Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
Education Funding Unfair Comparisons
March 15, 2013
The views expressed here are my personal views and do not represent any official position of the Borough Assembly.
As I pointed out previously (Education Funding Cap), the Cap is not a measure of the "quality" of education funding in a community, it is merely the upper boundary of a federal disparity limit. Similarly, it is incorrect to use the Cap as a direct comparison between communities as a gauge of the "value" a community places on education.
Repeatedly, during my terms on the Borough Assembly, I have heard Sitka, Juneau, and Anchorage held up as models of communities that value education more than Ketchikan, because they "Fund to the Cap." Those who urge these comparisons would serve the public better if they would also make comparisons of the economies of each area. Ketchikan's economy lags markedly behind that of Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka.
If we consider the most recent thirteen years on record (1999-2011, one generation of students) the value of taxable property in Anchorage increased by 127.5%, Sitka by 81.3% and Juneau by 80.2%. Ketchikan's increase was 46.7%. The growth in the tax base of Anchorage was 2.7 times that of Ketchikan. The growth in the tax base of both Sitka and Juneau was 1.7 times that of Ketchikan.
Of the four communities, Ketchikan is the only one that lost population during this time frame. Ketchikan has the highest unemployment rate (ranging from 50% higher than Juneau to 23% higher than Sitka). Ketchikan has the largest percentage of persons living below the poverty level (ranging from 52% greater than Juneau to 23% greater than Anchorage) and the lowest median income (ranging from 26% lower than Juneau to 18% lower than Sitka).
Despite the severe economic times Ketchikan is experiencing, we fund our schools very well and we do so to a higher level than Sitka. In the current fiscal year, Ketchikan provides 75.6% of permissible discretionary funding as compared to 63.2% for Sitka. Anchorage provides 100% of permissible discretionary funding and Juneau 98.67%; both higher than Ketchikan, but their economies are robust enough to support this level of funding. Ketchikan's economy isn't.
There is no shame in living within your means. There is no shame in funding education to a level that is appropriate to your community's economic condition especially when faced with the potential loss of approximately $2.2 million dollars (26% of the Borough's FY2012 education allocation) in federal monies for education.
The real solution to the dilemma of education funding lies in getting the State to live up to its Constitutional responsibility for education and fully fund basic need for all school districts.
About: Local resident interested in education issues.
References: quickfacts.census.gov; laborstats.alaska.gov; commerce.state.alaska.us
Received March 14, 2013
- Published March 15, 2013
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