Senators Joe Paskvan, Dennis Egan, and Gary Stevens during the closeout hearing of the Senate Finance DEED Subcommittee, March 20, 2012
This blog contains highlights from the Alaska Education Update. The update is issued daily during session and contains detailed summaries of education issues under consideration by the Alaska State Legislature. If there is a hearing on a Monday, a report will, with few exceptions, be released by Tuesday morning. There is also a weekly edition of the update. During interim, reports are issued only when there has been action. Interim action may include hearings, bill signings, the release of the Governor's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and other items that may be of interest to the education community.

To subscribe to full reports, contact Shana Crondahl at (907) 500-7069 or To subscribe to blog posts, submit your email:

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Pre-Session News

I was in Anchorage last week and was able to meet with Paula Pawlowski of the Alaska PTA and Senator Kevin Meyer, Co-Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. 

A few items of interest from those two meetings:
Paula Pawlowski told me that the grant that the Alaska PTA has for parent engagement wraps up in 2012, and they will not be seeking another grant to extend the program.  The Alaska PTA feels that since the State Board of Education & Early Development endorsed the Family Engagement Plan developed by DEED's Family Engagement Working Group, that plan should be implemented by and facilitated through DEED.  (The State Board of Education & Early Development voted unanimously to endorse the Family Engagement Plan at their January 24, 2011 board meeting.)

Sen. Meyer said that with the continuing high cost of fuel and other utilities, there will probably be either an increase to the BSA or another fuel/utility supplement for districts. 

I also asked Sen. Meyer if he thought the sunset date for standing legislative committees on education would be extended or removed, or if the education committees would revert to being part of the health & social services standing committees.   Sen. Meyer said he would like to see the education committees continue as standing  committees separate from the health and social services committees.  

(Standing committees on education were established with SCR 15, passed in 2008 as one of the recommendations of the Joint Legislative Education Funding Task Force  Currently the standing committees on education will sunset on the first day of session in 2013.)  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hearing: Task Force on Theme-Based Education

The Task force on Theme-Based Education is having a hearing tomorrow, Wednesday, October 5 from 8:00 a.m. - noon in Room 220, Anchorage LIO.

Agenda: There will be presentations on theme-based learning and culturally relevant standards, with testimony from invited witnessess.  If time allows, public testimony will be taken at the end of the hearing.
There are several documents related to the hearing on the task force website: 
You can listen in from your local LIO: or follow the hearing on AK Legislature TV: 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Update on SB 84 CTE Funding, Implementation of the Alaska CTE Plan, SBA Test Scores, ESEA Reauthorization, Early Learning RttT, WorkKeys Testing, Terra Nova Replacement, & The Alaska Learning Network

The Dept. of Education & Early Development and the Association of Alaska School Administrators were kind enough to let me attend the second day of their summer meeting at the DEED offices on Monday, August 1.  It was very helpful in keeping up-to-date on issues that schools and the department are working on.


SB 84 CTE Funding: there is no reporting requirement for how this funding is spent, but school districts should be proactive in letting the legislature know how funds are being used. The only restriction to how funding may be used is that.....

Monday, July 25, 2011

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is quickly becoming a popular site for helping students with specific topics.  Wired Magazine has an article on how one school district is using it to increase student mastery of math:

A link to Khan Academy:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Chinese will be the dominant language on the internet in a few years

According to this chart (, Chinese will be the dominant language on the internet in about five years.  Will you be able to read your Google, Firefox, and Mozilla search results when they come up in Chinese?  No, I won't either. 

But, look on the bright side: with technological advances, Google Translate and other translating programs should make it possible for people speaking different languages to read webpages from around the world.

Also, check out for making and exploring graphics:

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Governor Parnell Signs FY 12 Capital & Operating Budgets with Vetoes

Governor Parnell released the final operating and capital budgets and held a press conference to discuss his vetoes on Wednesday, June 29. Budget documents are on the Office of Management & Budget website:  

Governor Parnell made $400 million in vetoes to the capital budget and said declining oil production and unfunded pension liability make fiscal discipline important. He is working on increasing oil production, and said that until someone else has a better plan, he will continue to pursue his plan to increase production. Tax incentives for Cook Inlet are working, and that’s what he wants to do for the North Slope.

Governor Parnell said the capital budget focuses on energy, infrastructure, and job creation. There are lots of good projects, and vetoes made on projects this year may be funded next year. He also looked at regional balance, and said he did not retaliate against legislators in his vetoes. He did not want to spend more this year than was spent last year. Just under $300 million remains in the capital budget for education projects. The top 14 projects on DEED’s major maintenance list made the cut (just under $20 million in funding). Funding for school construction grants was cut from a total of $76.5 million to just under $62 million. Construction funds for the Kivalina School were cut, but that project was contingent upon the community moving to a safer location. There is over $1 billion for energy projects.

Governor Parnell said there is 2.9 percent growth in the operating budget, which is primarily the result of statutorily mandated programs. The operating budget fully funds legal obligations of the state, including school formula funding, Medicaid costs, and unfunded pension liability. The annual payment on the unfunded pension liability escalates yearly, and is an issue the ARM Board will have to address. He said the majority of the vetoes he made in the operating budget related to decreasing debt service. The state is legally mandated to pay for most of the items in the operating budget, so it was harder to make cuts.

In terms of savings, the state will have over $15 billion in various savings accounts with the signing of these budgets, including $400 million in the Alaska Performance Scholarship fund, $400 million in the PCE fund, and $1 billion in forward funding for education.

