By Gretchen Wehmhoff

Skagway School is no longer being compelled by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) to return funding to the state.

In July, DEED sent a letter to city managers and superintendents around the state warning that funds received by the school district beyond the amount from the state were in violation of the rules of state funding, the rules of disparity to be exact.

Skagway is known for supporting its school, and an additional amount of approximately $500,000 added to the muni budget last year for the school suddenly became an issue.

Now, DEED is telling the district that they do not need to return any money for this school year.

Skagway’s school superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran says they haven’t received another formal letter, but discussions with DEED led to the news.

In the meantime, Coughran reports the district is reclassifying some of those fund balances in question into a budget amendment intended to go in front of the school board in January.

“We’re going to classify it into community service budgets that we have established,” said Coughran.

The community service he referred to could be the traditional food service program, or the student activities program.

The amount the school might have had to return was never specified.

“Since then, [DEED] said to disregard the July memo,” Coughran said.

The message Coughran got from conversations is that DEED is reevaluating their position and understanding of operating budgets and local contributions.

“But in terms of FY25, nothing has really changed,” Coughran said.

The recently appointed commissioner of DEED, former Anchorage School District (ASD) superintendent Deena Bishop, came into her position this past August – after the July letter. Coughran believes she may be the one pulling back on the issue.

Bishop, in her position as the ASD superintendent, regularly pushed and advocated for a higher student base student allocation (BSA) from the legislature. However, in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News published Dec. 19, it appears Bishop is also pulling back on the issue of an increased BSA claiming that the Alaska State budget is at capacity. She gave a noncommittal response when she was asked by the ADN saying she would need to research the funding inputs.