Last month, the Alaska Beacon published a long article about the financial woes impacting several large school districts across the state.

The writers noted that Fairbanks and Anchorage are closing schools and laying off teachers due to massive budget shortfalls. Most of this was blamed on inflation combined with state legislators not giving districts more money per student.

Not until halfway through the 2,300-word article does the piece bother to mention the fact that “some of the changes appear driven by demographic trends.”

The article rightly observes that there are less students enrolled in districts all across Alaska, and part of this is due to the fact that Alaskans are having fewer children.

But the Beacon writers then quickly gloss over – and inaccurately dismisses – a major reason for the student population decline in brick-and-mortar schools.

“Enrollment at correspondence schools and in homeschool programs is also down, ruling that out as a possible reason for the decline,” the article deceptively claims.

This statement flies in the face of documented enrollment numbers. Dating back to 2001, Alaska has kept meticulous enrollment data for children attending publicly funded homeschool programs. These are either programs exclusively run by districts for their local students, or they are statewide and open to any child.

In 2001-2002, there were just 9,510 children enrolled in 27 public homeschool programs. Over the next 18 years, that number slowly increased to 14,511 students, a rate of about 277 children a year. Then Covid hit in 2020-2021, and Alaska’s homeschool numbers nearly doubled to a total of 27,555 students – an increase of 13,044 students in a single year.

Last year, homeschooling fell to 21,430 students, as standard schools reopened and people were less concerned about Covid.

So, yes, Beacon writers can claim homeschool numbers are “down,” but only in the sense that they fell from the all-time high of 27,555 two years ago, to last year’s number, which is the second highest of all time.

The reality is that nearly 6,000 more kids were homeschooled in 2021-2022 than were in 2019-2020. If this trend continues, and parents decline to send their children back to failing brick-and-mortar public schools, we should expect more districts to close traditional schools, fire teachers and begin the long process of both shrinking and rethinking the entire public school system in Alaska.

Parents are looking for alternatives to traditional government directed education, and districts that proactively provide quality homeschool programs – acknowledging and supporting parents as the first teachers – will likely see a much smaller decline in overall students. Districts that simply double-down on the failing status quo, however, should expect far fewer students and much less money in the years ahead.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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FACT CHECK: AK Beacon won’t admit that homeschool growth has districts reeling

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.


  • Now We Are Two says:

    This is a well-written article. I’ll add a few comments:
    1. Homeschool programs do get state funding, but each student gets only at 80% of what brick-and-mortar public school students get.
    2. There are many students who are not registered at all in AK (it’s not required; all the law states is that parents must educate their children, but nobody is required to report anything or pass any tests if they don’t want to). And these students cost the state nothing at all.
    3. Homeschooling students funded by the state actually save the state 20%, which leaves more state money to educate the remaining students if the state wishes to spend the money that way. Not that they should – teacher salaries and benefits are where the money goes.
    4. Homeschooling lowers class sizes and give the districts more available cash, because it really doesn’t take 80% of a full allotment to pay for teachers to “supervise” homeschooled students.
    In summary: public school is just glorified babysitting, and it costs us well over $10k/kid/year, with massive waste in buildings. It’s completely outmoded, and makes zero sense in a modern economy. But parents feel they both need to work, and so we institutionalize our children, from daycare on.

    • Elizabeth Henry says:

      Agree with most you state but homeschoolers receive less than 80%. Curious what your numbers reflect. We received $ 2500. /year in allotment. This is barely over 20% of what the district receives in combined revenue per student. We did homeschool privately outside also of the public funding umbrella up until high school where sports moved us into the system as we had kids aiming for college sports, and being enrolled in the public system makes navigating NCAA so much easier. We do not regret it and highly recommend Mat Su Central. But parents, all parents, do need to realize this is all their choice. In Alaska they essentially have complete autonomy because of our homeschool legislation..

      • Now We Are Two says:

        School districts get 80% of a normal student’s AK state funding for each HS student they can get signed up. But they don’t have to give the actual student ANY of that money; it’s the parent that must find a program that at least gives them something. Most of the programs give them far, far less than the 80%. The schools use this river of money to pay teacher’s salaries and admin costs, or to subsidize all the other students in the district. Look, public school is just another racket, and the statewide HS programs is just the first attempt to give the students and their parents a “cut” of the massive river of money extracted from the public. But never assume the game is not rigged. But compare to say, CA, where they actively persecute parents who HS. At least here they pay for books and sports and whatnot, even collage courses taken in HS.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Good comments Now We Are Two. Thank you for the article Joel. Our schools, including the University of Alaska system, need to be dumped. We need to fire the school district administration and heads of schools and their affiliated mafia-organizations. There are many people interested in the students getting good educations in reading, writing, math, history, government, home ec, auto/welding, computer (not Windows though!) and life skills. Get rid of the systems that are allowing these mafia school organizations so that we can get rid of the mafia school organizations and get on with raising children as our Heavenly Father has intended for us to do. Vote on November 8th! Vote “YES” on ballot measure #1 and vote Red all the way down the voting ballot. Removing the evil influence in government is the only way we are going to be able to move forward.

  • The Alaska Poaster says:

    The Gara/Walker ticket really tried to get Alaskans to believe that schools in Anchorage and Fairbanks were closing all because of Mean Mr. Tall Man.
    Anyone who had been following eduction to any degree over the past two years knew that was BS, because rural districts were negatively unaffected by the homeschool exodus, or in some cases greatly benefited through picking up thousands of urban students through their statewide correspondence programs. Urban districts had the most to lose during covid, and did in more ways than one. Their inability to adapt during the pandemic was obvious, from confusing schedules, to sporadic closures, to rigid mask mandates, and now with recent CDC decisions, the future possibility of forcing the vaxx. Covid Learning Loss is a real thing; students will not get those two years back, and in the case of young children forced to wear and see only masks, some of their early development markers may be permanently impacted.