Deena Bishop reports how and why Alaska spends $2.7 billion on K-12 education



Commissioner Deena Bishop of the Department of Education and Early Development briefed the House Education Committee that Alaska will spend $2,696,944,300 on K-12 education in the current school year.  

This was an eye-opening and startling factual presentation, unlike the “Raise the BSA” chants from the education industry that echo through the Capitol.

The revenue comes from four sources: State of Alaska, local taxes, federal taxes, and district unreserved fund balances. A much smaller amount of $73 million comes from private grants.

Here is the department’s pie chart showing the various percentages and total dollars from each revenue source:

Remember to add 3 zeroes to all the above numbers because the chart shows dollars in thousands.

Besides the total spending on Alaska K-12, the federal taxpayers send $363,141,300 to Alaska. Because of this, the federal government has control over our K12 education system. It can influence policy by threatening to withhold funds.

The federal government provides funding through 23 grant programs. Here are the major grants:

  1. $68.8 million to Title 1, Part A for Title I, Part A for improving basic programs operated by local school districts
  2. $28.9 million for Title I, Part C Education of Migratory Children
  3. $458 thousand for Title 1, Improving Education for the Disadvantaged & Struggling Students
  4. $14.3 million for Title II, Part A, Preparing, Training and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, and Other School Leaders
  5. $2.1 Million for Title III, Part A Language Instruction for English Language Learners, and Immigrant Students
  6. $310 thousand for Migrant Literacy
  7. $5.9 million for Title IV, Part B 21st Century Community Learning Centers
  8. $15.1 million for Comprehensive Literacy State Development
  9. $27.6 million for school lunch programs

Many in the education industry complain that the Alaska Reads Act is not funded enough. But notice that the federal government provides $15.1 million (item 8) for improving literacy. The State kicks in another $3 million to implement the Alaska Reads Act.

Where does all this literacy funding go? Does it go to the classroom? Is it making a difference in teaching our kids how to read? Or is this literacy funding fungible so it can be used for almost anything?

The federal government also kicks in $68.8 million for Title 1 schools (lower income) for “improving basic programs” which should include teaching reading and math. Yet still our kids are not learning to read and do basic math. Here are the latest NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) and AKSTAR (Alaska System of Academic Readiness) statewide results:

The above percentages show that almost 3/4ths of our 4th grade students are not reading at grade level despite the more than $18 million specifically earmarked for literacy. Nearly 88% of our 8th grade students are not literate in basic math skills. The NAEP rankings compare Alaska students to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  

And there’s also the Covid-19 money the federal government has thrown at Alaska’s K-12 education system: An astounding $219,356,262.

What was the $219.3 million used for? Many school districts used this one-time Covid-19 money to pay salaries.

Let’s look at the State of Alaska funding for K-12 education. The State of Alaska spends more than $1.337 million on K12.  Here are the major funding sources:

  1. $70,840,000 for pupil transportation
  2. $4,127,100 for “Quality Schools”
  3. $87,443,000 for one-time funding from legislature
  4. $1,150,514,500 for the Base Student Allocation

The education industry wants to increase the pupil transportation by another $209 per student. Note that not all students are transported by school districts. For example, the Anchorage School District does not transport its own charter school students even though it gets state funding for that purpose. ASD only transports about 14,000 students, but it receives funding to transport all 43,000 students.

Finally, there are local revenues that jack up the K-12 spending.  Here are the sources of the local revenue:

  1. $530,070,400 from local city/borough appropriation (usually property taxes)
  2. $20,292,200 from in-kind services
  3. $95,493,000 from E-Rate funding (more on this below)
  4. $129,143,800 from more federal revenue

The E-Rate program is funded by all cell phone and landline customers. Look at your bill for the Universal Services Fund tax. The program is used by schools and libraries to fund broadband and other communications services.

The $95 million is a significant amount that most people are unaware they pay for, because it is a hidden tax on cell phones and landlines. It’s another tax by the federal government that sends your dollars to K-12 schools.

The “federal revenue” in item 4 is mostly federal impact funds that districts receive from the federal government for nontaxable federal property, such as JBER.

How much does all this funding equate to per student?

The projected number of students for this school year is 128,579 — statewide. But one must subtract the number of correspondence students out of the total funding because they only get 90% of the BSA — $5,364. There are 20,900 correspondence students. They cost $112,107,600.  

Subtracting the $112,107,600 from the $2,696,944,300, leaves $2,584,836,700 for the remaining 109,100 students.

Thus, the per student cost for Alaska is $23,692. If there are 25 students in a classroom, the total cost for that classroom is $592,300, surely more than enough to teach a child how to read.

The education industry wants to raise the BSA by a massive $1,413 which increases the K-12 funding by $362.9 million. That equates to 276,600 Permanent Fund dividends, valued at last year’s PFD amount. 

All the education industry members, local school districts, NEA (teachers union), Alaska Council of School Administrators, Alaska Association of School Boards, and the Coalition for Education Equity want to increase the BSA. 

