In the legislature, a bill that would increase funding for schools has been introduced.
A team of nine Democrats want to peg what’s called the “Base Student Allocation” to inflation. That allocation gives school $5,680 for every student they have enrolled, and it’s remained at the same level for the past three years.
The funding bill would increase that amount to nearly $6,000 to account for inflation over the past two years, and it would permanently tie the allocation to the consumer price index going forward.
Rep. Harriet Drummond served on the Anchorage School Board before being elected to the legislature, and she describes the bill as a way of responding to recent staffing cuts in the district.
“The school districts have been cutting for years. They’ve long since cut any fat if there ever was any. They’re now cutting certified staff,” Drummond says.
House Majority Leader Lance Pruitt is skeptical of the bill’s potential to get through the legislature. The Anchorage Republican is concerned the bill could give future legislators less flexibility with the budget in times when less revenue is coming in, and he says that changes to the education funding formula would probably have more success if the Democratic Minority took a bipartisan approach.
“The bill that’s out there is more of a political statement than truly addressing the issue. If there was really a desire to see this move forward and not just be an opportunity to talk to you guys, then you would probably see some Majority members’ names on there,” Pruitt says.
Pruitt says that it’s too early to tell whether there will be any increases to education funding, but thinks the governor’s plan to keep the base student allocation at the same level is a good starting point.