“Alaska Reads Act” to Have House Concurrence Vote

Today, the Alaska State Senate amended House Bill 114 to include the “Alaska Reads Act.” The amendment, sponsored by Senator Roger Holland, (R-Anchorage), Senator Donny Olson, (D-Golovin), and Senator Tom Begich, (D-Anchorage), and supported by the Senate unanimously, makes six changes to the version that passed the Senate on April 12, 2022:

  • Increases the Base Student Allocation (BSA) $30 per student, equating to $7.6 million in additional annual resources;

  • Ensures pre-K students are included in Average Daily Membership (ADM) calculations for pupil transport. This change makes sure our pre-K students can get to school where district student transportation occurs;

  • Expands the duties of the annual stakeholder convening to include providing recommendations and guidance to the state board of education, DEED, and the legislature on how the “Alaska Reads Act” may integrate with tribal compacting or other programs focused on cultural education. The convening is also directed to discuss support for reading in Alaska Native language and other non-English languages;

  • Reduces any district reporting burdens by streamlining the reporting process;

  • Reduces employment barriers for department reading specialists;

  • Provides two technical changes; (1) clarifies the relationship between districts and head start, and (2) provides clarity, sideboards, and “does no harm” in providing a clearer process to implement existing department authority related to school funding.

Based on feedback from Indigenous language stakeholders, the amendment ensures every component is culturally responsive and meets the unique needs of students across the state – urban and rural. For example, reading specialists funded by this legislation would require Indigenous language training, an understanding of the community and culture, and live within the school district. Also, the reading tools used by educators can be in any language.

House Bill 114 heads back to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote. If the House concurs, the legislation will head to the Governor’s office for signature, ensuring universal, voluntary pre-K, reading support, and increased funding for school districts.

Senate President Peter Micciche, (R-Soldotna), said, “Every Alaskan child should have the opportunity and the tools for a successful educational outcome. For Alaska to increase gains in education, we must make crucial changes to the system, and it starts at the earliest of ages. To be prepared for a fulfilling life ahead, an effective reading program will ensure that every child in Alaska can read by nine-years-old.”

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, (D-Anchorage), said, “To better our education outcomes, we must reinforce the steps we have made to expand education and provide high-quality, voluntary pre-K to ensure kids are ready to learn and to make sure every child has the ability to read by third grade. We can continue down the status quo path or make necessary and desperately needed improvements so our youngest has the best opportunity for success later in life. This bill will achieve that goal.”

Senate Majority Leader Shelley Hughes, (R-Palmer), said, “One of the great things about our nation is that through education, anyone can change their circumstances. I truly believe that this bill is a game changer for Alaskan students. The accountability measures coupled with the tools provided will ensure that students have every opportunity to change their circumstances now and into the future. As someone who was able to rise out of poverty through the doors that education unlocked, I can’t wait to watch Alaska’s children bust through doors to excellence!”

Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Senator Roger Holland, (R-Anchorage), said, “Reading is the key by which every other subject is unlocked. Now is the time to rise to this challenge to invest in the success of our children. Our students and their teachers must be given the proper tools to succeed, and we are uniquely poised to provide those tools at this moment. The “Alaska Reads Act,” is the important effort this year to improve the reading skills of our Alaskan students through increased accountability, well-placed resources, and early reading intervention programs.”

For more information, contact Leona Long, Senate Majority Press, (907) 465-4066, or Noah Hanson, Senate Minority Press, 907-465-5319.