There is plenty of talk about Alaska not funding public education adequately. We have heard from those who support more money for the public schools that the Base Student Allocation (BSA) has been flat funded for four years. For that specific funding item, they are correct. But one must drill down into the facts on education funding in Alaska. What factors make up the per student funding, the Foundation Formula, for Alaska schools?
Let’s take a look at the BSA funding levels for the past ten years. Since 2004 the BSA has increased from $4,169 to $5,680, a 36% increase in funding (State Dept of Ed). Now how much inflation has occurred during the same period? According to the State of Alaska Dept of Labor & Workforce Development, inflation has increased 27.2% during the same period (State Dept of Labor). One can conclude that for the BSA to keep up with inflation over the past ten years, the BSA would have to be $5,303 for the current fiscal year (FY14). Today’s BSA is $377 more than needed to keep up with the past ten years of inflation. It is somewhat deceptive to look at only the past four years to evaluate the funding of the BSA. A ten year look gives a much clearer picture.
In addition, the BSA is not the only factor in the Foundation Formula which is used to calculate the per student funding each school district receives from the State of Alaska. The other factors include geographic cost differences, size of various schools, special and intensive needs special education student populations, correspondence programs, federal aid, and the ability of local communities to provide contributions (property taxes). The BSA may remain the same, yet some of the other factors may increase, which is what has occurred since 2007. The Foundation Formula gives a complete picture of per student funding in Alaska schools. Let’s look at how the Anchorage School District has fared.
Since FY2007, the Foundation Formula for Anchorage has increased from $273,280,566 to $326,182,426 in FY2014, an increase of 19%. Meanwhile, the student population has remained virtually the same (increase of only 178 students). So, what does this mean as far as the per student funding in Anchorage? Well, the Foundation Formula per student funding has increased from $5,611 in FY2007 to $6,672 in FY2014, an increase of $1,061 or 19%.
The bottom line: Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it is very often repeated. Our schools are well funded. For those who think otherwise, we have one question: “How much is enough?”.
For more detailed information go to the Legislative Research Services report, May 2013.