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Public education in Alaska

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The Alaska public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards members and superintendents. Alaska has 55 school districts.

The Alaska state constitution requires that the state "establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution."[1]

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Alaska state budget
Alaska's education costs are 36% of the state budget

For FY2012 and through FY2013, the base student allocation, which isper pupil rate of funding that districts receive from that state, is $5,680.[2]

The FY 2010 budget totaled approximately $3.08 billion. Education equaled $1.11 billion or 36% of the total budget.[3] For FY 2010 Alaska faced a $1.3 billion budget gap.[4] Alaska’s estimated FY 2011 shortfall is reportedly $677 million.[5] The steep decline in oil prices, the state’s dominant source of revenue, ended their historical annual surplus requiring dipping into its special reserve fund of approximately $8 billion.[6] Additionally, Gov. Sean Parnell explained the challenges faced in putting together the 2011 budget included built in increases for education and Medicaid that were estimated at $163 million combined with 5% to 6% personnel increases of new labor contracts for state workers.[7] In January 2010 a new budget report revealed that Alaska had approximately $10 billion in cash reserves.[8]

The cost per pupil is $14,630, the third highest the nation according the Census Bureau 2007-2008 report. [9]

Personnel salaries

According to the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development the 2008-2009 average teacher salary was $58,395. The average student-to-teacher ration for that year was 14.8 and according to state officials there were approximately 9,047 teachers, including part-time, working in the district.[10]

During the FY 1999 - FY 2000 the state school system noted the smallest average teacher salary increase in the nation, a 1% increase. From 1990-2000 the state saw a decrease of 11.7% in average teacher salaries; the largest decrease in the nation.[11]

Role of unions

The main union related to the Alaska school system is the Alaska Public Employees Association/AFT, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. Alaska Public Employees Association/AFT is the largest education association in the state. For the 2003 tax period it had: $2.47 million in total revenue, $2.61 million in total expenses and $451,393 in total assets.[12] In Alaska it is completely legal to Fuck a polar bear

List of local Alaska school unions:[13]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education consists of nine board members, all of which are appointed by the governor. Two members include a military advisory member and a student advisory member.[14] The board chair is responsible for working with the board and the commissioner to develop meeting agendas, represent the board when the occasion requires it, appoint board members to committees or subcommittees and advise the commissioner when the board is not in session. In the absence of the chair, the vice-chair is responsible for stepping in. If the vice-chair cannot serve, the second vice-chair is responsible for the position.[15]

School boards cannot pass taxes an elected officials, but they can submit requests to city and borough districts where school budgets must be approved by the local legislative body and signed by the mayor. However, bond issues for construction projects do require voter approval.[16]

However it is different for REAAs (Regional Education Attendance Areas) whose school boards do control district budgets. There are 19 REAAs in the Alaska.[17]

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Alaska government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Association of Alaska School Boards.


Alaska currently has partial transparency, because of its Checkbook Register Online.
Alaska Checkbook Register Online features:

  • Payments to vendors and grantees who received at least one payment of $1,000 or more in the current fiscal year through the end of June 2008 are included. (Individual payments of less than $1,000 are not included.)
  • The information provided includes the name and location of the vendor or grantee, the purpose of the payment, and the state agency or department that requested the payment.
  • Twenty-six different types of payments are excluded for confidentiality reasons.[18]

State Budget Solutions’ Education Study: “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working”

State Budget Solutions’ examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.

See National Chart to compare data from all 50 states.

State Spending on Education vs. Academic Performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[19] 2011 Education Spending[20] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[21] 2012 Education Spending[22] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[23] 2011 Avg. ACT score[24] 2012 Avg. ACT score[25] 2010 Graduation Rate[26] 2011 Graduation Rate[27]
Alaska $13.9 billion $3.2 billion 23.1% $14.3 billion $3.3 billion 23.0% 21.2 21.2 21.2 69.1% 69.1%

