Education bill passes House with $175 million in perpetual increased funding for school districts

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After days of caucusing and partisan bickering, the Alaska House of Representatives passed a major committee substitute for Senate Bill 140, as an omnibus education package that includes a hike to the base student allocation (BSA) that adds $175 million to school districts in the fiscal years going forward. The bill has money for the Reads Act, student transportation, and support for correspondence and charter schools, and grants for rural school internet.

Rules Chair Rep. Craig Johnson reminded legislators that in the Legislature no one ever gets everything he or she wants. That became the theme of the night, with many legislators standing to agree that the bill isn’t perfect, but it allows schools to plan for next year.

“The best thing we did we today for student retention is to give them [schools] some certainty,” Johnson said, adding that he hopes he does not regret his vote in favor of the bill and that schools spend the money wisely.

The base student allocation, as the bill now stands, will increase by $680 per student, the first increase to the permanent formula in many years. This means in future years, the cost will be added into school funding’s baseline formula. The Democrat minority had sought amounts of up to $1,400.

The final compromise was not as comprehensive as the Republican-led House Majority had initially hoped; however, caucus members consider the final product a “path forward that has the possibility of surviving a conference committee with Senate colleagues,” the majority wrote in a statement.

“Major wins for the House Majority include additional support for Alaska families who choose correspondence programs by improving parity with brick-and-mortar schools; support and protections for Alaska’s charter schools; increased funding for pupil transportation and additional support for ongoing implementation of the READS act designed to ensure all Alaska students are reading proficient by the 3rd grade,” the majority said.

“The House has been having some difficult but necessary conversations during the last few days. As we said at the beginning of session, education was going to be one of our top priorities and we delivered on that promise. While the final bill fell short of what we’d proposed earlier, I’d still call it a ‘qualified’ success. Given what was at stake, failure was not an option,” said House Speaker Cathy Tilton.

Rep. Tom McKay of Anchorage expressed hope that the ability to work together to pass education funding would bode well for working together on other priorities, such as the need to ensure lower-cost energy in the future.

“This BSA increase will otherwise be consumed by energy costs,” he said.

Rep. Frank Tomaszewski of Fairbanks said that support for the schools at Eielson Air Force Base outside of Fairbanks is a state duty and he was happy the two sides of the political aisle could work together to meet that commitment, since school closures are pending in Fairbanks.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham reminded colleagues that the underlying purpose of the bill was for internet in rural schools, but the House has done something historic, which is to not wait until the final days of session to resolve education funding. And this would be a major help to school districts, he said.

The bill contains the $40 million in Broadband Access Grant funds for better internet access and speeds for schools in rural Alaska.  The BAG provision was time-sensitive because those monies must be appropriated by Feb. 27. 

“Twenty-four hours ago I was doubtful we could get where we are tonight and I hope it sets the tone to get the budget out … on time,” Edgmon said. Edgmon represents districts that will benefit from the BAG grants.

Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok said he was frustrated that the education lobby had used children as pawns to get votes, and admonished them to not do that in the future.

Others described the past few days as a “tough” and “ugly” process, and said the final bill was a compromise and it was good that lawmakers persevered. The mood was hopeful that the progress would mean the razor-thin majority and minority would be able to continue to work on other major issues.

The bill will return back to the Senate, where it may be changed and will be hammered out in a conference committee between the two bodies.

57 COMMENTS

  1. If it passes the Senate unchanged, there goes $175,000,000-every single year (forever) that could have paid for part of the permanent fund dividend. But, remember it’s for the children (minus 80% school district’s administrative overhead costs) without any requirement that this additional money is actually going raise students’ achievement scores.

    The bill [also] contains the $40 million in Broadband Access Grant funds for better internet access and speeds for schools in rural Alaska. Hopefully, the bill is not so restrictive that villages can access “broadband internet” via satellite (STARLINK) to achieve the 100 megabits per second download speed instead of GCI.

