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Replacement education bill makes it out of House committee

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) – Answering Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s request to put together an education package that improves educational outcomes, on Monday the House Education Committee passed a bill out of committee that House Majority members feel accomplishes the governor’s goals.

House Bill 392, which started out very similar to the SB140 education package the governor vetoed, now has specific language relating to charter school reform — something the governor said was missing from the education bill he vetoed.

The bill contains language relating to state-sponsored charter schools. The governor has repeatedly mentioned that Alaska’s charter schools are amongst the best in the nation, and of the need to streamline the enrollment process for families trying to join a charter school.

The bill also contains language that says if a local school board terminates a charter schools contract, the charter school can appeal to the state school board.

A charter school supervisory position would also be created under a provision in the bill.

Committee member Rep. Rebecca Himschoot, N/A-Sitka, wanted the state sponsored charter school provision removed through an amendment which failed.

“When asking about the waitlist, we haven’t been able to get accurate numbers about waitlist for charter schools when asking about how those waitlist work. So in the absence of a compelling reason, to change what we’re doing since our charter schools are particularly successful, it feels like we’re doing what we need to be doing and we shouldn’t change it,” Himschoot said.

A previous version of the bill had language pertaining to Dunleavy’s teacher incentive proposal to offer teacher bonuses of $5,000 to $15,000.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, said he wanted that language removed from the bill due to it being a “controversial” topic amongst lawmakers.

However, Rep. Himschoot introduced an amendment to restore the teacher incentive provision to the bill, saying it’s a way to improve overall teacher quality in Alaska.

Her amendment would give school districts the option of offering $5,000 teacher bonuses to teachers who hold a valid national board certification, or offering reimbursement to a teacher who is pursuing a certificate.

Rep. McKay opposed the amendment saying the education establishment in the State of Alaska has “aggressively opposed” any type of teacher incentive.

“In addition, there’s significant concern in the building about how this program would be funded,” McKay said. <44.07>

The big debate in the committee surrounded school funding. The bill contains a provision that would increase school funding by $680.

However, Himschoot introduced an amendment to increase the BSA by more than $1,400.

House Education co-chair Rep. Jamie Allard, R-Eagle River, asked Rep. Himschoot if she was suggesting lawmakers cut the PFD to pay for the $1,413 BSA.

Himschoot said that is something lawmakers would have to “work out.”

Rep. Andy Story, D-Juneau, also introduced an amendment to increase the BSA to $800 starting in 2026. That amendment also failed, but Rep. CJ McCormick showed support for increasing the BSA from $680.

“There are schools in the State of Alaska where students have to be around black mold. I represent a school where a ramp collapsed — so I just want to ask the committee, are we adequately funding schools? Are we maintaining public schools? I don’t think so,” McCormick said.

Rep, McKay argued the $680 increase in the bill is the largest increase in state history.

“As you recall, when we started the session, the BSA increase that was being discussed was $340. So we’ve already doubled that in the legislative process that we’ve been going through for approximately 90 days now. So we don’t see why another $120 is necessary. We’re already increasing it significantly,” McKay said.

The bill also includes funding for student transportation and homeschooling.

One change in the bill was the mechanism for kindergarten through third grade reading proficiency. The $500 amount was removed from the bill and replaced with $280 for every single student regardless of reading proficiency or testing levels, with an extra $100 for students in Title I schools.

The entire House is now set to debate the proposed budget on Tuesday, which contains a one-time $680 BSA increase.

That provision would disappear in the House’s proposed budget, if this education bill passes both the House and Senate.



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