Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

48 Alka school has 10 students and two teachers (Alaska Department of Education…, 2022b). The average spending per student in Alaska is $17,984; so, while Alka is an extreme case, it still exists. Alaska also spends more than any other state on K–12 education when looking at the percentage of taxpayer income, with expenditures making up 5.09% of taxpayer income. Alaska’s schools are also more dependent on federal funding than any other state; about 17% of cost per student comes from the federal government (Hanson and Pierson, 2016). It takes a massive amount of money to fund Alaska schools and accommodate their unique challenges. Given the issues that persist, the funds do not seem cost effective. Alaska’s Educational Challenges Test results and national rankings indicate that Alaska’s education has systemic issues hindering the state’s ability to give students the same quality education found in the Lower 48. By looking at a few—the remote landscape, internet connectivity, teacher turnover, and support services—the causes of this divide become apparent. This section unpacks these challenges and shows how they diminish the quality of education. Remote Landscape Alaska is big; at 665,400 square miles, it is more than twice as large as Texas but with a population of just over 700,000. This means many Alaskans live in rural and sparsely populated areas. The meaning of rural in Alaska takes on more intense connotations than it does in the continental US—many Alaska communities do not have roads, and some schools have as few as 10 students. This remoteness creates hurdles for providing a quality standard education. While school districts in the cities can provide greater resources to their students, it becomes more difficult when the districts are smaller and further from urban centers. Smaller schools mean fewer course offerings, fewer extracurricular activities, fewer perspectives in the classroom, and increased expenses to support infrastructure, shipping resources, or travel. A large part of the population feels these strains: “About a third of Alaska’s population lives in rural or remote areas” (Hanson & Pierson, 2016). Native Alaskans are disproportionately affected by the division between rural and urban education quality, in that a majority of the Alaska Native population live in the rural areas. The landscape is an obstacle to providing a standard education across the state, with Native Alaskans bearing the brunt of this divide. Internet Connectivity In concert with the challenge of the remote terrain is the technical issue of poor internet access. If the impact of COVID-19 revealed anything about education, it is that technology and the internet are vital. Internet is especially important in smaller rural schools that wish to give students more class options. The majority of Alaska falls in the lowest bracket of Internet Access Index scores, which is a metric of the quality and availability of the internet. Outside Alaska’s urban areas, internet access is poor. Anchorage and Fairbanks have fiber-optic cables to provide them with internet access, but outlying areas of the state rely on satellite service providers (Alexander et al., 2021). It costs significantly more for Alaska school districts to provide their students with internet compared with the schools in the Lower 48 (Nix, 2015). For remote learning to be an option, access to broadband internet and one-to-one computer devices is essential for students and teachers. In Alaska, 36% of teachers do not have access to broadband and a device at home, while 28.1% of students do not have access to a computer device and broadband internet (Public Policy Associates, 2020). Due to the poor internet connectivity, Alaska lacks the ability to combat its limitations in course offerings and supplement material with online resources. (For more on internet access, see the article by Carr in this volume.) Teacher Turnover A major challenge Alaska schools face is a lack of qualified educators willing to work and stay, especially at schools in remote areas. Teachers tend to come to a community, teach, and then leave after a year or so. Statewide teacher turnover from the academic year 2012/13 to 2017/18 was around 22%, and the turnover of principals fluctuated from 23% to