While the Legislature is still hammering out how much money to put toward the base student allocation, the Senate Finance Committee has included a major injection of funds in their version of the operating budget.
Where the House had proposed giving school districts $25 million in one-time education aid, the Senate Finance Committee has bumped that number up to $100 million to be divided among school districts based on their enrollment numbers. Their operating budget would allocate $100 million to schools during the 2015-2016 academic year as well.
Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican who co-chairs the committee, said the number serves as a placeholder while lawmakers figure out how they want to adjust the funding formula.
“We want as a group to figure out education,” Kelly told the committee. “We may need some time to do that. This amendment gives us time, while we are not putting the school districts too much out on a limb as we make our determinations.”
The number could change if the Legislature settles on a more permanent fix for education funding by increasing the base student allocation. That’s the amount that each school gets for every student enrolled, and it has sat at $5,680 per child for the past four years.
Gov. Sean Parnell has proposed increasing the BSA by $85 per student this year, which adds up to a little over $10 million for the whole school system. His plan would build in future boosts to the BSA over the next couple of years.
The Democratic Minority in the Legislature has argued Parnell’s plan does not do enough to plug school districts’ budget shortfalls and avoid teacher layoffs. Their legislation would increase the BSA by $404.
The Senate operating budget is expected to come to a vote next week, and then be sent to the House so that differences can be worked out.
- A lawsuit filed in federal court this week seeks to remove the residency requirement for people gathering signatures for state ballot initiatives.
- For the second time in two years, a Skagway political figure has been ordered to pay a fine for incomplete financial disclosures. Assembly hopeful Dan Henry failed to disclose substantial debt on his candidate paperwork. He will still be able to run for office in the upcoming election.
- Administration officials have a mouthful of a name for it: the “capped hybrid head tax.” It's a flat 1.5 percent of wages and self-employment income, with a maximum of twice the value of that year's Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.
- A federal district court has sided with conservationists fighting to preserve the U.S. Forest Service's "roadless rule" that limits road building in national forests. Alaska conservationists opposed to expanded logging in Tongass National Forest hailed the ruling as a victory.