Senate proposes one-time $680 increase to per-student funding paired with $1,300 PFD

Bert Stedman
Senator Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, speaks to on the Senate floor on July 8, 2019, in Juneau. (ashah McChesney/KTOO)

The Alaska Senate Finance Committee has proposed a nearly 15% increase to the per-student funding formula for school districts in the state for the upcoming fiscal year. 

The $680 per-student increase is substantially less than education advocates had asked for, but Senate Finance Committee co-chair Bert Stedman said the funding is an increase from a plan floated earlier in the week.

“Under further consideration within the Senate, there was substantial support for the kids to increase that,” he said. 

Education advocates lobbied for an even higher funding boost. The Association of Alaska School Boards had proposed a minimum increase in the per-student formula of at least $860 late last year. Executive Lon Garrison said for some districts dealing with high inflation, the increase should be more like $1,300. 

Still, he’s thankful that there was some increase in per-student funding and it’s politically viable, since it’s the same amount the House had proposed, and doesn’t require pulling from the state’s savings account. Garrison said the funding increase will help, but recruiting teachers to districts will still be difficult. 

“It always means we’re probably gonna lose a teacher or a program or an opportunity for students to get a great education in the state of Alaska,” he said. 

The Senate’s amended operating budget proposal, released at a committee meeting on Wednesday, would be about $90 million less than the state’s projected revenue with oil at $73 per barrel. That means the budget for capital projects would have to stay below $90 million to keep the state from dipping into its approximately $2 billion budget reserve. 

The smaller number will make finalizing a budget challenging with the House of Representatives, where leaders have insisted on a controversial $2,700 dividend payment that would require pulling from the budget reserve. 

If oil prices stay above $73 per barrel, the first $1 billion earned would be deposited into the budget reserve under the senate plan. Revenue above that would go into a state education fund that would fund education for the coming years, something education advocates have long demanded in order to make it easier for districts to plan their spending. 

Stedman told reporters he hopes to put the plan to the full senate for a vote next week. From there it would go to the House to resolve differences between the bodies with hopes that they can agree on a final plan before the constitutionally mandated end of the session on May 17.

Lex Treinen

Lex Treinen is covering the state Legislature for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at

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