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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Friday, June 29, 2012

Update on HB 104; Education Funding Study

HB 104 - Alaska Performance Scholarship: the bill is ready to be transmitted to the governor, and the speaker's office is just waiting for Governor Parnell to request the bill.  Staff in the governor's office said he will probably request the bill sometime in the next month.
When the House Majority announced their education funding proposal in a press conference on April 13, they announced that there would be a task force or a working group of the House Finance Committee that would study school funding over the interim, including what the amount should be and how it should be funded.  House legislative staff are just beginning to look at the issue, and are in the preliminary stages of determining how the issue should be investigated.  Pete Ecklund, staff to Rep. Bill Thomas, is the point person for the project.  He can be reached at 465-3732 or 

Friday, June 8, 2012

AKLN continues, despite lack of direct funding from the Alaska State Legislature

AKLN, the Alaska Learning Network has been reorganized and will continue to offer classes to Alaska students, despite lack of direct funding from the Alaska State Legislature.  AKLN is no longer offering generic courses from K-12, but is now offering 21 Alaskan-based courses from 12 sponsoring school districts. 

The cost is $175 for a semester-long course, and $325 for a year-long course, and most course fees will go to the sponsoring school district.  There is room for 20 students in each course, and space is available first come, first served.  All courses meet course requirements for the Alaska Performance Scholarship.  Students from any one of the 54 school districts in the state can enroll in courses, but must be signed up by the principal of their school or the principal's designee

The 21 courses being offered are.....

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Go on now, just throw your hat in the ring...

The statewide primary election deadline is coming up tomorrow, Friday, June 1 at 5:00 p.m.  Here's a list of everyone registered so far: 
Don't like how education funding played out last session?  Sign up to run, and make education part of the campaign discussion.  Information on candidate qualifications and filing here:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Governor Parnell Budget Vetoes: Capital Budget, Operating Budget, Education Funding

Governor Parnell signed the FY 13 budgets Monday, May 14, including SB 182 and the General Obligation Bond bill, and held a press conference to review his vetoes.  Education items vetoed were all related to early learning:
·    $1.2 million from HB 284 (operating budget) for Pre—K grants
·    $2,860,000 from SB 182 (education funding) for Parents as Teachers
·    $973,000 from SB 160 (capital budget) for the Pilot Pre-K Program expansion

Link to budget documents and details on the press conference.....

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Legislative Update

Governor Parnell announced Tuesday that he will sign SB 182, the education funding package passed at the end of session.  Link to bill:
Here is a link to all legislation passed this session: 
Here is a link to legislation awaiting action: .  There are five bills that have been transmitted to the governor and are awaiting his signature/veto/and or/time lapse required to become law (none are education-related).  There are 38 house bills and 19 house resolutions awaiting transmittal to the governor, and 23 senate bills and 16 senate resolutions awaiting transmittal to the govenernor - all in all, 96 pieces of legislation awaiting transmittal to the governor. 
Before passed legislation can be transmitted to the governor, Legislative Legal Services has to .....

Monday, April 16, 2012

Capital Budget & Explanation of Education Funding in SB 182

Here is a link to the capital budget:  This is the House Finance version: HCS CSSB 160(FIN).  It was amended on the floor of the house with the addition of $25 million for revenue sharing, but that version is not available on line yet.  Once you pull up the bill, you can do "find" search within it to quickly find specific projects.
Here is SB 182, the education funding package: 
The fiscal notes for the bill have details on how much funding each district will get for the individual provisions of the bill:
Fiscal Note #3: shows how much increased state contribution for education a municipality will get for going to a flat mill rate of 2.65 for required local contribution.  This provision has the most widely varying effect on districts - for those municipalities already funding to the cap, there will be no benefit to the school, although there will be a benefit to the municipality.  For those already at the low end of the local contribution mill rate, there won't be as much benefit, and for REAA's there will be no impact.  For municipalities not funding to the cap, there would then be more money available at the municipality's discretion, should they decide to increase educuation funding.  For instance.....

Friday, April 6, 2012

HB 284 - Conference Committee Appointed, House & Senate

The conference committee for HB 284 - Operating Budget has been appointed in both the house and the senate:
House: Rep. Thomas is the house chair, with Reps. Stoltze and Gara as the other house members

Senate: Sen. Hoffman is the senate chair, with Senators Stedman and Thomas as the other senate members

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Senate Action on FY 13 Operating Budget

This next week or so will be pivotal to what ultimately ends up in HB 284, the FY 13 operating budget.  The house has passed one version of HB 284, and the senate is now finishing their deliberations on the bill (the Senate Finance DEED Subcommittee will be doing their closeout this week).  After the senate passes their version, the house and senate will meet in conference committee to choose which portions of each bill will ultimately be voted on in the conference committee substitute. 
The main point of the conference committee process to remember is:
1.  If an item was not in either the version passed by the house or the version passed by the senate, it cannot be considered in conference committee;
So at this point, if there is something you are concerned about in the version of HB 284 passed by the house, then you should contact your senator's office to discuss your concern with them.  If you would like to read up in more detail on the conference committee process, it is outlined in Rule 42 of the Uniform Rules: 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

