Alaska House agrees to $680 increase in base student allocation



(The Center Square) – The Alaska House amended Senate Bill 140 to include a permanent $680 increase to the base student allocation and $40 million for the Broadband Access Grant.

Lawmakers have tossed the bill back and forth since it was first introduced in April of last year as a bill to fund internet services for Alaska’s schools. It has evolved into a school funding bill that goes back to the Senate for approval.

“The House has been having some difficult but necessary conversations during the last few days,” said House Speaker Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla. “As we said at the beginning of session, education was going to be one of our top priorities and we delivered on that promise. “While the final bill fell short of what we’d proposed earlier, I’d still call it a ‘qualified’ success. Given what was at stake, failure was not an option.”

Lawmakers must approve the bill by Feb. 27 to meet the deadline for the Broadband Access Grant.

The bill also includes” additional support for Alaska families who choose correspondence programs by improving parity with brick-and-mortar schools; support and protections for Alaska’s charter schools; increased funding for pupil transportation and additional support for ongoing implementation of the READS act designed to ensure all Alaska students are reading proficient by the third grade, according to a news release from the House Majority.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, and Rep. Mike Prax, R-North Pole, voted against the bill.

The new version of the legislation does not include teacher bonuses championed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The governor’s education plan bases the bonuses on where the teacher is employed and their years of service.

“If you just put money in the BSA, there’ll be no change in performance, because we’ve done that year after year,” Dunleavy said at a news conference earlier this month. “Does that mean that schools and school districts don’t need money? They do – we’re putting money in the BSA. But why don’t we target it to the problems we know we have?”

Dunleavy’s office did not immediately return a message from The Center Square seeking comment.

The House Majority had “intense negotiations” with the House Minority, according to Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage.

“Politics is the art of the possible, not the art of the ideal,” Johnson said. “With 40 different perspectives on a complex issue, finding consensus is frequently quite difficult. Our willingness to work with our Minority colleagues and find reasonable compromise allowed us to move a historic education funding increase. I’ll take it.”

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