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Democratic Legislators Introduce Pro-Public School Bill Package

Bills Promote excellence and reverse teacher cuts; Increase options and maintain accountability

JUNEAU – Today, House and Senate Democratic legislators announced a suite of legislation designed to strengthen public schools and help all Alaskan students succeed. The package of legislation is designed to promote excellence and increase options for students within the public school system while maintaining accountability and reversing cuts to student services.

“These ideas came from Alaskans—from the ground up. We’ve been listening to parents, teachers, charter schools and students who have been calling for more support for public schools and more innovation within the public system,” said House Democratic Leader Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage). “Public schools provide the best means to help all Alaskan children succeed, and these bills give parents and local school districts more tools and resources to better teach our children.”

Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) in the House and Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) in the Senate have introduced legislation which would allow schools to rehire teachers and staff laid off in recent years and assure annual inflation-proofing of school foundation funding.  Additionally, Gara’s version offers a means to reward principals who lead their schools to success, and it requires the Department of Education and Early Development to determine the funding necessary to maintain workable classroom sizes each year.

“This legislation would reverse the last four years of teacher and staff cuts and start the conversation about how top-quality principals can really turn schools around and improve students’ chances for success,” said Gara. “Students deserve more opportunity, and public schools create that opportunity.”

The second bill, prime sponsored by Tuck and Gardner, would help create more educational options for families within the public school system. It gives resources and establishes processes for communities to create community charter schools or transition neighborhood schools into more parent-driven charter schools.

“Increasing the opportunities to create charter schools promotes education options for families without taking resources from public schools. It also maintains the accountability built in to the public system,” said Gardner. “We know that charter schools enjoy broad support, and most have waiting lists.”

The suite of legislation also includes provisions to help charter schools cover fixed expenses like rent and utilities they currently have to pay out of classroom funds. Other bills in the package create school safety zones around all schools and exempt teachers in low performing schools from jury duty to give students the consistency they need to improve and succeed.

“Every student deserves to be safe going to and from school, and charter schools shouldn’t have to pay their rent out of classroom funds,” said Representative Harriet Drummond, a co-sponsor of the legislation and a member of the House Education Committee. “Public schools are doing great things for our students, and they can do even more with the innovation and resources our legislation would provide.”

In addition to the legislation, Democratic legislators also advocate supporting and expanding current preschool options in Alaska including voluntary preschool, Parents as Teachers, Best Beginnings and Head Start. Studies show preschool increases high school graduation rates, reduces crime, and creates a long term savings by reducing the need for remedial and special education, welfare and criminal justice services.

The legislators filed the new legislation to be read into the official record and officially introduced during the House and Senate floor sessions tomorrow, February 21. The legislation will receive its bill numbers and committee referrals at that time.

Summary of the Legislative Package:

http://akdemocrats.org/docs/2014_Education-Package.pdf

Read the full text of the legislation at the links below.

Reversing Teacher Cuts and Promoting Excellence:

http://akdemocrats.org/docs/022014_Excellence-in-Public-Education-bill.pdf

Increases Options and Maintains Accountability:

http://akdemocrats.org/docs/022014_Gardner-Tuck_Charter-School-bill.pdf

Student Safety for All Students:

http://akdemocrats.org/?p=3288

Exempt Teachers in Low-Performing Schools from Jury Duty:

http://akdemocrats.org/docs/022014_jury-exemption-for-teachers.pdf

National Conference of State Legislatures report on evaluating principals:

http://akdemocrats.org/docs/2014_Education-Package.pdf

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