The Senate Finance Committee has advanced a bill that would increase per-student funding for public schools. It now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
On Monday, Sen. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, asked the finance committee to support the bill, which would increase the base student allocation by $680 starting in July.
“After 99 days of public testimony, hearings and meetings, it is very clear to us that the Alaska public education system is struggling,” Tobin said. “We need to do something drastic. This bill does just that.”
The Senate Finance Committee added two amendments to the bill.
The first increases monthly room and board stipends for students who attend residential schools.
The second amendment increases school transportation funding. Ken Alper, a staff member for committee co-chair Sen. Donny Olson, D-Nome, said it would add $8 million in annual transportation funding, an 11% increase from the amount set in 2016.
Tobin said flat funding from the state has caused many school districts to use base student allocation money to help pay for busing. Districts across the state have faced driver shortages and rising fuel costs.
“This will significantly go to help our schools get kids to the classroom,” Tobin told the committee.
The House version of the BSA bill remains in the House Finance Committee. If the Senate passes its bill, it will go to the House, which will likely refer it to the House Finance Committee.