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Begich Details Plan to Prepare Young Alaskans for Jobs of New Economy

The goal of our education efforts is simple: Whether it’s the roustabout in Arctic oil fields, an engineer in Anchorage or a shipbuilder in Ketchikan, we want to make sure Alaska’s graduates are ready for Alaska’s jobs.” – Sen. Mark Begich

Note: Copy of Begich’s address to the Alaska Legislature is attached:

Citing the need to prepare young Alaskans for an evolving and increasingly competitive jobs market, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today detailed his vision for improving our education system and expanding our children’s opportunities.

In his annual address to the Alaska Legislature, Begich stated that “we need to do a better job preparing Alaskans for this pipeline of good-paying jobs” and called for more to be done to keep our kids competitive.

Begich outlined opportunities on the horizon for Alaska energy, mining and fishing. Over the coming decade Alaska will see new players enter the arctic and bring new jobs and opportunities to the state. Arctic development will create more than 50,000 jobs nationwide.  Begich also highlighted new revenue-sharing legislation he has introduced, which the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research estimates could bring $38 billion in additional revenue to our state.

Building a Strong Education Foundation

"The formula for school success is not complicated. Kids need to start school healthy and ready to learn."

When it comes to early education, Begich takes a well-rounded approach that focuses not only on children and their families, but educators and our communities at large.

He highlighted early education as critical to ensuring that our kids get off to a strong, healthy start and receive the foundation they need for a lifetime of learning.

Begich said he plans to introduce three early education bills today:

The Tax Relief for Early Educators Act: Increase the child care tax credit so more parents can afford to enroll their kids in quality early childhood programs.

Preparing and Reinvesting in Early Education Act: Create a new student loan forgiveness program for graduates of early education programs – they aren’t the highest-paying jobs in the world and the idea is give young teachers an extra incentive to teach our youngest.

Child Care Public-Private Partnership Act: Provide grant incentives to small and medium-size companies offering child care on their premises or nearby.

Begich reinforced his commitment to getting rid of the parts of the No Child Left Behind Act that don’t work in Alaska and explained that by eliminating this one-size-fits-all approach, we can better use our resources to fund and implement policies that recognize Alaska’s unique needs. He also said he was pleased to see the State of Alaska taking advantage of the waiver available under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Career Readiness For Students and Teachers

“I have developed a career-readiness package to make sure teachers, principals, and counselors have the resources and facilities they need to guide students into good careers.”

Begich also talked about the need to provide our teachers and principals the resources and opportunities they need to stay on the cutting edge of teaching excellence. That is why today he introduced the Professional Development for Educators Act, to make professional development more accessible for teachers and principals – particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM),  and career technical education (CTE).

Begich also announced a bill to bring Alaska’s school facilities into the 21st century with a focus on STEM and CTE. The Career and Technical Education Facilities Modernization Act will modernize career technical education facilities to better prepare our students for the working world.

To further make sure these skills translate into a career, Begich also introduced the Counseling for Career Choice Act to make counselors aware of career technical education opportunities for students.

Flexibility and Opportunity for Our Teachers, Principals,

In addition, I strongly believe our educators need the flexibility to innovate… If it can work in Alaska’s schools, it can work anywhere.”

Understanding that Alaska teachers – especially in the rural areas – face unique challenges when it comes to teaching in the classroom, Begich explained the need to give our teachers the flexibility to innovate. He recently introduced his Investing in Innovation Act to specifically invest in scaling up promising education ideas in rural Alaska.

Rural Challenges, 21st Century Solutions

With Alaska’s unique geography, Alaska’s rural communities face different challenges when it comes to education, which is why Begich recently introduced the Rural Educator and American Community Housing Act to improve and expand housing for educators in rural communities, where the recruitment and retention of teachers is challenging..

Both The Investing in Innovation Act and the Career and Technical Education Facilities Modernization Act dedicate a minimum of 25 percent of funds to projects in rural areas.

Begich also noted that some in the state administration are making it more difficult for Alaskans, especially Alaska Natives and other minority groups, to vote. He said there is no evidence of voter fraud in Alaska and we should encourage – not discourage – voting. “Just weeks after celebrating Elizabeth Peratrovich Day, we cannot return to an earlier era when Alaska Natives and others are turned away at the ballot box because of the language they speak or way of life they live,” Begich said.

Special Guests who attended the speech included:

Darrell Brown  - a distinguished veteran and lifelong Alaskan, Darell enlisted in the Navy in 1969 and did two tours in Vietnam on the USS  Midway.  Recently retired, Darrell now volunteers as a Tribal Veteran Representative for the VA.

Jack Clark  - a graduate of Juneau’s Thunder Mountain High School and student at UAS’s School of Career Education Technical Education Center. Jack is now diesel student in the partnership between the university and Hecla Mines.

Amy Jo Meiners – a Juneau elementary teacher for 24 years, Amy teaches 4th and 5th at Auke Bay Elementary School where she teaches students taking part in innovative STEM education programs.

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