But what they don’t want is accountability for the spending of the funds.

So, the education industry folks chant, “Raise the BSA” in hopes of getting more money from the Legislature.

Meanwhile, student achievement has “flat-lined” since 2002. Here are the NAEP 4th grade reading scores from 2003 through 2022:

More money will not improve student outcomes. It will grow the K-12 bureaucracy and incentivize spending even more during an election year.

To hear Commissioner Deena Bishop’s presentation click on this link.

To view the PowerPoint of Dr. Bishop, click on this link.

Do you believe the State should increase the K-12 funding or should school districts manage their budgets better?

You can add your 2 cents worth by sending your comments to the House Rules Committee ([email protected]) and specify SB 140.

David Boyle is the education writer for Must Read Alaska.


  1. All these funds belong to the youth of our state, to be managed for their education. Public education is a complete failure, as well as the fact each child is being targeted with various indoctrinations.
    Families are sovereign entities, and parents must be legally protected and provided with absolute choice to choose the best education choice for their children. Education vouchers, with no strings attached, to allow children to enroll in any school or combination of schools and online classes must be available, encouraged and published. These vouchers must be the full value of the average cost per student annually.
    At $23K a year per student, the accumulated numbers would allow for private education choices for rural Native students. End the union and special interest control of education now.

    • The actual cost per student is not $23K, that number is inflated. I want to know the true cost and then make vouchers available accordingly. That figure includes transportation, lunches, breakfasts, janitorial services in schools, etc. Not education costs.

      • Sally, this is the actual cost per student of operating the K12 system. One should not pick and choose what cost to include in operating the K12 system. If you operate a business, you would include all costs such as payroll, depreciation, taxes, capital costs, energy, janitorial, snow removal, interest on loans, etc. The number $23K per student is not inflated. Those are actual cost to operate the system. The students in a classroom which is maintained by janitorial services may have been transported, may eat a school-provided lunch, have a teacher that costs salary and benefits, etc. It is surely much cheaper to educate a single student in a private setting or home school setting than the institution of public education.

    • Brian, your comment is powerfully true and very clear. The education bureaucracy is a dysfunctional failure. The work product of the union teaching cabal is nothing short of child abuse. They are indoctrinating generations of new citizens who will be unable to support themselves. Crimes against humanity.

  2. Thanks, David. Once again you bring the truth to education dollars. Perhaps legislator pushing 300+ for BSA will read it instead of worrying about re-election.

  3. Wow! Well done! I appreciate you making this easy for the layman to understand! We could use a lot more transparency presented like this across government agencies!

  4. This info is the retort that will constantly be drowned out. Acidemia has the press and careless majority (why else would we have a school board makeup that we do in Anchorage) to thank for their overwhelming publicity in the face of reality. “It will get better …just add money” that mantra is lame yet swallowed hook line sinker!
    We are currently less than 2 months away from an election that again will produce 80 -90 % non-turnout of voters. Left leaners understand the results of local elections will eventually turn into the results of statewide elections (Mary Peltola) as communities become de-sensitized to the left policies.

  5. Just sent a letter to the Rules Committee, for all the good it will do. There is one very important solution and that is to elect NEW representatives, the ones that keep pouring our money into the bottomless pit that is the K-12 education system in Alaska are not representing us!

  6. High school graduation requires a passing of ninth grade reading proficiency. Our students do not know and are not taught accurate American governing documents. They cannot enunciate their rights to exercise them and claim therefore we have assembly meetings held each week where democrats routinely usurp one the state if Alaska’s constitutional rights and is a profound break down of our guaranteed republic in the state if Alaska and the bona fide Secret Service and the Commander in Chief should. R notified that our form of guaranteed republic has been broken in the 49th state we need assistance with recurrence of the earlier republic principles via the military.

  7. High school graduation requires a passing of ninth grade reading proficiency. Our students do not know and are not taught accurate American governing documents. They cannot enunciate their rights to exercise them and claim them therefore we have assembly meetings held each week where democrats routinely usurp one half the state of Alaska population’s constitutional rights and is a profound break down of our guaranteed republic form of government in the state of Alaska.. The bona fide Secret Service and the Commander in Chief should be properly notified that our form of guaranteed republic has been broken in the 49th state we need assistance with recurrence of the earlier republic principles via the military.

  8. All those millions wasted as our kids get stupider daily.

    The devil is deep, deep in the details. Deed enough Deena knows they will never be read.

  9. $29,210,000 from the feds for ‘migratory children’. What are, ‘migratory children?

    I’m puzzled as to how Alaska’s schools have fallen so far while $ thrown at them have increased so much? I attended public schools 6th grade through 12th back in the 1980’s and I do seem to remember being told, quite often, Alaska’s schools were ranked in the top 10% of the entire nation.