For full details on education funding, see the Wednesday, June 29 and Thursday, June 30 issues of the Alaska Education Update.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Governor Parnell's Budget Vetoes Imminent; Possible Special Session on Coastal Zone Management

Governor Parnell's budget vetoes are due by Friday, July 1, and his goal is to cut about $400 million from the capital budget, decreasing it from $3.2 billion down to $2.8 billion. I predict he will wait until the deadline to release his vetoes because there is still talk of a last-minute deal and special session on coastal zone management. If he releases his vetoes while the legislature is in special session, they could vote to override the vetoes.

Here's an update of all the education-related legislation that passed:

HB 15 - Student Athlete Concussions: Signed by the governor on Friday, May 27; effective date 8/25/11

HB 108 - Operating Budget: Transmitted to the governor on Wednesday, June 8; vetoes due back on Friday, July 1

HB 109 - Mental Health Budget: Transmitted to the governor on Wednesday, June 8; vetoes due back on Friday, July 1

HB 155 - Public Construction Contracts, awaiting transmittal to the governor (raises the threshold for public works projects from $2,000 to $25,000 for before projects have to pay wages under Alaska's Little Davis-Bacon Act)

SB 1 - Board of Education & Early Development Report/Legislative Task Force, Signed by the governor on Friday, May 27; effective date 8/25/11

SB 46 - Capital Budget: Transmitted to the governor on Wednesday, June 8; vetoes due back on Friday, July 1

SB 76 - Supplemental Budget, Signed by the governor on Tuesday, May 17; see bill for effective dates

SB 84 - Vocational Education/Tax Credits/Pilot, awaiting transmittal to the governor

Friday, June 3, 2011

An Update on Education-Related Legislation Passed by the Alaska State Legislature

HB 15 - Student Athlete Concussions: Signed by the governor on Friday, May 27; effective date 8/25/11

HB 108 - Operating Budget, awaiting transmittal to the governor 

HB 109 - Mental Health Budget, awaiting transmittal to the governor

HB 155 - Public Construction Contracts, awaiting transmittal to the governor (raises the threshold for public works projects from $2,000 to $25,000 for before projects have to pay wages under Alaska's Little Davis-Bacon Act)

SB 1 - Board of Education & Early Development Report/Legislative Task Force, Signed by the governor on Friday, May 27; effective date 8/25/11

SB 46 - Capital Budget, awaiting transmittal to the governor

SB 76 - Supplemental Budget, Signed by the governor on Tuesday, May 17; see bill for effective dates

SB 84 - Vocational Education/Tax Credits/Pilot, awaiting transmittal to the governor

Monday, May 16, 2011

SB 76 - FY 11 Supplemental Budget Transmitted to Governor Parnell

The FY 11 supplemental budget was transmitted to Governor Parnell on Monday, May 16, 2011. The governor has 20 days, not including Sundays, to review the bill and make any line-item vetoes he wishes to make. His vetoes are due by Wednesday, June 8. Education-related items in SB 76 are.....

Friday, April 29, 2011

No News/Nothing New

Okay, I have pretty much stopped posting since the end of the regular session.  Sorry.  Lost my momentum.  I really can't tell you if special session is going to wrap up by sometime next week (best case scenario), or will go thirty days with no resolution (worst case scenario). However, I find it almost unimaginable that they wouldn't reach consensus within the special session. I just can't imagine that occuring. That would be some sort of a major breakdown of government. 

According to the House Minority, one thing there may not be resolution on during the special session is long-term funding for merit scholarships, since there are so many differing positions on HB 104, the bill establishing a funding mechansim for the scholarship program (

It is always interesting to watch the process. Sen. Paskvan brought up an interesting point on the floor Thursday, and that was that Alaska is a young state, and there is not yet a lot of legal precedent. At some point earlier in the special session, someone referred to the governor as having a big stick. So I imagine the governor with his big stick, 20 senators with 20 smaller sticks, and 40 house members with yet 40 smaller sticks, and that the total mass of each group's sticks was equal to the mass of the next group's sticks, even though they weren't equal in number. And the supreme court has a ruler, a saw, and bits of wood and glue, and when asked, can measure the different sticks, and add to or take away from them.

Okay, my imagination is getting the best of me. I liked Steve Haycox's recent editorial in the Anchorage Daily News explaining the process better than my visualization:  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SB 42 - AEA Susitna Hydro Project is now being heard in the House Finance Committee

Hanging out waiting for House Finance to start....
Holmes & Watson (Holmes is the pretty one)

In the time it took to upload this picture, taken today during a lunch break, the House Finance Committee began hearing SB 42: 

Monday, April 18, 2011

SB 84 Passes the Legislature on Monday, April 18, 2011

SB 84 – Vocational Education/Basic Funding/Tax Credits

The senate concurred with the changes made by the house by a vote of 19 yeas, 1 absent. SB 84 is awaiting transmittal to the governor.

SB 84 includes:
• $500,000 per year for three years for a theme-based pilot program development for the Iditarod School District
• A doubling of the residential boarding home stipends for FY 12 and FY 13 for the Nenana, Galena, and Lower Kuskokwim School Districts
• A vocational education factor of 1.01 (estimated to be $11,731,500 for FY 12) in the foundation formula to assist districts in providing vocational and technical instruction for students enrolled in 9th – 12th grade
• A sunset extension for certain corporate tax credits for educational contributions

SB 84 does not include a BSA increase.

Sen. French said he is a reluctant “yes” vote. He thinks the senate did a great job on the version of SB 84 that they passed. The bill came back from the house with just the vocational education component. That’s disappointing, given the strong financial situation of the state. He hopes next year they are a little more bold in funding education.

Sen. Huggins said it pleases him that they have come to a compromise on the bill. He hopes they can continue that.

