Thursday, June 1, 2023
HomePoliticsEducation formula funding hike leaves committee, halved via amendment

Education formula funding hike leaves committee, halved via amendment

House Bill 65, an increase to a state funding formula for schools called the Base Student Allocation, was voted out of the House Education Committee. Voting yes on the bill were Reps. Justin Ruffirdge, C.J. McCormick, Andi Story, and Mike Prax. Voting against the bill were Rep. Jamie Allard and Rep. Tom McKay.

The original bill, offered by Rep. Daniel Ortiz of Ketchikan, would have added $1,250 to the BSA, but the bill has been revised down to an $800 increase. The current state contribution in the formula is $5,960 per enrolled student per year, but the Legislature has awarded extra funds year after year, just not baked into the BSA formula. There are no incentives in state funding that are tied to performance in schools. Alaska’s schools currently rank 49th in the nation, although in the 1970s, they were in the top three.

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Base Student Allocation is not the only funding that schools get. They also receive funds from the federal government and, for those schools in organized boroughs in Alaska, funds from the local municipal or borough taxes.

The BSA has various calculation levers, including multipliers for special needs students and things like whether a district has a different cost of delivering education than it costs to educate students in Anchorage, which is considered the baseline.

For a primer on how the Base Student Allocation is funded, click this Legislative Finance link.

House Education Committee members heard public testimony for five hours on Thursday, taking calls from teachers, principals, and superintendents around the state who said their schools are not keeping up with maintenance, recruitment, and basic supplies. There were 36 Alaskans who had flown to Juneau to testify against the BSA increase, which they believe needs to be addressed structurally instead of simply adding more money to what is considered a broken formula. But the chair of the committee, Rep. Justin Ruffridge, ran the clock out and did not allow most of them to speak, even though they had flown hundreds of miles to do so. Instead he turn to the callers who had been prearranged by union representatives to testify in favor of an increase to the BSA and who were calling from their homes. Only three who testified by phone were in opposition to the bill.

Cosponsors to HB 65 are the entire Democrat-nonpartisan minority, including Reps. Zack Fields, Maxine Dibert, Ashley Carrick, Cal Schrage, Jennie Armstrong, Rebecca Himschoot, Cliff Groh, Andi Story, Andy Josephson, Andrew Gray, Sarah Hannan, Alyse Galvin, and Genevieve Mina.

The bill will next appear in House Finance, where the deliberations will continue, including how to fund the increase during a time when the governor’s FY 2024 budget appears to lack over $600 million in funding, even without the extra funding.

In the Senate, Senate Bill 52, which is sponsored by the Senate Education Committee, has a $1,000 increase to the BSA, which has remained flat since 2017.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Alaska has the number 5 slot on the highest spending per student in the country. Our scores have been declining for quite some time. The answer is not more money, it is involved parents and merit and ONLY merit based pay. How much of the teacher salary is skimmed by the unions?

      • “In eighteen states, it is legal to force teachers to support a union by requiring teachers who are not members to pay a fee to a union as a condition of continued employment. Those states include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.”
        So whether they are members or not, they pay. Sorry Greg. Now about the rest, do you contest that as well?
        Unfortunately, AK is NOT a right to work state.

        • Sap, in June of 2018 the United States Supreme Court ruled that teachers do not have to join the nea or any other Union as a condition of keeping their job. So you are wrong as usual. Thanks for playing though as usual.

          • Yet they have to pay dues regardless. As usual you miss the point.
            The article I quoted was written in 2019.

      • And are they allowed the option of not joining? Without any harassment or pressure? Sincere inquiring question.

        • Yes they sure are. I never went to a union meeting and I never joined the union while I taught. I know lots of teachers that were the same way. For them, many were outpriced from joining. Union dues are crazy amount of money that they were unwilling to pay, because they get the same benefits which is provided by the superintendent and the school board, not the Union.

