|  October 21, 2014  |  
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Governor Signs Bill Improving Three Areas of Alaska’s Schools

SB57improves student reading skills, addresses transportation costs, and better accommodates budget planning

ANCHORAGE-Today, Governor Sean Parnell signed Senate Bill 57, which will change state education statutes in three distinct ways.  The first section of the legislation, sponsored by Senator Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak), improves state and district efforts to provide parents and guardians of kids in kindergarten through third grade information on the importance of early literary, including intervention strategies, home literary plans, grade retention standards and strategies and resources to help children read. 

“Up to third grade, students learn how to read.   After that, they read to learn,” said Senator Stevens.  “As a former college professor, I understand how important early literacy is to success in later life.   I strongly believe that getting parents involved is the key to better preparing our students for the future.”

A second part of the bill recalibrates the funding for pupil transportation by annually adjusting it according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Anchorage for the next three years. This clause will help school districts better cope with ever-rising fuel and other costs impacting school bus services.  

“Until now, most districts have had to subsidize their transportation programs- taking money out of the classroom and putting it in a gas tank,” said Senator Stevens.  “This bill will help districts meet their contract obligations without dipping into money intended for other critical learning services.”

The bill’s final section changes the date that school districts have to notify teachers of layoffs or non-retention from March 16 to May 15. The idea behind this section is help districts avoid pink-slipping and potentially losing a qualified teacher before they have a better idea of their actual funding situation which is often not known until after the Legislature adjourns in April.

“Recruiting and retaining teachers is hard enough in Alaska without this arbitrary requirement-which causes a lot of anxiety within Alaska’s school districts every year,” said Senator Stevens.  “This bill will enable districts to have a more accurate budget picture and eliminate the need to impact teachers unnecessarily.  I would like to thank my colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Parnell for their support on this legislation that will truly help Alaska students get the best education possible.” 

For more information, please contact Katrina Matheny in Senator Stevens’ office at (907) 465-4925.

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