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Senate Majority Applauds Signing of Alaska’s Education Opportunity Act

Plan provides $300 million over 3 years including increase to BSA & several additional components

WASILLA-Today, Governor Sean Parnell signed into law Alaska’s Education Opportunity Act, House Bill 278. The plan focuses on providing more choices for parents, giving more resources to teachers and creating more opportunities for students. Senators Charlie Huggins, Mike Dunleavy, Cathy Giessel, and Lesil McGuire were all in attendance.

“The Legislature pledged $300 million of additional support for education to be distributed over the next three years,” said Senator Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage) who co-chaired the education conference committee. “This plan creates a robust, healthy education package for the next three years.”

Roughly, $150 million will go into the Base Student Allocation (BSA) and $150 million will go towards incentivizing innovation and opportunities in schools. The breakdown for the increase in the BSA is $150 increase in the first year, with a $50 a year increase each year for the two following years.

“The Senate recognizes that education is a constitutional mandate and, as a result, it must be adequately supported,” said Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Mat-Su Valley), who “With that said, the Senate also recognizes that education does not have to be delivered in the same manner it has been for the past 100 years. Technology, along with charter schools and independent learning programs, has opened the doors for a lower cost, more engaging approach to education. This bill recognizes these changes and the educational diversity of students.”

The bill also recognizes the need to create equity for charter schools, which are a proven way to create more opportunities for students through alternative methods.

Incentives for building charter schools include lowering the minimum number of required students for 95-percent funding to 75, allowing charter schools first option to lease empty space in district-operated public schools, providing a $500 one-time credit per student for start-up charter schools. The plan also includes more money for correspondence study programs by raising the 80% funding to 90% funding.

Other features of the bill include extending a pilot program for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to middle schools, funding for broadband to provide more opportunities for distance learning in rural and remote communities, allowing students to ‘test out’ of core courses while still receiving credits required for the Alaska Performance Scholarship, repealing high school exit exam instead allowing students to take the SAT, ACT or WorkKeys, funding comprehensive studies regarding how state money is distributed to school districts, and gathering more information relating to the number, attendance, and performance of students enrolled in the school whose parents or guardians are active members of U.S./Alaskan armed forces.

"Over my 14 years in the legislature, no issue has been consistently more important than education. I'm proud of the work we did this year.  And, while we have a role as lawmakers, it's parents, teachers, and local school boards that really make the difference," said Senator Lesil McGuire (R-Anchorage). "It is my sincere hope that this new education reform bill empowers them and better fulfills the promise of well-prepared young men and women to lead our great state into a bright and prosperous future."

“I think between Governor Parnell, the House, and the Senate, we have managed to blend the plans in a way that everyone wins and our kids receive the educational opportunities they deserve,” said Senator Meyer.

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