Education Requires Adequate Funding

  • By Dr. Deena BishopDr Bishop


    The Anchorage School District has completed its preliminary assessment of the Governor’s budget. It outlines a 25 percent reduction to education funding. The proposed cuts impact four areas: Base Student Allocation (BSA) change, HB287 recension, bond debt reimbursement, and pre-K.


    ASD’s operational budget would be impacted by a proposed reduction of $107.48 million (BSA, HB287, and pre-K). The other fund reduction presented in the Governor’s budget calls for a cut to the State’s share of bond debt in excess of $41 million for ASD’s past school construction and major maintenance. While this cut does not directly affect the school district, it essentially shifts costs of the State’s prior debt to the Municipality of Anchorage. The Governor’s proposed reductions call for an approximate $148 million deficit to ASD’s school communities for next school year.


    In understanding the magnitude of this reduction, ASD has published several documents on the District’s website to transparently share fact-based information. To provide a backdrop with relative impacts to our schools and classrooms, several scenarios are presented. For instance, the administrative costs for the School Board, chief level district administration, and my personal salary combined equate to $1.6 million. Similarly, the amount of funds currently used to hire elementary teachers, district-wide in ALL schools including neighborhood, charter, and special mission schools (such as open optional, immersion, etc.), is $126 million.


    ASD could essentially eliminate all elementary grade level teachers district-wide, or our ENTIRE PROGRAM, and still not account for the loss proposed in the Governor’s budget. Many times, a mind’s eye on real costs enables better decision making in understanding how state funds impact classrooms and programs.


    The proposed reductions will impact class sizes in the District. Presently, the pupil to teacher ratio (PTR) in kindergarten classes across the District is 21 students to one teacher (21:1). The Governor’s budget would grow this by 10, to 31 students per teacher (31:1). Fourth grade would increase from 26 students to 36 students per teacher (26:1 to 36:1). Our high schools would move from a PTR of 30:1 to 40:1.


    As citizens of Alaska, as community members of the Municipality of Anchorage, and as stakeholders in public education, your awareness and participation in the State’s budget are paramount. Currently, the elected officials of Anchorage are in Juneau preparing their budget proposals in the House and Senate. A goal for ASD is to keep the people of Anchorage informed so that you can make the decisions that best meet your desires and needs for public education.


    In closing, I ask that you keep your school district’s spending efficient, effective, and responsive to desired outcomes for the children in our city.


    To that end, I ask you to hold ASD accountable to do its best for the young people of our community in meeting their goals for a successful future. Reading, communicating, and problem solving are essential skills students must master. Graduates with the dispositions and attitudes to be healthy, happy, and employable are contributing community members. Public education is essential to the livelihood of our country, state, and city…ensure your schools deliver.

Anchorage School District Education Funding Impacts

  • A comparison of current Pupil to Teacher Ratios against possible outcomes due to changes in the State education budget

    PTR chart


  • Budget Graph

2019-2020 ASD Impacts from Governor's FY20 Amended Budget Proposal

2019-2020 Budget Designed to Close a $10.4 Million Gap and Meet Student Needs

  • Dr. Deena Bishop, Anchorage School District Superintendent, presented to the School Board a balanced preliminary budget on February 4, 2019. The proforma budget was presented to the School Board on December 10, 2018. If the District continued to fund every position and program at the same level as last year (as presented in the proforma budget), there would be a $10.4 million deficit. By statute, the District is required to present a balanced budget, matching spending to revenue. While the budget is a plan—a living document that is always changing—it is a way the community can prioritize the work of the ASD.


    Where we are now

    In the 2018-19 school year, average daily membership (ADM) is down more than 1,000 students than last year (830 more than projected). In our present budget, we took into account that we could be down 216 students. The District is projecting a decrease of 580 ADM for next school year making the total reduction over two years 1,626 students.

    In meeting the District’s mission and Destination 2020 goals, we know that in order to provide maximum opportunities to students, we must change the way we do business. In planning the budget, there has been a thorough review of services and programs, aligning student needs with staffing and resource allocation.


    Why are we in this fiscal predicament? 

    The Legislature has chosen not to fund the BSA (base student allocation) at the levels needed to meet inflation since 2010. State funding through the Base Student Allocation has not been increased in Alaska to keep pace with costs. Locally, support for public education is funded primarily through property taxes and Anchorage residents are committed to providing strong support for our schools.


    The way ahead

    In the Anchorage School District this year, we have been reminding ourselves of the “why” of public education. The why in public education is always focused on students. In meeting the needs of students, it is about closing the achievement gap and offering complete access to learning for all students. ASD is a minority-majority District. We educate approximately 46,800 students. More than 58 percent of our student population is considered to be of minority ethnicity.


    Destination 2020 investments from FY 2019 to FY 2020: 

    • New Teacher induction program
    • Wireless access control for 10 Schools
    • School intercom upgrades
    • Replace outdated student devices & display tech
    • Increase Special Education support incl. Pre-K
    • Continue positive behavioral supports - MTSS
    • King Tech HS partnership w/ Lower Yukon School District
    • Increase High School summer school program
    • $4.9M fund balance to retain PTR @ all grades
    • Programmatic roof maintenance
    • Increase PD & course offerings in Pre-AP (MS) & AP (HS)
    • Increase Project Lead the Way pathway
    • K-8 Literacy/ELA
    • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) & positive behavior supports


    Moving learning and schools into the 21st Century model, schools must continue to ask, “What do our students need to be successful?” That is the mission of ASD. To meet our mission, we must meet the needs of every student in every school every day as best we can. Once our students leave us, it is essential that they not only possess the knowledge, but have skills to be able to do something with the knowledge.

    The Anchorage School District depends on and appreciates the support of every neighborhood in our city because we cannot meet the challenges of learning without you.

    Dr. Bishop’s $572.3 million General Fund budget is based on ratios and metrics. By providing equitable staffing according to student enrollment and course needs, ASD is moving student learning forward.



FY 2019-2020 Budget Documents