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By DAN BOCKHORST
The Ketchikan Education Association is calling for the Borough to fund our school district to the cap. Here are some points to consider:
1. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District has a current-year operating budget of $44,115,565. Additionally, payments for school debt service add $3,510,233, and another $400,000 has been budgeted for school capital improvements this year. Those figures total $48,025,798. With a student population of 2,287, the total equals $20,999 for each student served by the KGBSD.
2. The KGBSD ranks in the top third among Alaska’s 53 school districts and the State boarding school in terms of the extent to which schools are funded toward the cap.
3. It was reported in the local news media that a KEA representative “noted that other boroughs [are funded to the cap] and wondered why Ketchikan’s School Board is not.” At best, that’s a vague and uninformative statement; at worst it’s misleading. Does KEA imply that all other boroughs are funded to the cap? In fact, only three of Alaska’s 19 boroughs fund their districts to the cap. That’s fewer than 16 percent. In making comparisons, it would be best to include all school districts in Alaska; only four of the 53 districts (fewer than 8 percent) fund to the cap.
4. It was also reported that a KEA representative stated, “. . . if you look at Wrangell if you look at Juneau if you look at Sitka – they’re funding to the cap of education, so what is different in Ketchikan?” That statement is inaccurate. Neither Wrangell nor Sitka fund to the cap. KEA officials have stated that they brought “the negotiations into the public eye” because “KEA felt like the community deserved to know.” The community’s interests are best served when accurate information is provided.
5. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District ranks higher among its counterparts statewide in terms of funding than it does with respect to any of the following performance and accountability measures:
a) Percentage of students who are proficient in English-Language Arts;
b) Percentage of students who are proficient in Mathematics;
c) Attendance rate;
d) 4-year graduation rate; and
e) 5-year graduation rate.
6. The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District has received significant increases in local funding in recent years. For example:
a) FY 2018 Borough appropriations to the “Local Education Fund” were 5.0% more than FY 2017 (see http://www.borough.ketchikan.ak.us/DocumentCenter/View/4807, page 6). A significant portion of the growth is attributed to increases of more than $1 million in Borough taxes since January of 2017.
b) FY 2017 voluntary cash contributions by the Borough to the School District increased by 34.4% compared to FY 2016 (see http://www.borough.ketchikan. ak.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/
Item/348, p 4). This was the result, in large part, of the restructuring of local funding for education by Ordinance No. 1793-A in June 2016.
c) FY 2016 education funding by the Borough increased by 7.4% compared to FY 2015 (see http://www.borough. ketchikan.ak.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/324, p.3 of 4/29/2016 letter).
Dan Bockhorst of Ketchikan worked in local government for 42 years, nine of which were as the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Manager.