The Anchorage School District has sent a note to all parents in the district asking them to flood a 10 am Saturday hearing that concerns SB 140, a permanent increase to the state’s Base Student Allocation — the funding formula for the basic cost of providing education in Alaska.
For several years, the funding formula has stayed stable, while one-time increases have been appropriated during a time when oil production is low and the financial wellness of the state has been uncertain.
The additional funding would give $300 per enrolled student, in addition to the current funding formula. The bill has had a number of amendments to it involving charter and correspondence students, which are now incorporated into the current version.
Margo Bellamy, the president of the Anchorage School Board, has sent a letter to the House Rules Committee, supporting the bill, but not some of the additions to the bill.
“Certain provisions of the bill have merit, while others are concerning,” Bellamy wrote.
For instance, Bellamy opposes additional support for deaf children, an item in the bill added by Rep. Jamie Allard of Eagle River, who is legally deaf.
“ASD faces a $98 million structural deficit for FY25. A combination of inflationary pressures without a corresponding permanent increase in funding has resulted in this daunting situation. To close this deficit, ASD is faced with draining its emergency reserves and implementing significant cuts to programs, services, and staff – choices that will all impact student outcomes and undercut our current efforts to transform the District through initiatives Anchorage and implementation of the Alaska Reads Act,” Bellamy said. The district has made no effort to reduce its spending , even though it has known for years that Gov. Mike Dunleavy doesn’t want an increase of automatic spending without corresponding accountability. The district just keeps spending as though there is no end of money supply.
Bellamy said the $300 increase in the bill will actually provide the district with less money than what was received from what was vetoed from the budget last year in one-time education funding.
“Since 2016, inflation in Anchorage has risen nearly 27%, while the BSA has risen just 0.5%. This imbalance is eroding public education across our state,” Bellamy said.
The rate of inflation nationally since 2016 has been 18%, according to officialdata.org. But education costs have outpaced the rate of inflation substantially. It’s not just Alaska — education costs are higher than inflation across the country.
“Whether total investment, employment, or revenue is considered, education currently is the biggest and the most rapidly expanding major American industry,” says a contributor to Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.
According to OfficialData, “$100 in 2022 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $82.01 in 2016, an increase of $-17.99 over 6 years. The dollar had an average inflation rate of 3.36% per year between 2016 and 2022, producing a cumulative price increase of -17.99%.”
The Anchorage School District wants a permanent increase of the Base Student Allocation of $1,413, Bellamy said, plus an inflation-proofing of the BSA going forward.
The bill itself is just a vehicle. The title reads, “”An Act relating to funding for Internet services for school districts; and providing for an effective date.” It’s been stuffed full of all kinds of other amendments however. The bill’s sponsors are the Senate’s liberal majority: Sen. Lyman Hoffman, Click Bishop, Matt Claman, Gray-Jackson, Loki Tobin, Jesse Kiehl, Forrest Dunbar, and Gary Stevens, Senate president.