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Bob Griffin: Rutgers study that finds Alaska schools are second-most adequately funded

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Bob Griffin: Rutgers study that finds Alaska schools are second-most adequately funded


By BOB GRIFFIN

Gov. Mike Dunleavy mentioned a recent Rutgers study that found that Alaska has the second most adequately funded school system in the US during his March 15 press conference. It’s probably worthy of discussing that study in greater detail, since very few in the media seem curious enough to ask a follow-up question on the subject. 

The study, that was a combined effort from Rutgers University in New Jersey and The University of Miami, didn’t look at how much states were spending but at how adequately different state school systems were funded, based on 125 different factors including cost of living difference between states and the wealth of a state. Here’s an excerpt from the study’s executive summary: 

“Good school finance systems compensate for factors states cannot control (e.g., student poverty, labor costs) using levers that they can control (e.g., driving funding to districts that need it most). We have devised a framework that evaluates states based largely on how well they accomplish this balance. We assess each state’s funding while accounting directly for the students and communities served by its public schools.

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“This is important because how much a given district or state spends on its schools, by itself, is a rather blunt measure of how well those schools are funded. For example, high-poverty districts require more resources to achieve a given outcome goal—e.g., a particular average score on a standardized test—than do more affluent districts. In other words, education costs vary depending on student populations, labor markets, and other factors. That is a fundamental principle of school finance.” 

In the study, states were ranked and were assigned a score on a scale of 1 to 100 for funding adequacy. Alaska scored 95 out of 100, slightly behind Wyoming (97 points) and ahead of New Hampshire (86 points), Maine (85 points) and New York (83points). 

The least adequately funded states were Florida with a score of 12 out of 100. Next were North Carolina (13 points) and Nevada (14 points). 

It’s interesting that despite being dead last in funding adequacy, Florida produces some of the best student outcomes in the US: In 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores Florida was #1 in the US for both reading and math scores for low-income 4th grade kids. Florida was also 3rd in 4th  grade reading and 7th in 4th grade math for kids from upper/middle income families. Alaska was 51st, 48th, 50th and 49th respectively in the same categories. 

But who cares about 4th grade scores? What really matters is the quality of the high school graduates a system produces, right?  Probably the best indicator of the quality of kids graduating a system is the percentage of students who graduate who have passed and Advanced Placement (AP) test with a score of 3 or higher. In 2022, 28.8% of Florida high school graduates passed at least one AP test with a 3 or higher – the 3rd highest rate in the nation. Alaska was 45th in the US in that statistic, with just 11.9%.   

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One limitation of the Rutgers study is that only includes state and local funding of K-12. Alaska is #1 by a wide margin in the amount of federal funding we receive at $3,343 per student. That’s 85% above the US average of $1,808 and 16% above the #2 state (North Dakota).  Florida was 28th in the nation in per student funding from the federal government at $1,681, despite having a much higher poverty rate and much higher percentage of students who speak English less the “very well” than Alaska.

According to the Rutgers study, Alaskans generously commit a larger part of our overall economy to K12 education than the vast majority of states — on a state and local basis. That’s from researchers in New Jesey and Florida who have no agenda to make Alaska look good or bad in this regard. 

Some will say that the governor cherry picked that particular study. I don’t think so. I’ve searched for nationwide adequacy studies that come to a different conclusion than Rutgers — and I can’t find any. 

Anchorage School District did pay for a local adequacy funding study from a well-known firm that charges hundreds  of thousands or even millions of dollars to conduct adequacy studies. I’m wondering how much repeat business that firm would get if they didn’t come to the conclusions the clients were looking for before the study was launched.

We’re far overdue to figure out how we refocus our generous contributions to K12 into acceptable outcomes for our kids. Record increases in state K12 funding, without meaningful reform, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Insanity.

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Bob Griffin is a member of the Alaska State Board of Education, and is writing on his own behalf.



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Alaska

3 fishermen accused of illegally transporting Alaska crab to Seattle for better prices

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3 fishermen accused of illegally transporting Alaska crab to Seattle for better prices


By Tess Williams

Updated: 32 seconds ago Published: 10 minutes ago

Three Alaska fishermen are facing federal charges after being accused of illegally transporting more than 7,000 pounds of crab harvested in Southeast Alaska to Seattle in hopes of getting better prices there.