Special Session Agenda

Governor Parnell called for a special session starting Monday, April 18, with ten bills on the agenda:

1. HB 108 – Operating Budget  

2. HB 109 – Mental Health Budget  

3. SB 46 – Capital Budget  

4. SB 76 – Supplemental Budget  

5. HB 104 – Performance Scholarships  

6. SB 42 – Power Project; Alaska Energy Authority  

7. HB 106 – Coastal Management Program  

8. SB 84 – Vocational Education & Basic Funding/Tax Credits  

9. HB 24 – Extend Regulatory Commission of Alaska Sunset  

10. HB 126 – Board Extensions: Nurse/Dentist/Barber  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Recent Legislative Action (and Inaction) on SB 1, SB 46, SB 84, and SB 97

There wasn't much education action on Saturday. Senate Finance is hearing a lot of bills, but they are not moving very many bills out of committee this morning. There are a lot of bills on today's Senate Calendar.

Education Action Saturday:
The senate concurred with the house changes to SB 1 (DEED report to the legislature; task force on theme-based education), and it goes next to the governor (

The house passed SB 84 (vocational education funding factor; the BSA increase was removed from the bill) by a vote of 40 yeas. SB 84 was returned to the senate. The senate has not yet concurred with the changes made by the house (

That was the only education-related action that occured on Saturday.

Education Action for today, Sunday:
There is no education-related legislation on the House or Senate Calendar today, however, it is the time of session when they may have supplemental calendars later in the day.

There is no education-related legislation scheduled for committee hearings. House Finance has SB 46 - Capital Budget, on their schedule, pending referral ( However, it will have to move from Senate Finance and pass the senate before they hear it. Budget negotiations between the house, the senate, and the governor remain ongoing.

Most members of the house majority seem opposed to any increase to the BSA this year, but there may yet be some sort of an increase outside the BSA, perhaps through SB 97 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

House is going in to session at 1:00 p.m.

The House Finance Committee just recessed, and the House is now scheduled to go in to session at 1:00 p.m.  SB 84 - Vocational Education Funding/Educational Tax Credits is the second item on the calendar. 

Legislative Action, Friday, April 15

The house passed two bills:
HB 104 – Alaska Performance Scholarships - Passed by a vote of 40 yeas

SB 1 – Board of Education & Early Development Annual Report - Passed by a vote of 39 yeas, 1 nay

The Senate Passed:
HB 15 – Student Athlete Concussions - Passed by a vote of 20 yeas

The House Education Committee heard a presentation from the Bristol Bay Borough School District and heard and held:
HB 143 – Adjust Base Student Allocation: Inflation

There is still a bottleneck right now with the senate and the house negotiating on a few issues. It appears they've got Coastal Zone Managment taken care of just now. The house was in session until late Friday night with their first supplemental calendar, passing a coastal zone management bill: HB 106 . I know that's an important issue to a lot of people.

I have been told by several legislators that there is still hope for some sort of funding increase for education. Carl Rose said in the House Education Committee Friday morning that since 1978, the money spent on education has lost 65 percent of it's value due to inflation. That's an astonishing amount of value, and it's no wonder schools are struggling. When I think back to my kindergarten days in the early 70's in Juneau, there were perhaps 14 children in my class, with both a teacher and a teacher's aide. I know kindergarten classes are up in the low 20's in many areas now.

It is up in the air when SB 46 - the capital budget and SB 97 - aid for municipalities and school districts might be heard. SB 97 has been noticed in House Finance, so they could, if they choose, bring it up at any time. SB 46 has been noticed in both the Senate and House Finance Committees, so it could be brought up at any time as well.

I have no idea whether the legislature will adjourn by Sunday evening or not. They would have to reach agreement very quickly, and suspend a Uniform Rule, so it looks unlikely.

Friday, April 15, 2011

SB 84 – Vocational Education & Basic Funding/Tax Credits

The House Finance Committee heard and moved SB 84 Thursday evening. They adopted a committee substitute that substantially changed the bill.

The House Finance Committee substitute:
• Removes the BSA increase
• Removes the Seward Sea Life Center as an institution allowed to receive certain corporate tax credit donations
• Adds annual intercollegiate sports tournaments as an allowable organization to receive certain corporate tax credit donations
• Adds Alaska Native cultural or heritage programs and educational support as programs allowed to receive certain corporate tax credit donations
• Incorporates HB 199, which increases the room and board reimbursement for Galena, Nenana, and Lower Kuskokwim School Districts
• Creates a pilot project for theme-based learning in the Iditarod Area School District

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A quick update of what occured today (fyi, I will never post anything on the blog before my subscribers receive it):

Speaker Chenault left the dias to give a speech from the floor (link to text and video: ).  He is very unhappy that the senate is still holding on to the capital budget, and feels that the proper legislative process isn't being followed.  Several legislators have said just today that they don't think the legislature will adjourn by Sunday evening.

I would be willing to guess that the senate is holding on to the capital budget not because it is dilly dallying around, but because it hasn't gotten things it wants from the house yet.  Once the house has possession of the capital budget, the senate loses some of its influence over the outcome, and they need to ensure that their priorities will be met before they release the capital budget to the house.

In addition, many senators feel very strongly that there needs to be some sort of additional funding for education.  SB 84 and SB 97 were both passed and sent to the house, and senators hope the house will act on either one or the other.  Just today there has been movement on SB 84, with the bill passing out of the House Finance Committee earlier this evening.

SB 97 is in House Finance, and scheduled for a hearing Friday.  However, Chairman Stoltze said the House Finance Committee may or may not meet, depending on negotiations.

