Local Schools to State: It’s About the Money

The House today opened its week-long focus on Education with an overview of what the state has done for local schools.

Commissioner Mike Hanley told the Finance Committee that the state’s responsibility ends after advising and setting standards for local school districts.  He pointed out that, technically, the Department of Education could do more,  as they have been ordered to do in settlement of litigation requiring intervention in districts that are not meeting the standards.

Hanley presented graphs and charts showing that overall funding for local schools has consistently increased over the years.

Lawmakers were interested in how the state will pay for the requirements being put on schools next year.  The administration shows increases in contributions to retirement costs and to energy expenses and offers to pay for pupil transportation. But  Dillingham Democrat Bryce Edgmon said the whole issue rests on funding given to schools through the state’ s basic,  per-student formula.

We’re not funding that to a high enough level to meet those invisible bar charts that are there that could be attributed to the school districts.  Everything from the School district of Anchorage being down $22-Million to the City of Dillingham being down $300-thousand plus.  I mean it’s just across the entire board.

Commissioner Hanley disagrees with that assessment that funding has not increased.

He said that twenty five percent of the state’s funding goes to education.

We don’t see flat funding.  We don’t see flat spending. We see an increased cost.  I think people just see the bottom part and don’t recognize necessarily what the state actually is doing – and these are surely increased costs.

The committee will hear from local school board members tomorrow to get their take on how to provide sufficient funding.

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