After growing from about 20 parents to more than 2,000, an education advocacy group says it's not finished fighting this year to raise the state's base student allocation.
Great Alaska Schools, which was founded by education advocates from across the state, says its efforts helped to increase Alaska's BSA -- the amount the state gives each school district annually to help fund the education of every student -- by $400 during the state Legislature's 2014 session.
“At the end of the day we were able to change the outcome but we weren’t able to achieve our goals,” said Pat Galvin, a parent with Great Alaska Schools.
In the end, the final education bill added $150 to the BSA in 2015 and $50 in each of the following two years, with additional money added outside the BSA.
Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who sits on both the Senate Finance and Education committees, says this session successfully added money to the BSA, but he says the issue of education will continue on.
“I think we addressed a number of problems, we certainly increased funding although it may not be to the degree that some folks thought,” Dunleavy said.
While Great Alaska Schools has called lawmakers' 2014 stay in Juneau the “education session,” parents with the group are now taking that spirit to statewide ballots on Nov. 4, which they dub the “education election.”
Members are giving out seals of approval to incumbents and candidates, based on their answers to a questionnaire about whether they'd give more money to public schools and other key issues.
“We’re going to ask for the level of commitment they are willing to offer on providing leadership in that area and to support a bill, or if there isn’t a bill to introduce one,” said Galvin.
“If you have an issue, if you have a problem, if you want to make a change or whatever it is, get involved,” said Warren Keogh, an Independent candidate running against Dunleavy in the upcoming election.
Both Keogh and Dunleavy say they're looking forward to engaging more with groups like Great Alaska Schools.
Great Alaska Schools hopes to have its questionnaire in the hands of lawmakers and their challengers by early July, with seals of approval awarded before Alaska's Aug. 19 primary election.