Senators Joe Paskvan, Dennis Egan, and Gary Stevens during the closeout hearing of the Senate Finance DEED Subcommittee, March 20, 2012
This blog contains highlights from the Alaska Education Update. The update is issued daily during session and contains detailed summaries of education issues under consideration by the Alaska State Legislature. If there is a hearing on a Monday, a report will, with few exceptions, be released by Tuesday morning. There is also a weekly edition of the update. During interim, reports are issued only when there has been action. Interim action may include hearings, bill signings, the release of the Governor's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and other items that may be of interest to the education community.

To subscribe to full reports, contact Shana Crondahl at (907) 500-7069 or To subscribe to blog posts, submit your email:

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Will the BSA be increased this year?

A huge question for school districts this session is whether or not the base student allocation will be increased for FY 12. Since the beginning of session I have heard a number of positions expressed in committee meetings and press conferences regarding the issue, including:

• A flat BSA is a cut, when inflation and increased costs are taken into effect (from a number of legislators)
• School funding is adequate and/or we want to see performance improvements before the BSA is increased (from a number of legislators and Governor Parnell)
• The formula for required local contribution is a form of differential local property tax relief; ending that would allow the state to use that money for increased funding for career and technical education or other education funding (from Rep. Seaton)
• The state is in a strong financial position through at least FY 12, and school districts will be requesting an increase in the BSA, so it’s likely the FY 12 operating budget will be increased (David Teal, director, Legislative Finance)

Governor Parnell said at a recent press conference that he will be introducing legislation to address school performance. He did not say whether or not it would be tied to school funding. Both he and several legislators have expressed strong opinion that school performance must be improved.

I also have not been at a hearing where school finance was discussed that Rep. Seaton did not also bring up required local contribution and the discrepancy between what local governments are required to contribute in different school districts. Local contribution rates range from highs of 4 mills in Craig and 3.9 mills in the Lake & Peninsula Borough to a low of 2.7 mills in Hoonah, the Mat-Su Borough, and Saint Marys. The current total annual cost to the state for the differential required local contribution is over $77 million, according to DEED (see backup documents from HB 350, 26th Alaska State Legislature ).

Those are the specific comments I have heard regarding whether or not there is a likelihood of the BSA being increased this session. I don’t believe that any conclusions can be drawn at this early point in session as to whether or not the BSA will be increased this year, as so far I have heard a variety of opinions, with no apparent overwhelming support for one position or another.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Information on the Alaska State Legislature

The legislature’s website is a great source of information. Their homepage is: . The homepage always lists floor sessions and committee hearings scheduled for whatever day you happen to be viewing it.

At the top of the homepage on the fourth tab over is a tab called “BILLS & LAWS,” also referred to as BASIS, which links to legislation, committees, hearings, and many ways to sort and find information on legislation. Here is a link to that page:

Some of the many helpful links on the BASIS page are “Bills in Committee,” “Subject Summary,” “Member Information,” “Hearing Schedules,” and “Bill Tracking Management Facility (BTMF).” BTMF is one of my favorite pages. Here is a link: . On BTMF, anyone can set up an account and select bills to receive notification of any action on those bills, including being scheduled for a hearing or a floor vote. It’s very helpful if you’re tracking a particular bill and don’t want to keep checking the website.

Another helpful page has links to all legislators and committee members: 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Overview by OMB Director Karen Rehfeld to the House Finance Committee

Karen Rehfeld, director, Office of Management & Budget, gave a full overview on Wednesday, January 12 on Governor Parnell's FY 12 proposed budgets, including education funding and PERS and TRS unfunded liability.  Link to hearing audio and documents:

During the hearing Rep. Gara asked if education is flat funded, or if there are any increases. Ms.Rehfeld said the education funding in the budget is based on the current formula, which is set in statute. The only increase is for the fourth year of implementation for district cost factors. That’s on a five-year schedule, so FY 13 will be the last year of implementation for district cost factors. The BSA is still at $5,680.
Ms. Rehfeld said they will have the supplemental budget bill to the Legislature by the 15th legislative day (February 1) and amendments to the Legislature by the 30th legislative day (February 16).

Governor Parnell

Governor Sean Parnell shortly after giving his State of the State address to the Alaska State Legislature on January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

House Minority Press Conference

House Minority Leader Rep. Beth Kerttula, and Reps. David Guttenberg and Les Gara during a press conference today.

First Day, 27th Alaska State Legislature

Greetings on this first day of the first session of the 27th Alaska State Legislature. 

I will be posting a little more regularly now that session is beginning.  However, what you see on this blog are just snippets of the full daily and weekly reports.  For instance, what you will miss this week by not being a subscriber are summaries of all education-related legislation, a House Education Committee hearing, a Senate Majority press conference, a House Minority press conference, committee member and contact information for the House and Senate Education and Finance Committees, and an explanation of how to use the legislative website to track legislation. 

If you would like to see what you're missing, I'm offering open access to reports for the first two weeks of session for anyone interested.  Call (907) 500-7069 or email to get on my email list for reports, or for information on subscribing.