House Finance Committee taking public testimony on operating & mental health budgets next week

The House Finance Committee will be taking public testimony on the operating and mental health budgets next week.  There is a two-minute time limit on testimony.  Here is the schedule on when you can testify from your community:
Rm. 519, Capital Bldg.
1:30 p.m. – Juneau
2:45 p.m.  – Bethel, Kotzebue, Barrow, Nome, Delta Junction, Offnets
4:00 p.m. – Anchorage
Rm. 519, Capital Bldg.
1:30 p.m. – Fairbanks
3:00 p.m.  – Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, Dillingham, Cordova, Unalaska
4:15 p.m. – Homer, Kenai, Valdez, Ketchikan, Kodiak, Matsu, Glennallen, Tok, Seward

HB 284 – Operating Budget
HB 285 – Mental Health Budget

Monday, February 27, 2012

Follow me on Twitter

Hey, I've kind of moved to Twitter for instant news.  Today my two posts were:

HB 242 moved out of H. Education cmte; provides funding for technology equipment in schools
Fairclough says she will be offering amendments to increase funding for advisory programs and 

Follow me on Twitter for occasional breaking tidbits. Once in a while I will post something longer on the blog.  But really, you should subscribe to my reports if you want all the details!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Correction: Advisory Programs NOT YET Required for Postsecondary Institutions to Accept APS Awards

I need to retract my statement that advisory programs are required at postsecondary institutions in order for them to accept Alaska Performance Scholarship awards.  The original legislation passed to establish the program does not contain a requirement that postsecondary institutions have advisory programs (SB 221, passed in 2010 
However, both HB 104 ( and SB 43 ( which establish a funding mechanism for the scholarship program require advisory programs at postsecondary institutions in order for them to accept Alaska Performance Scholarship awards.  So that legislation, if passed, will either have to have that provision removed, or funding will have to be reinstated for advisory programs at the University of Alaska in order for them to receive Alaska Performance Scholarship awards on behalf of recipients.

Governor Parnell Zeroes Out Funding for University of Alaska Advisory Programs, Putting Performance Scholarship Awards at Risk

On Wednesday, University of Alaska President Patrick Gamble testified at the end of the House Education Committee, telling the committee that Governor Parnell's proposed FY 13 operating budget left out ALL of the funding (every single cent, zeroed the whole program out - even funding originating from the university) for student advisory programs at the university.  

Those are the same advisory programs that post-secondary institutions will be required to have in order to accept Alaska Performance Scholarship awards if the legislation establishing a funding mechanism for the program is passed.  Both HB 104 ( and SB 43 ( require advisory programs at postsecondary institutions in order for them to accept Alaska Performance Scholarship awards.  So that legislation, if passed, will either have to have that provision removed, or funding will have to be reinstated for advisory programs at the University of Alaska in order for them to receive Alaska Performance Scholarship awards on behalf of recipients.

President Gamble also made the point during his testimony that every career he could think of starts at a higher salary than teachers, and that teacher pay is an issue they can't ignore. 

All the funding for the Institute for Social & Economic Research (ISER) was also zeroed out from the governor's proposed budget.  George Rogers is likely rolling in his grave (or was he cremated?  I don't know). 

Lots of testimony Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee on SB 171.  Sen. Hoffman got a little testy about people discussing pink slipping.  He said he was under the impression that forward funding education would remove that issue (which it largely has).  However, as pointed out by John Alcantra, flat funding still creates pink slipping issues, due to budget deficits.  I think Hoffman would have appreciated recognition of SB 97, which establishes a fuel supplement for school districts and municipalities when fuel prices are high.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rep. Eric Feige: It's OK for Private Schools to Discriminate Against Special Education Students

The House Education Committee moved HB 145, the private school voucher bill ( out of committee on Wednesday, February 1, after hours and hours of testimony over the last two sessions.  The bill requires the state to pay up to 100 percent of both the state and local contribution for education funding to a private school.

Private schools would not be subject to AS 14.07.070, which withholds funds to districts and teachers that fail to comply with state laws and regulations relating to education, basically giving private schools carte blanche to do anything they want with the funding and not be constrained by the same rules governing public schools.

