David Boyle: Anchorage School District looks to the Legislature to backfill its budget hole

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By DAVID BOYLE

The Anchorage School District has issued a proforma budget for its fiscal year 2025 (school year 2024-2025) to get out of its self-inflicted financial mess.

The proforma budget is for planning purposes, makes assumptions, and serves as a starting point for expected revenues and expenses while providing the same level of services.

The school district’s revenue is based primarily on the number of students counted during a three-week period in October. 

Here is a chart showing the decrease in the number of students in ASD over the past decade:

The trend line is not positive for the school district, with more than a 13% drop in enrollment — and it projects to lose even more students by 2027.

The student count is not yet available on the State’s website even though all districts were required to provide that data to the Department of Education & Early Development by Nov. 10. 

But the preliminary data for the current school year shows the Anchorage School District lost about 1,279 students—582 regular students and 697 correspondence students, year over year.

Of these correspondence students, approximately 600 were from the Family Partnership Charter School. Parents removed their children from that charter school when the district decided to remove its charter and turn it into a correspondence school.

The Anchorage School District also gained an additional 45 intensive needs students—providing an added $77,480 for each of the students to the district for a total of $3,486,600.  

In its proforma budget, the district projects losing an additional 129 students in the next school year, 2024-2025.

Each student has a dollar figure associated with his or her enrollment.  Some dollars are smaller, some are larger.  An intensive needs student has the largest funding — at 13 times the regular student.  A correspondence student is the smallest of all, at 90% of a regular student.

And the actual number of students is multiplied as it goes through something called the Foundation Funding Formula.

Here is a link to how the actual number of 43,978 Anchorage students grows to an astounding 73,124 students:

The school district’s solution to a declining student population is to increase the per student revenue. The district proposes to tell the Legislature to increase the Base Student Allocation by a whopping $1,413 per student.  It further wants the Legislature to increase transportation revenue by $209 per student. 

It seems the district is unable to think about how to live within its budget with fewer students.

That won’t stop the school board from moving ahead on its “we need more money” solution.  

The school board has formalized its effort to get more money in a resolution it will ask the Anchorage Assembly to sign off on.

Here is a table provided by the district that shows the current year’s revenue and proforma revenue for fiscal year 2025 (next school year).  It’s a bit complicated but focus on the blue highlighted entries.  The ADM (Line 2) is Average Daily Attendance which is the student count:

Line 23 (second slide) shows a decrease of $8,201,773 in state funding due to the lower enrollment numbers.

The bottom line: The school district gets less state money because it has fewer students.   

There are two major ways to fill a budget hole.  One is to decrease the current expenses and the other is to increase revenue by asking the Legislature for more money for fewer students.

According to the district, the 2024-2025 budget hole is $98 million.

The district stated it could use its vast amount of unreserved funds, the ASD piggy bank for “rainy days.”  If the unreserved funds were reduced to the state required minimum of 5%, the district would free up nearly $71 million to fill the budget hole. That would certainly be a step in the right direction.  

There was the normal pandering by board members talking about school sports activities and decreasing them to save money. This is always a popular tactic to get the parents out in droves to demand more money from the Legislature.  

The district could save at least $30 million by not building a new Inlet View Elementary School.  Already once disapproved by the voters, the school board plans to hit voters up again in the next election to approve the rebuild.   

The school board hopes to persuade voters to vote for this rebuild by tying the rebuild to vital security upgrades at several schools.

It is unfortunate that the board has jeopardized student safety with a wasteful rebuild of Inlet View Elementary School.

The district could also reduce its expenses by eliminating the Mental Health Office.  The district has 18 Full Time Equivalent positions (personnel) in the new mental health area.

The district caused serious mental health problems for students by its mandated masking, social distancing, and school closures.  So, now the district that caused students’ mental health issues wants to solve the problem it caused.

This is not a function of a K-12 public school system. By deleting this function, the district would save $3,625,335, as shown in this chart from the ASD 2023-2024 budget book, which is no longer available on the district web page:

Another function that should be done away with is the Office of Equity and Compliance. Deleting this office would save $571,306 for the district. Here is a chart from the ASD 2023-24 budget book showing the cost of this function:

This is just a quick look at some of the areas where the district can trim down its budget without impacting the classroom.

Surely, there are more seat cushions to look under for unnecessary money to include the consolidation and closing of several elementary schools. 

We elect school board members to lead and make the hard decisions even if they are not popular.

Alaskans are tightening their belts and managing the inflation effects on the basics of energy, housing, and food.  

Thanks to the Legislature, Alaskans have also contributed a majority of their statutory Permanent Fund dividends to fund the State.