The Conference Committee on the operating budget met late this afternoon.  Many items in the DEED operating budget are still not agreed upon, including the statewide mentoring program, the Pilot Pre-K Program and early learning in the intervention districts, Best Beginnings, the unallocated reduction of $2 million in federal receipts to Teaching & Learning Support, Alaska State Council on the Arts funding, the College Access Challenge Grant, and funding for the Alaska Performance Scholarship Program and the AlaskAdvantage Education Grant program.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Quick Recap of Monday's Action

There was a lot of action Monday on education issues, in addition to release of the Capital Budget by the Senate Finance Committee.  It is the intent of the Senate Finance Committee that Section 13 of the capital budget (SB 46, be considered as a single investment in grants for school construction around the state.  The governor originally requested $20 million for major school maintenance.  The Senate Finance Committee substitute funds an additional $250 million for school construction and maintenance, and clears every single project off DEED's major maintenance list.  Also included is funding for three schools to help settle the Kasayulie Case.  Total education funding in SB 46 is $397.5 million.  Send me an email, and I'll forward you my report on all the education items in the Senate Finance Committee Substitute. 

HB 6 - Removing a Regent: passed the house by a vote of 39 yeas, 1 absent. HB 6 was transmitted to the senate.

HB 15 - Student Athlete Traumatic Brain Injury: heard in and moved from House Judiciary Committee with a committee substitute. The Judiciary Committee substitute says that the person who clears an athlete to return to play must be certified in the evaluation and management of concussions, and must certify in writing or electronically that they are qualified. Reps. Lynn, Gruenberg, Thompson, Holmes, Pruitt, and Gatto recommend do pass. Rep. Keller made no recommendation. HB 15 is on the House Calendar for today. 

HJR 16 - Constitutional Amendment: Education Funding: was heard in and moved from the House Judiciary Committee to the House Finance Committee. No changes were made to the resolution. Reps. Lynn, Keller, Pruitt, Thompson, and Gatto recommended do pass. Reps. Gruenberg and Holmes recommended do not pass.

SB 1 - Board of Education & Early Development Annual Report: heard in and moved from the House Finance Committee. No changes were made to the bill. Reps. Fairclough, Tammie Wilson, Gara, Joule, Neuman, Costello, Edgmon, Stoltze, and Thomas recommended do pass.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Senate Passes SB 84 to increase the BSA by $110 for FY 12

The big news today is the senate passed SB 84 - Vocational Education & Basic Funding/Tax Credits ( The Finance Committee substitute includes a one-year increase to the BSA of $110 for FY 12 and a vocational funding factor of 1 percent. The Finance Committee removed BSA increases for FY 13 and FY 14. The bill also extends the sunset period for the educational tax credits that were passed last year.

Also, Sen. French introduced a Parents as Teachers bill in the senate. That's a good indication that he is trying to give HB 49, the house version (, a better chance of passing this session. If senate committees hear the senate version of the bill, the house bill's senate committee referrals may be waived when it gets to the senate.

Alaska, with a population of 710,231, is too small a population to be able to train 800 new teachers per year?

On Monday, April 4 the Senate Education Committee heard a presentation on University of Alaska teacher training programs from Deborah Lo, dean, School of Education at UAS, Mary Snyder, dean, School of Education at UAA, and Eric Madsen, dean, School of Education at UAF.  

During that presentation, Dean Snyder made a comment that I thought odd.  She said she doesn't believe they will ever be able to meet the demand for teachers in state, because of the population base.  She thought at most they might someday be able to meet 50 percent of the teacher need. 

Alaska needs about 800 new teachers trained every year, but only about 200 new teachers graduate from the University of Alaska every year.  According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of Alaska is 710,231.  Was Dean Snyder actually saying that Alaska does not have a big enough population base in which to find and train 800 new teachers every year?  I feel I must have misunderstood her statement, as it doesn't make any sense to me.

Friday, April 1, 2011

SB 100 - PERS Termination Costs

On Tuesday, March 29 the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee heard SB 100 - PERS Termination Costs (  Michael Lamb of the Fairbanks North Star Borough testified that if a PERS employer reduces their employee count by altering or suspending a program or service, then PERS can send that employer three bills:
  1. The cost of a termination study,
  2. A bill for the amount the termination study determines that the employer owes the system due to the position change(s), and
  3. A bill for the past service costs on each of the position’s salaries until the unfunded liability is paid off.
Mr. Lamb wondered if past service liability would ever be extinguished, making the termination payments perpetual.  The bills to an employer could run from several hundred thousand dollars to millions of dollars for each termination study.  The law should be fairly and equally applied to all PERS employers, but the Div. of Retirement & Benefits says the state is exempt from termination studies and their financial impacts.  The state is the biggest PERS employer, but is not subject to termination studies.  Mr. Lamb said this disturbs other PERS employers.

Kathy Lea, acting director, Div. of Retirement & Benefits, said the State of Alaska does not have to do termination studies because state participation in PERS is mandatory, while all other participation is voluntary.  All the participation statutes refer to “changes to a participation agreement.”  That refers to the voluntary participation of municipalities and school districts; the State of Alaska has no participation agreement.  Ms. Lea said when the State of Alaska makes changes or reduces employees, while it may not have a termination study and may not have to amend an agreement, it still has to pay the liability.  No liability shifts to other employers as a result of state personnel actions.

Mr. Lamb said current requirements for termination studies

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shameless Plug for my Fantastic Father!

Solo exhibition by Jay Crondahl, Franklin Street Gallery, Baranof Hotel, Juneau, Reception: Friday, April 1, 4:30-7:00 p.m.

Lifelong Alaskan Jay Crondahl will show recent work covering an array of eclectic styles, from free-form and geometric abstracts to stylized and realistic landscapes. Crondahl has exhibited in many group shows in Juneau but this will be only his second solo exhibition.
Pump house, Sandy Beach, Juneau

If you're in Juneau, be sure to stop by the Baranof Hotel and check out my dad's recent work, as well as visting other First Friday venues around town.  My dad is 76 years old and has been an artist his entire life.  He is a super nice, friendly, creative guy, and I am lucky to have him as my dad!

