Alaska Schools Need More Money To Meet Standards, Panel Finds

By Alan Richard — February 14, 2001 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Alaska needs to spend $100 million over the next five years—including $42.4 million in the coming fiscal year alone—to help students reach new academic standards mandated by the state’s accountability law, a governor’s task force says.

Members of an education funding task force appointed by Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, said in their Feb. 5 report that Alaska’s basic education funding has failed to keep pace with inflation, and that schools will need additional dollars to meet new academic standards.

“It gets Alaska on the road to fulfilling a promise that all kids will meet high standards, and giving school districts the tools and financial resources—and more importantly, the qualified teachers—to bring that about,” said task force chairman Bob Weinstein, who also is the mayor of Ketchikan and a retired superintendent in the 600-student Southeast Island school district, which covers 20,000 square miles.

Elected leaders sounded the alarm when news emerged late last year that nearly two- thirds of Alaska’s students who took the state’s new high school graduation test had failed, and might not graduate on time. Gov. Knowles and the state education board have recommended a delay in requiring students to pass the test. (“Delay High-Stakes Graduation Exam, Alaska Board Says,” Jan. 10, 2001.)

In response, the governor’s task force recommended that the state spend $10 million each of the next two fiscal years to help districts pay for intervention programs for students who are struggling academically.

More Money for Basics

Besides the failure to keep pace with inflation on per- student spending, the report says that many children in Alaska’s public schools use outdated textbooks; that some districts haven’t matched their curricula with state standards; and that special education has been neglected.

Maintenance on school buildings has fallen behind, and perhaps most important, Alaska has slipped from its former status as a national leader in teacher salaries, the report states. It asks for 2 percent teacher raises in each of the next five years, raising the current average salary of $47,262 to an amount high enough to lure teachers. It also asks for college-loan reimbursement for teachers, regardless of where in the United States they attended college.

The report contends that without the proper resources, many Alaskan schools are not “able to maintain an appropriate level of education services ... As a result, it is likely that many students have not had the opportunity to meet higher state academic standards.”

Gov. Knowles generally supports more funding for schools, but had not decided last week what his specific recommendations would be. He plans to announce his position within the next several weeks.

“The governor has said we need more money for education in Alaska,” said Claire Richardson, the governor’s deputy press secretary, adding that the governor has indicated that the task force has produced a “good, solid report.”

When he appointed the task force in December, Mr. Knowles said schools would need more money to help them meet the new academic standards. He said of his appointees: “Their task is vitally important—making sure our schools have the resources necessary to improve student achievement and success.”

The report was accepted last week by the state school board, which was slated to hold a public hearing on the plan Feb. 13.

Sen. Gary Wilken, a Republican who represents part of Fairbanks, has introduced a plan of his own. His bill focuses on the state’s failure to keep up with inflation in basic per-pupil funding, and calls for $30 million more in state aid in the coming fiscal year. But he says he can support any reasonable plan to make sure schools are better equipped.

“I’ll support any approach that recognizes the needs of our school districts and our kids across the state,” Mr. Wilken said.

Broad interest in education among legislators suggests that some sort of solution to the state’s funding problems will emerge from the current legislative session, the senator said. “I’d be really surprised if we didn’t have any significant increase in K-12 funding this year,” he said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2001 edition of Education Week as Alaska Schools Need More Money To Meet Standards, Panel Finds


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class
English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States Is Cursive Making a Comeback in California? Bill Could Revitalize Traditional Writing Skills
California elementary and middle school students could soon see a renewed commitment to teaching cursive writing.
Maya Miller, The Sacramento Bee
2 min read
Close crop of an elementary school, black girl in class focused on writing in a book.
States Florida's Edicts on Schools Keep Changing, and Local Districts Are Confused
District leaders say frustration is mounting as they try to enforce new education laws regarding gender issues, sex, library books, and race.
Jeffrey S. Solochek, Tampa Bay Times
7 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Miami.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference, Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, in Miami.
Marta Lavandier/AP
States What's With All the Education News Out of Florida? A Recap of Education Policy Decisions
Since 2022, the Florida department of education has generated a flurry of headlines around controversial policy decisions.
6 min read
Concept image of hand grabbing book from library shelf with an outline of the state of Florida overtop of image.
Conceptual: Liz Yap/Education Week; iStock/Getty/DigitalVision Vectors
States Massachusetts Joins Short List of States Providing Free School Meals to All
States are stepping in where federal COVID-relief aid dropped off.
4 min read
Students at the Maurice J. Tobin K-8 School in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood eat lunch on Sept. 4, 2013.
Students at the Maurice J. Tobin K-8 School in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood eat lunch on Sept. 4, 2013.
Steven Senne/AP