Last Dance

Sitka Fine Arts Camp elementary age campers dance with instructor Brendan Jones in their final day of camp today at the Sheldon Jackson College Campus. Middle School Camp, for grades seven thru nine, begins Monday. Registration is still open at 907-747-3085. (Sentinel Photo by Klas Stolpe)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Rep. Himschoot Pleased With Session in Juneau

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

Sitka’s state representative counts a balanced state budget and a grant to boost child care as among the high points in her first legislative session.

“The beauty of our budget is that it’s balanced for the first time in almost a decade,” said Rebecca Himschoot, who represents House District 2.

“As painful as it is for everybody not to have a massive dividend – because those are so helpful to families – the budget is balanced, the dividend is $1,300 and that feels like a win. To pass a balanced budget feels really, really good.”

The longtime Sitka School District teacher was elected as an unaffiliated candidate last November, and is a member of the House minority coalition, representing Sitka and other Southeast communities. She spoke to the Sentinel from Petersburg, where she was attending the Little Norway Festival.

The final version of the budget added the equivalent to $680 per student for education funding, and $7.5 million in grants aimed at increasing the pay for child care providers. 

Himschoot also was pleased to see an increase in Medicaid coverage for home-based care for senior citizens. That amount came to over $30 million.

Himschoot gave credit to Sitkans for compiling information on the nature of child care problems in Sitka. The group Child Care Now has been making presentations to the Assembly and the Chamber of Commerce to raise awareness, and ask for help. The group also sent data and letters to legislators.

“The things I really fought for was to try to get an increase in education and especially to get that increase inside the BSA (base student allocation),” Himschoot said. “We did get the highest-ever increase for education this year but it’s outside the BSA. No district is going to say they’re not grateful for that.” 

The School Board passed the FY2024 budget with the assumption that the Legislature would approve a per student increase of at least $450, but the final version had a $680 increase plugged in, although it’s not a permanent increase.

Himschoot said she will remain focused on an increased BSA, which is a figure that carries over year to year without legislative action. “Since the last time we’ve raised the BSA (in 2017) we’ve had roughly 24 percent inflation so the purchasing power of districts has gone way down,” she said.

Himschoot’s first regular and special sessions were in her rear view window when she spoke to the Sentinel on Saturday.

“The best single word I have for it is ‘intense,”’ she said. “It was an incredibly intense experience. ... The schedule is really full, you’re wondering if you’re doing enough. I spend a lot of time thinking, can I move this bill if I go talk to this person or that person. The calendar is really tight, and you’re trying to fit a lot in.”

Himschoot added she is grateful to Sen. Bert Stedman for “helping (me) learn the ropes,” and being a good source of information when she needed help or advice.

Sitka parent Lauren Wild, a member of the Early Childhood Coalition and Child Care Now, said today she is grateful to the legislators for supporting funding to help ease the childcare crunch in Sitka, which is creating workforce problems as well.

“The fund will go a long way toward increasing wages in the child care education industry in Alaska including Sitka, which is a first step toward critical workforce development and teacher retention in this industry,” Wild said. “We are immensely grateful to Senator Stedman and Representative Himschoot for pushing for this funding and advocating for this industry in our district.”

Tristan Guevin, a member of the School Board, said the additional funds for schools means the Sitka School District will have a balanced budget and flexibility to address the needs of students in the coming year.

“While this kind of increase is appreciated, it also speaks to the need of a predictable funding source and a permanent increase in the BSA,” Guevin said.

District Superintendent Frank Hauser agreed that an increase to the BSA is key to predictability in funding, staffing stability and “the business of educating our kids.”

 

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20 YEARS AGO

June 2004 

Advertisement: Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital Caring Employee of the month! Franklin Thomas Hospital Nutrition Services.

50 YEARS AGO

June 1974

Edna Revard is enjoying a much-deserved vacation: she and youngest son Joe are in Italy visiting her older son, Jack, his wife and child. Jack is with the military, stationed in Italy. Edna will be gone a month, the crew at Revard’s Restaurant says.

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