    I have children in public school right now. I like their teachers personally and have lightly tested the waters to ascertain their true opinion of the state of education here. They’re not happy. Among the causes of, ‘not happy’, are micromanagement by administration, ‘common core’ foolishness, excessive amounts of testing by the administration to, it appears, give themselves a bunch of data points to talk about.

    And, boy, do they ever talk about it. Watch some of the school board meetings, endless talk about the pretty graphs and pie charts and the alleged systemic racism, sexism, homophobia etc., et., etc, as explanations for why certain demographic groups are not keeping up.

    In reality, a significant factor is the inability of teachers to hold students back if they fail to master the material. Another significant factor; the feds are throwing stuff at elementary age kids that I didn’t see until high school.

    Want to save money? Start with the office of Diversity and Compliance. That office and its entire compliment of staff should not exist. Shut that useless, race baiting box of troublemakers down and send them packing followed closely by everyone involved with “S.E.L.”, social, emotional learning.

    Probably save 3/4 of a million right there.

    Next, the alleged ‘councilors’ who, I am informed by my children, mostly tell them not to do drugs and be nice to others. If that’s the worst these ‘councilors’ are up to, we are fortunate. Bye bye to them, too. There’s another couple of hundred thousand saved.

    Students should be allowed to repeat grades, especially in elementary school where the basics of everything are learned. The kid might not be up to mastering the material this year but give them a year to mature mentally, and in most cases they’ll be fine.

    Let your teachers teach and the material taught be appropriate, not set by distant masters in faraway lands who haven’t taught a class in their lives yet fancy themselves experts ’cause they went to Harvard or Yale.

    • Ken the only thing going to straighten this mess out is a revolution I’m beginning to think. I used to think that stupid was 1/8 of the population but as of lately I’m thinking it’s more like 3/4 of the population. Americans are fat ,dumb and lazy generally an embarrassment to the senses. In 60 years of communism Cuba went from a thriving metropolis to starving Ruins. I figure we are 20 years into this downhill slide.

      • It does seem to be the case that about 3/4 of the people are too easily led and misled by ‘authority’ while the remaining 1/4 are just about ungovernable even when ‘authority’ is in the right… a very, very, very rare occasion.

        In my opinion, parents and the public school systems should be endeavoring to create more of the ungovernable types and less of the sheeple types.

  10. I knew the ASD spending the “COVID” money to hire new additional teachers above their already hefty school budget, would result in them wanting more money for the shortfall in their budget after the “COVID” money was spent. Fast forward to today headline: “Anchorage School District proposes budget with program cuts, bigger classes and nearly 100 fewer staff positions”.

    What? As of December 2023 per the ASD’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR): it has $118,892,417 as an unreserved balance in its general fund (not counting any money from unused voter bond authorization remaining). The general fund funds day-to-day operations of the district. These numbers can be seen on page 268, Table AD GENERAL FUND UNRESERVED FUND BALANCE of the ACFR. So there is a SURPLUS not a SHORTFALL in funds the ASD has at its disposal? what a shock.

  11. I was told my son needed remedial this and that. I bought privately the enriched material offered to “others” and he did that for hours each night and weekends for the rest of the year. The next year also. Every year every class I new assignments, testing schedules, times when library research was required. I was careful about bad associates. He was never down with any of it. But he made it through successfully. I could not have done this for him if I was a drunk, degenerate, or chasing other men. I was not particularly welcomed by his instructors. They heard from me anyway. I attended school events. I attended school board meetings. They ere very group think. Awful to work “with”. But, they returned phone calls. School administrators returned phone calls. They didn’/ think it wS strange or impossible that a parent might want to preview teaching materials for the gifted curriculum. I ordered the materials from private booksellers along with notebooks not provided by ASD. I met with struggling instructors who decided teaching was not for them and they made new career choices after dealing with such an involved parent and the classroom refreshed with a new and wonderful instructor and the children rejoiced and made progress. That was being an American parent. I had no idea the materials owned by the Rothchild family have very little substantial international law materials for fourth graders who are made by God to be able to learn this so as to challenging institutions captured by democrats who live to travel to international think tanks to learn to disrespect and dismantle our republic. WE Do not have a democracy. Our form of government creating our personal liberties, security liberty interests and all others are supported by a republic of three branches only. In order: legislative, executive (Mayor and Governor are “the executive” not an assembly never “becomes” the executive, never) and judicial (jot and tittlers). That order is never reversed. Etc.

  12. MA: Noses and ears grow throughout one’s entire life at present. In the future this may be rerigged. We are changing on a cellular level right now. If, for instance, one quits smoking today one’s lung cells would be completely rejuvenated within seven years. So that is nice. Your concern for one is duly noted per se, etc.

  13. Way to go. Another example of how one can spin information to their own delight. If you really want to know where the money is going, how much there is, and how much accountability is all ready associated with that money, look deeply into individual school district finances.
    All school districts are required to be fully transparent with their finances, and are stringently monitored and audited annually.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.