Senate education bill is on the move

The Senate Education Committee Monday approved a three-year increase to the Basic Student Allocation, or BSA. That’s the amount of money to cover the cost of educating each student enrolled, and it’s the basis for calculating extra costs such as the difference in operating expenses in various communities.

Gov. Sean Parnell’s budget for next year proposes the same level of funding at $5,680 per student. Senate Bill 171 increases the BSA for each of the next three years — by $125 dollars per student in July of this year; $130 in 2013, and by $135 a student in 2014.

Kenai School Board member Sunny Hilz praised the committee’s decision to provide more than one year of funding. She said forward funding will allow schools to plan ahead.

“What it does in our school district, it changes the morale of the entire place. It lets us focus on what we know will work,” she said. “A program doesn’t work for one year and then start over again. We have to be able to plan ahead.”

SB 171 is priority legislation for the Senate. It’s next hearing will be in Senate Finance. But when it gets to the House, the outcome is unpredictable, said House Speaker Mike Chenault during Monday’s press availability. He said education needs more state money, but he’s concerned about making changes to the formula used to fund public schools.

“Sometimes it’s a lot harder to change it once we’ve put it in (law) so I think we’ve got to be careful,” he said. “Could we come up with something that’s a year or two or three years certainty for education? We’ve done it in the past, and we can certainly do it in the future. But I think we have to have those conversations as we look at the budget continuing to grow.”