Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Deena M. Bishop, Ed.D. (Image via Alaska Department of Education and Early Development/education.alaska.gov)

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development Commissioner Deena M. Bishop, Ed.D. (Image via Alaska Department of Education and Early Development/education.alaska.gov)

Opinion: Where I stand: A strategic investment approach to education

I believe that we can improve student learning with strategic funding that supports teachers and high-quality instruction

  • By Deena M. Bishop
  • Monday, January 22, 2024 11:04pm
  • Opinion

As the newly appointed commissioner for the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED), I am honored to serve the people of Alaska, particularly our youth, as well as our educators and essential state workers at DEED. My unwavering commitment to public education stems from its transformative power in shaping intelligent problem solvers, responsible citizens, and diligent individuals.

Since assuming my role, I have engaged in numerous interviews and fielded many questions. Some have asked about my perceived shift in perspective regarding the base student allocation (BSA) following the release of the education budget. I have always advocated for investing in public schools, but while many advocate for a simple increase in the BSA, I endorse a strategic investment approach.

The existing BSA formula uses multipliers to allocate funds to educational priorities. For example, a special needs factor directs additional funds towards gifted education, special education, English language learners, and career and technical education. However, funding through the BSA does not ensure that money gets directly into the classroom to support better academic achievement.

I believe that we can improve student learning with strategic funding that supports teachers and high-quality instruction. This approach finds support in an analysis by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), presented by Dr. Dayna DeFeo on Jan. 9. In summary, the recommendation is “a shift in our focus from how much we spend to what we buy with our dollars.” Additionally, a recently released report by Picus Odden, titled “An Evidence-Based Approach to the Basic Student Allocation in Alaska,” identified specific school improvement strategies that lead to improved student performance.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has taken steps in this direction by prioritizing teacher recruitment and retention through House Bill 106, which would be a study on how additional payments to teachers impact recruitment and retention. The payment amounts range from $5,000 to $15,000 annually based on geographic areas and needs. This approach is grounded in a comprehensive study and a statewide survey on Teacher Retention and Recruitment completed in August of 2023. It is essential to note that this initiative concentrates on the vital individuals closest to our students — classroom teachers.

As commissioner, my stance is clear: Investments in education should be directed to areas that generate the best outcomes and prepare students for a successful future. To do this, we should support the foundation of learning with specific financial investments, such as funding implementation of the Alaska Reads Act and funding initiatives that connect students to their career interests and our state’s workforce needs.

Addressing broader challenges that impact school districts, such as energy and health care costs, is also crucial. We should take a prudent approach to funding that ensures our investments in education result in the best outcomes for students, parents and teachers. It is imperative that we focus our time and money on preparing students for success after high school.

Alaska can invest in education; we can focus on student learning outcomes, and we can attract and hire the best teachers. As commissioner, I choose to look to the future, have conversations with education stakeholders, and advocate for education funding that results in the improved student performance Alaskans want to see.

Deena M. Bishop, Ed. D is commissioner for the Department of Education and Early Development.

More in Opinion

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Alaska House makes the right decision on constitutionally guaranteed PFD

The proposed amendment would have elevated the PFD to a higher status than any other need in the state

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a Soldotna Republican who co-chairs the House Education Committee, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Creating a road map to our shared future

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

An array of solar panels stand in the sunlight at Whistle Hill in Soldotna, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Renewable Energy Fund: Key to Alaska’s clean economy transition

AEA will continue to strive to deliver affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy to provide a brighter future for all Alaskans.

Mount Redoubt can be seen acoss Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: An open letter to the HEA board of directors

Renewable energy is a viable option for Alaska

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks in opposition to an executive order that would abolish the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives during a joint legislative session on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Making progress, passing bills

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Priya Helweg is the deputy regional director and executive officer for the Office of the Regional Director (ORD), Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10. (Image via hhs.gov)
Opinion: Taking action on the maternal health crisis

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries

Heidi Hedberg. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Health)
Opinion: Alaska’s public assistance division is on course to serve Alaskans in need more efficiently than ever

We are now able to provide in-person service at our offices in Bethel, Juneau, Kodiak, Kenai, Homer and Wasilla

Sara Hondel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Alaskan advocate shines light on Alzheimer’s crisis

In the heart of the nation’s capital next week, volunteers will champion the urgent need for legislative action to support those affected by Alzheimer’s

Most Read