Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of debating an omnibus education bill in the Alaska House Chambers on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of debating an omnibus education bill in the Alaska House Chambers on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Finding common ground on education

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Senate Bill 140 has been front and center this week on the House Floor. During the debate on this bill, I spoke on the necessity for collaboration between lawmakers to find common ground on reasonable solutions to education funding and related issues.

Today S.B. 140 passed the House, and I am proud to be a yes vote on supporting this bill and education in Alaska in five main areas. In addition to providing internet expansion to rural schools, this vote supports our brick-and-mortar schools through a $680 BSA increase and direction for that to be spent supporting teachers and classrooms. The final version of this bill provides support for correspondence schools, as well as charter school programs. Furthermore, this bill will provide needed support for our students who need reading interventions introduced by the Reads Act. Finally, this bill increases funding for pupil transportation to ensure we are matching the cost of providing busing for children statewide.

Although this was a historic vote our work is not done. Our constituents elected us to come to Juneau and find ways to work together not only on education, but to solve our energy crisis, and to ensure our state is on a strong fiscal path. We passed an omnibus education bill and now it is time for us to get back to work on all the other issues our residents elected us to do.

House Bill 148 is an Education Committee bill my office is carrying that modifies the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS) through provisions including earlier notification to students, increasing award amounts, removing eligibility hurdles, and creating a Career and Technical Education (CTE) cluster. These changes are expected to positively impact the APS program which has seen a reduction in eligibility levels in recent years. H.B. 148 was scheduled to come to the House floor on Friday, Feb. 23.

This week I introduced House Bill 371, an act relating to medical review organizations by request from the Department of Health. The purpose of this bill is to modify public health review organizations to improve the review committee process and prevent and reduce avoidable deaths, injuries, and illnesses of Alaskans. We are scheduled to present H.B. 371 in the House Health and Social Services Committee next Thursday, Feb. 29 at 3 p.m.

On another note, I look forward to returning to the district this weekend and meeting with constituents. Throughout the interim, I met with peninsula residents over coffee and listened as they shared their issues and concerns. I’d like to invite you to join me this Saturday, Feb. 24, from 10 a.m. to noon for a casual coffee conversation at Kaladi Brothers Coffee in Soldotna. I look forward to seeing you there. If you are not able to make it, you are always encouraged to call or email my office anytime while we are in Juneau.

You reach me by email at Rep.Justin.Ruffridge@akleg.gov or my office by calling our Juneau office at 907-465-2693.

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