Education costs

Interesting things come to light in legislative committee hearings. Take, for example, the Senate Finance Committee hearing on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s education budget, which aims to help close the state’s $1.6 billion spending gap.

There was the usual ho-hah, snuffling and chest pounding about the size of the proposed state cuts to education, which amount to about 25 percent, something Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, said was “completely unacceptable.”

But, then, there was this: Sen. Natasha von Imhof pointed out overall enrollment in Alaska’s schools has dropped from 131,000 in 2006 to 129,000 in 2018. Despite that, state funding for schools in 2006 was $805 million. It climbed to $1.2 billion in fiscal year 2018. Fiscal year 2019? It is $1.34 billion.She said employee benefits are the driving force behind increased expenditures in the face of falling enrollment. They went up from $302 million in 2006 to nearly $600 million in 2017, the latest figure she said she had.

“That is a $294 million increase in 11 years, or 97 percent,” Must Read Alaska reported Von Imhof as saying. “So districts are spending less on books and curriculum and more on health care for their teachers.”

Governing magazine put 2016 education spending in Alaska at $2.2 billion – and instructional spending was $1.3 billion. It is no wonder the education industry in Alaska is aghast at Dunleavy’s proposed cuts.

This, by the way, in an education system that consistently ranks near or at the bottom in national educational results and a system that requires between 50 percent and 70 percent of incoming freshmen at state colleges to take remedial courses.

None of this should surprise anybody. Costs go up. Results go down. It has been happening for quite a while. Von Imhof is right to wonder why. We all should.

5 Responses to Education costs

  1. Quincy February 20, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks for pointing this out Anchorage Daily Planet. I am so tired of schools being the sacred cow of just about every state budget in the country. I do not care about the school or your snot-nose children who attend them. I have no children and my crappy job in this crappy state’s economy is not affected by the schools. The schools need to get a hair cut like every other department. Call me crazy that I think funding the police is slightly more important than these greedy, squabbling teachers. All the teachers do these days is have sex with their students! I feel it is way more important to make sure hard working Alaskans’ cars are not stolen than a bunch or whiny annoying children. Screw the schools and the teachers!

  2. Marge February 20, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    I can tell you there is way too much waste in the school district. Some people would ask after the budget was submitted, “Will the real Budget please stand up” A question I have is this: When the school budget is submitted, is the student count correct, or is it inflated in a way to get more money from the state? Would be nice to know. Natasha von Imhof is one smart gal.

    • Gern Blanston February 24, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      The student count projection is as good an estimate as possible in January of the prior school year. I have seen that projection be off by as little as six students. SIX. Out of well over 40,000 students. Not bad at all. Usually it’s a few hundred off.

  3. Hannah Ramiskey February 20, 2019 at 5:18 pm

    Ketchikan just settled a contract with its teachers that they knew they had no money to finance. The School Board will now go to the Borough Assembly to demand—for the children— that we raise property and other taxes to pay for an agreement that should never have been reached, considering the financial condition of the state. There was no consideration that the local trade and contracting jobs are hurting because the state isn’t funding new or remodel construction which then affects all the products they aren’t buying locally. Government unions are so detached from the private sector jobs—their wages and benefits are being provided by citizens who have seen few raises in the last decade. In the private sector, if you made more money this year than last, you received a raise. In the public sector, you receive increments for showing up and more for moving across the salary schedule horizonally when you take required credits; and then demand that’s not a raise unless you also get another across the board increase every year. This is not only true of school districts. Student performance in Alaska is poor–but we need several things for it to improve. We need parents to send their children to school with the understanding that they expect them to respect what a good education can provide–and then parents need to pay enough attention to demand it. We need good curriculum and teachers who have a solid knowledge of it and a desire to impart that to their students. We need to pre and post test basic skills at most grades to insure that every child learned during the school year–some will learn more that others-but every child should progress. That will bring out the hate mail–but a good basic skills test will tell the School Board and Superintendent how each student is doing, how effective the curriculum is and whether the teacher is able to help every child to be productive. Pick a state with great scores or graduation rates and use their test. Without that kind of measure, we will never improve. Of course, if your district isn’t going to use the information to seek better results, then don’t bother to give the test.

  4. R-Dubya February 20, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    ADP Editors …
    Your piece here only depicts the cost to the SOA. For example, the 2019 budget value of $1.34B divided by 129,000 students is $10,387 per student. In actuality, the cost per student in AK for 1-year is probably more like $18,000 per student (source: ). Would it not be more beneficial and realistic to understand the “OVERALL Total Cost per Student” to effectively understand how expensive public education is to the SOA?
    Additionally, for all the Bally-Hooing & Melodramatic Crowd, if we’ve experienced an increase of 49% in the costs of education in the last 12-years for the SOA, what should the gracious SOA expect to pay for education in another 12-years, in 2030? Something of a smaller percentage, maybe the same 49% increase or, (OMG) … some percentage greater than 49%?
    I presume there’s some pretty smart folks in the Department of Education, maybe they would like to make a ‘counter offer’ that is consistent with economic reality and adheres to some semblance of logic, reason, and common sense?


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