State representatives Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, and Andi Story, D-Juneau, offering competing amendments to a bill increasing the per-student funding formula for public schools by $1,250 during a House Education Committee meeting Wednesday morning. McKay’s proposal to lower the increase to $150 was defeated. Story’s proposal to implement an increase during the next two years was approved, after her proposed amounts totalling about $1,500 were reduced to $800.

State representatives Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, and Andi Story, D-Juneau, offering competing amendments to a bill increasing the per-student funding formula for public schools by $1,250 during a House Education Committee meeting Wednesday morning. McKay’s proposal to lower the increase to $150 was defeated. Story’s proposal to implement an increase during the next two years was approved, after her proposed amounts totalling about $1,500 were reduced to $800.

Borough, Soldotna call on Legislature to increase school funding

The City of Soldotna last week became the latest entity to call on the Alaska Legislature to increase school funding when it passed a resolution urging a bump to the amount of money school districts receive per student.

The resolution cites a $13.1 million budget deficit anticipated by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District for the upcoming fiscal year and a lack of increases to the funding amount by the State of Alaska since fiscal year 2017 as needs for an increase. The resolution comes as education advocates around the state call for increases to Alaska’s base student allocation.

There are two bills currently up for consideration by the Alaska Legislature that would increase the amount of money school districts receive per student.

S.B. 52, sponsored by the Senate Education Committee, originally sought to increase the BSA by $1,000 per student. The Senate committee substitute, which was moved out of the Senate Education Committee earlier this month, would increase the amount by $1,000 initially, then increase it another $348 in fiscal year 2025, and then adjust it for inflation the year after that.

The committee substitute, which includes other amendments not related to the base student allocation, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

A separate bill, H.B. 65, originally sought to increase the base student allocation by $1,250. The committee substitute of that bill would instead increase the amount by $680 for the upcoming fiscal year, and by another $120 for the year after. The substitute was voted out of committee last Wednesday and has since been referred to the House Finance Committee.

The resolution passed last week by Soldotna City Council, sponsored by council member Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, is nearly identical to a resolution passed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly earlier this month.

Tyson Cox, who sponsored the assembly resolution, thanked council members for their resolution in support of an increase during their Wednesday meeting.

“We still have the Senate — I don’t think they’ve even heard theirs yet — and so there’s a long ways to go,” Cox said. “But $800 in two years would be significant for our area.”

David Brighton, a teacher at Skyview Middle School who is also the former president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, also voiced his support for the resolution during Wednesday’s council meeting.

“The cuts that we’ve been making slowly, year after year, have really harmed our ability to teach students,” Brighton said. “So, injecting some capital back into our schools, allowing us to stop cutting teachers and finding ways to make things work, will really help improve student learning for students on the Kenai Peninsula.”

The House Finance Committee is scheduled to take up H.B. 65 on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday’s meeting of the Soldotna City Council can be streamed on the city’s website at soldotna.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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