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Assembly shows support for education funding increase

The Borough administration and school district building in Soldotna.
Riley Board
The borough administration and school district building in Soldotna.

Almost every member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly put their name on a resolution asking for an increase to education funding from the state legislature.

The amount of money the state provides districts per-student, called the Base Student Allocation or BSA, has not meaningfully increased since 2017. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has joined many around Alaska in calling on legislators to increase funding, so they can avoid deficits, program cuts and layoffs.

The school district is projecting a $13 million deficit for the next fiscal year, andcourted legislators in an early December meeting, where school board members emphasized their need for a BSA increase.

The assembly’s supporting resolution mentions the deficit and the district’s critical need for increased funding. Legislative Committee Chair Bill Elam introduced it at the assembly’s meeting Tuesday night.

“It is an increase that’s relatively modest, in my opinion, and it’s looking to get some additional funding,” Elam said. “The state hasn’t increased the BSA in a number of years, so this is an opportunity to try to attempt to curve off some of the politicalness that happens every year when funding comes around, and so the goal would be for us to try to get the state to issue us off some additional funds, and for us to have a voice there as well.”

In a memo, the resolution’s original sponsors Tyson Cox and Brent Hibbert write that without stable and inflation-proof funding, “we will continue to see our Alaska educational system erode.”

The resolution asks the legislature for a meaningful and timely BSA increase that makes up for the lack of increases over the past several years. It also petitions Gov. Mike Dunleavy not to veto any BSA increases or one-time funding passed by the legislature, as he did last year.

The governor unveiled his proposed budget last month, which did not include a BSA increase or an extension of last year’s one-time education funding boost.

By the time the resolution was voted on, almost every member of the assembly and Borough Mayor Peter Micciche had added their names as sponsors.

The resolution passed unanimously as part of the assembly’s consent agenda, following an amendment from Member Mike Tupper that clarified the language around inflation-based adjustments. The legislature convenes on January 16 for the next session.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.