Dunleavy says new polling data shows Alaskans want education reform with BSA increase

a man at podium
Gov. Mike Dunleavy, R-Alaska, speaks to reporters on March 15, 2024. (Eric Stone/Alaska Public Media)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy released a poll Tuesday that he said shows a majority of Alaskans are in favor of education reforms in public schools. The poll was commissioned by the governor and conducted by Dittman Research just one week after Dunleavy vetoed the legislature’s bipartisan education bill.

The poll shows 77% of Alaskans favor an increase to the Base Student Allocation, which was included in the education bill. When asked about the best approach to improving education outcomes, 57% of respondents picked reforms as the most important factor compared to 33% for funding. 

At a press conference in Juneau, Dunleavy defended his decision to veto the bill. He said the poll shows the need to pass reforms along with a funding increase.

“Once we put a permanent increase in for the BSA, the chances of reform are very slim. Historically speaking, that’s been the case,” Dunleavy said. “Once the money is secured, crickets. Crickets on outcomes, crickets on reform, crickets. So I don’t understand why there can’t be two sides to the coin.”

One of the reforms Dunleavy wants is a new approval process for charter schools, through the state education board he appoints. But the poll did not include a question about that proposal.

That stood out to Jason Katz-Brown. His progressive leaning firm, Data for Progress, produced a poll in March that also found strong support for increasing the Base Student Allocation

“If the governor were my client as a pollster I would really want to hone in on and make sure I get data behind his most important priorities and it was peculiar that those weren’t represented in this poll,” Katz-Brown said. 

The Base Student Allocation has not been significantly increased since 2017, and currently sits at $5,960 per student.

A new education bill from Anchorage Republican Rep. Tom McKay is making its way through the legislative committee process. The bill has moved out of the education committee and will next appear in the House Finance Committee.

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at trockey@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here

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