        • Worked for the school for several years starting in 2019 right after this ruling. I knew about the ruling and didn’t agree to pay. The union president reached out to have a meeting and I agreed. We discussed my concerns, mainly that my money would fund political viewpoints contrary to my own. The president said I could opt out of my money being used for PAC purposes. I said that would just be a matter of an accounting gimmick. We parted as friends, never brought up again!

      • So then the answer is “some”. Thanks for clarifying Gregory. I guess Sapper did have a nice try.

        • No the answer is none. Like I told the sap, in June of 2018 the United States Supreme Court ruled that no teacher is forced to join the nea or any other Union as a condition of keeping their job. Thanks for playing though.

        • According to its 2020-21 membership form, NEA Alaska dues are 1% of the teachers’ average salary in Alaska. Members also pay $200 in dues to NEA and an additional sum to their local union. In Anchorage School District, for example, total union dues are $1,120 for the 2020-21 school year.
          NEA website

        • By Derrick Meador
          Updated on January 06, 2019
          One decision that a new teacher may face is whether or not they should join a teachers union. In some cases, it is not a choice at all. In eighteen states, it is legal to force teachers to support a union by requiring teachers who are not members to pay a fee to a union as a condition of continued employment. Those states include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.

  2. It should be obvious that money is not the problem, if you look at Anchorage and the cost per student average of $13000.00. There is a systemic problem with the curriculum and the priorities in the classroom. When you get students that graduate with near zero social skills AND the lack of ability in math, written communication, and reading comprehension, that is NOT a money problem.

      • Agreed ,but It’s not just a parent problem.
        The education system needs overhauling to do year round school and hold students accountable to certain measurable metric. Curriculum also needs to go away and teachers need to be encouraged to engage students rather than use a canned program. Students also need to be placed in low,medium and high performance environments to achieve better results based on the students abilities. Not all can fit 1 model. Vocational training should be emphasized more starting at 7 grade and allow kids to determine their paths based on their strengths. This would lower dropout rates and increase the workforce.

      • I agree Gregory, it’s the parents fault for abusing their children by sending their them to the sh*t show called Public School. 🙄
        There are other options available that provide much better outcomes for children.

        • Glad you agree that parents don’t make their kids do their homework, or let them stay home from school like 25 percent do in Anchorage, or know where their kids are at 7:00 at night, or read to them when they were young, attend the school meetings and functions and show the kids that you value education. Glad you agree with me Roberto.

    • Absolutely. 100% agreement and feel need to expand on that. Hope you don’t mind. A lack of parenting, parenting involvement, classes that have no real addition to academics, a few teachers that should not be teaching but too many restrictions and curriculum demands on those that are good teachers, no consequences for bad behavior and teachers having to manage that at the expense of teaching, too many parental responsibilities that have been overtaken by the PS system, the bizarre obsession with sex, gender, diversity over academics, the teaching of entitlement – one is ‘owed’. I could continue but you get the gist.

      • Absolutely and spot on. Some on here consider them educational specialists when they have never even turned a page. All they can say is it’s bad it’s bad but they don’t have a clue on how to fix it.

    • Thanks for answering a question for me! The “in support” folks are quick to tell when the last increase in the BSA was; and how short of funds they are, or how this certain amount of funds will make them whole; however, They never mention when they last produced a reading student!!

  3. Rep. McKay is saving his ammo for the size of the PFD, public education is not within his narrow vision for Alaska’s future

    • What would you know Frank? You didn’t go to school here or put kids through the anchorage public school system. Stay quiet on this one huh.

  4. There are students in Anchorage that don’t go to school they just do tests online, and the district gets $18,000/y for them.

    Meanwhile ASD is cracking down on parent directed prograns that cost less than a third of that.