My brother and I, giving a critique, 1970

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chenault Supports Increased Funding for Education, and Legislators Continue to be Concerned with how the Current DEED Commissioner was Appointed

Two big items from Monday, March 28  are:
1. During the House Majority press conference Speaker Chenault expressed support for increased funding for education.

2. During the joint hearing of the House and Senate Education Committees to hear board confirmations, one legislator said that since the commissioner of DEED is not confirmed by the legislature, the only way the legislature has to express their displeasure with the DEED board just accepting the choice of the governor for commissioner is to vote against appointees to the Board of Education & Early Development.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Few Tidbits from the Past Week

The Senate Finance chairmen have emphasized several times lately that they anticipate a healthy capital budget this year. Among the items they suggested may be considerd for increased funding are deferred maintenance and DEED items and energy projects in both urban and rural Alaska to decrease the cost of energy and increase dependability.

I've also got a new bill I'm following that could affect school districts. SB 100 would require employers who terminate some or all positions in PERS to pay termination costs, and the bill is retroactive. I think the intent is to make sure the PERS unfunded liability does not increase due to the actions of any one employer.

I've been in communication with Michael Lamb of the Fairbanks North Star Borough about the bill, and he wrote, "The whole district doesn’t have to withdraw to be impacted, a single position could cause an impact. If a smaller district only had one nurse, as a real example, and they had to cut that position, they’d be subject to a termination study. If they accepted some grant funds that they then hired some classroom aides, that weren’t certified TRS teachers, but simply PERS employees, when those aides went away because the grant money was gone then those salaries not being paid any longer could be subject to termination study impacts. Districts are not only TRS employers, they are also clearly PERS employers and there is no exception in the law for them. I think they simply do not understand the potential peril they are in. If a district never makes an adjustment to their employee structure then perhaps they’ll never be impacted, but if they do, they are not exempted." The bill is up for a hearing in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee on Tuesday, March 29.

There was some discussion about education issues during the press conferences on Thursday, March 24, but it was just a recap of stuff that's happened in committee hearings. The big issue during the two press conferences, in my opinion, is the governor's proposal for cutting oil taxes. There seems to be mixed opinion on whether the governor's proposal will actually lead to any new development or not, with opinion leaning toward the side that there does not seem to be much guarantee of new development with the governor's plan. Considering the state would lose up to $2 billion in revenue annually, the governor's plan is causing concern for many people.

Also, in Senate Finance on Thursday, $380,000 in additional funding was added to Best Beginnings, so the total funding for that program is now at $980,000, which is what the program was funded at for FY11.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Senate Finance Hearing on the FY 11 Supplemental Budget

The Senate Finance Committee heard SB 76, the FY 11 Supplmental Budget on Friday, March 18.  Chairman Hoffman said the spring 2011 revenue forecast is due soon, and they anticipate more than sufficient funds as a result of higher oil prices, and so will be able to put more money into savings. The fiscal summary shows a surplus in excess of $2 billion, if oil continues at the current rate. Even if prices drop, there should still be a substantial surplus.

Sen. Stedman said for the last several years the Senate Finance Committee has been pretty aggressive about savings. It appears that the economic downturn is over, but they will continue with a robust capital budget to build out infrastructure. Before doing so, they will continue to put substantial savings aside. The transfer of $400 million to the power cost equalization fund is to set up an endowment that will allow the PCE program to run in perpetuity. The marine highway fund addition is to take federal money into Anchorage and Mat-Su. The statutory budget reserve fund is one of their primary savings accounts. After additional deposits, and with interest, the state will have $17 billion plus in savings outside the permanent fund.

Sen. Stedman said there are substantial energy needs in Fairbanks, and a gas shortage in Anchorage, so they are looking at building a large hydroelectric project, or a large gas line, or some other energy project. Then they have to figure out how to deal with the needs of western Alaska and get western Alaska off diesel, either through another hydro project, geothermal, or some other energy source. Those projects will be coming over the next several years. They are interested in moving the state off hydrocarbons and in the direction of renewable energy sources. Alaska is very fortunate because it has the ability to set aside $17 billion.

Link to SB 76:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Senate Finance DEED Budget Closeout

Chairman Egan, and Sens. Stevens, Davis, and Paskvan were all present for the budget closeout on Tuesday, March 15. The subcommittee accepted the governor’s budget for the most part. This is good news for people concerned about reductions made in the house. If this budget passes the senate, then it sets the ceiling for the conference committee. The conference committee will settle on numbers somewhere between what the house passes and what the senate passes. They cannot exceed the highest amount passed. In addition to funding in the operating budget, any legislation passed with fiscal notes that have operating expenses will have those fiscal notes tacked onto the operating budget. So for instance, If HB 49, Rep. Tuck’s Parents as Teachers bill passes the legislature, the DEED fiscal note, which is currently $3.9 million, will be tacked onto the operating budget. And then it has to pass the red pen gauntlet, along with all the other line items in the budget.

Chairman Egan said the administration presented them with a responsible budget, but they made a few changes.

Jesse Kiehl, aide to Chairman Egan, reviewed those changes:

• Add $87,500 in general funds to the Alaska State Council on the Arts to fully fund the required National Endowment for the Arts match. Additional funding will be used to expand the Artists in the Schools Program to reach more Alaska children.

• Remove $8,000 in general funds from travel for the Compact for the Education of Military Children. When the legislature first passed the bill joining the compact, the fiscal note was zero, with instruction to DEED that costs were to be absorbed.

