Facing a dramatic and continuing decline in student enrollment, the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District voted earlier this month to shutter three elementary schools. Now, it is set to eliminate nearly 70 full-time teacher positions for next year.

Chief School Administrator Karen Melin presented the district’s “Reduction in Force Plan” at the Feb. 15 school board meeting. This plan is now before the board for adoption at its March 1 meeting.

According to Melin’s report, the district has seen a dramatic drop in student enrollment, losing roughly 2,000 students from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021. Over that span the district went from 13,233 students to 11,271.

While this reduction might be partly explained by Covid concerns, the enrollment only rebounded to 12,267 in fiscal year 2022. That’s nearly a thousand less students from two years prior. The district’s projected enrollment for next year is just 12,191.

Many students in Fairbanks and around the state have left traditional public schools in favor of homeschooling and private or religious education. Several curriculum controversies have erupted in the Fairbanks School District over the past two years as educators have pushed radical LGBTQ themes and objectionable sex education curriculum.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where all the students have gone, but the Fairbanks District’s publicly-funded homeschool program has increased from 287 to students to 743 over the last two years in which data is available. Many other students may have opted for other statewide homeschool programs, independent homeschooling or private education.

Since education funding is tied to student enrollment, the district is now forced to find cuts in order to operate under budget.

In fiscal year 2021, Fairbanks expects to lose approximately $7.4 million in state funding and another $2.1 million in federal revenue due to declining student population.

The district is attempting to mitigate these loses by asking the Fairbanks Borough Assembly to increase local borough spending on public schools by $2 million next year, for a total of $51.4 million. The Assembly won’t make a decision on this request until May.

While the district has lost state and federal education money, it did gain more than $34 million in federal Covid relief funds, $15 million of which is still available for fiscal year 2023.

The district plans to send a recommended budget to the Borough Assembly by April 1. Following budgetary action from both the Alaska Legislature and the Assembly, the school board will approve a final budget by the end of June. The board’s final budget will determine overall staffing and provide direction to the district’s administration with regard to program priorities and staff cuts.

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Fairbanks set to cut 70 teachers amid mass exodus from public schools

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Herman Nelson says:

    Go woke, go broke…? That’s right NEA, there are other avenues of providing education. You are not the only game in town.

  • Matthew says:

    Everyone needs to pull their children from pubic school. It is NOT a learning environment. Period. They are nothing more than State funded indoctrination daycare centers – with some of the worst scores in the nation. Parents need to learn to be parents – not just dump their children somewhere for 8hrs a day.

    • Nathan says:

      We took our kids out a year and a half ago after all the race indoctrination and political bs

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    Parents eyes wide open to these sheepy schools
    Yes taking there kids out of theses woke schools.
    Follow the money

  • Carrie Harris says:

    So they’ve lost 2,000 students they’re closing three schools because they’ve lost 2,000 students why do they need more money? Because they’ve lost the students and close the schools you would think that they would need less

  • Natural Alaskan says:

    Education and healthcare are two areas where legal monopolies give rise to high prices and garbage quality products. This is obvious in Fairbanks. Defund FNSB, give the money to the parents to send their kids wherever they want.

    • Sally M Pollen says:

      Good article, Joel Davidson. I love Alaska Watchman and am amazed at the journalistic excellence you guys continue to spit out almost daily. So, the screams of the silent majority are once again being heard, this time in the chambers of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The question the district should be pondering is, “WHY” is student enrollment taking such a hit? Next, they could question the parents who are pulling their children from the public classroom. The reasonable follow-up would be to address the concerns of these parents and work to solve/eliminate the reasons instead of looking for more money to satisfy status quo.

  • Alaskan born says:

    Go woke, go broke! Love that. Yes, pull our kids out of these indoctrination centers and educate them elsewhere. Kids need reading writing and arithmetic, history and civics – not indoctrination. Not CRT but critical thinking skills. Alaskas national test scores are almost dead last, a true embarrassment. Clearly more money doesn’t make for better education. That’s a myth. I’d love to see how many teachers in the rest of the state and nationwide are being laid off and no more additional funding for the scam that is the public education system.

  • Sean P. Ryan says:

    I realize there’s a specific reason for the spin you put on this story. However, you shouldn’t leave out the fact that Fairbanks has seen a steady exodus of people over the past decade. The cost of supporting borough and city governments and public utilities has become too burdensome for many. An increasingly hostile climate for small business and unchecked cost-of-living issues only exacerbates the problem.

  • DoneWithIt says:

    The public schools are nothing more than babysitting indoctrination centers – they are “graduating” functionally illiterate students.
    We left – and will NEVER go back.
    Homeschooling and private schools educate our children now – and they are better off for it!