Anchorage school district lost 5,455 students, but the budget balloons by $54 million

24
2036

By DAVID BOYLE

In the just-released preliminary budget for the next school year, the Anchorage School District wants to increase its current budget by a whopping 6.4%.  

And the general fund budget will increase by $49 million — an increase of nearly 9%.

This means the district’s budget will be more than $905 million, an increase of more than $54 million over last year, which does not include an additional $55 million for the PERS/TRS retirement programs. 

This large budget (not including the PERS/TRS) equals $20,534 per student based on next year’s projected enrollment.  

Here is the chart on next year’s ASD budget:

It appears as if the district will depend upon the Legislature to fund this increase as many districts and students (their travel to Juneau funded with K-12 dollars) lobby legislators.

Seeing that the makeup of the Legislature is ripe for giving the educational bureaucracy increased funding, the education industry leaders have descended upon lawmakers, demanding a huge increase in the Base Student Allocation (BSA). 

The mantra is that “BSA funding has been flat since 2017.” The Senate has responded with Senate Bill 52, which increases the BSA by $1,000. This would cost the State more than $250 million with no more accountability than we now have.

ASD Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt doesn’t believe the district and other state school districts have been asking for more and more money. 

In the February ASD Connect newsletter to the public he writes, ““…I hear over and over again from some that this session is about school districts asking for more money.  I want to be clear — the districts around the state are not asking for more money.  We are asking that systematic flat funding, which are cuts, are finally addressed after seven years, in the wake of chronically declining academic performance across the state.”

This seems to be doublespeak at its finest. Bryantt has neglected to explain that funding outside the BSA was added over that time. And he seems to imply this “lack of funding” is the reason for declining academic performance.  

 Despite what Bryantt says, many of the education industry proponents have done just that — asked for more money with no accountability for results.

In the 2023 school year, the Anchorage School District had 5,455 fewer brick-and mortar-students than in 2017. It received $9 million fewer state dollars due to that decrease in students.

Contrary to what Bryantt says, the declining academic performance has dropped consistently over the years — with or without additional funding. It’s been near the bottom for decades — since 2003, according to the latest NAEP results.

As one can see from this graph on 4th grade reading, Alaska student academic performance has lagged other states since 2003. Note that 10 points in the NAEP equates to one year of education.  In 2022 Alaska’s 4th graders are more than one academic year behind lower 48 students in reading proficiency.

In 4th grade reading for 2022, only New Mexico performed worse than Alaska.

The 4th grade reading metric is said to be an indicator of student success — a child learns to read by 4th grade, then reads to learn thereafter.

Can Anchorage voters expect better student outcomes with this $54 million increase? Or will we be here again next year at the bottom of the NAEP scores while the Education Industry begs the legislature for more and more dollars? 

And if they get the money, will they spend it on the classroom or on extraneous requirements such as diversity, equity, or indoctrinating children on transgender issues? 

After all, there is no accountability written into the request. The school district will do what it always does, increase what it wants, and then come with its hand out to you, the taxpayer (or Permanent Fund shareholder), to fund it.  

What do you think? The Anchorage School Board needs to hear from you.  You can testify or send comments here: https://www.asdk12.org/Page/4329

David Boyle is the Must Read Alaska education writer and former executive director of the Alaska Policy Forum.

24 COMMENTS

  1. When you are 49th in education out of 50 states why stop funding cuts until you are at 50 and have nowhere to go but up?

  2. You might be asking, “Where did all the kids go”? I can tell you that many kids like my child, are now home-schooled. As parents realize what a joke local public schools have become, expect more and more families to choose that option. We just don’t want our kids to be indoctrinated by woke teachers into becoming woke communists. Maybe if public schools continue to lose children to homeschooling, schools will get the message and start teaching, and stop indoctrinating.

    • I salute you and your decision to home school. The payoff will be easy to see as the public schools are a joke. How many years of we need more money for the kids but the kids are not anywhere near having the skill set to survive in this world. I would like to see a class action suit against the public school system for a massive failure to teach needed skills. The public school district can go broke and just go away and the kids would be smarter. Everybody should get their kids out and follow you by homeschooling. Neiborhoods could get together and teach.

  3. Those 5,455 missing students moved to the Mat-Su Valley with their parents as cultural refugees and are now walking to school because our school board issued the school bus contract to a low ball bidder. Like the other more conservative areas of Alaska like Fairbanks and the Kenai Peninsula, Mat-Su still gets substantially less state funding per student than Anchorage, Southeast, or the Bush. It must be more expensive to instill sexually deviant propaganda than bus students to and from school.

  4. Ah, the literal price of failure.

    This is a direct result of parental indifference and lazy voting. Anchorage has had how many opportunities to change this and hasn’t?

    Social indoctrination, gay books and gender confusion is expensive. Pay up, paypigs.

  5. INSANE. The budget should be reduced. We are no longer oligarchs. We are WEF serfs and should receive the rotten cheap educations they have specified for us as directed to the preselected (for the limited time being) “democrats”.

  6. Only $0.9 Billion a year? LOL
    Socialist Institutions (not judging) are generally incapable of maintaining financial accountability.
    Or should I say: Selling a product worth buying.

  7. Maybe increase the budget just enough to hire an independent accounting firm to layout each and every dollar spent over the last few years?
    It’s not how much money they spend it’s how the money is used, that counts. School districts around our state continue to be the biggest reason to home school our children.

  8. David, could you please clarify if or how school funding in Anchorage has matched up with inflation in recent years?

  9. Has anyone discussed a ‘school strike’? If the district cannot settle on reasonable spending, all students stay home for a week. That would make a big impression and shine some more light on the crazy spending habits.

  10. Homeschooled children have such nice personalities and are self-motivated and appear to enjoy the experience without superimposed social blame and guilt for having been born with genetics common in the “region” at the time.

  11. Flat funding, fixed funding. I do not care. Over 20k per student per year is insanely high already and should produce a reasonable outcome. The whole system needs to be revamped.

    We homeschooled our kids K-12. Not counting athletics and extra curricular it was never over 2k per year per student. And that was when we were independent. Matsu Central provided 2.5K per year when we enrolled for highschool, but our academics still remained under 2k and that also included a class a semester at Matsu college. Our kids went to college and excelled. Well prepared and well employed in good careers.

    Why are throwing money at a failing system and expected to continue?! Get rid of the federal department of education. Return education to state and local government. Return to basic education and get rid of the political ‘cr-p’ . Shrink admin and pay good teachers well, then allow them to teach. Expect students to behave, and to work, and do not dumb down those expectations nor the curriculum. Then allow for educational choice and competition. Ideally the money should follow the child and parents should be able to choose. It is absolutely unconscionable this madness continues.

  12. They are after the PFD nothing more. The politicians want it all so they are steeling the people’s bank account and look who supports them the unions. All of us non union people are getting the shaft.

  13. This has been a problem ever since the powers that be decided we did not need to require that children be proficient in the education we give them before they advance to the next grade level. Our children will continue to fail if they never learn the basics. This is a problem with politicians, school boards, school administrators, & parents who want to advance their kids before they’re ready.

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