Does it add up? Senate majority wants to add $1,000 to current base student allocation, no accountability


The Alaska Senate Majority, which took a preliminary stance against issuing a full Permanent Fund dividend to Alaskans this year, is proposing the addition of $1,000 to the current base student allocation for schools. That baseline funding would bring the state’s share to about $6,960 per student. It would cost the state at least $257 million.

Senate Bill 52 is a 20% increase to the current basic formula for schools. The Alaska Association of School Boards asked for an increase of $860, but that organization and other education industry representatives are more than willing to accept a larger amount.

The extra funds would come from the Permanent Fund dividend, said Sen. Bert Stedman, who co-chairs the Senate Finance Committee.

“If we had a $1,300 dividend, we could pay for the education increase. We could pay for the deficit and we could pay off all the municipal debt for the entire state for municipalities dealing with the Alaska Bond Bank, about $900 million, with this year’s cash flow. That’s the magnitude of what we have to give and take when we decide what we’re actually going to fund,” Stedman said last week, explaining that it is a choice between greater funding of education and a bigger dividend.

Stedman then said, “We’re going to have to make a choice. Do we want to teach our kids to cash checks? Or do we want to teach them to read and write and do arithmetic?”

Critics of funding increases say there is little accountability in schools, which have turned away from the basics of reading, writing, and mathematics, in favor of gender studies and critical race theory. Students in Alaska have performed at the bottom of the nation for the past few years. Reading scores among Alaska students are a year behind the national average and more than two years behind Florida. Just 28% of fourth graders in Alaska can understand mathematics at grade level, and just 24% were reading at grade level last year.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s 2024 budget has education funding remaining static. But the Alaska Policy Forum has pointed out that per-student funding has grown 32% in the past 20 years, now providing $20,000 per student, which includes federal, state, and local funding. It’s greater than the national average by 23%.

“In Alaska, total revenue grew 32% per pupil, from $15,000 to $20,000 [between 2002 and 2020]. Sixteen states and D.C. increased their education revenues by 30% or more between 2002 and 2020 after adjusting for inflation. State revenues contributed the most to Alaska’s increase, growing 50% between 2002 and 2020 ($8,000 to $13,000 per pupil). Federal revenue grew only 7% ($2,700 to $2,900 per pupil), while local revenue grew 12% ($3,900 to $4,300 per pupil). In 2002, revenues from the State of Alaska comprised 56% of revenues per pupil, while in 2020, the state contributed 63% of revenues per pupil,” AFP wrote in December.

Conservative Ketchikan Mayor Rodney Dial testified to the Senate Education Committee in favor of increasing the base student allocation. He cited a shortfall of $3 million in the upcoming Ketchikan school budget, with 50 or more employees set to be cut in the next budget cycle. The funding for the organized area of Alaska, such as Ketchikan, Dial said, are not getting the same amounts as the unorganized boroughs in the state. Dial asked that organized boroughs be treated equitably with unorganized boroughs, which contribute nothing to their children’s education because they have no local property or sales taxes.


  1. Conservative Ketchikan Mayor Rodney Dial is right in the fact that unorganized areas of Alaska don’t contribute other then through individual federal income taxes which should be proportioned equally but is not isn’t it! Let’s start telling the full truth on the issue of funding. Maybe those areas should pay a ” school tax ” to make up that deficit in those areas… what say you MuskOx Coalition ?
    It’s not right that all of Alaskans should give up their PFD’s for the freeloaders! If Ketchikan can’t budget properly than it’s once again their problem , ” Local Tax ” some more until you squeeze every penny out of your residents or shed the burden Mayor & stop the whining , that’s what conservatives do!. The end result is still a failed system that most academic leaders can’t seem to fix isn’t that ironic ! This is an education at it’s worse!

      • Lots!!! Mayor, a good man, failed to reflect that a part of the deficit is due to the school district staff,leadership, or the board, allowed the medical insurance cost go unpaid in full, from 2018 to this year resulting in $ 7,000,000.00 deficit which has the potential of laying off the larger number of the suggested or projected employee reduction,
        Over the years with declining student count, the administration has added assist Superintendent, each building now houses an assistant principal, plus other added staff, Just saying, we are in a fiscal situation, most of local making.

