David Boyle: A look at the Alaska school districts that are awash in unspent funds

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By DAVID BOYLE

We have heard all the uproar from the education industry about how they are in financial straits and need the Base Student Allocation raised to offset their financial “woes.”

And now many legislators are trying to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of SB 140, which raises the BSA with no accountability for results.

Do the school districts really need the extra funding or are they just “crying wolf”?

Let’s look at the facts provided by the State Department of Education & Early Development. These data are for the school year 2022-2023 and are the most recent provided by the school districts.

The “unreserved funds” are those which have not been obligated for expenses. In effect, they are what districts have left in their piggy banks—surplus money.

The “% instruction” is the percentage of funds that go to classroom instruction per the state’s accounting rules.

The “$ per student” is the total amount (federal, local, and state) that the district spends per student. It may not include capital costs for infrastructure.

These data can be found here.

Note there are only two districts, Juneau and Lake & Peninsula, that have emptied their piggy banks.

To its credit, Juneau has taken steps to regain financial stability by closing 3 schools and consolidating its high schools.

The chart shows that most all the listed school districts have adequate funding plus access to their piggy bank unreserved funds.  

Additionally, the State and federal governments also provided more than $500 million to the districts during the Covid experience.

The State Department of Education & Early Development has a very detailed listing of the federal Covid funds, how much the districts received, and what they spent the funds on.

Some districts used this one-time funding to pay for recurring costs, costs that occur every year. Some districts used these Covid one-time funds to pay for salaries, thus digging a huge budget hole for the following years.

This is fiduciary irresponsibility.  

The Anchorage School District used these Covid funds to pay the salaries of 400 teachers. Now it wants the legislature to pay for its fiduciary irresponsibility.

Here is how the ASD spent $42.3 million of Covid funds irresponsibly:

Here are the details of the ASD irresponsible spending: 

The bottom line: Should the Legislature reward bad behavior by giving more money with absolutely no strings attached to the districts?

Or should there be accountability for the extra funding?

Shouldn’t the Legislature ensure that the extra funding goes to the classroom where it will have the most effect on student achievement?

You have a voice. You can tell your legislators what you believe. Here is a link to contact all the State House members.

Here are the State Senate members’ contact information.

David Boyle is Must Read Alaska’s education writer.

12 COMMENTS

  1. A note, email or phone call to your Legislator can’t hurt. Just emailed ours.
    The blank checks the schools in this state have gotten used to have to be stopped!

  2. I’d like to say I’m surprised, but I’m not.

    Taxpayers in Alaska are paypigs for education.

  3. Herein lies the truth of this matter. Thank you for this article. If people would only wake-up to the crap the Democrat legislators and their teacher’s union Marxist allies throw at us.
    I support Dunleavy all the way. Dunleavy should not capitulate to these thugs, UNLESS, we get the full Statutory PFD payout of about $3500 + retroactive amounts.

  4. It’s not just Democrats. Republicans are willing to give them what they want. We need school choice and funding that follows the student. Won’t happen because there are billions at stake from unions & lobbyists. Charter schools are the next best option I guess. Republican squishes are willing fail our kids and our state’s future. It’s so disheartening. I’ve emailed every Repub legislator in Juneau this weekend. But it takes hundreds of us to move the needle. Please – everyone – take the time to call and/or email them today!

    • It is clearly evident that these “elected representatives” of the people have either forgotten or are actively suppressing what their job is, to represent their constituents. I cannot remember a time when these folks had a town hall meeting in their areas to hear the desires of the communities they represent. Rather, they miraculously adopt the view that since they were elected, they decide these issues unilaterally as they know more of the details, after all, they were elected!! The problem will not improve unless these elected ones learn to respect those who they represent. Cheers-

  5. Look around on YouTube and you will find an 8th Grade exam from the one room school house in 1869 that most college graduates today could not pass. Imagine a one room school house with children of all ages and at minimal cost to the taxpayers where the children got a much better education than they do today. No gym, music auditorium, no track & field, no frills, no teacher pensions or high salaries. Education today is nothing more than left wing indoctrination and a jobs program for libtards. Shameful.

  6. Here, I correct one more time for MRAK, a dollar amount of zero ($0, USD0) means that the piggy bank is depleted. That’s means. CHECK YOUR FACT.

    • You make distinction without a difference.

      The author’s point still stands, “The chart shows that most all the listed school districts have adequate funding plus access to their piggy bank unreserved funds.”

  7. Juneau is in the hole because no one in their right mind would send their child to public school. The lone exception would be migrants who don’t know any better (but will soon find out).

  8. How about paying off their bond debt with that before asking for more! More! More!! Bond money?? They don’t need to keep paying interest while shoveling money out the door for salaries. Its like good old’ Princess Lisa with her tax money spending sprees that 118 mil!ion piggy bank for ASD would take care of all their deferred maintenance issues without committing future budget money for decades in advance

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