The Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) is lobbying state lawmakers to pump hundreds of millions of more dollars into Alaska’s failing public school system next year.
In particular, the AASB wants the State Legislature to approve a massive expansion of the base student allocation (BSA), which is the amount of state funding set aside annually for each student. Currently, Alaska pays $5,969 per student. This does not include added expense factors for rural areas, special needs students and other adjustments to the base allocation.
In a Jan. 31 column AASB Executive Director Lon Garrison called on lawmakers to expand the BSA by an additional $860, which would grow the educational budget by around $180 million when multiplied across roughly 131,000 Alaska students.
Garrison said the BSA has only increased by $250 from 2012 to 2022 – a 4.2% increase, while inflation has risen by at least 24%. This, however, is not the full story.
As the Alaska Policy Forum reported this past December, Alaska’s total per pupil revenue has grown by 32% per pupil over the past two decades – from $15,000 in 2002 to $20,000 in 2020. That includes all federal, state and local funding sources, not just the BSA.
Overall, Alaska exceeds the national average in per pupil spending by 23%, APF notes.
“Increasing spending is often seen as the cure-all for a lackluster education system, no matter which state is examined,” the APF report explained. “But higher spending does not necessarily correlate with better outcomes. Alaska had the sixth highest per-pupil expenditures in 2018-2019, yet National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in 2019 were the fifth lowest nationwide in fourth-grade mathematics, and dead last in fourth-grade reading.”
Moreover, since 2002, “Alaska grew its education revenues and spending by nearly a third while enrollment has declined,” APF adds. “Increases in support services quickly outpaced the lean increases in teaching salaries,” and “increases in both instructional and support services were driven primarily by increasing benefits, not salaries. Alaska’s school system prioritized the administrative and support apparatus instead of salaries for teachers.”
In addition to requesting a sizable increase to the BSA, the school board association is also asking lawmakers to invest millions more in so-called “social-emotional” learning, “trauma-engaged practices,” the prevention of sexual abuse by school staff, and the reduction of school violence.
— Click here to read the full education spending report by Alaska Policy Forum.
— Click here to contact members of the Alaska House of Representatives.
— Click here to contact members of the Alaska State Senate.