Juneau, Alaska (Alaska Beacon) - The Alaska Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill on Monday that would increase state support for student transportation along with a broader increase in state funding per student for public schools.
The committee added two amendments to Senate Bill 52 that would provide funds for student transportation, as well as housing costs at residential schools. The bill’s primary focus is to increase the base student allocation, which is the amount the state pays school districts for each student.
The amendments would allow school districts to receive funding for student transportation costs between their home and school as well as give funding to schools that outsource their transportation needs. One of the amendments also has a provision that would give a stipend for students’ housing needs.
“This will significantly go to helping our schools get kids to the classroom,” said Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage, who has been a strong supporter of the bill.
Across the state of Alaska, some educators have said that increasing the base student allocation is just the start of what’s needed to better provide for students. Currently, the Senate is considering a version of the bill that has the base student allocation funding increase at $680 per student, which was recently voted on by the Alaska House Education Committee. That amount would translate into a higher amount once various adjustments are made for each district.
Transportation has largely come out of school base student allocation funding, according to Tobin. She said that the amendments providing funds for transportation-related expenses to and from school is necessary to help more Alaskan children get a quality education.
“It is very clear to us that the Alaska public education system is struggling,” Tobin said.
Ken Alper, staff member to Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, said that the amendments would increase the cost of the bill by about $8 million. The base student allocation increase totals an estimated $175 million. If the bill is passed, the amendments to the BSA bill would go into effect in July.