participants would walk through the front door of the school, around the commons area and then leave the building.

Most people arrived wearing red and Winter Marshall-Allen, special education and intensive needs teacher and building representative for the event, handed out “Red for Ed” T-shirts to anyone who wanted one. After Story’s brief explanation, Marshall-Allen instructed attendees to chant, if they wanted to, “Raise the BSA.”

Most people stood casually discussing their general displeasure with the treatment state politics have provided to the people and communities of Alaska. Two members of the crowd, Debi Poore and George Harbeson Jr., wore their red letterman sweaters from Kenai Central High School and Wasilla High School.

After the event, Marshall-Allen expressed her thoughts on the statewide walk-in, sponsored by NEA-Alaska. “We are asking for collective advocacy to be able to provide the best that we can for our students and to provide holistic programs that meet everybody’s needs. We can’t do the best if we can’t have adequate funding and have legislation provided to us that has wonderful intentions, like the Alaska Reads Act, but gets lost if there is no funding behind it for support.”

The NEA-Alaska Facebook page posted a statewide thank you to all participants after the April 24 event. “Thank you for your incredible support on our April 24th Day of Action! From Homer to Nunapitchuk, your overwhelming turnout in #RedForEd has been nothing short of inspiring. Together, we made a powerful statement about the need to increase the BSA. #RaisetheAKBSA.”

Other schools on the southern Kenai Peninsula that held walk-ins were Paul Banks Elementary, West Homer Elementary and Chapman in Anchor Point and the Susan B. English school in Seldovia.

Ahnie Litecky, Paul Banks PTA President, commented to the Homer News, “I was so proud that our school community came together for a walk-in event to advocate for increased education funding. I hope this event and other walk-ins at area schools raised awareness in our community and that people will continue to reach out to our legislators and the governor and ask them to support our kids.”

LaDawn Druce, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, provided photos and videos from Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employees and community members from all the schools that participated in the walk-in.