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Instead, federal prosecutors say, much of the haul was wasted upon arrival in Washington state because the crab had either died or were suspected of being diseased.

Corey Potter, Justin Welch and Kyle Potter were indicted last week on charges they violated the Lacey Act. The law makes it a federal crime to break the wildlife laws of any state, tribe or foreign country, and then move or trade the wildlife across U.S. borders.

Corey Potter owned the two crab boats involved in the scheme, and his son, Kyle Potter, and Welch worked as captains, according to a brief proposing conditions of release filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Brickley. Federal prosecutors identified the boats as the Arctic Dawn and the Gambler.

The two boats harvested over 7,000 pounds of Tanner and golden king crab during February and March in Southeast Alaska, the brief said. Corey Potter directed the captains to take the crab to Seattle, where they planned to sell it at a higher price than they could get in Alaska, it said.

Alaska law requires crab boats to land at a port within the state and record harvests on a fish ticket. One purpose of the law is to detect bitter crab syndrome, a common disease caused by a parasite that’s fatal to crab, and salvage any that are not infected. By avoiding Alaska ports, the men evaded that process, according to an indictment filed in the case.

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By the time the two boats arrived in Washington, more than 1,200 pounds of king crab had died and was no longer marketable, according to the brief. Another 4,200 pounds of Tanner crab — the entire harvest — was destroyed upon arrival because some of the crab were found to have bitter crab syndrome, the brief said.

“This type of conduct has a direct impact on the future viability of the crab fishery in Alaska and steals crab from the pots of law-abiding fishermen,” Brickley wrote in the brief.

Alaska crab harvests in general have crashed in recent years as populations dwindle in warming waters.

All three men are scheduled for a first court appearance in early May.





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Two feared dead in Alaska cargo plane crash – authorities

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Two feared dead in Alaska cargo plane crash – authorities


Site of a previous plane crash in Alaska dated August 2010 (File photo only from AFP /Alaska Department of Public Safety State Troopers)

Two people were feared dead after a rare cargo plane crashed in the far north of the United States on Tuesday, troopers in Alaska said.

The Douglas DC-4, one of just a handful left in the world, came down just after leaving Fairbanks International Airport in the middle of the vast state.

Alaska State Troopers said the plane had taken off shortly before 10:00 am (1800 GMT) and crashed near the Tanana River moments later.

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“The aircraft slid into a steep hill on the bank of the river where it caught fire,” the state’s Department of Public Safety said.

“No survivors have been located.”

Unconfirmed pictures on social media showed a large fire engulfing trees.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said it would be involved in a probe into the incident.

“The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate,” a statement said.

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“The NTSB will be the lead agency and provide any updates.”

The Douglas DC-4 was originally built during World War II.

Some of them were used in the Berlin airlift in 1948 and 1949 when Soviet forces cut off supplies to parts of the German city under Allied control.



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Plane crashes into river in Alaska

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Plane crashes into river in Alaska


SAN FRANCISCO: A Douglas DC-4 airplane has crashed into a river in Fairbanks in US state of Alaska on Tuesday, authorities said.

First responders were conducting an “active rescue” Tuesday after the plane crashed in the area of the Tanana River in Fairbanks, according to local officials, reported Xinhua.

Clint Johnson, Alaska chief of the National Transportation Safety Board, said it was not clear how many people were on the Douglas DC-4 when it crashed around 10.30 am shortly after departure south of Fairbanks International Airport.

“We acknowledge the ongoing situation involving the Douglas DC-4 aircraft on the Tanana River near Kallenberg Road,“ the airport said in a statement. “Alaska State Troopers are actively leading the response and we are cooperating with them.”

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A spokesman for Fairbanks International Airport urged the public to avoid the area.

Alaska State Troopers, along with local, state and federal agencies, were responding to the crash near Kallenberg Road on Tuesday morning.

A witness said he heard a loud explosion and saw a plane overhead with an engine on fire, according to a report by the Anchorage Daily News. – Bernama, Xinhua

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