Budget Cuts in ASD

The Anchorage School District is facing the unavoidable consequences of a $68 million budget deficit that is calling for dire decisions that will change the fate of schools, programs, and maintenance work due to funding issues and inflation.

Although the decisions are yet to be set in stone, ASD issued an announcement on October 18th regarding the possible closure of 6 schools, particularly Abbott Loop Elementary, Birchwood Elementary, Klatt Elementary, Northwood Elementary, Nunaka Valley Elementary, and Wonder Park Elementary. They are also supposedly considering other budget cuts and changes to programs, and activities, along with possibly shifting sixth grade to middle school, which would allow middle schools to run at full capacity and grant more electives and course offerings to students. The decisions are to be made in December regarding this issue.

This $68 million deficit didn’t just happen overnight, however, as the problem has its roots back in 2016, as annual funding for Alaska’s public schools hasn’t increased since then, although there have been various reasons too. Before continuing, it’s integral to know what the BSA — Base Student Allocation — is: it determines how much funding each 53 school district receives annually depending on the student’s needs, the current cost per student being $5,960.

Continuing forth, it was planned to fund schools a year beforehand, but due to lowering oil prices, inflation, and Alaska’s urban consumer price index increased more than the BSA, achieving that has been impossible. A bill that would have increased the BSA by $222 and $55 per student didn’t pass, along with a different bill that would have adjusted the BSA according to inflation, and the end result of those two failing to pass was a $30 increase to the BSA, a 0.5% increase. 

Although decisions are yet to be made about the $68 million deficit, it seems that school closure is imminent as proposed cost reductions, besides closing schools, would barely cut half of the deficit. Unpopular decisions will be made this December, and they are unavoidable.