Student enrollment pic

The Anchorage School District is shrinking, both in the sheer number of students and the revenue attached to each child it fails to enroll.

In FY24 the district expects to face an estimated $68 million budget deficit. This is partly due to the fact that students are no longer filling classrooms like they were just a few years ago.

Anchorage School District Superintendent Jharret Bryantt

In the pre-covid academic year of 2018-19, the district had 46,734 students. By 2020, that number had fallen to 41,902. Last year saw a slight uptick to 42,826, but that was still nearly 4,000 fewer students than 2018-19.

On Sept. 7, District Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt sent a letter to Anchorage parents warning them that the district faces a multi-million-dollar deficit for next year, and that “tough” decisions are ahead.

Many parents pulled students from public schools and have opted for homeschool and private education after public school educators insisted on masking students throughout the day. Others have departed due to dissatisfaction over radical policies that promote leftist notions such as critical race theory and LGBTQ ideology.

A similar situation played out in Fairbanks earlier this year, when the district decided to lay off nearly 70 teachers and shutter several schools.

Added to the mix is the fact that Alaskans are having fewer and fewer children.

Bryantt’s letter fails to mention any of these factors, but does note that the district’s main funding source comes from the state’s Base Student Allocation (BSA) which is multiplied by the number of students enrolled in a particular district.

Bryantt highlights that the funding formula per student has not changed “much while costs increased.” He also blames inflation and a “growing structural deficit.”

The reality is that many of Anchorage’s schools are now operating at less than 80% capacity, and some are approaching 50%.

Bryantt’s letter doesn’t mention merging under capacity schools or laying off teachers, but he does say budget recommendations are being developed for the school board to consider later this year.

“My motto when solving problems is that all options are on the table,” Bryantt asserted. “However, the very last thing we want to do is directly impact classroom education. When researching recommendations, the district will place the greatest value on areas that have the most impact on the largest number of students.”

“What does this mean?”  Bryantt adds. “Well, when the research is complete, we will have to make tough recommendations to the School Board that will involve significant funding reductions.”

Whether Bryantt’s recommendations include right sizing the district’s teaching force and merging school buildings to fit a smaller student population is yet to be seen.

He did tell parents, however, that any recommendations will “start with your input.”

On Sept. 9, the district will publish the first of several community surveys on its FY24 budget solutions webpage. The first survey is intended to understand general areas to prioritize for potential reductions.

Bryantt’s letter hints at what he sees as the ultimate solution. He ends with a familiar appeal to the State Legislature for more money, saying it “plays a huge role in terms of school finance.”

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As Anchorage enrollment implodes, school superintendent warns of $68M deficit

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.


  • Arctic Blast says:

    No surprises here folks ! This deficit has been caused by parents that are able to pulling their children away from the “woke leftist agenda” that gthe ASD board has promoted along with the appointment of an unqualified and dishonest Superintendent that lied about his experience in his application process. This deficit will likely continue to increase as more and more parents become dissatisfied with ASD as their primary option for their childrens education. Home & or charter schooling will likely increase still further. The schoool bussing issue will also play a role, as does the perverted LGBTQIA+ agenda that is being pursued as “sex education” in some ASD schools like West High

  • Steve C says:

    The bottom line is ASD has to many buildings and needs to consolidate buildings and divest excess cost keeping buildings open. Gurantee ASD will submit more request for Taxpayers to pick up more cost. I have addressed this to the Asasembly also because they are stupid with the budget process. Simple economics when you have fewer students you divest resources that are being under utilized.

  • Andy says:

    Go woke! Go Broke!!!

  • Joe Hartley says:

    After the Earthquake Chugiak Eagle River citizens begged ASD not to rebuild Grunning Middle School.
    Instead they wanted to transfer Eagle River High school to Chugiak High School. Grunning students would then transfer to Eagle River high.
    In addition Eagle River elementary students were all attending four other area elementary schools.
    ASD was also asked why rebuild ER elementary?
    ASD had their mind made up and rebuild both schools.
    The population of Chugiak ER has change dramatically in the 55 years I have lived here. In my subdivision only one in four houses has children attending school.
    More than half of the homes have at least one retired person at home. All private schools in Anchorage have a waiting list. ASD has been the worst performing school of its size for the last 25 years. What is the difference between ASD now and when ASD last had this current enrollment number?
    A million more square feet of buildings. Go figure.

    • Arctic Blast says:

      All Great points Joe ! ASD has no idea of “economics” besides begging the assembly for more taxpayer dollars to fix the “leaky roof” that leaks in “little Johnny’s classroom” because they never budget for maintenance

  • Tom McGrath says:

    While we have this deficit it is amazing that the school district is going ahead with approaching the bond payers, once again, to rebuild Inlet View Elementary. A study in 2016 showed we had excess capacity of several schools including one in Eagle River that was rebuilt after the last large earthquake.
    A lot of Inlet Views students come from Zone Exemptions. The school should be closed and not rebuilt. There are two schools nearby that are used as charter schools due to lack of students. All of this while the population of the school district decreases.
    Inlet View replacement should be taken off the table as a first sign of good faith that the school district is taking the budget shortfall seriously.

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    Time to prosecute those who lied to you anchorage tax payers. You have been lied to (Jared) is not qualified! Your student body has been perverted and their innocence has been stolen, simply put, child abuse! ( gender queer) This crap is so far beyond policy.

  • Craig says:

    As a former Municipality employee I can tell you that the ASD annual budget is more than 800 million dollars, almost twice that of the rest of the entire city budget! A typical huge bureaucracy with layers and layers. They have groups of people whose only job is to arrange tours from the fire stations, field trips, etc. for the teachers. Somehow the teachers in my day were able to arrange their own classroom visits. It’s my understanding that some schools have 4 principals and most likely the same number of assistant principals. What could they all be doing? I attended Anchorage schools in the 60’s and early 70’s. When I moved out of state I found myself about a half a year ahead of my new school’s current grade’s work. I believe the Anchorage schools were very good then. I don’t think we can say that now based on our standings in the nation as compared to other schools. I’m fairly certain that someone not on the ASD payroll could find much more than 68,000,000 in their 800,000,000+ budget.

    • Arctic Blast says:

      I did a salary / compensation analysis a few years ago on publically available data, which was a few years older….. FOI Act….. So out of the first 100 highest compensated ASD employees, only 4 had the job title of teacher…. 96% were Principals, deputy Principals or some other administration role ! Promising young teachers have left and continue to leave because their salaries are not competitive…… The Superintendant role was compensated at 2X the Anchorage Mayor…. LET THAT SINK IN !!!!!!

  • Penny Seliger says:

    Voters need to watch who is elected to the school board. They are the ones pulling the puppet strings on the current superintendent. I agree about him not being qualified for the position.