  2. What a total waste of our hard earned money, and you fools continue to “throw money at a bad solution”.
    You legislative simpletons are so bought off by the teachers unions and whoever is pulling the soros puppet strings this week, dont any of you see the fools you have become giving in to stupid ideas?
    Stop funding stupidity, stop wasting my hard earned money.
    Our children will only be more indiotrinated, not more educated with this money.
    Definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result….. how about stop any additional funding of all education, especially as it pertains to our public schools, which WE THE PEOPLE FUND!
    Get real, enrollment is down at our public schools as no one wants to send their kids to QUEER INDOCTRINATION, we want our schools back, amd we are not sending our kids to your indoctrination “schools”, so legislative “MEMBERS” and your UNDERMINING STAFF, KNOCK IT OFF ALREADY!
    The answer to more money for schools is H3LL NO!

        • Thank you Robert, idiots that do not know how the “system” works…..
          .
          I was in state and local government here in Alaska for over 18 years, it IS MY HARD EARNED DOLLARS FUNDING INDOCTRINATION, not education.

      • B, what an ignorant statement. Just because Alaska does not have a state income tax, does not mean Alaskans pay “literally nothing” as you so eloquently put it. Alaskans pay federal taxes, which return to the state in proportional allocations. There is the PFD which belongs to each Alaskan and their share is being taxed every year, some years over 50%. There are gas taxes, user fees, lease fees, alcohol tax, royalties, license fees for businesses or professionals, business tax……. On top of that many incorporated areas have a large chunk of their property taxes allocated for schools.

        So I am with Molly, feeding the educational industry beast without ANY accountability and improved results has to stop.

        • You want to help fix the problem?

          Only have school from November to march. ( so they can have time to hunt, garden, get real life jobs and learn in the school of knocks hands on. Summer vacation should be changed to – summer work season with a requirement for time spent doing hands on learning to graduate. Then have a 4 day school week. Which allows teachers time to prepare their lessons and still have a life and allows students to have a life while going to school- 2 days off is to little . Cant do squat in two days. Also That’s about 1/2 the time = cost savings.
          Then cut the class size to 12 max preferably 6. So the costs equal out.
          Classes Always with a teachers aid .
          So its 3-6 kids per adult.
          This will cost a similar amount to current.
          If teachers want a longer work year to earn more bucks then make it optional which 5 months students want to go to school.
          Start sorting out teachers who have successfully developed all their students into top grades and graduates.
          Truly the focus must become quality education time instead of quantity.
          Quality time with cash incentives for teachers who create great educated students.
          Then allow parents to receive vouchers to give to schools of their choice or to parents (for homeschooling) so a parent can afford to stay home and make certain the kids learn.

          This bs of throwing good money after bad for a declining education is plain stupid.

          It’s either this or just up and double or triple teacher salaries so driven and intelligent people become teachers.
          So there becomes a larger pool of people to choose from.

        • “Alaskans pay federal taxes, which return to the state in proportional allocations.” Not even close, A Taxpayer. Alaskans receive way more in federal dollars than we pay in federal taxes. Alaska is the biggest welfare leach in the nation. Go thank a rich Californian or New Yorker for sending billions of tax dollars to Alaska and making it almost viable (I say “almost” because the ugly secret that everyone knows it that AK has no functional economy without federal spending). The minute Alaska receives “proportional allocations” in federal tax receipts is the minute this state collapses.

          • Yup to an extent I agree with you Jim. I was trying to make a point to B erikson that Alaskans DO pay taxes and contribute their hard earned money. It should be pointed out that we are still waiting for the receipt of all the lands the Feds “hold in trust” since statehood. If we had the will we could support ourselves with resource extraction etc. I still maintain that we spend way to much on education for the pathetic outcomes we see. As a state with a small population our legislature is out of control, spending any dime twice before it even hits the bank.

          • “Go thank a rich Californian or New Yorker for sending billions of tax dollars to Alaska” or the guy running the printing press in the basement at Treasury, the printing press nicknamed “Democracy”.

          • You are incorrect. The federal money coming to Alaska is, for the most part, in military spending. Additionally, it does NOT come from ANY other state. It is largely printed money that is printed to support the HUGE federal deficits every year, which has driven the debt to $34 trillion. This has resulted in every dollar of hard working people to be reduced in value by 32% in the last decade. Attempts to intimate that the government largesse is still coming from other states is crap. It is manufactured money out of thin air and is on the verge of destroying our moentary system.

