JUNEAU, Alaska — School districts in Alaska will soon get some welcome relief from increasing education costs.
Gov. Sean Parnell announced on Tuesday that he will sign legislation that provides about $50 million in additional funding for K-12 education, including a boost for school busing.
“I understand the pressure on school district budgets,” Parnell said. “I supported legislation to address specific costs, including pupil transportation and vocational education. School districts will receive more than $50 million in additional funding to deliver quality education to Alaska’s students.”
The funding increase for pupil transportation is $19.7 million.
“We are fortunate,” Steven Kalmes, director of transportation services for Anchorage School District, told SBF of the additional funding. “We haven’t been hit nearly as hard as other states with the recession.”
Still, Anchorage School District recently had a $2.2 million shortfall in transportation. But with the new state increases, Kalmes said that next year his district’s transportation will be reimbursed “pretty close to full costs.”
The amount of pupil transportation funding that Alaska school districts receive is based on their average daily membership (ADM).
The state opted for the ADM model in 2002, a change from the direct reimbursement program that was previously in use.
“There was concern from the Legislature that transportation costs were continuing to increase,” Kalmes said. “They thought that if we got capped, it would force us to be more efficient.”
Since 2002, there have been a few fiscal increases for pupil transportation, but “nothing substantial,” Kalmes said. “It was obvious that we needed more funding.”
With the new funding increases, the Alaska Department of Education will have more oversight of pupil transportation throughout the state. Kalmes said that some regulations that were dropped with the shift in 2002 will be returning, and there will again be a designated state director of pupil transportation.
The education appropriation bills also provide an increase of $5.9 million for vocational education and a $25 million one-time funding based on student enrollment.
The total state-funded K-12 education and pupil transportation budget for FY 2013 is $1.2 billion.
Review of the appropriation bills is still in progress. Parnell is expected to sign them before the end of May.