    • So not surprised. There are minimal expectations for most. The chosen few that are in the AP classes or the other advanced programs actually get a decent education but they are the elite minority. We homeschooled ours and I am so glad we did. I had not planned on it. I have a science education degree and planned on returning to the classroom. Ours entered college ready. Able to navigate the system, write exceptionally well and manage their time and activities. I would do it again. And most of my fellow homeschooling friends did not have teaching degrees, the majority no degrees and their kids turned out just as well. There is so much support and amazing curriculum. Any committed parent can do it. Albeit a committed parent can also make a difference in the classroom and the few years I did teach in the PS classroom, at the elementary level, the kids whose parents were committed, paid attention, cared about what was happening and how their kids were doing, and even regularly helped in the classroom (some) did really well. Committed attentive parents make a huge difference, regardless of race, income, marital status, or education.

  5. Good call- this doesn’t go into higher achievement or education for kids. Be happy they got that much.

  6. When almost 90% of per student funding goes to staff salaries & benefits, does anyone actually believe that demands for increased funding is really for the kids?

  7. Yep throw more money down the rat hole. No checks and balances to see what we get for our money. I would like to know the 1970,s staffing and money allocation verses todays education juggernaut. We were in the top three now we are at the bottom one would think parents and community would want to know who has failed as their jobs.

      • No DA, cut the administration. Same problem the State has. Lazy administration’s declaring they are over worked and under paid. I would love to see anyone of the administration or teachers actually have to perform one hours work in the trades before declaring it is to difficult. This is 90% of the problem in our country. No one wants to actually work for that paycheck.

  8. The “Base Student Allocation” ought to be zero. Educate your own children and/or collaborate with others (whom you choose) to do so.

    Do you really think any education is happening in government schools? Maybe some is… by accident.

    • My child wad taught in government schools. He was reading on a 10th grade level when he was in the third grade. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA. We let the school teach during the day, then as dedicated parents, we went over his homework with him each and every night to make sure he completely understood the lesson. No brag just fact.

  9. Justin Ruffridge is the newest member of the “secret Democrat majority,” right alongside his pal Jesse Sumner

  10. So our kids are getting dumber, the schools worse, many with fewer and fewer kids, and the answer is (as always) more money.

    • What do you do when you have a position that you can’t fill and you’ve done all you can to try? You try to entice them with higher wages. In the bush, everyone knows that returning teachers have higher numbers out of their classrooms on tests. New teachers for the first year or two are simply treading the same water as previous teachers.

    • Kids don’t get dumber. All kids are born the same unless they have fetal alcohol syndrome or something like that. Parents are dumber for lack of a better word. Parents nowadays aren’t baby boomers. They take little responsibility for their kids. It’s no wonder kids are failing. It takes more than the public school system to successfully educate a kid. When schools can’t staff positions, one way to entice prospects is to offer a better incentive package. Down here they have a shortage in jailers at the prison. They’ve got that pay up to $20 an hour now plus benefits just to go in there in a uniform and sit in a cell block and babysit. That might not seem like much when McDonald’s is paying $15 an hour, but the benefits and the 401K are worth something also. Even with that pay increase, the cell blocks are shorthanded with staff. Many staff members work to shifts just to keep the prison open. There’s a labor shortage going on across all fields. I’m not sure what the solution is but it seems like it happened overnight. If I was a newly minted teacher, Id head for Bush Alaska and make Bank, as well as a working vacation and might even learn something about the local culture and appreciate everything they bring to the table. But that’s me.

  11. Thanks for answering a question for me! The “in support” folks are quick to tell when the last increase in the BSA was; and how short of funds they are, or how this certain amount of funds will make them whole; however, They never mention when they last produced a reading student!!

    • Like I mentioned earlier, my student was reading on a 10th grade level while in the third grade. We read the Harry Potter books with him when he was young. He liked to read so well, that he would sneaker eat ahead a few chapters and we didn’t know about that for years. If parents can help the school districts create lifelong learners, they are only helping their own cause. Do it for your kids if for no one else.