Included in the funding for private schools is funding that a student would receive if they were attending the public school district in which the private school is located, including:
  • School Size Factor funding, which is based on the size of the public school, without regard to the size of the private school that the student is attending;
  • District Cost Factor funding;
  • Quality School Funding Factor that was earned by the performance of the public school, without regard to the actual performance of the private school;
  • 20 Percent Block Grant Funding Factor for serving special education, gifted and talented, vocational education,  and bilingual services - but private schools won't be required to provide any of these services, even though they will be receiving funding for them;
  • 1 Percent Block Grant Funding Factor for serving High School vocational and technical education needs - but private schools won't be required to provide this service.  
Under HB 145, private schools reserve the right to choose to enroll or not enroll any student for any reason.   An amendment offered by Rep. Peggy Wilson in the House Education Committee that would have prohibited private schools from discriminating based on race, religion, disability, or any other reason failed.

Even sponsor Rep. Wes Keller agreed that HB 145 will allow private schools to choose which students they admit, for any reason.  A Baptist school could choose not to admit a Catholic student, a Norwegian school could choose not to admit a Swede, An Aleut school could choose not to admit a Tlingit, and they could all choose not to admit any special education students.

Rep. Eric Feige said that's fine though, because special education students already have the option to attend public schools.

Rep. Paul Seaton objected to the fact that they were spending so much time on a bill that wasn't even constitutional.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Photo: Signing of Moore Case Settlement Agreement

Plaintiffs' Attorney Howard Trickey, Dept. of Education & Early Development Commissioner Mike Hanley, and CEAAC Executive Director Charles Wohlforth, signing the Moore Case Settlement Agreement on Thursday, January 26, 2012 in the Attorney General's Office in the Dimond Court House

Moore vs. State of Alaska Settlement

There was a press conference on the settlement of the Moore case on Thursday, January 26, 2012 in the attorney general's office in Juneau.  The basic details of the settlement are that there will be a one-time appropriation of $18 million, subject to legislative approval.  Four programs addressing low achievement in struggling schools will be created with that funding:
    1.  Two-year kindergarten and related pre-literacy programs,
    2.  Targeted resources grant fund,
    3.  Teacher retention grant fund,
    4.  HSGQE remediation reimbursement program

Schools eligible to participate in numbers 1, 2, and 4 are the forty schools with the lowest scores on the Modified School Growth Index for the previous three years.  A school is eligible regardless of whether it is located in an intervention district or not.  Number three is not limited to the forty lowest scoring schools, but those schools shall have preference. 
The four programs established by the settlement will initially be funded by the $18 million settlement.  At least $6 million of the $18 million will be used for two-year kindergarten and pre-literacy programs.  

Here is a link to the press conference video and audio: 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Announcement of Moore Case Settlement

The Moore case has been settled, and a press conference on the details is scheduled for Thursday, January 26 at 2:00 p.m. in the Attorney General's Office at the Dimond Court Building.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What a Day!

Wow, what a long day!  I don't know where to even start.  Chairman Dick said at the beginning of the House Education Committee hearing that this session education funding will be a huge issue.  They will also discuss intervention, state standards, the school maintenance priority process, distance delivery, the manner in which districts and students are assessed, and the 70/30 split for instruction/administrative costs. 

The House Education Committee heard and held HB 145.  A committee substitute was moved, but not adopted, and the committee also has amendments that weren't moved or adopted.  During discussion on whether private schools would serve special education students there was a lot of debate.  I foresee long discussions every time HB 145 is heard, if history is any indication of the future. 

The Senate Education Committee heard and moved SB 137 - Suicide Awareness & Prevention.  There was only support for the bill, and very little cost.  The legislation has had positive effect in other states, and it is hoped it will have positive effect in Alaska as well. 

During the House Majority Press Conference I asked Rep. Herron about HB 256 - Repeal State Intervention in Schools, and he said he co-sponsored the bill because he believes the only tool the state has been using in intervention is a hammer, and he wants them to use other tools.  Other than that, there was no discussion of education issues during the press conference.  

Friday, January 6, 2012

HB 256: Serious Proposition or Conversation Opener?

The first prefiled bills for the second session of the 27th Alaska State Legislature were released today (full list of prefiled bills: ).  There are half a dozen bills that are probably of interest to the education community; a review of those is in today's Alaska Education Update.   

One bill that will perhaps raise some eyebrows is HB 256 - Repeal State Intervention in Schools.  Judge Gleason wrote in the 2007 Moore decision that, "In addition to delegating the operation of schools to the local school districts, the Legislature has delegated supervision on education to the executive branch, through the creation of the State Board of Education and the Department of Education and Early Development." 

If the ability of the department to intervene in schools is removed, what oversight will the state and the legislature have of schools?  Or does the sponsor intend there to be only local oversight of schools?  What effect might this have on federal funding requirements, and would it put federal education funding in jeopardy?  Would the state make up those lost funds to districts? 

I'm not sure yet if the sponsor intends HB 256 to be a serious proposition, or a conversation starter for reviewing intervention, but we will find out shortly.  Session begins on Tuesday, January 17, and those are some of the questions that will be raised.