Legislative Report Shows School Funding Has Lagged 5% Behind Inflation Since Governor Parnell Took Office


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March 26, 2012

Legislative Report Shows School Funding Has Lagged 5% Behind Inflation Since Governor Parnell Took Office

This week the House Finance committee will take up whether to increase school funding this year, including House Democratic calls that funding keep up with inflation.  "The Governor has given salary and benefit increases to every one of his own agencies for increases in inflation.  He should do the same for students," said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anch.).

The Division of Legislative Research issued a report recently that shows how far per student funding has lagged behind inflation in recent years.  "Democrats believe school funding should keep up with inflation, unless someone really believes that firing staff, increasing class sizes, and cancelling courses improves academic achievement," said Rep. Gara.

This year the Governor proposes a minor $10 million funding increase over last year, which amounts to a less than 1% increase.  "That falls far behind projected inflation of 3.2%," said Gara. 

Last year the Legislature added $20 million, which the Governor deleted from his budget before adding a proposal for $30 million in additional funds – for the net increase of $10 million – not the "$30 million" the Administration has claimed.

Page 4 of the Legislative report shows the lag in per student funding, and how far it has lagged behind inflation.  "With flat funding this year, school funding will have lagged 5% behind inflation in the past two years, which is no way to get Alaska out of 45th place in the nation in 3rd grade reading scores, or last in college attendance and graduation," said Gara.

As background, the legislature did add funds four years ago to deal with inequities in the system.  But funding in the past two years has lagged.

Four years ago measures were adopted to end discrimination against rural districts, end historical underfunding for special needs children, and provide full funding for pupil transportation costs.  The state also adopted legislation a number of years ago to help school districts pay for their retirement system shortfall.  Those increases caught schools up for past inequities, and helped offset a crushing retirement burden.  They haven't helped schools keep up with rising costs the past two years.

"In years with fair funding, school graduation rates have risen, student achievement has risen, and opportunity for all Alaskan children has increased.  Unless we keep school even with inflation, or at least close, we risk going backwards again," said Gara.

The Legislative Research report can be found here.

In the past two years the Governor has left the formula of state funding per student – the Base Student Allocation – at the same level.  Without an increase this year, funding will have fallen 5% behind inflation compared to the funding level two years ago.



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