The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

School enrollment figures on target

October attendance determined state funding


Valdez City Schools enrollment numbers for the current school year stands at 673.15 students. At least that is the number of students the State of Alaska has determined it will pay the district in its funding formula known as the Base Student Allocation, or BSA.

“I know, crazy,” Amber Cockerham, the district’s finance director said when questioned how the district could have a fraction of a student. “We have a couple of pre-school students that only come part time.”

Students enrolled in the middle of the state’s official count can also influence official numbers, as can students that take only a few classes, such as high school seniors or home-schooled students that might attend one or two specific classes in district schools.

The enrollment numbers from October are important because the state funds schools according to the average number of students attending school during the count.

“State funding is $5,680 this year,” per student, Cockerham said. “The BSA this year-it did not change.”

This is the short, easy and incomplete explanation of the BSA. The formula used to calculate how much money the state will contribute to school districts is complex, and there are other factors that can increase the BSA, such as students with disabilities or other special needs.

To add to the confusion on state funding issues, the legislature gave districts an additional $110 per student for the current school year.

“That’s just one time money,” she said. “They gave us one-shot money.”

Fortunately for the district, the official enrollment numbers for the 2011/12 school year mirror the district’s estimate it had to make when putting together its budget for the current school year according to district superintendent Jacob Jensen.

Valdez Star file photo

The enrollment numbers for Valdez City Schools are in.

To add to the confusion, school districts across the state are forced to create school year budgets based on the BSA but without prior knowledge of exactly how many students will actually be enrolled and attending school.

A large miscalculation in the number of students a district is forced to estimate it will educate can wreak havoc for schools. If the number of students actually enrolled is less than estimated, districts will receive less money than planned, creating budget woes. If more students are enrolled than estimated, districts may not be prepared with enough teachers or other essential staff or educational needs such as text books.

Other hazards with the BSA can occur if a district sees a late influx of student enrollment after the state’s count is over in October.

“It’s crazy how they do it,” Cockerham said.


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