As oil prices plunge, so does Alaska’s education funding

There isn’t generally a coloration between the price of oil and funding for education. At least not on the surface. But for students and educators in Alaska, a robust price for a barrel of oil means that education funding remains healthy in “The Last Frontier.”

Because we’re paying lower prices for gas–as low as $1.39 in some parts of Alabama earlier this month–Alaskans are suffering.

The state relies on the taxes collected from oil that is pumped from Alaska, and because a barrel of oil was recently trading at just $40, well, you get the picture now.

In Anchorage, 49 teaching positions will be cut because there is not enough money, and the University of Alaska will likely trim its staff by at least eight percent.

That’s a massive hit.

To make matters worse, the state legislature will cut further as the state is facing a budget shortfall of over $3.5 billion.

Whatever cuts lawmakers decide to make, they will likely force the University of Alaska to completely eliminate some programs and close some campuses.

There is a small slither of hope, though. While the legislature may have its eyes fixed on slashing education spending, Governor Bill Walker wants to reinstate a personal income tax and maybe raise taxes on gas instead of a massive education spending cut.

A tax on gas while oil is trading low and eating the state alive financially is sort of ironic, isn’t it?

But while political and education leaders grapple over how to close the budget hole, students will continue to suffer if something isn’t done to protect them. The answer isn’t an across the board cut for higher education and k-12 schools because that hurts far too many.

Yet this is why we vote and pick our politicians; to face big problems and solve them. Alaskan students deserve better than a loss of teachers, closed campuses, and lost resources.

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