State of the States
Two-Year Spending Plan Touted by Murkowski
In a speech focused heavily on the need for Alaska’s government to collect more revenue from oil and gas resources, Gov. Frank H. Murkowski also used his State of the State Address to beseech lawmakers to consider his two-year plan to boost spending on education.
The first-term Republican governor released plans in November to increase classroom spending by $126 million, out of a general-fund schools budget of about $806 million in fiscal 2005, over a two-year funding cycle. That increase would cover both fiscal 2006, which begins July 1 of this year, and fiscal 2007. That proposal, made possible by a projected windfall in state revenue, would include a raise in per-pupil aid from an average of $4,576 to $4,869 the first year, and then $5,174 the second, an increase of more than 6 percent each year.
The governor asked lawmakers from the House and Senate, both of which are GOP-controlled, to approve his proposal this legislative session. His budget plan includes additional money for retirement, insurance, fuel, and other education costs.
The plan “will give teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents the budget certainty they need,” Gov. Murkowski told lawmakers on Jan. 12, “as well as hold our education system accountable for quality performance.”
Alaska’s school finance system is the subject of a lawsuit, which was filed in August by a group of parents, rural-school advocates, and others who argue that the state’s funding system is inadequate and inequitable. ("Alaska School Aid System Challenged in Court," Sept. 8, 2004.)
Vol. 24, Issue 19, Page 18