• Remove $18,300 in general funds from the adjusted base in the travel line for travel for the state board, the commissioner, and the deputy commissioner. Travel spending actuals have exceeded the budgeted amount. This level of funding is approximately $40,000-50,000 less than recent years' actuals. The department says they can operate at this funding level without shifting other funding.

Mr. Kiehl said one other important change is a net zero reallocation from the governor’s request. There is consistently unmet need in the AlaskAdvantage Grant Program. There has been significant discussion in the subcommittee about equal opportunity for students across the state, and for actual Alaska data, not data based on other states’ scholarship programs. The subcommittee report includes a memorandum prepared by Sen. Paskvan that discusses the issue. The subcommittee recommends funding the Alaska Performance Scholarship with $1.1 million to enable DEED to move forward on collecting Alaska data and with pro-rata reduced awards. The recommendation on those two counts is:

• Increase general funds of $7,121,900 to the AlaskAdvantage Grant Program

• Reduce general funds of $7,121,900 from the Alaska Performance Scholarship Program

Sen. Davis asked if there was grant funding for Best Beginnings. Mr. Kiehl said yes. In FY 11 the legislature provided $600,000 for early education grants to DEED. The department split that equally between Best Beginnings and Parents as Teachers, and will continue to do so. The teacher mentoring program is funded at the governor's request level. He said $380,000 in additional funding was added to that amount last year, but this year it is just funded at $600,000.

Sen. Davis said she would like to see that extra money put back in the budget. They need to do everything possible for Pre-K. She said she would propose an amendment if anyone would agree to it.

Chairman Egan asked the department to comment on the proposed amendment. Anna Kim, director, Div. of Administrative Services, DEED, said it's an interesting proposal, but they support the governor's original budget.

Sen. Stevens said he was concerned about Pre-K funding and the teacher mentoring program, and the subcommittee has addressed his main concerns.

The other subcommittee members did not agree to Sen. Davis’ amendment. Sen. Davis said she’s okay with what they've advocated, and that her concerns will be addressed further down the line.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Advisory Task Force on Higher Education & Career Readiness

The task force met to begin discussing what recommendations they would make in their April 1 report to the legislature. Task force staff put together a comprehensive list of preliminary recommendations for discussion ( Chairman Stevens said the recommendations on the list are just suggestions, some of which he thinks are wonderful, and some he thinks are dreadful.

A number of task force members questioned the wide array of items listed as preliminary recommendations, and said they didn’t see how they fit in with the mission of the task force. Barb Angaiak, president of NEA-Alaska, said there are items in the recommendations that belong in a different venue. She was astonished at some of the things in the draft recommendations and wondered where they came from.

But several other task force members said they could see how many of the items fit in with the task force’s mission. Lolly Carpluk, coordinator, Alaska Teacher Preparation Project, UAF, said she sees all decisions as having a ripple effect.

Chairman Stevens said nothing on the list of preliminary recommendations was made up, and everything on it was suggested either at the meetings or in correspondence.

Mike Andrews, executive director, Alaska Works Partnership, said he's been looking forward to more opportunity for discussion, so when he saw the recommendations he thought it was a good opportunity to discuss them. While he didn't recognize all the recommendations, he knew there were comments made. He viewed today as the day the take the skin off the grape – to bring everything together on this critically important topic, with task force members who are highly invested. They are at a point where they can talk about the issues.

Tim Lamkin, staff to Chairman Stevens, said the suggested recommendations are the result of task force discussions, and additional discussions. Duties of the task force include identifying contributing causes and exploring new approaches that may be effective. One of the most consistent messages he heard, from many people who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, was that they're looking at it from the wrong end, and need to go deeper into the whole education system. If they can improve parental involvement, and different ways that they look at every one of the components, then that could result in less need for remediation, rather than just band aiding remediation in and of itself. He said that’s why the recommendations may be such a shock to people.

There were several suggested recommendations that were not supported by any task force member, and other suggestions where there was conflicting opinion. Chairman Stevens asked people to look through recommendations and suggest which should just be tossed, and which should be considered further.

The task force also heard a presentation from Cathy LeCompte, Tech Prep Consortium board member, on the Tech Prep Initiative (

A full report on task force deliberations from Thursday and Friday will appear in a special weekend edition of the Alaska Education Update.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Update on the Operating Budget and BSA Legislation

Rep. Bill Thomas, co-chairman of the House Finance Committee, said the operating and mental health budgets, HB 108 and HB 109, will be on the House Calendar by Wednesday, March 9, and will probably be transmitted to the Senate by Friday. The committee will be considering committee amendments on Tuesday, March 8.

The Senate Education Committee will be considering two bills that increase the base student allocation on Monday, March 7 – SB 73 and SB 84. Sen. Davis may withdraw her bill (SB 73) in favor of SB 84, sponsored by the Senate Education Committee.

SB 84 was introduced on Friday, February 4, and increases the base student allocation and adds a separate vocational education component to the BSA. The BSA is increased to $5,790 for FY 12, to $5,905 for FY 13, and to $6,025 for FY 14. Under SB 84, vocational education remains part of the 20 percent block grant funding for special needs, but an additional 2.5 percent is added for high school vocation education instruction. The additional funding cannot be spent on administrative expenses or instruction in general literacy, mathematics, and job readiness skills.

SB 84 – Vocational Education Funding/Base Student Allocation

SB 73 – Education Funding: Basic/Special Needs/Transportation

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Yupiit School District, House Education Committee testimony, Alaska State Legislature

On Monday, February 28 Superintendent Howard Diamond of the Yupiit School District gave a presentation to the House Education Committee on his district. 