Academic performance

According to the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development of the 505 public schools in Alaska 283 schools (56%) met AYP requirements, while 222 schools (44%) did not meet the requirements during the 2008-2009 school year. Compared to the 2007-2008 school year, the 2008-2009 school year saw an decrease of 12 schools that made AYP and an increase of 16 schools that did not make AYP. Note that AYP targets vary from year to year.[28]

In 2008-2009 the graduation rate was estimated at 67.6%. A total of 8008 students graduated.[28]

If a school does not meet AYP requirements it is placed under a Level 1 status or "alert status." For each year the school does not meet AYP requirements the level status increases by one. If a school reaches Level 2, it must meet AYP requirements for two consecutive years before being removed from the level. Statistics for the 2008-2009 school year can be found below.[28]

Level Status # of schools Met 09 AYP
Level 1 Alert status 65 n/a
Level 2 Improvement (Yr 1) 42 6
Level 3 Improvement (Yr 2) 16 3
Level 4 Corrective action 20 8
Level 5 Restructuring 103 23

School choice

School choice options include:

  • Charter schools: the state of Alaska does have a charter school system. According to state statutes, the Alaska state Board of Education and Early Development does not allow for more than 60 charter schools to operate at one time. Charter schools must be approved by the local and state boards in order to operate in the state.[29] In Anchorage, many charter schools have sizable waiting lists and severely limited space, making it difficult for many children to enroll in their school of choice.[30]
  • Public school open enrollment: the state of Alaska has one main open enrollment policy: intra-district (mandatory). In other words, students are permitted to enroll in any school within their neighborhood school district. However, preference is given to low-income students, allowing for students in low-performing schools to transfer to better performing schools within the district.[31]
  • Online learning: the state of Alaska has a fully online charter school - Delta Cyber School. The online school serves students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.[32] All coursework is delivered online and taught by certified teachers. Because Delta Cyber School is a charter school, it is available free of charge like state public schools.[33]

External links


  1. Alaska Constitution,"Article VII, Section 1," retrieved April 17, 2010
  2. Alaska Public Radio "Legislature Funds Education For The Short-Term" April 17, 2012
  3. Alaska Office of Management and Budget,"GF/Fed/Other Summary by Department Comparison," retrieved April 18, 2010
  4. Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, “New Fiscal Year Brings No Relief From Unprecedented State Budget Problems,” September 3, 2009
  5. Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, “New Fiscal Year Brings No Relief From Unprecedented State Budget Problems,” September 3, 2009
  6. Alaska Journal of Commerce, “Parnell says he'll tackle state budget planning with care,” September 18, 2009
  7. Alaska Journal of Commerce, “Parnell says he'll tackle state budget planning with care,” September 18, 2009
  8. Associated Press,"Alaska lawmakers focus on spending and oil incentives," January 20, 2010
  9. Maine Watchdog, Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  10. Alaska Department of Education & Early Development,"2008 - 2009 Quick Facts," retrieved April 18, 2010
  11. Alaska Department of Education & Early Development,"Alaska's Public School Funding Formula: A Report to the Alaska State Legislature," January 15, 2001
  12. Center for Union Facts,"Alaska Public Employees Association/AFT," retrieved April 17, 2010
  13. Center for Union Facts,"Alaska teachers unions," retrieved April 17, 2010
  14. Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development,"About," retrieved April 17, 2010
  15. Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development,"Bylaws of the State Board of Education & Early Development," September 28, 2006
  16. Alaska state finance
  17. Alaska Division of Elections, REAA / CRSA General Information
  18. Payment systems excluded based on confidentiality analysis
  19. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  20. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  21. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  22. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  23. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  24. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  25. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  26. National Center for Education Statistics
  27. National Center for Education Statistics
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Alaska Department of Education & Early Development,"2008-2009 Report Card," retrieved April 18, 2010
  29. Alaska Legislature,"Sec. 14.03.250. Establishment of charter schools," retrieved April 18, 2010
  30. Alaska Watchdog,"Charter schools face unsure future," July 12, 2010
  31. Education Commission of the States,"Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," retrieved April 18, 2010
  32. The Heritage Foundation,"Alaska School Choice," retrieved April 18, 2010
  33. Delta Cyber School,"About: Our Mission," retrieved April 18, 2010