Peggy's Corner of the House
Welcome to this week of Peggy’s Corner of the House. Several Ketchikan and Wrangell constituents stopped through my office this past week and I appreciate the time that you all take to give me your insight.
As you have most likely seen in the news, the Legislature has many bills being heard in committee that pertain to education in Alaska. The bill that I introduced (HB 21) for a 4 day pilot program is currently in the Finance committee. 4-day school weeks have been around for many years in other states and have a proven track record of increasing the morale in the schools, reducing absenteeism in both students and teachers and frequently increasing testing scores. I believe this will allow districts more flexibility to determine what works best for them in accomplishing excellence in academics. The Education Committee has been hearing HJR 1, proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to state aid for education. This bill is essentially changing our Constitution to be able to use state money to fund students’ education at private and religious schools. I do not believe this would be in the best interests of our public schools and it will not help solve the issues that public schools and public school teachers are facing. All public schools deserve funding to meet the needs of 21st century education but it will be up to YOU the voters in our state to determine that.
HB 138 extends the annual deadline by which employers are required to deliver layoff notices (or “pink slips”) to employees who are tenured teachers to the same time as un-tenured teachers is in the Rules Committee. There has been thought-provoking testimony in the Education Committee about HB 162 extending the time for when teacher tenure is granted. The proposed change is from three years to the first day after five years of a teacher contract. This bill was amended to do a re-evaluation of tenure every 5 years as well. Districts generally seem to want the longer time for evaluating teachers and teacher representatives want the shorter time for employment security. HB 151 was introduced to establish a public school and school district grading system (of A through F) for purposes of improving accountability and transparency in public schools. SB 41 relates to home schooled students participating in interscholastic activities and aims to correct an unintended consequence of a senate bill last year which allowed high school students enrolled in an alternative education program to participate in interscholastic activities at a public school but not at another private school. This years’ bill will extend that participation to private schools. We have also heard
HB 31, requiring school districts to develop and require completion of a history of American Constitutionalism curriculum. I cannot see where we can go wrong in mandating that all students have a basic knowledge of our US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, Early State Constitutions, the Federalist and Articles of Confederation so our students really understand the premises and the principals of why and how our country was founded. We have also been reviewing a bill relating to charter schools. HB 93 would allow multiple authorizers such as government agencies (Depart of Education), universities and non-profit agencies the authority to monitor and operate a public charter school.
Last week the Committee passed House Bills 133 & 120 relating to grants for small municipal school district construction and adjusting pupil transportation funding by changing the inflationary cap. HB 120 is intended to make a correction in the school district transportation funding that cropped up after the original bill was modified last year. Without the revision this year, school districts could be faced with subsidizing the cost of transportation starting next year.
We are working diligently in the Resources committee on SB 21 to make changes to the state oil tax and I will give you an update on that once there is more to report.
Lastly, please don’t forget about your local Legislative Information Office – they are a wealth of information and assistance!