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.

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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.