It’s past time for board members to lead and ensure all our kids get the best education possible by focusing on the core mission of K-12 education. 

As Thomas Paine said, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

David Boyle is an education writer for Must Read Alaska.

25 COMMENTS

    • The ASD is run by leftists.
      They have no problem spending other people’s money. They have it, because the Assembly will always give it to them. (By first taking it from you.)

  1. ASD has always found some ‘missing’ money; keep looking. In the meantime with a 13% drop in enrollment, roll up your sleeves and figure a way to reduce your spend.

    • The audit is a great idea! Mis-management is the biggest problem Anchorage has, just like other school districts in the state. The school board needs to be disbanded. The school administrators are perfectly capable of running the schools, budgeting and living within their means. All the money spent on travel is NOT a necessary part of education, but very fun for the school board. That’s just one example.

    • Yes and they need to get out of the medical business and grooming business and all non teaching departments.

  2. Banks are regularly audited. ASD has been over budget for years. They are begging for money on the ballots like street panhandlers. FOLLOW THE MONEY PEOPLE!!!

  3. The Juneau School District is at least as bad. The BSA rewards schools for keeping open unneeded buildings, and as a result Juneau has one too many high schools and at least one too many elementary schools. Juneau has spent $2 million over its budget, violating the law.

    A large, local scholarship nonprofit told me that in evaluating scholarship applications from graduating seniors every student applying had a 4.0 for 4 years yet had obtained very mediocre grades on the national standardized tests.

    When a special needs student throws a tantrum, banging his head, feet and fists against the floor, it disrupts the class for 15 minutes or more. Every one of these students has a full-time attendant, and a few have two attendants. Many of these students will never be able to even recognize their own name in print. All students are promoted to the next higher grade regardless of ability or scholastic performance.

    I think that the BSA needs to be reduced each year until the NEA, school boards and school administrators understand that they are failing students and even the Alaska economy. The notion that greater appropriations by the legislature will somehow fix this is very stupid.

    • JDHS needs to be closed, renovated, and sold as waterfront condos.

      I’m not sure about closing any elementary schools-yet.

  4. As a Taxpayer, I feel there is absolutely “no” value ASD provides.
    Day in and day out, I’m confident us Taxpayers are getting fleeced.
    Constantly, providing non-sensical excuses for additional funds.
    Constantly, underperforming and producing dumber kids.
    Sooner, hopefully not later, meaningful change will take hold.

  5. While declining Alaskan birth rates only contributes to further decline enrollments. Pro choice citizens can’t have their cake and eat if too. That is you can’t be pro-choice expecting it not negatively impact other areas of society like daycare and education jobs or pediatric jobs or youth sports or stores and products for children even not affecting finding someone for marriage like China is facing the crisis too many adult men and not enough females. Society needs children. We don’t have children and their absence makes unbalance.

    Facing reality ASD and the voters need to encourage the board to cut its budget and close schools repurposing the teachers and staff in existing schools.

  6. It’s odd that this article, which purports to provide detailed information about the BSA, fails to mention or address the fact that the state has not increased the BSA in over 6 years, despite significant inflation in the past few years. Inflation causes the costs of providing an education to each student to go up, which is why the BSA needs to be raised. Raising the BSA to address inflation is something that every school district in the State wants. So why does this article only mention the Anchorage School District. It’s too bad this article failed to even address inflation as the reason for raising the BSA, since that is the reason cited by those seeking to raise it.

    • John- Good question. Enrollment is declining and ASD doesn’t want to show this, so they beg for more money rather than curb their special projects. Inflation is a factor for everyone but not every business or individual can ask for more from taxpayers to cover their expensive ways of living. They need to be responsible like the rest of us. Look at it this way, if you had kids and they got PFDs, when they leave home why don’t you get to keep getting their PFDs? Shouldn’t you get more PFDs every year? Thats what ASD is asking for.

    • John, the article points out that the ASD has a huge bucket of money which it can use to offset its self-inflicted budget hole. A previous article noted that the ASD has about an unreserved fund balance of 21% ( https://mustreadalaska.com/how-deep-is-hole-in-anchorage-school-districts-budget-a-look-in-the-seat-cushions/). This is more than enough to fill its so-called budget hole. This is much more than the higher expenses caused by inflation. Actually, the ASD decisions also lead to inflation: higher property taxes, less disposable income for citizens, increasing health care costs for non-ASD employees who must compete for the limited health care. Raising the BSA would also lead to inflation for those non-public school employees. Finally, there is no correlation between raising the BSA and raising student achievement, which is what we all want.

