The Education Miracle Multiplier, Changing $100 into $869

How would you like to get $100 for each family member and find out that it’s really $869 for each member? Well, that’s what happens in one school district when the Alaska Education Establishment and the legislature use the education foundation formula as the multiplier of a base student allocation (BSA) increase of $100 as proposed in the current House Bill 339.  This foundation formula gets very complex so “bear” with us for a while.

Many Alaskans go salmon fishing during the long summer days, either dip netting or using a rod and reel. We all know that limits exist on the number of salmon one can keep. Let’s say that you and a few friends go salmon fishing together. Your four friends are from the Aleutian Region, Pelican, Mat-Su, and the North Slope, while you are from Anchorage.  You all decide to share your salmon catch. The limits on how many salmon you can keep are based on where you live (and in this illustration regarding education funding, one salmon equals one dollar).  Your group really hits the motherlode of salmon. To begin with, each of you catch 100 salmon, but you are especially adept and you keep catching until your arms nearly fall off to get the entire group limit of 2,416 salmon.

Then comes time to distribute the catch. The catch is divided differently, depending on where you live.  Your friend from the Aleutian Region gets to keep 869 salmon; the friend from Pelican keeps 838 salmon; the friend from Mat-Su keeps 177 salmon; the North Slope friend keeps 374 salmon; and you from Anchorage only get to keep 158 salmon.

Remember you all started by catching an equal number of 100 salmon?  How can this be and is it equitable?

Here are some of the various factors that make up the miracle education funding multiplier (aka education foundation formula): school size, “hold harmless” provision, special needs funding, intensive services funding and district cost factors.

This inequitable distribution (of salmon or education dollars) is exactly what happens with the miracle multiplier effect of the education foundation formula sausage machine.  A $100 BSA increase goes into the multiplier machine and a different amount comes out depending on where the school/district is.  We all have heard the cries of “flat funding” and, “We need a $100 increase in the BSA just to keep up with inflation.” Note that a $100  BSA is nowhere near $100 per student. For example, the Anchorage School District (ASD) has about 47,000 students which when multiplied by the sausage machine foundation formula comes out as an astounding 74,309 students.

Thus in the proposed bill, the ASD gets $100 for every one of those multiplied students, not just the actual 47,000 students. This means that the ASD gets an increase of $158 per actual student. The Pelican School District has 10 students which are multiplied by the foundation formula to 84 students. This means that the Pelican SD gets $838 per actual student. And you thought Common Core math was hard!

At the bottom of this post is a table showing the breakdown by school district, actual students, multiplied students and actual per student funding of a $100 BSA increase.

So when you hear about a $100 BSA increase for education to keep up with inflation, just remember how many salmon your friends got to keep. And watch out for that “bear”!

Here is a link to the education foundation formula for those wanting to see the various factors which multiply the number of students:

School District$5930 Basic NeedAdjusted AttendanceBSA Increase Total to DistrictActual AttendancePer Student Funding Increase
Alaska Gateway$9,361,098.00 1,578.60 $157,860.00392.2$402.50
Aleutian Region$1,368,881.00230.84$23,084.0026.55$869.45
Aleutians East$5,744,688.00968.75$96,875.01207$468.00
Anchorage$440,654,446.00 74,309.35 $7,430,935.0146948.94$158.28
Annette Island$5,194,977.00876.05$87,605.01316.4$276.88
Bering Strait$43,043,557.00 7,258.61 $725,860.991785$406.64
Bristol Bay$2,173,997.00366.61$36,660.99122.25$299.89
Copper River$6,928,375.00 1,168.36 $116,836.00426.16$274.16
Delta/Greely$10,038,304.00 1,692.80 $169,280.00814.55$207.82
Denali$8,029,161.00 1,353.99 $135,399.01942.35$143.68
Dillingham$7,324,262.00 1,235.12 $123,512.01476.7$259.10
Fairbanks$153,601,351.00 25,902.42 $2,590,242.0113717.27$188.83
Galena$26,369,939.00 4,446.87 $444,687.004440.9$100.13
Iditarod$6,146,445.00 1,036.50 $103,650.00285.1$363.56
Juneau$52,031,421.00 8,774.27 $877,427.004691.31$187.03
Kenai Peninsula$106,137,334.00 17,898.37 $1,789,837.008711.73$205.45
Ketchikan$30,198,822.00 5,092.55 $509,255.012287.1$222.66
Kodiak$32,267,561.00 5,441.41 $544,140.992383.28$228.32
Kuspuk$8,786,303.00 1,481.67 $148,167.00355.05$417.31
Lake and Peninsula$9,117,672.00 1,537.55 $153,755.01299.15$513.97
Lower Kuskokwim$80,674,566.00 13,604.48 $1,360,447.994132.65$329.20
Lower Yukon$41,702,903.00 7,032.53 $703,253.001958.05$359.16
Mat-Su$199,084,688.00 33,572.46 $3,357,246.0018968.46$176.99
Mt Edgecumbe$4,251,039.00716.87$71,687.00422.75$169.57
Nenana$8,039,360.00 1,355.71 $135,570.991122.8$120.74
Nome$9,659,911.00 1,628.99 $162,899.01701.55$232.20
North Slope$41,130,184.00 6,935.95 $693,595.011852.06$374.50
NW Arctic$41,130,184.00 6,935.95 $693,595.011990.33$348.48
Petersburg$7,078,997.00 1,193.76 $119,376.00465.4$256.50
SE Island$5,558,130.00937.29$93,729.01178.2$525.98
Sitka$16,283,484.00 2,745.95 $274,595.011256.97$218.46
St Mary's$3,636,750.00613.28$61,327.99180.8$339.20
SW Region$13,399,547.00 2,259.62 $225,962.01592.36$381.46
Valdez$8,769,165.00 1,478.78 $147,877.99647.98$228.21
Yukon-Koyukuk$16,326,002.00 2,753.12 $275,312.011767.81$155.74
Yukon Flats$7,563,359.00 1,275.44 $127,544.00239.4$532.77
Yupiit$9,459,526.00 1,595.20 $159,519.83432.3$369.00
258,175.07 $25,817,506.88129954.16