Governor Sean Parnell introduced a comprehensive education bill into the House and Senate Friday, two days after he outlined his education agenda in his “State of the State” address to the legislature.
“Alaska’s future depends on excellent schools for our children, and we must continue to create educational opportunity for all students, so they are well prepared for success,” Parnell said.
The bill increases support for charter schools by requiring school districts to determine funding for students in a charter school in the same manner they would for students in any public school within the same district, including funds for special needs, pupil transportation, and vocational education.
The bill also provides a gradual increase in the Base Student Allocation, the per-pupil funding formula used by districts statewide.
The bill would raise the BSA by $85 the first year, from $5,680 to $5,765, and then by $58 each of the next two years, bringing it to $5,881.
The BSA increase is tied to Parnell’s omnibus education bill. The governor said he never considered proposing a BSA increase in a separate package.
"Because I think that's an entrenched position, that doesn't represent the other half of Alaska, that wants to see more results for the spending on education,” Parnell told reporters Thursday.
The Juneau School District estimates it needs a $425 increase in the BSA alone this year, to fend off a $4.5 million dollar budget deficit.
"Eighty-five dollars, while its most very welcome, any additional revenue and resources are welcome, it falls short of what we need to stem the downturn,” said School Board President Sally Saddler.
The bill would also eliminate the Alaska High School Graduation Qualifying exam, which is required for students to receive a diploma. It would be replaced by a student’s choice of an ACT, SAT or Work Keys Assessment tests.
Beginning in July of 2015, students who show a mastery of math, language arts, social studies and world languages would be able to test out of the courses.
“The measures in this bill will increase opportunities for families to make wise choices regarding their student’s education in the public school system; ensure that the essential needs of Alaska’s students are met; provide flexibility in assessing achievement and the earning of necessary educational credits to suit an individual student’s needs; and incentivize broader opportunities for students as they prepare to enter Alaska’s workforce,” Parnell said.
“While NEA-Alaska appreciates Governor Parnell’s proposed legislation to increase the BSA, we are disappointed and saddened for our students, because clearly a $201 dollar increase to the BSA over the next three years in no way will stop the teacher layoffs and program cuts that school districts are proposing across the state for the 2014-15 school year,” NEA President Ron Fuhrer said in a statement Friday.
Parnell’s legislation was referred to both the House and Senate education committees for further review.