      • B
        I pay taxes so it’s my money.
        It sure doesn’t belong to the spend it all politicians.
        Why don’t you give more of your money to the politicians and support your cause?

  3. The Anchorage schools can’t graduate 50% of the students. What a waste of money. The teachers unions promote mediocrity and protect incompetence in all the “teachers” they infect. Shameless politicians. But that’s rhetorical.

    • With only one exception, Dave Donley, we have a school board full of commies. The best answer is vote them out, ESPECIALLY MARGO BELLAMY so that our children and grandchildren have a chance in the future.
      VOTE EM OUT:
      Carl Jacobs, Andy Holleman, Dora Wilson, Margo Bellamy (head of the snake), Kelly Lessens, Pat Higgins
      .
      SUPPORT THE ONLY SANE VOICE ON OUR SCHOOL BOARD:
      Dave Donley

  4. I PRAY Alaska’s 3rd grade students can read at grade-level out of this, and look forward to adults with better than 3rd grade reading skills in the future. Also, THANKFULLY maybe a huge percentage of our future work force and leaders will be educated in Charter Schools and other alternatives in significant numbers.
    I PRAY for OUTCOME-BASED improvements in students knowledge, skills and abilities to maintain a job and career. Throwing more money at the high-cost/low-result Alaska Education system and hoping for change is not a strategy, just “first-aid”. Something legitimate maybe(?) from a simple bill to increase internet speeds for brain development across the State? Get your kids out of the indoctrination system and into real brain development this opportunity can allow for each individual!

  5. “Rep. Mike Cronk of Tok said he was frustrated that the education lobby had used children as pawns to get votes, and admonished them to not do that in the future.”
    The “education” lobby is misnomered, and using children as pawns is what they do. The education administrators, the unions, service contractors and union teachers have zero interest or ability to create and maintain an education system. In fact eroding nuclear families, developing a collective “norm” baseline that children belong to the state and dumbing down the public over time is the goal. We are multiple generations down this path to structure society wherein the majority are exploited for the benefit of a few. An educated public that retains the power of representative self government is dangerous to the hybrid socialist/fascist state that we have become since what was the revolutionary and reactionary concept that US was created with.

  6. As expected. The GOP are functionally unable to present a unified front with a united vision.

    The left, dysfunctional as they are, don’t get easily distracted by shiny things and keep their eyes on the prize.

    Only a blue state like Alaska pumps this kind of money into a failed education system.

  7. Let the Party-goers have their fun today. Every Party has an end. .
    Just like the Roaring twenties party ended the country’s parties, delayed, and halted people dreams on Oct 29, 1928 because of our nation’s folly and foolishness.

      • The Great Depression was, in fact caused by the gambling of other people’s money in the Stock Market by banks. The economy from 1922-1928 was a steady growth period of never before seen consumer spending. Additionally, as with all economic failures, the meddling of the federal government in the economy also exacerbated the collapse. The economic downturn that occurred in 2008 also occurred due to the passage of the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, which was the DIRECT cause of the 2008 collapse.

  8. Make funding contingent upon (non-threshold lowering) standards. We began to find out, beginning with LBJ’s “Great Society”, that throwing money at problems not only doesn’t solve them, but generally makes them worse. These schools will not improve; they will grow worse and demand ever more money while their student numbers shrink and kids who remain in them become academically retarded and brainwashed.

    • Completely agree!
      Every year they demand more of our money to use in inappropriate ways.
      Do not further approve this BS money grab.
      .
      When the education system here in Alaska proves it is EDUCATING, with metrics, measurable by students being able to read and do math at their grade level, THEN they can ask for more money. Til then, REPRESENTATIVES/LEGISTAORS (and your undermining staff), vote NO on this ADDITIONAL money grab.

