Anchorage residents call on legislators to increase funding for schools

Annual town hall draws crowd supportive of per-student increase

By: - March 6, 2023 5:40 pm
Anchorage residents gather on Sunday at the University of Alaska Anchorage to address legislators. The speakers overwhelmingly supported increasing education funding per-student. (Screen capture)

Anchorage residents gather on Sunday at the University of Alaska Anchorage to address legislators. The speakers overwhelmingly supported increasing education funding per-student. (Screen capture)

On Sunday, Anchorage residents called upon legislators to increase the funding for public education. State legislators, parents, educators and students gathered in Rasmuson Hall at the University of Alaska Anchorage for the annual legislative town hall hosted by the Anchorage caucus. While other pressing state issues such as climate change, better benefits for caregivers and food security were discussed, the majority of the event saw advocates pushing for greater per-student funding for Alaska schools. The support for increasing the base student allocation funding was overwhelming from testifiers. 

“Teachers are overworked and underpaid, classrooms are overcrowded, and resources are scarce,” said Irene Boll who is a candidate for the Anchorage School Board. She went on to say that, “[i]ncreasing the BSA is crucial for the success of our education system and the future of our state … We must prioritize the education of our students by providing them with the necessary resources and support they need to succeed. By doing so we are investing in their future and our own.”

The proposed Senate Bill 52 would amount to an increase of $1,000 per student in Alaska. Another bill, House Bill 65, proposed an increase of about $1200 per student. However, the actual amount of money allocated to each student would be higher due to a state formula that includes other factors in its calculation for each school district’s total. Previous public testimony about the proposed increase in funding saw widespread support from parents and educators across the state, with some saying that while the increase is the beginning of an important change, it is not quite enough. 

Some testifiers at the event on Sunday demanded that the Legislature increase the BSA this session so that schools can receive funding as quickly as possible. BSA funding in Alaska has not permanently increased since 2017. Another testifier at the event, Polly Carr said that the responsibility of funding is not just a school district issue. 

She said, “This is a state issue. It’s not a school district by school district issue, and we need leadership by our state, legislators and governor.” Carr went on to say that: “This is the number one crisis facing our state.”

Caroline Storm, who is a volunteer with Great Alaska Schools, also noted the importance of funding education to attract potential workers to Alaska. She asked the legislators to increase the funding for this legislative session so that “we can develop our workforce and attract the people to our state that we desperately need in order to leverage the infrastructure development funds that are available to us.” 

Storm was adamant about the need for increased funding. “Alaska cannot prosper without a robust and stable education system,” she said.

Concerns about a decreased workforce were not only shared by Storm. Carr, who believes the education crisis is the biggest issue facing Alaskans, also mentioned her concern about teachers leaving the state due to a lack of support. 

“Teachers leave because they don’t have support or resources and yet we expect them to keep doing what they’re doing with less and less.” she said. 

While much of the testimony was focused on all areas impacted by the lack of education funding, Sara Dykstra who works for Anchorage schools, emphasized the need to support the children, who are Alaska’s future. “The children we’re talking about now who are in crisis in schools are going to be the ones who are working and supporting us now going forward.” She closed her comment by recentering the conversation to be around children. 

“This is about equity for all children,” she said. 


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