House Rules schools a Senate bill: Started out as a boost for rural classroom internet, now has modest increase to per-student funding formula

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After a day of public testimony, the House Rules Committee passed a major re-write of SB 140 to address education funding, including a $300 per student increase to the funding formula for school districts. It’s up to districts how they spend that money; it does not necessarily go to classrooms.

Other components include teacher incentives, transportation, assistance for deaf and hard-of-hearing children, high-speed internet for rural schools, and support for charter and correspondence schools. 

It’s highly unusual for the House Rules Committee to hold hearings, much less ones that last for five hours and ends up with major changes to bills. The Rules Committee is usually more of a gatekeeping committee before a bill hits the House floor.

The next stop for SB 140 is the House Chamber on Monday, where there is a fragile Republican-led majority and a testy Democrat minority. The changes to SB 140 are extensive enough that, if it passes, it will have to be negotiated with the Senate.

The $300 increase to the Base Student Allocation would be the largest increase in over a decade. The funding formula has been held at bay by the governor since he took office while the state has struggled with flat revenues. Education union officials say $300 is not nearly enough but education inflation is outstripping other forms of inflation throughout the economy, while Alaska’s education outcomes are some of the worst in the nation. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has had other funding for schools in his budget, but not just a guaranteed increase to the formula that comes without any accountability from school districts.

The $300-per-student increase represents $77 million for one year.

Rep. Craig Johnson, (R-Anchorage), chair of Rules, said, “It was critical for the Alaska House Majority to propose a comprehensive package of measures to improve Alaska’s schools and support our students. One-time funding is a band-aid, at best. Our vote today represents a long-term investment in education.” 

The bill also provides support for deaf and hard of hearing students throughout the state, which was originally sponsored by Rep. Jamie Allard (R-Eagle River). 

“Previous majorities have talked extensively about supporting education, but the current majority has finally delivered. I’m proud to be a part of this historic effort,” Allard said.

House Speaker Cathy Tilton (R-Wasilla), a member of the Rules Committee said, “The new version is our caucus’ affirmation of our constitutional obligations to provide quality education for all Alaska’s children. We look forward to a spirited and productive discussion with our colleagues in the State Senate as the bill moves forward.”

The vote came after the joint House and Senate failed to override the governor’s partial veto of additional funding for education passed by the Legislature last year.

14 COMMENTS

  1. It doesn’t look to me like there is ANY tie to PERFORMANCE! Why not? ANY BILL that does not tie to performance is a BAD bill.

  2. We want a 12,000 dollar voucher. All the other kids get money even if they don’t see it because it goes to the school. Mine doesn’t get any money. Where is the Equal and fair distribution!!!!? We are left out!

  3. “The $300-per-student increase represents $770 million for one year. ”
    Really? Let’s see the math on that. Maybe that is the total for the entire BSA.

    • Chris, I believe the author typed in an extra zero. Probably $77 million per year. But the Ed Industry wants more than $1,400 increase in the BSA which would be about $365 million per year, every year. That equates to about 278,000 PFDs, using last years PFD reduced amount.

    • Considering that the BSA has not increased in 10 years, both statements are true.

      It is the largest in 10 years as there has been no increase in 10 years, and it is a “modest increase” to the Republican led majority as the increase doesn’t even keep up with the last 10 years of inflation

  4. Seriously? Education giants want more money allocated per student? They are wanting the standards lowered so students don’t have to work for higher grades! A lot of the students are dumb as a bag of hair already.

    • Assuming by ‘dumb’ you mean ‘stupid,’ I submit that the children are neither: They are ignorant due to the pooh-for-an-education system that Alaska education administrators have boasted about for decades. I suggest that ‘stupid’ be reserved for the encephalic idiots who subscribe to the notion of throwing good money after bad and expecting a different result.

      The Governor has a red pen and a power unique in the country (or it was unique when that office first received it). Not all is lost…yet.

  5. Let’s see: Student enrollment, or membership, drive the state’s funding formula. Projected enrollment numbers and current law are used to develop the budget. Average Daily Membership (ADM) numbers for Anchorage School District are used for funding have decreased from a high in FY14 at 47,770 to FY23 43,471. Therefore, State funding should go down not up for schools with less student regardless of the demand for more money with the decrease in student attendance/year.

    Reducing the number of principals at Anchorage Middle/High schools where the metric of 400 students:1 principal is not being used might be a place to start cutting the fat.

    MIDDLE SCHOOLS
    Central 324 students YET, they have 2 principals on staff here instead of 1. Clark 805 students YET they have 3 principals? Just 5 students over the “metric” that is NOT being followed, justifies another FTE? Wendler 401 students YET they have 2 principals with 1 student over the 400:1 metric?

    HIGH school: Eagle River 799 students YET thare are THREE (3) principals instead of 2 ??? There is some fat in the district budget.

    Not that the average joe can do anything about how many principals get hired for schools. See ‘https://www.asdk12.org/cms/lib/AK02207157/Centricity/Domain/1225/FY23%20Preliminary%20Budget%20Pamphlet.pdf

  6. The government can’t force students to learn no matter how much money they throw at education. If a student wants to learn it doesn’t actually cost that much. Some textbooks, study materials and individual motivation are all it costs and you can’t buy motivation. Why are students doing so poorly? Is it because the teachers aren’t paid enough or don’t have a good enough retirement system? Or, maybe, the schools aren’t nice enough. Or, possibly, the entertainment peripherals like sports are inadequate? No…it’s none of that because all it takes to learn something is the desire to learn and the students obviously lack that. Poor family life? Drugs? Video games? Who knows but it’s not because education is underfunded. The problem of poor education is real but they’re throwing money at the wrong problem. Increase the BSA to $100,000 per student and it won’t help because the students are the problem and you can’t buy motivation.

  7. This is irresponsible. Every school in rural Alaska can switch to Starlink. That’s a savings that’s counted in the tens of millions every year. On top of that, it’s exactly what our teachers in the Village want.

    By the way, most schools in the Bush have lots of money still left over from the stimulus. Lower Kuskokwmin for example, started the year with $12 million.

    Where’s the money coming from??

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