      • There is nothing nonsense about his statements. LBJs Great Society Legislation has directly led to the decay of the family unit, the continually expanding of a population that is totally dependent on government economic support, the continual list of demands that schools and local governments must adhere to in order for the Federal Largesse to continue, and the departure by schools to be places of learning communication, mathematics, and the sciences. Schools have become day care centers that have increasingly preached a societal doctrine above all those things that were focussed on in decades past. Independent thought is NOT a preferred trait in schools today.

  9. A complete payoff to GCI of $40 million more state dollars and a hope that “school districts will spend the rest of the money wisely”. What a crock, as if!!! They haven’t been spending the money they have wisely, what in the world would make the legislature there will be any change?

  10. Why did the House majority cave? The education budgets have been adequate, but the spending decisions (read: wasteful administrative costs associated with 54 school districts in Alaska) are wasteful.

  11. They like the product they’re getting. Constitution ignorance guaranteed to get more democrats voting against their own rights and a very sheer layer of gifted participants who still don’t know one thing about how our republic form of government functions.

  12. Just remember that despite the disappointment of this historic increased
    BSA (which is very scary given that a means to pay for it other than exhausting the PFD hasn’t been achieved yet) now there’s some leverage to open energy and prevent/ fight off other attempts to further bankrupt Alaska. In addition, the “fat lady” hasn’t sung yet because this bill has further to go. I emphatically urge EVERYONE to now put pressure on our law makers to address accountability measures of how this money is to be used. And address detrimental attendance and discipline policies enabling parent and student disengagement.

    Vance hit the nail on the head when she addressed the Attendance Crisis straight away in her final response. Yes, this money will go right down the drain without pupils in the classroom and we must demand standards back in place to fix this or the money spent is all for not and achievement gaps will continue to grow and weaken our state’s social and economic health.

    Ask nearly any public teacher and they will testify that attendance problems are a key reason our students are not achieving. The focus must return to parent partnerships and empowerment to take responsibility instead of perpetuating their victimhood. Students need less testing that steals precious instructional time and more efficient and accurate means of assessment that’s actually used instead of just recorded.

    Teachers need less training on new, over complicated curriculum that doesn’t work, and allowed to really teach with time proven methods that increase Reading, Writing, and Math skills rather than convoluted canned lessons imbedded with social justice and identity issues hijacking unifying academic and workforce skills from center stage.

    We aren’t inclusive if no one is attending. Districts must be thoroughly audited to truly see where the money is going and the state must stop resigning their duties to watchdog. I dont want over regulation however statutes must be implemented to prevent waste, bias and unnecessary or duplicated expenditures. We need Careful and critical actions to requiring transparency in data collection and what and how successes are being defined. True success should be rewarded and failures corrected or curbed.

    We have plenty of ammo to finally address these problems IF we don’t stop raising our voices for specific changes and get off the couch and from behind our screens and go in front of our representatives and school boards to spur REAL change and not lip service or excuses.

  13. House Speaker Tilton did better with this bill for common sense Alaskans than any of the previous House speakers would have done, particularly in light of her fragile majority. But if we don’t like this current landscape then we have to stop electing Democrats to the Senate who call themselves Republicans, and we have to elect many more Republicans to the House. It’s very simple arithmetic. Find Republican campaigns that could use your help, and help them.

    Executive branch leadership would have helped.

  14. I would like to know if the house voted before or after Sullivan was there? Did Sullivan go and talk to them to reinforce the message that they’d get payoffs (my opinion)if these traitors would voted yes? Looks like it to me! Thank you to Rep Eastman and Rep Prax for standing up for what is right and voting how everyone should have voted.

  15. I thought charging or spending other people’s money on ineffective strategies was considered unethical. Why is that different in the legislative process?

  16. Whichever borough or municipality you live in, over 90% of your property taxes go to the school district. In that way, yes, OUR money does in fact go directly to the Woke Indoctrination Camps. As some on here have mentioned, Alaska would be a different place without federal money. That’s true, and if all federal funding ended, we’d fall on some hard times. It would be worth it, especially when we reached the point at which we could develop our state’s natural resources and tell the feds to shove it. Yeah, I already know that’s not a popular idea. It is, nevertheless true.

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