After his presentation, Rep. Bob Herron (not on the committee but invited by the chairman to participate) said the Yupiit School District is in his district. Last December they had a meeting with Attorney General Dan Sullivan, DEED Commissioner Larry LeDoux, himself, Sen. Hoffman, and a few others to talk about the state intervention.  Rep. Herron asked about the status of the intervention and said he and Sen. Hoffman are very concerned about the attitude from DEED.  Since Alaska now has a new attorney general and DEED commissioner has there been a loss of continuity in the dialogue with the state of Alaska, or any changes?

Superintendent Diamond said.....

Friday, February 25, 2011

House Finance DEED Budget Subcommittee makes substantial cuts to DEED's department funding

The subcommittee held their budget closeout Thursday morning and it almost looked like they weren’t going to finish the subcommittee process. Rep. Seaton was very concerned about the subcommittee recommendations, and that the proposed cuts to DEED might be extensive enough that the department would be unable to carry out their mission. Before the recess for joint session it appeared as though members weren’t going to accept the subcommittee report.

After joint session and before the subcommittee reconvened, Rep. Bill Thomas, co-chairman of the House Finance Committee showed up and.....

Thursday, February 17, 2011

House Education Committee: Presentation by Saint Mary's School District Superintendent Dave Herbert

The House Education Committee has been hearing from superintendents from around the state at the beginning of every committee meeting.  On Wednesday they heard from Superintendent Dave Herbert of Saint Mary’s School District.  Saint Mary's is a remote, single site bush school district ( with about 200 students in pre-school-12th grade. Their student population is 100 percent Yupik, and Mr. Herbert has been superintendent for six years.

The district made AYP for five of the last six years, and is currently at 0 AYP, which is the best level of AYP a school district can get. They have a 90 percent high school graduation rate. Superintendent Herbert said they have outstanding students, parents, community members, teachers, and support staff.

Superintendent Herbert said they’ve implemented a relevant instruction program that has helped engage the community and gain parental support. Instructional trips are a big incentive for students to perform. They use State of Alaska grade-level expectations in a relevant and meaningful manner. The trips have science, math, language arts, and Yupik language integrated into the activities. When students return from a trip, they are required to complete a project incorporating data collected on the trip. Students must.....

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

House Minority Press Conference, Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reps. Mike Doogan, Berta Gardner, & Chris Tuck

During Tuesday's House Minority Press Conference, Rep. Doogan said so far the discussions in the House Finance operating budget subcommittees that he is a member of have been pretty well put together and to the point.  It’s his understanding that subcommittees will not really be making changes to the operating budget; changes will be made at the full Finance Committee level.  He thinks that will eliminate some of the potential problems that could occur as a result of having new members chairing subcommittees.  However, there haven’t been any problems in subcommittees he serves on.  Subcommittees just produce a draft budget for the Finance Committee. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Reps. Bryce Edgmon & Paul Seaton
(background: Reps. Eric Feige & Anna Fairclough)

The House Majority held a press conference today with most or all of the majority members present. Speaker Mike Chenault said the caucus is beginning the process of developing guiding principles, and has agreed upon five guiding principles they’d like to follow for the next two years:
• Fiscal Responsibility
• Responsible Resource Development
• Access to Affordable Energy
• Excellent Schools & Workforce Development
• Safe & Healthy Communities

Rep. Austerman said there is no legislation tied to the guiding principles; it is a roadmap to improve transparency and accountability and to commit to a meaningful conversation with Alaskans about fiscal priorities. It will help control budget growth and ensure sustainability.

Included in the guiding principle for Excellent Schools and Workforce Development are:
• Preparing Every Child to Succeed
• Ensuring Accountability, Innovation, and Student-Focused Funding
• Developing Statewide Consistency on Curriculum and Standards
• “Foundation Up” - Revisiting Standards, Starting Early, and Establishing Benchmarks for Advancement (3rd Grade)
• Putting Greater Emphasis on Workforce Development to Ensure Educational Relevance and the Opportunity for Alaskans to Get Alaska’s Jobs

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Senate Majority Press Conference

Sens. Johnny Ellis, Gary Stevens, & Kevin Meyer during the Senate Majority press conference on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 (photo courtesy of Sen. Bipartisan Working Group)

There are now two bills in the Alaska State Senate increasing the base student allocation (SB 73 and SB 84

During the Senate Majority Press Conference Sen. Joe Thomas cautioned school districts not to budget for an increase in the BSA at this point, because it is too early to predict whether one of the bills might pass. He and Sen. Meyer are hopeful that other legislators will at least look at the issue and consider increased funding for districts.

Sen. Kevin Meyer reiterated that school districts need to be extremely cautious in their budgeting. He said he and Sen. Thomas introduced SB 84 simply to get the topic on the table for discussion. SB 84 focuses on career-tech education, and the BSA increase isn’t quite as high as that in SB 73. He said the interest and enthusiasm in more funding for education just isn’t there this year, so it will be an uphill battle to increase education funding.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chugach School District's Performance Pay for Teachers

During the Monday, February 7, 2011 House Education Committee Hearing Chugach School District Superintendent Bob Crumley explained the district's performance pay program.  He said teachers were skeptical when the program began, and thinks performance pay has received a black eye because it has been rolled out poorly and only focused on student test results. 

Their system has 11 different ways teachers and principals can earn performance pay.  Lagging indicators are test results, they come at the end.  The leading indicators are an array of things, including developing individual learning plans, being involved as a mentor or a mentee, tutoring, becoming highly qualified, and attaining additional credentials can all earn teachers performance pay. 

The different components are all voluntary, so if a teacher philosophically disagrees with an item, they don't have to do it.  Teacher pay incentives are substantial, and raises are attached to performance pay.  This year teachers in the Chugach School District each earned an additional $10,200 for performance pay.  

