An attempt to increase school funding approved by the state Senate last week likely faces an uphill battle in the House.
During a press conference Monday, House majority leader Alan Austerman (R-Kodiak) said the House majority will hold a meeting next week discussing how they want to proceed with a proposal approved by the Senate on Friday.
The plan would increase education funding in the state over the next three years based on how many students are in each school district -- a dollar figure known as the Base Student Allocation.
The proposal is estimated to cost the state more than $30 million next year, and members of the House majority say they are wary of spending that kind of money without any increase in student performance.
"It's something I'm going to be very much looking for: a serious evaluation of what we're getting for our money," said Rep Mike Hawker (R-Anchorage).
Other members pointed to state education funding increases over the last decade rising much more sharply than student population or inflation -- specifically when compared to graduation rates.
"When you look at those figures and when you look at what the reported graduation rate is, it's concerning," said Austerman.
Last year -- while not increasing the base student allocation amount -- lawmakers voted to approve extra money for schools to help cope with high energy costs -- something House majority members on Monday called a "common sense approach" to deal with specific funding needs going forward.
"I don't know that I see within the caucus any great move to change from that," said Rep. Eric Feige (R-Chickaloon).
Anchorage Schools Superintendent Carol Comeau and school board president Gretchen Guess were in Juneau on Monday, talking with lawmakers about increasing the base student allocation.
Comeau says she's heard the same arguments from house Republicans hesitant to increase funding without student improvement before.
"We want our dropout rate to go down and we want our kids taking more rigorous courses," Comeau said. "But it takes extra programs, extra staff and a lot of training for our staff, and to pull those resources back, is going to set us back."
Guess, a former state senator, says interaction with state lawmakers is essential in getting their point across.
"I think it’s important to put a face to the request," Guess said. "Talk about the stories and what we would do with the funding if we got it, and really talk about the stability we need to make better decisions for kids in our local districts."
Guess says the one-time money that some house Republicans are advocating for is helpful to an extent; it can be used for things like updating computer technology throughout the district. But she says that kind of funding shouldn't be used for any new education programs because the money could dry up in future years, eliminating the programs.
"That would just be irresponsible," Guess said.
This is Comeau's last year as Anchorage School District superintendent. She reflected on her last chance to advocate for the education funding increases in her current role.
"It's really difficult for me to think that we’re not going to be successful," Comeau said. "But this is my last time so I’m going to give it my best shot."