News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator MacKinnon
For Immediate Release: April 14, 2018

Senate Advances Series of Bills to Improve Education in Alaska

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JUNEAU – In the midst of declining test scores and school enrollment, rising healthcare costs, and struggles with teacher retention and morale, the Alaska Senate today advanced a series of bills to reverse the downward trend of educational outcomes in Alaska.

“The Senate recognizes the difficulties facing Alaska’s schools,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River). “This suite of bills will provide Alaska’s educators with funding certainty, open the door to a broader range of educational opportunities for students, and give districts additional tools they need to be successful.”  

As a centerpiece of today’s initiatives, HB 287 delivers up to two years of full funding for schools, in addition to a one-time $30 million boost, which amounts to a $117 increase to the base student allocation (BSA) in Fiscal Year 2020. The FY 2020 early education funding and one-time grant portions of the bill are contingent on the passage of SB 26, a bill to protect the use of Permanent Fund earnings and ensure a dividend. Full funding for education in FY 2019, however, is not contingent on the passage of other legislation.  

“If we stabilize Alaska’s revenue, we can provide educators with additional resources well in advance,” said Sen. Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel). “Passage of SB 26 establishes a responsible draw from the Permanent Fund’s earnings, with protections in place to ensure every Alaskan receives a healthy dividend.”

In conjunction with HB 287, the Senate this week also passed three bills to enhance education in Alaska.

  • SB 104 proposes a pilot program to review math and English/language arts curriculum, provides incentive payments to districts that choose to adopt the new curriculum, extends the requirement for curriculum review, directs the Department of Education and Early Development and Board of Education to review curriculum from around the world and adopt best practices, and requires the board to review the curriculum every five years.
  • SB 185, by Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna), allows school districts to temporarily fill vacancies with qualified retired teachers until a permanent teacher can be hired to help school districts maintain quality education while balancing their budgets.
  • SB 216 removes a disincentive for districts to consolidate schools by establishing a funding transition for school consolidation.

While other departments have experienced cuts in recent years following a sharp decline in oil prices, K-12 education has been held harmless.

HB 287 passed the Senate by a vote of 15 to 4 and is now on its way to the Alaska House of Representatives for concurrence, while the Senate bills move to the other body for consideration.

For more information, contact Senate Majority Press Secretary Daniel McDonald at (907) 465-4066.

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