Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks about teacher bonuses during consideration a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks about teacher bonuses during consideration a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter: Supporting better outcomes in education

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

With the looming threat of a veto on the legislature’s omnibus education bill, the urgency to address our state’s educational challenges has never been more apparent.

Governor Dunleavy held a press briefing this week threatening to use his veto pen on the omnibus education bill. I firmly stand behind prioritizing policies that deliver better outcomes for education. I support the Governor and will vote against overriding the veto if he wields his red pen. The Governor has until March 14 to decide. In the meantime, he has challenged us to produce another bill that fills in the deficiencies in SB 140.

The legislature passed SB 140 that spends an additional $250 million on the education system, but very little on outcomes. When the bill was on the House floor, I said I would be in favor of spending more on education if it was going to make a difference for our children’s education. I also said that I did not believe SB 140 would make a difference.

Focusing on funding and not better policy is indefensible. We know what works in other states — why not import the best practices and policies from high performing states? We know what is working in Alaska —charter schools — why not export charter school policies of parental involvement to the rest of our public schools? I put forward HB 382 that would increase parental involvement in all our educational programs. Parents play an indispensable role in their children’s education, serving as their first teachers and lifelong advocates. When parents are actively involved in their children’s schooling, academic outcomes improve, behavior issues decrease, and overall school performance is enhanced.

As I wrote in a previous education column, my bills and my votes will be for the students, and in this case, for the Governor to give us a second chance to get this right. I hope that we will put together a new bill that will include these policies.

Next week, my Agriculture property tax exemption bill is being heard in the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. HB 317 is a proactive measure designed to foster a favorable environment for agricultural growth and sustainability in Alaska. By providing tax incentives for farm structures and preserving farm use land, we aim to incentivize farming practices, stimulate economic activity, and strengthen our food production systems.

HB 317 removes all current statutory requirements that operators must be commercial farmers to receive the tax breaks. HB 317 further requires municipalities, who do not currently give tax rate exemptions for farm use structures, to put the question before their voters in the next general election. The assessment and tax rate changes will lower the barrier of entry for start-up farmers and small operations which encourages growth in both commercial farming and farming to feed your family and community.

We need to prioritize policies that benefit our students and families and put Alaskans first. In the face of our challenges, it’s crucial that we align our efforts with initiatives that truly address the needs of our state.

Ben Carpenter represents House District 8 and serves as chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. Contact Rep.Ben.Carpenter@akleg.gov, 907-465-3779 or visit https://bencarpenterpost.com/.

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