A link to the Chugach School District's webpage on performance pay: 

Monday, February 7, 2011

House Education Committee

Reps. Sharon Cissna, Peggy Wilson, Lance Pruitt, Chairman Alan Dick, and Committee Aide Sheila Peterson (background) shortly after adjournment of this morning’s committee hearing

SB 84 – Vocational Education Funding/Base Student Allocation

SB 84 – Vocational Education Funding/Base Student Allocation
Introduced 2/4/2011, by the Senate Education Committee
Referred to the Senate Education & Finance Committees

SB 84 increases the base student allocation and adds a separate vocational education component to the BSA. The BSA is increased to $5,790 for FY 12, to $5,905 for FY 13, and to $6,025 for FY 14. Under SB 84, vocational education remains part of the 20 percent block grant funding for special needs, but also adds 2.5 percent for high school vocation education instruction. The additional funding cannot be spent on administrative expenses or instruction in general literacy, mathematics, and job readiness skills.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Discussion to Remove Career-Tech from Block Grant Funding

Today in both the House Minority press conference and the Senate Majority press conference there was discussion to remove some or all of the funding for career and technical education from the block grant.  Rep. Gardner said she supports separating it entirely from block grant funding, while Sen. Thomas and Sen. Meyer said they will  propose carving 2.5 percent out of the 20 percent for block grant funding for career-tech education in legislation they plan to introduce soon.  Their proposal will also include raising the base student allocation to keep pace with inflation. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Will the BSA be increased this year?

A huge question for school districts this session is whether or not the base student allocation will be increased for FY 12. Since the beginning of session I have heard a number of positions expressed in committee meetings and press conferences regarding the issue, including:

• A flat BSA is a cut, when inflation and increased costs are taken into effect (from a number of legislators)
• School funding is adequate and/or we want to see performance improvements before the BSA is increased (from a number of legislators and Governor Parnell)
• The formula for required local contribution is a form of differential local property tax relief; ending that would allow the state to use that money for increased funding for career and technical education or other education funding (from Rep. Seaton)
• The state is in a strong financial position through at least FY 12, and school districts will be requesting an increase in the BSA, so it’s likely the FY 12 operating budget will be increased (David Teal, director, Legislative Finance)

Governor Parnell said at a recent press conference that he will be introducing legislation to address school performance. He did not say whether or not it would be tied to school funding. Both he and several legislators have expressed strong opinion that school performance must be improved.

I also have not been at a hearing where school finance was discussed that Rep. Seaton did not also bring up required local contribution and the discrepancy between what local governments are required to contribute in different school districts. Local contribution rates range from highs of 4 mills in Craig and 3.9 mills in the Lake & Peninsula Borough to a low of 2.7 mills in Hoonah, the Mat-Su Borough, and Saint Marys. The current total annual cost to the state for the differential required local contribution is over $77 million, according to DEED (see backup documents from HB 350, 26th Alaska State Legislature ).

Those are the specific comments I have heard regarding whether or not there is a likelihood of the BSA being increased this session. I don’t believe that any conclusions can be drawn at this early point in session as to whether or not the BSA will be increased this year, as so far I have heard a variety of opinions, with no apparent overwhelming support for one position or another.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Information on the Alaska State Legislature

The legislature’s website is a great source of information. Their homepage is: . The homepage always lists floor sessions and committee hearings scheduled for whatever day you happen to be viewing it.

At the top of the homepage on the fourth tab over is a tab called “BILLS & LAWS,” also referred to as BASIS, which links to legislation, committees, hearings, and many ways to sort and find information on legislation. Here is a link to that page:

Some of the many helpful links on the BASIS page are “Bills in Committee,” “Subject Summary,” “Member Information,” “Hearing Schedules,” and “Bill Tracking Management Facility (BTMF).” BTMF is one of my favorite pages. Here is a link: . On BTMF, anyone can set up an account and select bills to receive notification of any action on those bills, including being scheduled for a hearing or a floor vote. It’s very helpful if you’re tracking a particular bill and don’t want to keep checking the website.

Another helpful page has links to all legislators and committee members: 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Overview by OMB Director Karen Rehfeld to the House Finance Committee

Karen Rehfeld, director, Office of Management & Budget, gave a full overview on Wednesday, January 12 on Governor Parnell's FY 12 proposed budgets, including education funding and PERS and TRS unfunded liability.  Link to hearing audio and documents:

During the hearing Rep. Gara asked if education is flat funded, or if there are any increases. Ms.Rehfeld said the education funding in the budget is based on the current formula, which is set in statute. The only increase is for the fourth year of implementation for district cost factors. That’s on a five-year schedule, so FY 13 will be the last year of implementation for district cost factors. The BSA is still at $5,680.
Ms. Rehfeld said they will have the supplemental budget bill to the Legislature by the 15th legislative day (February 1) and amendments to the Legislature by the 30th legislative day (February 16).

Governor Parnell

Governor Sean Parnell shortly after giving his State of the State address to the Alaska State Legislature on January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

House Minority Press Conference

House Minority Leader Rep. Beth Kerttula, and Reps. David Guttenberg and Les Gara during a press conference today.

First Day, 27th Alaska State Legislature

Greetings on this first day of the first session of the 27th Alaska State Legislature. 

I will be posting a little more regularly now that session is beginning.  However, what you see on this blog are just snippets of the full daily and weekly reports.  For instance, what you will miss this week by not being a subscriber are summaries of all education-related legislation, a House Education Committee hearing, a Senate Majority press conference, a House Minority press conference, committee member and contact information for the House and Senate Education and Finance Committees, and an explanation of how to use the legislative website to track legislation. 

If you would like to see what you're missing, I'm offering open access to reports for the first two weeks of session for anyone interested.  Call (907) 500-7069 or email to get on my email list for reports, or for information on subscribing.