The Alaska House Unanimously Supports Education Package with a $680 Rise to BSA
Alaska House
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On Thursday night, Alaska House members reached a bipartisan consensus on a comprehensive education package, passing it by a vote of 38-2. Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, attributed the bill’s passage to a compromise reached on Wednesday night, facilitated by House and Senate members, focusing on an amendment introduced by Rep. Stanley Wright, R-Anchorage.

The bill encompasses various provisions, including measures addressing educator salary and retention bonuses, the establishment of a charter coordinator and termination appeal process for charter schools, increased funding for pupil transportation, and additional support for the ongoing implementation of the Alaska Reads Act.

Of significant note is the $680 increase to the Base Student Allocation and the allocation of $40 million in Broadband Access Grant (BAG) funds aimed at enhancing internet access and speeds for schools in rural Alaska. The urgency surrounding the BAG provision stems from the requirement for these funds to be appropriated by Tuesday.

In a press release, the House Majority acknowledged that the bill was not as expansive as they had initially hoped, but emphasized the need to consider the perspectives of their Senate counterparts.

House Speaker Cathy Tilton stated, “The House has engaged in some challenging yet necessary discussions over the past few days. As we outlined at the start of the session, education was identified as one of our top priorities, and we have upheld that commitment. While the final bill may not fully align with our earlier proposals, I would still characterize it as a ‘qualified’ success. Given the significance of the issue, failure was not an option.”

The House Majority highlighted “major victories,” including the safeguarding of charter schools, increased support for pupil transportation, and the endorsement of the Alaska Reads program aimed at enhancing reading proficiency among elementary school students.

Representative Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, noted that each of the 40 representatives entered with different priorities. As the chair of the House Rules Committee, Johnson’s committee proposed a $300 increase in the BSA and incentives for teachers, among other provisions, in their version of the bill.

“In politics, the focus is on what can be achieved, not on what is ideal. With 40 distinct perspectives on a complex matter, reaching consensus often proves challenging,” Johnson stated in a release. “Our readiness to collaborate with our Minority colleagues and reach sensible compromises enabled us to achieve a significant increase in education funding. I consider that a win.”

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