    • True. The only writing that senator Scott Kawasaki knows how to do is to sign birthday cards to his senior citizen constituents. That’s how he gets elected. Otherwise, he’s just another idiot politician, who spoke out for the full PFD in his campaign ads. He “gets it” alright.

    • Daryl, yes we pay for Ignorance. What was it that Goethe said? Something about there being nothing as scary as Ignorance in action? Ignorance can denote a wilful rejection of truth, I think the current management of public ED has done exactly that.

  2. It would be nice for the kids PFD applications to ask which school they attend and distribute accordingly would be nice. Wishful thinking…

  3. My wife is currently down there and is on our school board, some of them asked her would they be willing to give up their divided for education. She gave a resounding “NO”. You got half of it and still need more??? As wellas the rural areas are loosing our kids, take away that an there will be no students. Think people you let Walker have half and we’re still in the hole. Give them the rest, THEN comes a tax. My wife and I are both born and raised here, 60yrs and neither of us want this. We ensured our kids did their school and enrolled them in college courses their senior year. All are paying their own way in college and trade school. We don’t need the Berkowitz’ of Juneau to make our decision.

  4. Same Left-wing arguments. Education. Education. Education. And there are plenty of abject idiots in the Legislature, especially in Senate Finance who don’t have much education. They know who they are. The money plea for education, at the expense of a full, statutory PFD is an argument as old as the hills. The teacher’s unions are at it again, waiting to get their big piece of the action for their work in campaigning for lefty candidates.
    Old news!
    Governor Dunleavy:
    A full, statutory PFD, retroactive to Bill Walker’s theft. Individual families will use the PFDs to educate their kids to read, write, and do math, even if it means purchasing text books and home schooling. Indoctrination camps at K-12 should be emptied of their contents.
    If the legislature wants a fight against parents, let the battles begin.

  5. Regarding the bumper sticker they are holding. Alaska has the worst of both worlds. Expensive ignorance.

    Our per student rate is insane compared to the test scores and quality of “education” kids get.

    To address Steadman’s idiotic hyperbole. Alaska education is writing educational checks kids can’t cash.

    Based on language test scores, many can’t write well enough to fill out a check correctly. Based on the math scores, most won’t be able to understand how to balance a checkbook.

    When are kids are doing, say 23% better than the national average, then ask for more cash.

    And, of course, Steadman wants to provide overpriced poor quality education with our PFD.

  6. Let’s propose that the legislature gives up their paychecks first. No pay for any politicians remember it’s for the kids. You so called state legislature’s need to take the lead and give up all your pay and your staff. This is just steeling like they have been doing.

    • Let’s purpose, the legislature surrenders their salaries and per diem until Alaska’s Education test results in the top 10 in the nation. They have a problem which they feel more money will continue to hide. Seems the elected officials forget they in reality are public servants, nothing more.

  7. Throwing “good money” at “bad results” seems counter productive and a complete waste of limited resources. As such, its current form, the entire education system in AK is devoid of exceptional standards – quality, is expensive beyond reason, and is continuing on a downward trajectory. A better solution is to allow the Parents to control the allocation dollars as applied to their own children, specifically allowing them spend the resources at public or private schools and/or charter schools; whichever one the parent believes they get the best results for their children.

  8. Some of the highest cost per Student. Some of the lowest Student Scores in the Nation. Year after Year. Now that’s Ignorance. If the Department of Education can’t come up with new Ideas for effective education, then they don’t need more money. That plan has been tried, and Failed. Education Class 101. If you don’t work, you don’t EAT.

  9. The test scores have proven that ignorance is expensive. But hey, let’s throw “mo’ money” at it to keep the teacher’s union happy.
    Hey Stedman, how’s that driveway coming along?

  10. Money does not equal education. “I’m sorry, we can’t teach your kid for $20,000. Give us your PFD and we’ll see what we can do, no promises though.”

  11. Did any of you keyboard rangers call in during public testimony? I heard Chris. Spoke about how the inflation equation used to justify the increased BSA are the same inflationary factors that families and others face across Alaska. He added that it was time for education to escape the 20th century model and adopt a free market voucher system.

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