Full funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education wouldn’t mean more money in Juneau School District coffers, administrators said.
When Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveiled his proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 this week, he noted it called for full funding for K-12 schools.
Kristin Bartlett, chief of staff for the district, said in an interview she’s pleased he did not propose a cut, but the proposed budget doesn’t mean more money for the district.
The budget announcement with full funding comes on the heels of a Juneau Superior Court judge’s ruling that the Legislature’s 2018 vote to fund K-12 schools in both fiscal years 2019 and fiscal year 2020 — this year — was constitutional. The Dunleavy administration had argued the funding wasn’t valid, and the Legislature sued the governor.
The reason full funding isn’t a boost for the district is mostly because the amount of money allotted to districts per student has stagnated since fiscal year 2017, said Sarah Jahn, director of administrative services for Juneau School District. That amount, known as the base student allocation, was raised to $5,930 that year.
“When they don’t raise the BSA, the base student allocation, and expenses continue to rise, it has a net-negative effect on us,” Jahn said.
Before the BSA settled at its current total, it had risen from $5,680 in fiscal year 2014 to $5,830 in fiscal year 2015 and then to $5,880 in fiscal year 2016, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. The BSA was flat from fiscal year 2011-2014.
The district’s fiscal year 2020 budget included $70.6 million in expenditures and $37.6 million in revenue from the state, according to the district’s budget outline.
In effect, the district can expect to receive just about as much money from the state as it did in fiscal year 2017, while having to pay for years of inflation and increasing salaries.
The governor also proposed financial incentives for schools based on achievement when sharing his proposed budget, but both Bartlett and Jahn said more details about what that means would need to be shared before they could weigh in on how that might affect Juneau schools.
Jahn said in each of the past two fiscal years, the district has received additional funding from the state through legislative operating grants, which are commonly called LOGs. Those LOGs amounted to $20 million and $30 million split among all schools in the state.
She said LOGs for future fiscal years could come to be during the Legislature’s upcoming session, but that isn’t guaranteed.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” Jahn said.
That’s true for the budget-making process as a whole, Bartlett and Jahn said.
Last year, the budget was hammered out via line-item vetoes, multiple legislative sessions — sometimes in competing locations — and down-to-the-wire votes.
In the meantime, the district will need to go through its own budget-making process.
“In the midst of all these variables changing, the board will begin to develop the budget for FY 21 in January,” Bartlett said.