Dunleavy keeps peddling false statistic on education expenses for instruction

One hallmark of the Dunleavy administration is to recycle false statistics even after the numbers have been proven to be wrong. Repeat a lie often enough and some people will believe it.

The latest example of this failure to learn from experience is an interview that Gov. Mike Dunleavy had with the Frontiersman newspaper in Mat-Su on March 29.

“Currently on average across the state 54 percent of the funding goes to instruction in the classroom. That means there’s approximately 46 percent that’s some type of administrative overhead, either in administrators, in buildings, in maintenance, that sort of thing,” Dunleavy told the newspaper.

“I hate to interrupt you,” said Frontiersman reporter Tim Rockey, who added that the schools in Mat-Su had pointed out that the state number was incorrect.

In fact, all of the major school districts in Alaska have pointed out that Dunleavy and temporary budget director Donna Arduin have been using a bogus statistic since mid-February.

There is a solid record on how much is spent on instruction because the state had a law until 2016 that required districts to use at least 70 percent of their money on instruction, measured by rules adopted by the state education department.

When Dunleavy was in the Senate, he supported ending that requirement, which all of the large districts routinely surpassed. In 2016, he didn’t claim that only 54 percent of funds went for instruction.

The main reason for repeal was that small school districts in remote areas, most with budgets below $3 million, face high operation and maintenance costs and had to ask for a waiver every year.

I think the Dunleavy adminstration keeps lying about school expenses now because it wants the public to think that schools are wasteful institutions and can handle a 25 percent cut in funding. The Mat-Su schools would lose about 360 positions, including 200 teachers, under the Dunleavy plan.

During the Frontiersman interview, publisher Dennis Anderson backed up the reporter’s comment about the fake statistic on the percentage spent on instruction. “I’m pretty sure it was 77 percent of the dollars go to instruction for the Mat-Su Borough,” he said.

Judging from the transcript in the newspaper, Dunleavy didn’t care to be corrected.

“Can I finish? Yeah, what I started out with saying was, on average across the state it’s 54 percent that goes to instruction.”

What the governor started out saying was wrong. The average across the state is not 54 percent. It is 76 percent.

Dunleavy repeated the inaccurate figures in an interview that same week with the Clarion in Kenai, falsely claiming schools have almost “50 percent overhead.”

Dr. Lisa Parady, the executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators, wrote in a recent newsletter that the Dunleavy administration keeps repeating its false number, “unimpeded by reason” or the rules and definitions created by the state education department.

“I am stunned by this disconnect. Alaska's long standing and well recognized criteria for this statistic proves beyond reasonable doubt that our districts put 76 percent (statewide) of their dollars directly into instruction. Conversely, only 6 percent of our funds go to administration,” she wrote.

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Dermot Cole4 Comments