  12. If education was a service performed that poorly, the ones performing it would be broke and on the street. Why is it that those wanting a higher BSA are not wanting to see results? We don’t run our lives like this, instead if we encounter a poor service or product we don’t buy it again. So why do we put up with it in our schools?

    • It’s because you don’t have a clue what the real problem is. Teachers can teach their ass off and still not get favorable results on a standardized test. I’ve seen it but I don’t expect you to believe me.

      • Sir, I respect your experience, and I agree that uninvolved parents are a problem – the dominant culture promotes selfish indulgence at the expense of inconveniences like children. However, parents aren’t the only issue, as mentioned by several above. One thing I didn’t see mentioned was declining enrollment: which would indicate a greater need for increase in BSA as cost per student rises, but also a decreased need for staff mitigating much of that need.

  13. Putting all the blame for our failing school system on the teachers is like blaming the pilots of a screwed up airline for your delays and cancellations. Giving more money to to these top heavy organizations hoping that it will make a difference is nothing but wishful thinking. They are incapable of even keeping up preventive maintenance on the structures using the money already budgeted for this. And the money doesn’t trickle down to the teachers in any meaningful way, they can’t even get aids to help with their workload from the district and suffer from early burnout. Only a complete purge and redo would save our school system but steps have been taken to prevent this. Private schools seem to be the only option.

    • And some cases I agree with you. I would not send my kid to Anchorage schools at this time. I’m not sure I ever would have. I care more about my kids than that. I’m not saying that in a bad way against the teachers. I’m saying it may not be a great learning environment. Too many distractions. Is a dog going to learn more and a quiet loving home or in a dog pound full of yipping dogs?

  14. The Biden/Obama Education Transition Team purposely switched out President Trump’s “1776 Commission” replace it with the “1619 Project” to include a Communist view of American History written by Communist Howard Zinn. Zinn’s fake History has trashed America’s Greatness and also Patriotism in the eyes of the kids. This brainwashing omits an understanding of America, the American Revolution, the Civil War and those who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf. The kids in government schools do not know any of this. They do not know the Pledge of Allegiance, their rights and responsibilities as citizens (Civics), or the Free Market Economics. Honest Science discovery is missing.
    During Bill Clinton’s governorship the “Common Core” subjects were used in the government schools to “dumb down” the kids so they could not think straight. The Biden/Obama goal with the help of many atheists in these more current years has been to destroy America by destroying the family and the Biblical Foundations. Kids do not know their rights. They do not know America has been built and sustained as a free, rule of law based, Judeo-Christian country for three of the last four hundred years. They do not know that it was built on the idea that family is the center of civilization and supported by the Judeo-Christian church. The kids do not know that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (rule of law) laid the protections necessary to build a strong and free nation. The kids do not necessarily know that the family, consisting of a man and a woman, came together to form a union resulting in children that could be nurtured and developed into good, moral citizens. The courts used corrupt judges to purposefully alter the meaning of separation of church and state. This has resulted in the government taking over our freedoms. The kids know none of this nor do they have the understanding and appreciation of our country. The lawyers and judges that are/were corrupt also learned through atheistic law schools that the Constitution would be “living” instead of fixed so that they could rationalize breaking the rule of law.
    All of this to say that any money put into education will not be an investment. I am a retired public school teacher that did not realize any of the above until government schools caused parents like us to remove 700 elementary students because of the poorly chosen occult required reading curriculum brought in by the NEA that scared the kids and taught them very little. We changed to private or homeschool and learned all of the above while teaching our kids at home. You can imagine the shock of what we had been missing in the government schools.
    The current CRT movement in school is to divide us by the evolutionary-atheist model. The Biblical model is that we are all one blood, all equal. Our skin is light brown with variations from melanin. We are not Caucasian, black, yellow or red. Those false models are to manipulate us and get us mad at each other. No money should be put into this propaganda from the Biden/Obama model. No more money without any accountability. School Choice is the answer.

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