  7. ASD is the largest indoctrination institute in the state. (next to UAA) The other Districts do far better managing their money. Yes, they all would like a raise in the BSA, but they do the best within their means to provide a good education. Look at Matsu, they have far less facilities staff than ASD but cover 5 times the area. They do have to many assistant principals I feel but have a fairly decent approach to teaching the kids. Look at Fairbanks, they deal with constant flux in student population and reduce schools to accommodate the needs of the community. ASD needs to be torn apart and audited and then you will see the waste of spending and poor operation of the “woke” center.

  8. If the ASD was really, actually, and totally interested in education, instead of empire building, they would find plenty of places to cut the waste, and find a way to live within budget.
    Exactly how many “vice principals” does a school need anyway? How many guidance counselors, and social workers does one need?
    Can anyone explain to me why class size needs to be reduced for lectures? Is there any reason why a history lesson could not be provided to a hundred students just as well as to a dozen? And, “immersive” language programs? Get rid of them. If you want your child to be fluent in a different language, pay for Babbel and practice at home, do not stick the taxpayers with the bill.
    .
    Oh… and perhaps the ASD should stop paying for radio and TV advertising? Is there any reason why the ASD sponsored a fishing derby last year? That costs money that they (apparently) do not have.
    .
    Millions of dollars are being spent on items that have NOTHING to do with educating students.

  9. Alaska school districts as a whole are failing to teach kids adequately when compared to the rest of the United States Schools. U.S. News: AK #49 out of 50. Wallethub: #47 out of 50. Report Card on American Eductation: #47 out of 50.

    AK Policy Forum (1/23/2023): The Heritage Foundation recently released its inaugural Education Freedom Report Card for the U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Alaska ranked
    – 45th overall and is
    – in the bottom ten states for having few education choice options. 48th for education choice, its lowest category, because Alaska doesn’t have education savings accounts, and the laws are poorly designed for what limited school choice options exist through public school districts, such as charter schools.

    Education Data Initiative (9/8/2023): Alaska K-12 schools spend the most in terms of a percentage of taxpayer income. Public Educational Spending From Highest to Lowest Total Average Spent Per Pupil-Alaska is #6 out of 50 at $21,325 per pupil.

    Obviously, we need just need more and more money for the “kids” from the State to turn this train wreck of educational failure around.

  10. If the the BSA is adjusted for inflation and inflation goes down, will the BSA be adjusted accordingly? Not on your life. It will never come down. A complete audit of the ASD is a good place to start, but will never get past the current ASSembly. Vote with your wallet and vote with your feet, get out of Anchorage while you can or get off your duff and vote. It’s that simple.

  11. Cut admin to match the admin budget last time we had 42,295 students.

    Also, we don’t need to rebuild Inlet View.

  12. They will again threaten to cut desirable programs of little cost which are largely funded by the parents anyway in order to extort even more money and support for their failing business. And spend a tremendous amount of money on expensive advertising campaigns to sway the voters with jaded propaganda and numbers. And the money spent on unnecessary administration and non educational purposes would be interesting to see if it was ever disclosed to the public. I really don’t think that the public has any idea of the waste involved and would be shocked at the truth. It would be easier to swallow if they didn’t rank so poorly at their real purpose. The public doesn’t have the free advertising money to oppose this endless cycle.

  13. Thanks for the great article, David.
    .
    Two more things affect the calculus and affirm the perception that the ASD organization is little more than a morally corrupt, virtually untouchable criminal enterprise.
    .
    Untouchable? Makes one wonder, after reading “mustreadalaska.com/grand-juries-a-constitutional-safeguard-against-public-corruption/”
    .
    Recall “mustreadalaska.com/anchorage-school-district-bails-out-teamster-pension-plan/” and
    “mustreadalaska.com/anchorage-school-board-votes-for-construction-monopoly-by-labor-unions/”:
    .
    If asked politely, Governor Dunleavy might withold Anchorage School District’s portion of state funding until:
    .
    (a) it’s determined whether Anchorage School Board exceeded its statutory authority by acting as a pass-through enterprise for laundering taxpayers’ and/or federal money into union pension funds and,
    .
    (b) a forensic audit verifies ASD contracts are not inflated to ensure they surpass the Magic Million mark, so only union-controlled contractors can bid on them.
    .
    Frustratingly, Anchorage voters may have no recourse because their easily corruptible election system is run by the same folks who potentially benefit from keeping staus quo intact.
    .
    Best guess is Anchorage School District officials will get what they want, and more, because no legislator in his right mind refuses a polite request from a powerful union-management team, especially one who controls legislators’ job security.
    .
    Again, a bit louder this time (!), we ask Eaglexit sponsors, what’s the plan for assuring the rot that is Anchorage School District never gains a foothold in the new borough?

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