GAS Throws Money at Education with no Accountability Measures

Will throwing more money at public schools improve education for students? That's what the GAS group believes. Alaska spends more per capita on public education than 49 other states and ranks near the bottom in results.

by Bob Griffin

We have heard many times through the local media about the wonderful job that Great Alaska Schools (GAS) has done to improve education in Alaska. But what exactly has GAS proposed to improve the public K-12 education system other than advocate for a more expensive version of the failing status quo?

Even when one accounts for the high cost of living , Alaska is still 2nd in the US in K-12 spending per capita–that means we spend more per every man, woman and child than every state but one.  Alaska is also first in the U.S. in K-12 spending when comparing to state median wages. What do we get for these generous contributions for our kids?

Here’s what we Alaskans get for our generous investment (national NAEP tests):

  • 2013 — 51st in the US in low-income 4th grade reading (behind Washington DC) (in 2003 Alaska was 48th).
  • 2013 — 49th in the US in upper/middle-income 4th grade reading (in 2003 Alaska was 44th).
  • 2013 — Alaska’s Best NAEP test results were in upper/middle-income 8th grade math– we were 34th. (in 2003 Alaska was 31st)

Let’s take a look at a state that has changed the way it educates it students.  Florida has had more than a decade of aggressive K-12 reforms — with very little increase in K-12 spending.  If we adjust for the difference in the cost of living (C2ER), Florida was 47th in the US K-12 spending–just 62% of what Alaska spends per student (adjusted for cost of living). So, how does Florida do in the same NAEP tests?

  • 2013– 1st in the US in low-income 4th grade reading (in 2003 Florida was 28th).
  • 2013– 4th in the US in upper/middle income 4th grade reading (in 2003 Florida was15th).

And that’s not all.  More importantly, low-income Hispanic children in Florida passed the average Alaska 4th grader in reading skills in 2011.  Upper/middle-income 4th graders in Alaska are currently comparable to the same group of kids in Florida– when the Florida kids were only halfway through 2nd grade!

Here are some comparisons between Florida and Alaska:

  • Poverty: Florida has a poverty rate of 17%; Alaska has a poverty rate of 10%.
  • Median household wages:  Florida median household wage is$55,000; Alaska median household wage is $80,000.
  • Foreign born residents:  Florida percentage is19%;  Alaska percentage is 7%.
  • Spending on K-12 per student:  Florida spends about $9,000;  Alaska spends about $19,000.

So, discounting for poverty rates, English Language Learners, and wages, Florida spends less than half per student than Alaska does.  And Florida gets results with its invested dollars.

The GAS group wants even more money given to the institution of public education.  But giving more resources to Alaska K-12 education system without significant reforms will result in more expensive low-performing schools.  Alaska’s public schools are not underfunded–they are not run efficiently because they are a monopoly.

What does the GAS group believe the added funds should be used for?  What are their solutions to improving education other than throwing money at the issue?  How do they propose to improve education for the low income students?  How do they propose to help the single parent access charter schools and other alternative schools?  Where were they during the Common Core discussion at ASD?  Where were they when the EveryDay Math program made it difficult for parents and students?  Where were they when the District was increasing contract costs and thus having to fire teachers?  Where were they when the District did away with transportation for public school choice thus allowing single parents to get their children into a better public school?  Where were they when our District was failing so many of our children in the past 10 years?

Interesting that the GAS group suddenly arises to solve Alaska’s education problems by lobbying for more money.

[We do believe Alaska teachers are just as dedicated; Alaska parents are just as loving; and Alaska kids are just as bright as any Americans.]