Alaska’s education spending lags behind national average when costs are factored in, economists say

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section discusses the cost of education in Alaska compared to the national average, as presented by the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. The research suggests that Alaska spends roughly 40% more per student than the national average, but reveals that this number doesn’t tell the whole story.

The study, last updated in 2022, takes into account the state’s cost factor and the fact that small schools are more costly to run. It indicates that adjusting for the higher cost of living in smaller, rural communities explains more than half of the difference between Alaska’s spending and the national average. When comparing the cost of living in various regions of Alaska to the rest of the country, the study finds that Alaska actually spends about 20% more on education.

However, after factoring in the overall cost of living, including expenses like gas, groceries, and medical care, Alaska’s spending per student falls below the national average by seven percentage points in 2019. The gap has grown in recent years, with other states investing more in public education. Some of the reasons behind this discrepancy include high costs of running small schools, high healthcare costs, and expensive energy in remote areas. These factors complicate the funding puzzle and have a significant impact on education policy and spending in the state.

The study also highlights the need for Alaska to invest in higher salaries, better benefits, and improved working conditions for teachers and school staff to prevent further decline. Ultimately, the research raises concerns about the ability of Alaska’s education system to keep pace with the nation and produce enough teachers to meet the demand.

Historically, Alaska has faced unique challenges related to the cost of living, particularly in remote and rural areas. These challenges have contributed to the higher expenses associated with education in the state. Despite efforts to address these disparities, the research presented at the University of Alaska Anchorage underscores the ongoing struggle to ensure equitable education funding in Alaska.

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