- Associated Press - Monday, May 8, 2017

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Hundreds of Alaska residents and students gathered in Fairbanks on Sunday to show support for schools facing heavy budget cuts.

The rally happened two days after hundreds of high school and middle school students in the Fairbanks area left school early in protest of proposed cuts to music, arts, sports and other activities, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://bit.ly/2pn1Snn ).

“The youth of Fairbanks have sent us an S.O.S message - save our schools - loud and clear,” said Montean Jackson, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s director of drug and alcohol intervention. “I’m so proud to have seen the loud cry from our youth to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you’re cutting the very thing that makes me who I am.’”

The state Senate is pushing to cut the per-student education formula by 5 percent, which would translate into millions of dollars lost for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

The Borough Assembly is also considering cutting local contribution to schools by about $3 million.

In total, the cuts to Fairbanks schools could be as much as $15 million.

The district is considering cuts to teachers, reading aides, other staff and school programs in response.

Two North Pole High School freshmen, Bella Martinez, 14, and Honor Mealey, 15, gathered more than 300 signatures from students on a petition and are sending more than 100 letters to local legislators advocating against school cuts.

“The music and the arts are really important to us, and they’re really important not just for all the students now but the students that are going to be coming in to high school in the coming years,” Mealey said. “We want to make sure that those essential parts of our education are kept for future years.”

The University of Alaska system also faces a possible $22 million budget cut. The House and Gov. Bill Walker have supported flat-funding for the university system at $325 million.

University Chancellor Dana Thomas spoke at the rally and said the reality of proposed cuts is “pretty dark.”

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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