By Sarah MontalbanoAlaska Policy Forum

The state of Alaska published the Alaska K–12 Education COVID-19 Federal Relief Funding Dashboard to make transparent how much federal COVID-19 relief funding school districts received and how the funds are being spent. In total, Alaska public school districts have been awarded over $538 million and as of March 27, 2023, they have spent 55% of funds received. Almost $242 million – 45% – of federal COVID-19 relief funds are sitting in the coffers of these districts. This special funding is above and beyond districts’ regularly allocated state and federal funds.

This state dashboard shows the total received by each district and lists each district’s expenditures of these funds. Table 1 shows each school district, how much it received in federal funds beyond normal funding, how much each district has spent to date, the balance remaining, and how much each district received per student. As examples, the districts that have the largest balance still remaining: Mount Edgecumbe High School has 97% remaining; Pelican City School District has 86% remaining; and Yupiit School District has 76% remaining. This table is indistinguishable from the November 2022 update except that Saint Mary’s school district appears to have corrected a data entry error ($79,081 in spending in November is now $790,081) and Mount Edgecumbe High School decreased its spending slightly.

Because these federal grants are likely to be one-time-only, responsible spending entails one-time expenditures instead of ongoing expenditures such as salaries and benefits. Yet according to the district dashboards, many have chosen to use the funds for ongoing expenses, including salaries and benefits. While official guidelines suggest that spending the federal funds on hiring new school counselors or new staff is appropriate, extreme caution should be made as to the necessity of new positions in the long-term, as new positions require recurring costs.

As the DEED dashboards reveal, school districts are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars yet are asking the state and their communities to dish out even more. And after these one-time funds expire, we can expect further claims of “drastic cuts.” Instead, parents, administrators, and policymakers should be asking: how can we spend these additional one-time funds in a manner that best serves our students? Better examples of how to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds – outside of immediate COVID-19 response such as PPE equipment and online learning facilitation – include activities to address learning loss, afterschool reading programs, and summer school programs. The success of Alaska’s students is paramount, and the COVID-19 federal relief funding should be used to serve them.

Note: The dashboards are updated by the state regularly. All numbers referenced in this post are up to date as of March 27, 2023.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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Alaska school districts are sitting on $242 million in unspent Covid funds

Sarah Montalbano
Sarah Montalbano is the Policy Manager for Alaska Policy Forum. where she writes about education, healthcare, state fiscal issues, and more. She is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and also the Northwest Regional Leader and writer with Young Voices. She graduated from Montana State University with a B.S. in computer science with minors in economics and data science. She was a 2022 Robert L. Bartley Fellow in editorial features at The Wall Street Journal. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, and The American Spectator.


  • Neil DeWitt says:

    Bottom line schools don’t need more money. They need new administration. GREED isn’t going to win here!

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    More proof to defund the disaster pubic schools!!

  • Rick Morgan says:

    District’s are using ESSER funds to replace wages and benefits within their budgets because those Covid dollars are earmarked for specific things. They aren’t creating new positions or giving raises, (except for District Administration) they are playing a shell game where ESSER funds replace money already budgeted, then they can use the replaced money for anything they want. Inflation is easy to understand, the Base Student Allotment has increased in a decade. So with Flat Funding we actually get less now than 10 years ago per student. And then thank you Mr Biden, inflation through the roof and now the only thing keeping schools going is the ESSER funds. till FY25

    • Rick Morgan says:

      Hasn’t increased.

      • Elizabeth Henry says:

        That is only part of the whole funding formula and there are various multipliers. I am sure you already know this. Right now the rough average of combined cost per student, per year, in Alaska is almost 20K. It is really hard to find concrete information. There is a boatload of convoluted data – myriads of charts and pie diagrams, and reports that really do not give a total.

  • AK Fish says:

    Another reason to vote NO on Prop. 1 “CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS FOR THE ANCHORAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT BONDS” for $37,787,000. Anchorage School District has around 115 million dollars of unspent COVID (federal) money. They have already spent the bulk of it on: Certificated Salaries, Employee Benefits, non-certificated salaries, Staff Travel, Professional & Technical Services, Other Purchased Services, Utility Services instead of spending what they normally would from their usual sources, first.

  • NAV says:

    Time to stop the waste and utilize the money in the city GPA in Alaska is in the toilet and school district wages and benefits are astronomical, and if you want to see the waste of taxpayers’ money go to the Highland landfill talk to the operators and watch what their trucks dump on a weekly basis (UNUSED SCHOOL SUPPLIES STILL IN THE MANUFACTURERS WRAPPINGS, LAPTOP COMPUTORS, MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS, DESKS, SHOP TOOLS YOU NAME IT. It varies from load to load.

  • Sterling Crone says:

    how is it that a one room schoolhouse with one teacher in 1890, could turn out 16yr old boys reading and HANDwriting in two different languages yet today 16yr old cannot read a clock, read at 4th grade level, and do not know simple things like the 4 directions?? sometimes I pray that smartphones be obliterated and our elders rise up and come forward to teach what is lost before it is gone.