Testimony opportunity: Bill to increase funding for schools subject to public hearing Saturday

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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.

The current version of the bill is at this link. Details on the public hearing are at this link. The video livestream is available at this link.

19 COMMENTS

  1. They just raised my home value by $102,000 and all of my neighbors home values were raised from 10% to 15%. Yet most middle class households haven’t had a raise in 3 to 4 years. The majority of wages going up are for unskilled labor. The middle class cannot shoulder this burden along with the high cost of food and goods.

    • Legislators need to have every village, city and municipality contribute to local government costs, especially education costs. Tok, Gustavus, Tenakee, Bethel, Kotz, and many other towns have no local property tax, at least last time I looked. Some towns, such as Klawock and Hoonah once had property taxes but voted them out since the state will automatically pick up all costs if local residents decide to not pay!

      We need to examine whether almost all of the 44 million acres owned by Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporations should pay no property tax. The legislation as passed by Congress and then signed into law by President Nixon had all the land become taxable beginning in 1991. But the corporations hired DC lobbyists to have that changed. Some of the corporations pay their CEOs as much as $5 million in salary and bonus, but here we are over 50 years into ANCSA and the corporations contribute little or nothing to state and local government costs.

    • Remember – your home value is only part of the tax bill picture and is only a valuation based on market value for January 1st as put forth by state statute. It is not a direct indicator of what your tax bill will be. That will be most impacted by budget and mil rate. Keep a close eye out for those variables!

  2. Is anyone talking about the test results of these children in the Anchorage school district? I do not see where throwing more money at a bad system is doing anything for the district.

  3. Start having the $ follow the kid, to include any schooling of the parents choice. If they’re amending the formula, may as well amend it to include funding to religious schools. As long as the kids are performing ‘above’ standards, I see no issue with $ going to schools that perform above the ASD standards.

  4. How much money would our school district need to guarantee 90% of our students score “Proficient” on standardized achievement tests? Why give another dime to this horribly broken system?

    If a restaurant serves a bad meal, I don’t go back.

  5. Can anyone cite an instance where public testimony actually changed the course of a bill in the Alaska Legislature?

    • It generally doesn’t.
      That is why the word “dilatory” ended up as part of the Assembly record so often in the past two/three years.
      .
      However, that does not mean one should not make their voice heard. You never know, someone who will work for the public at large, instead of against them, might be inspired to run for office.

  6. A few takeaways from this article:
    1. The Anchorage School District should not have a large savings account. The ASD needs to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers and residents of Anchorage and Alaska. The money doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to Anchorage taxpayers and Alaska residents.
    2. The current inflation that Ms. Bellamy is complaining about is a direct result of the very liberal Democrat spending and policies that they and their Unions support. In short this is a financial mess of their own making.
    3. There needs to be measurable student based performance outcomes tied to all school funding. Past history has proven that the school budget is just a bottomless pit of spending that no amount of money will ever fill. Looking at the current national debt, we cannot afford to just keep throwing money at the problem without demanding positive results for every single dollar. It is time to take a different approach as the “We just need more money approach is obviously failing all involved.”

  7. Another delphi meeting to show “public support” for the education industry, why not?
    .
    Grooming children, maintaining the nationally recognized standard of illiteracy, bailing out Teamsters, awarding million-dollar-plus contracts exclusively to union-controlled contractors must be really expensive, no?
    .
    Plus, what legislator in his right mind would ever say “no” to Teamsters and teachers’ unions?

    Watch for whispers about small, fair, sustainable, equitable income and sales taxes to support Alaska’s growing education industry
    .
    …while the minor noise of taxpayer outrage over state-sponsored grooming, illiteracy, and corruption is easily drowned out with delphi meetings designed to shape public opinion and stifle dissent.
    .
    Again, we ask Eaglexit sponsors, what’s the plan to assure this corruption does -not- happen in their Chugiak Regional Borough?

  8. I doubt the WEF will be funded thus financially supported much longer. Alaska is always the last one to get the memo. hardy har har, voters.

  9. Soliciting and compensated public testimony should be banned and prosecuted since it effectively prevents other parties to take part of the discussions. If it can’t be fixed, then it should be eliminated. If you are all unhappy with your property tax assessment rates, then get on board and file a timely and painless appeal. I did, and was pleased with the process and results. Enough people take the time, change will occur. Anyone still remember photo radar, when everyone appealed their tickets? We can all make a difference. Or we can shut up and pay and complain.

  10. Throw more money at it is apparently the only strategy our education industry has to offer. A good education isn’t a result of more capital investment in fancier schools or higher wages for teachers and staff. All it takes to get a good education is basic materials and individual student motivation. Want to learn mathematics? Sit down in a quiet place with a mathematics book and study. Same with most subjects. What’s lacking in our educational system is motivated students who have fundamental reading comprehension skills and inquiring minds. No amount of money can fix that.

  11. The teachers, and the union consistently site Inflation as one of the reasons more funding is needed, yet they fail to mention they voted for the incompetent, incoherent idiot in the Whitehouse, and administration whose policies, and wreckless spending caused the record high inflation.

    You get what you asked for.

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