On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Alaskans will have a chance to weigh in on a controversial proposal to pump an additional $250 million into Alaska’s failing public education system.

The hearing on Senate Bill 52 will take place in the Alaska Senate Education Committee at 3:30 p.m. If passed by both the Senate and House and signed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the legislation would add $1,000 to the annual Base Student Allocation (BSA) – growing it to $6,960 per student.

The BSA is the amount of money the state sets aside annually for each student. Increasing it by a record $1,000 means the state must remove funds from other areas, such as the annual PFD checks that go to Alaska residents.

During a recent press conference, Sen. Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) noted that a massive expansion of the BSA comes with a price.

In particular, he said the PFD might need to be whittled down to a mere $1,300 this year. That represents a $2,500 reduction from the statutory PFD payment. A family of four would see $10,000 less if the checks were reduced by this amount.

“Somethings go to give,” Stedman said. “So, we’re going to have to have those conversations.”

Teacher unions and education lobbyists are expected to turn out in force for the public testimony on SB 52, for they stand to gain the most from the massive spending increase.

But the idea of fixing public education by pumping  $250 million into a failing system is not without critics.

According to the Alaska Policy Forum, 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.”

APF, along with many other educational reform groups, note that competition is the best way to improve schools. This includes school vouchers, which allow families to choose the best educational options for their children, whether that be public, private or homeschooling.


— To testify on SB 52, contact your local LIO for more information, or call 907-465-4648.

— For tips on how to provide public testimony, click here.

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

TODAY: Public hearing on plan to increase Alaska’s education budget by $250M

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.


  • Neil DeWitt says:

    I’ve said it before, throwing good money after bad isn’t going to change anything. We need a change in Administration and the Unions. That’s where most of this money will go again. The teachers that actually need it won’t even get to smell it.I sat at a VFW meeting one night and had a teacher begging money for her classroom. she was paying over $1000 a month out of her pay for supplies and FOOD because kids were so hungry. Let’s take a good look at this problem; we’ve heard that students are getting less and less since the pandemic. People refuse to let their kids be taught the Critical race and WOKE stuff so they home school. I think a $250 million cut to the budget is needed not warranted. I’m a NO vote. I’m against more money and being at the bottom of yge reading/math barrel. I say you raise those scores and we xan talk about more money. This is ludicrous to even consider at this point.

    • Rick says:

      Few things wrong with your story here, the teacher saying she is spending $1000 a month giving food to students ? along with supplies ? She’s a liar. IF a student needs food there are tons of programs where kids get snacks to take home, after school AND on the weekends, AND in the summer for students. SHE has a responsibility to report hungry students and students that might be in need, it’s in their mandate as mandatory reporters. She was trying to get sympathy. I worked in public ed for 14 years, that’s not how things work in relation to food etc. The supplies, well she is choosing to do activities and spend the money, no one is forcing her to buy supplies. Also I’m no fan of unions but with Janus vs AFSCME decision no teacher is required to pay union dues so there is nothing in the way of dues coming out of her check for the “union” that you are talking about. I’m against CRT and the Woke agenda and the funding as well but that teacher was flat out lying and trying to garner sympathy from someone who doesn’t know the system and it worked. She generated the rage she wanted. At at the VFW its not hard to do, thats why I stopped going to them, as a Veteran I don’t need to be surrounded by a cabal of people ready to rage a the drop of a hat without the details

  • Lobo says:

    Another example of why the state capitol needs to be moved up to the generally, central region, or mainland, to allow for a reasonable access to the political discussions.. This is one reason the politicians want the capitol to remain in Juneau, where the average citizen can not personally attend, and give voice to the debates.

  • Jon and Ruth Ewig says:

    Will the paid teachers, librarians and other union members comprise most of the public testifying?

  • Jon and Ruth Ewig says:

    We want a full statutory PFD. PFD is our money. If the senate wants money, get it somewhere else. The PFD is off limits.

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    How about 5$k less not 1$k more!!!!
    Let the school system fart in a hole in the ground, after all there is billions to be made by doing so!!!!?

  • Lobo says:

    Isn’t it really a “public announcement” , rather than a “Public hearing”, on the plans to move forward with yet another PFD theft ?

  • Stolen Elections have consequences says:

    ASD needs to borrow the Federal Reserve money press, and leave us alone. keep printing it’s money to pay itself

  • AK Fish says:

    Be thankful for the crumbs we leave you Alaskans after we take the lion’s share of the earnings from the Permanent Fund. Continued lower (or even lowest in the Nation) test scores for math/english whebn compared to the rest of U.S./D.C. and declining student population in the school systems should mean less money appropriated not more. In the end, these comments won’t matter, the legislators will spend your PFD money as they see fit. Next topic.