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In Alaska And Other Energy States, Low Oil Prices Put Pressure On Public Schools

Plummeting oil prices are delighting millions of people across the country who can fill their gas tanks and heat their homes for a fraction of the usual cost. But in oil-dependent states, coffers are dwindling at an alarming rate, raising the specter of cuts to public services — including public schools.

The price of a barrel of crude oil has fallen from more than a hundred dollars last summer to less than half that price today, carving holes in state budgets from North Dakota to Louisiana. But nowhere is the decline more critical than in Alaska, where there is no state income or sales tax and government depends heavily on oil: Income from Alaska’s oil fields accounts for some 90 percent of the state’s unrestricted general fund revenue.

Falling oil prices have helped chew a $3.5 billion hole in this year’s budget, and the crunch is projected to be just as bad next year.