Alaska Panel to Weigh School Funding Issue
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Alaska lawmakers in their recently concluded session agreed to set up a task force to study school funding issues, after failing to reach agreement on proposals aimed at establishing longer-term solutions to make education spending more stable and equitable for districts around the state.
The task force, which will have 11 members appointed by the legislature and by first-year Gov. Sarah Palin, will be charged with producing a final report for the legislature by Sept. 1.
The task force is expected to address funding issues that have long bedeviled Alaska officials. One is how to distribute state money fairly between Alaska districts in more urban areas, such as Anchorage and Juneau, and the state’s rural, remote districts. Lawmakers were unable to reach agreement on a proposal to share revenue between rural and urban areas.
Gov. Palin, a Republican, had asked the legislature, which wrapped up business May 16, to consider an appropriations measure for K-12 education that was separate from the rest of the budget. Lawmakers failed to act on that plan.
At the end of the session, lawmakers approved a one-year budget for education. Overall K-12 spending budget will fall to $953 million in fiscal 2008 from $955 million in fiscal 2007, although per-pupil spending is projected to rise slightly because of a small decline in student enrollment, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. That funding includes grants aimed at relieving the burdens on rural schools.
Vol. 26, Issue 39, Page 16