Alaska education industry wants your PFD, but will our graduates even be able to read their diplomas?

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By DAVID BOYLE

We knew this was coming—the coordinated assault by various special interest groups to increase education funding, and using your PFD to pay for it.

The special interest groups believe they know better than you about how to spend your money.

The education industry attended the Senate Education Committee on Jan. 25, hands outstretched for more and more money to solve Alaska’s K-12 education problems.

All the industry members, NEA (teachers union), Alaska Council of School Administrators, Alaska Association of School Boards, and the Coalition for Education Equity want to increase the Base Student Allocation.

Their common mantra was, “The BSA has been flat funded since 2017” and Alaska must adjust for inflation now and for the future.

The NEA’s presentation stated that the Anchorage School District was proposing to close six schools. That proposal went nowhere. The ASD is now recommending five of the six be repurposed for new programs and putting the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School in another.   This statement by the NEA was, it appears, misinformed.

The NEA’s presentation also included this slide:

At first blush one would conclude that the districts with high teacher turnover directly correlate with low student reading scores. Once again, this is misinformation because the reading scores are outdated; these may be the 2014 reading scores. None of our reading scores are anywhere near the cited 85.8%.

The recent AKSTAR statewide tests showed that only 29.46% of students statewide were proficient at reading. The best reading proficiency score was the Sitka School District with a 40.62% for all grades.

Hopefully, members of the Senate Education Committee are aware of the significant differences and misleading NEA statements.

Calculating funding for school districts is not as simple as it seems.

The Base Student Allocation is used to determine funding for school districts. Once it is set, it is then multiplied by the adjusted average student membership. The BSA is not multiplied by the actual number of students, as some would like Alaskans to believe.

This adjusted average student membership is the result of a multiplication process. Through that process, the actual Anchorage School District student count of 41,196 goes to a whopping 73,746 students.

The Alaska Council of School Administrators wants a 14-18% increase in the Base Student Allocation and wants it inflation-proofed in future years.

That would mean at today’s (FY23) adjusted student population of 259,015, an increase of the BSA by 18% would be $7,033. The total cost of K12 would be $1.8 billion. This would be an increase of $604.4 million. Even at the low end of a 14% increase in the Base Student Allocation, the increase would be $542.6 million, and change.

The Anchorage School District repeats the “flat funding of the BSA since 2017” mantra and wants an increase in the BSA of $860, or a jump from $5,960 to $6,820 per student.

In terms of last year’s Permanent Fund dividend ($3,284), that would be 168,193 dividends.  Do that many Alaskans want to use their PFD to funnel more money into K-12 public education? 

The Education industry cherry picks the base year of 2017 because it was the last year the BSA was substantially increased. But for a more accurate look, one should go back further—to the year 2000. This would ensure a smoother funding curve with more accurate inflation numbers.

The FY 2000 BSA was $3,940. If we inflation adjust that to 2022 dollars that would mean a BSA of $6,528. The result would be $1,692,096,768, an increase in K12 funding of $472,568,205. This would be the equivalent of 143,900 PFDs.

All the organizations listed above go to Juneau to lobby for more and more money. Alaskans, through their various taxes, pay the membership dues of those organizations that descend upon the Legislature to ask for more money.

The circle of funding is to pay for more for K-12 with little to no accountability by educators.

Lon Garrison, President of the Alaska Association of School Boards, said about accountability, “We measure success by a student receiving a diploma. We need to stop measuring success with spending.”

Fewer than 28% of Alaska’s 9th graders are proficient at reading. Will they be able to read their diplomas?

The BSA should be increased somewhat. Many will argue that the districts need to also be more accountable for that funding and that Alaska cannot continue to throw more money at K12 education and hope to get better results. The funding needs to be tied to results.

Without accountability, we can expect to see even more future demands for your PFD.  

David Boyle is the education writer for Must Read Alaska.

39 COMMENTS

  1. In the 60s Alaska was at the top of nation in test scoring and we had no oil pipeline, just a very small income tax, I know because I paid it while working at Seward Fisheries.

  2. Here is an idea. Close all six schools (more should close and consolidate really), defund the NEA (stop all the auto payments from alaska, refuse future payments, they are unaccountable and the root cause of too many problems), all teachers have to stop teaching anything but reading, writing, science and math.
    —No more history, since they choose to lie and obfuscate the truth.
    —No more gym/phys ed, since they choose to allow males into female changing spaces.
    —No more creative writing, any writing except to learn cursive writing.
    —No morecrt or any other language embedded into the remaining subjects.
    —No more climate control, stop scaring our children with what will happen in thousands of years. Get real, if electric cars worked they would be everywhere. If solar panels offset generation at power plants, we would have them everywhere. The science is not there today, aim for the reality of what we can accomplish in their lifetime, the next 30 years maybe. When you gotta lie to our kids, you are wrong. And you know you are wrong..

    • Speaking of lying to kids. Your something else. Hopefully you get executed with the Ogliarch mob hidey holing in Alaska how long now?

