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.

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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.