The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Opinion: We support all students

In the last month of session, we are committed to working together with our colleagues to pass comprehensive education reform

The recent court decision striking down Alaska’s correspondence statutes as unconstitutional is a wake-up call for all Alaskans. We must come together to support all kids, whether they attend neighborhood, charter, optional, or home school.

In the last month of session, we are committed to working together with our colleagues to pass comprehensive education reform restoring adequate funding for all education programs while fixing the correspondence statutes to comply with our Alaska Constitution. Working with the majority we would like to:

  • Pass statute to support constitutional correspondence programs run through school districts;
  • Raise the Base Student Allocation to support charter, correspondence and neighborhood schools, and index it to inflation to provide certainty, stability and predictability to districts going forward;
  • Reform Alaska’s broken pension system to provide retirement security for educators and increase Alaska’s competitiveness as a great place to teach.

Over the past decade, flat funding and inflation have caused the equivalent of a 20% cut to public school funding. This failure to fund our schools lands on the backs of children in neighborhood, charter and correspondence schools alike. Add to that the worst-in-the-nation retirement system for educators, with no pension and no Social Security, and it’s no surprise that schools are operating with massive staff shortages. As educators continuously turn over, overall efficacy and the quality of education available to our youth decrease.

Despite the incredible learning that takes place every day in all versions of public schooling in Alaska, the term “crisis” no longer adequately describes what’s happening in Alaska’s schools.

Add all of this on top of the ruling on Friday that recognizes the clear constitutional objections to how correspondence allotments were being used, including some egregious instances akin to a back door voucher system. It is not hard to restore constitutional home school language in statute, and the Legislature should do that as part of an educational package. Alaska’s families need action, and they need it now.

We support all students, parents, and teachers, whether our kids are learning in a neighborhood school, charter school, or through a home school program. A decade of flat education funding and cuts means that the state is failing to meet our constitutional obligation to adequately fund all of Alaska’s schools: neighborhood, correspondence, and charter schools. Our correspondence laws have been found to be unconstitutional and must be rewritten to provide students, parents, and educators certainty.

Alaska’s families deserve excellent education options no matter which type of school they choose, and we are prepared to deliver the reforms necessary to provide excellent school choices.

Signed: The Alaska House Coalition

Minority Leader Rep. Calvin Schrage, Minority Whip Rep. Louise Stutes, Rep. Rebecca Himschoot, Rep. Jennie Armstrong, Rep. Ashely Carrick, Rep. Maxine Dibert, Rep. Zack Fields, Rep. Alyse Galvin, Rep. Andrew Gray, Rep. Cliff Groh, Rep. Sara Hannan, Rep. Andy Josephson, Rep. Donna Mears, Rep. Genevieve Mina, Rep. Dan Ortiz, Rep. Andi Story

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