    • Read up on what our governor Ron DeSantis did to the college board that was trying to implement false black history in Florida. Basically shut them down. Sitka is home to mount edgecombe, which gets the cream of the crop from rural Alaska so I don’t think that saying Sitka School district in any form is comparable to the rest of the state. As a former educator I can tell you that we were paid enough money. We didn’t need any more to make a good living or to put some away for a rainy day. I never was a supporter of the nea and I think they suck as an organization. I believed in good teachers do their job in an old school way. Yes testing can be helpful to determine where a student is lacking but there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Special interest groups have ruined the system. I’m all in favor of getting rid of laptops and going back to textbooks and Big Chief notebooks. That formula worked for generations including my group The baby boomers.

    • History, Physical Education, and Creative Writing are all important subjects for students to learn. I do not totally disagree or agree with your other selections.

  3. They need to make up the dwindling student numbers to keep the status quo. Keep voting D and we’ll keep on sinking. As well as kicking out the phrase in God We Trust. All the perversions will replace spirituality.

      • Keep voting D the party of infanticide and we will reach your no family scenarios sooner Maureen. I’ll bet you paycheck to paycheck that Republicans are far more family oriented than you loony tune liberals.

      • That’s not true. Families stay strong from good parenting. That means parents taking an active role in children’s education, making sure they do their homework correctly and helping them understand if they don’t. Reading with them from an early age is the only way to develop synapses if they will need later in their educational career in life. Be a lazy parent and you’re going to have lazy underperforming children. It’s just as simple as that Maureen

  4. They are after the golden goose. The only way I would listen is if they cut 50% of the education spending spent on administration. Look what more and more and more has gotten us. These people could run an ice cream stand. This is what you non intelligent voters want then why not just put them on your bank account and credit cards.

    • You don’t know what you’re talking about. Yes there are some bad administrators, I know of a few but I also know of some great ones. You have no idea what the job entails and I mean that not as an insult but just that you’re ignorant about the job. I know administrators that put in 70 hours a week because it’s not just a nine to five job. There’s after school hours and weekends because in the bush the school is a public building used for all different purposes.

  5. There is talk about restoring the pensions for State Troopers. Since Anchorage has no State Trooper coverage and Mat Su has 30 or more Troopers, seems like those that use Trooper coverage should pay for it. A comprehensive budget should include taxing those that use the service. Some of the Boroughs and most of Rural Alaska need to pay their fair share. Houses in Delta Junction are expensive. Shouldn’t they pay property taxes ? What about a Mat Su funded Sheriff Office’s rather that state paid Troopers?

  6. If the schools want their money, they need to save it for the students that want to learn… and the classrooms NONE of IT goes to NEA, or other union groups that teach the WOK curriculum..ONLY Basic Reading,Writing and Arithmetic, sound music, not the junk music. They need to teach government, and civic, NOT politics..Arts and geography/History, not skim over the basics.

  7. One bit, “The BSA should be increased somewhat.”, destroys the whole message.
    .
    What the bloody hell is “somewhat”, who among education-industry filth decide what “somewhat” is, David?
    .
    In what universe will corruption, peversion, grooming, waste, fraud, mismanagement, and incompetence which has created an education industry nationally recognized for overpriced underperformance be fixed by rewarding perpetrators with more money?
    .
    And while you’re at it, David, explain this worn-out word “accountability”. Periodic forensic audits of school-district finances and management practices? Summary removal of appointed and elected leadership for finance and management practice irregularities? Mandatory federal prison time for, and restitution from, school-district perpetrators committing their crimes under color of law?
    .
    Folks inside and outside the system making serious money from the system just gonna roll over, let your “accountability” upset their lucrative income stream?
    .
    Back to the drawing board with you, David. A word with Eaglexit sponsors might be helpful, report on how their school district –and their children– will be protected from anything remotely resembling Anchorage School District policies and practices, might give Anchorage parent/taxpayers some idea of what to do.

  8. Parents are part of the problem. We used to require kids be proficient before they got a HS diploma. Parents complained so much that legislators ditched the requirement.

    That the vast majority of kids are not reading proficient has to fall on the parents. My parents would never have allowed me to not know how to read, and its parents that elect the school board members.

    • You said it right there, the fault lies with the parents. But lazy parents don’t see it that way. Some are jealous because teachers get paid a nice salary for their hard work, and think they need to be getting some of that free stuff their own self even though they don’t see all the hard work the teachers do. Some had crappy parents their own self so they don’t know any different. Probably shouldn’t have kids in the first place. They don’t understand that with parenting comes responsibility. You get out what you put into parenting. It’s a 24-hour a day job.

  9. How about the NEA go f##k themselves! There are a lot of union pension plans that are in financial trouble that don’t have the luxury of sucking on the government tit whenever things go south.

      • Jeffs. Better include the Christian nationalists in your list of those who tell others how to live. For example (since you were about to ask), the Birth Mandate conservatives are forcing on everyone else.

        • Lucinda, judging from your comment above, it appears that you are a product of the over charging, under delivering education system described in the article.

    • Nea membership dues are already pretty high. I never joined the nea when I taught. They didn’t do anything for me. I worked hard and I believe most teachers do. The superintendent and the school board are the only ones who ever gave me a raise because they’re the only ones that’s in control of that. It’s part of the budget and it’s part of the negotiated agreement but it has nothing to do with the nea.

  10. The unions want more money to do nothing. Just look at the bus drivers in the valley that went on strike AFTER they dropped kids off for the day.

    All the top brass at these unions need a trip on a one way bush flight.

  11. Need to see why we are near the bottom when we do spend more almost of any other state for education .. before we grant them more money !!!

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