The Anchorage School District made their case for increasing state education funding to legislators during a luncheon Thursday. With the current funding formula, the district projects they will cut 720 jobs over the next three years. Class sizes will increase to about 10 more students per class than evidence-based research recommends.
School board president Eric Croft says the Base Student Allocation funding formula needs to change.
“I’ve had legislators say, ‘Why do we have to have this same debate every year? Why is there another $22 million dollar deficit in the Anchorage School District’s budget?’ We just responded, without inflation-proofing of the formula, that discussion is going to happen every year,” Croft told the crowd, which included state and municipal lawmakers.
Currently inflation in Anchorage is at 3 percent.
Croft also wants the legislature to consider using the cost-of-living in the Mat-Su Valley as the base for the school funding formula, not Anchorage. Preliminary ASD studies show that the cost of living is lower in the Mat-Su Valley than in Anchorage, mostly because of the price of housing. If the Valley is used as the base, the formula would be adjusted to account for higher costs in Anchorage and increase the funding for the city’s schools. ASD is asking for a more formal cost-of-living study from the legislature.
Anchorage Rep. Andy Josephson, a Democrat, agrees that school funding must be a priority over other projects. He explains that HB 278 requires the legislature to hire a consultant to look at the base funding formula, but he’s not sure it will help the district’s problems.
“I think the net result is going to be, it doesn’t change the number of brick and mortar buildings you need, the number of personnel you need, so I question whether we’re going to achieve a whole lot doing that.”
Rep. Harriet Drummond, a Democrat from Anchorage, says she and the other Democrats plan to look at education funding first this session.
“Education is my first priority. I think we fund education first, early in the session, then everything else follows.”
Drummond says she echos the district’s concerns about how the cost of housing is impacting how the district can attract and retain employees
ASD also wants the legislature to consider the trickle down effect of losing 720 jobs in the community.