FROM OUR FRIENDS AT THE ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET:
Interesting things come to light in legislative committee hearings. Take, for example, the Senate Finance Committee hearing on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s education budget, which aims to help close the state’s $1.6 billion spending gap.
There was the usual ho-hah, snuffling and chest pounding about the size of the proposed state cuts to education, which amount to about 25 percent, something Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, said was “completely unacceptable.”
But, then, there was this: Sen. Natasha von Imhof pointed out overall enrollment in Alaska’s schools has dropped from 131,000 in 2006 to 129,000 in 2018. Despite that, state funding for schools in 2006 was $805 million. It climbed to $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2018. Fiscal year 2019? It is $1.34 billion. She said employee benefits are the driving force behind increased expenditures in the face of falling enrollment. They went up from $302 million in 2006 to nearly $600 million in 2017, the latest figure she said she had.
“That is a $294 million increase in 11 years, or 97 percent,” Must Read Alaska reported Von Imhof as saying. “So districts are spending less on books and curriculum and more on health care for their teachers.”
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