Governor Parnell today showed no support for the Senate’s plans to increase the formula that determines how much state money goes to local school districts. The Senate Education Committee this week approved a bill raising the Basic Student Allocation by $125 in this year’s budget, $130 next year and another $135 the year after that.
Parnell says he has told lawmakers that he does not want to increase any formulas that drive state spending. He says under the current method, the legislature does little more than write a check. And he wants the education system to be more accountable and flexible.
I am willing to consider and fund some fixed cost increases. For example, heat. If it’s demonstrated – and it is demonstrated– that heating costs for the next year are up, then we ought to fund that on a fixed basis. And I’m willing to commit to that with legislators.
Parnell said he recognizes that such spending could go against his cap on spending in this year’s budget, however he prefers the fixed cost spending approach. He says the state could become overrun by formulas like he sees with the way federal money is spent.
Fairbanks Democrat Joe Thomas, the co-chair of the Education Committee that wrote the bill making the spending increase, says those one-time appropriations the governor likes are seen as cuts to the programs because schools can’t use them for planning their activities in future years. He says there are unpredictable elements of spending that would have to be considered.
We talk about pupil transportation, we talk about energy costs, those are fluctuating numbers. Generally they go up because everything, the running of the school, the running of the buses, is effected by fuel costs, the weather – things like that that are hard to predict. We’re probably never going to fund education to the amount that is needed even as you review the factors yourself.
The Senate bill is currently in the Finance Committee.