By BOB GRIFFIN
A recent major university study on adequacy in K-12 public education spending finds that Alaska not only has one of the most adequately funded K-12 systems in the US, it also has one of the most equitable ones.
In a January 2024 joint report from Rutgers and the University of Miami, Alaska was listed second in the nation for adequacy in K-12 funding in 2021, out of 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Not only was Alaska listed as one of the top most-funded systems, Alaska was also highlighted as having one of the most equitable distributions of education funding to low-income students.
A recent analysis from the Alaska Policy Forum reached a very similar conclusion using a different technique. It’s widely accepted that spending on education will vary greatly based on the affluence of one place or another. It’s no surprise that the U.S. spends more per student on K-12 than Mexico, because the U.S. has a much more affluent population. Although Alaska has one of the highest per-student funding rates in the country, 12 states ranked higher than Alaska in wealth from personal income per capita.
APF found that Alaska led the nation in 2022 in the amount of funding that was dedicated to K-12, compared personal income in the state. The analysis was based on per-student spending figures from the National Education Association and personal income figures from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Alaska’s spending on K-12 in the 2021-22 school year was equal to 6.7% of all personal income. Luckily, oil revenues continue to pay for a very large portion of all state spending. If Alaskans had to fund K-12 at our current level, it would take a 6.7% personal income tax on all Alaskans, rich and poor, with no deductions or exemptions, just to pay for K-12 at our current spending levels.
The national average for K-12 spending relative to the income was 46% lower than Alaska, at 4.6%. Florida, one of the highest performing states in K-12 test results, was less than half the effort of Alaskans at 3.1%.
Alaska does not have a K-12 funding problem. We have a resource allocation problem.
Between 2003 and 2022, Alaska increased spending per-student 98% according to the NEA, while inflation was only 56%. Spending in K-12 in Alaska should be carefully refocused on areas we know will improve student outcomes – like continuing to improve early childhood literacy, reinforcing our best-in-the-country charter school programs, solving our worst-in-the-country chronic absentee problem and recruiting and retaining high quality educators.
Bob Griffin is on the board of Alaska Policy Forum and serves on the Alaska Board of Education and Early Development, but writes this in his own capacity.