FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2018
Legislature Votes to Early Fund Public Education in Alaska
HB 287 Eliminates Uncertainty for School Districts and Prevents Unnecessary Teacher Layoffs
Juneau – Earlier today, the Alaska Legislature passed legislation to early fund Alaska’s K-12 public education system. House Bill 287 prioritizes public education by advancing it from the normal budget process.
“Education stakeholders from across the state can sleep easier tonight knowing that for the first time in three years their schools are funded on time. Passing House Bill 287 means there will be no teacher layoff notices this year due to late funding of the budget, and school districts can plan for a status quo budget. In sending this bill to the Governor for his signature, the members of the Alaska Legislature have shown a commitment to protecting our investment in public education. Our students deserve good schools staffed by teachers focused on education. They should not be worried about their future because of protracted budget negotiations in Juneau,” said House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer).
HB 287 appropriates $1.32 billion for K-12 public education in fiscal year 2019. The Senate added a provision to fund the same amount in fiscal year 2020, plus an additional $30 million in one-time grants to school districts if the Alaska Legislature passes Senate Bill 26. SB 26 would implement a percent of market value approach (POMV) for the use of earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund to pay dividends and fund a portion of the cost for essential state services. The House and Senate passed different versions of SB 26 last year, and the bill is currently being considered by a conference committee.
“Lawmakers from the House and Senate will be working to find consensus on the budget and components of a fiscal plan. I firmly believe that work will go faster and more smoothly by resolving the education funding issue right now, which we did with today’s concurrence vote. There is still a lot of work to do but we promised to protect public education from further cuts this year, and that’s exactly what we did,” said House Education Committee Chair Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage).
House Bill 287 passed the Alaska House of Representatives in February by a vote of 33-3. The Alaska State Senate passed the bill by a vote of 15-4 on Saturday, and the House concurred with the Senate changes today by a vote of 31-9. The bill will now be sent to Alaska Governor Bill Walker for his signature.
“The bill hopefully sets in motion the practice of early funding of K-12 education every year. We need to quit subjecting our schools, students, parents, and teachers to the political wrangling that occurs each session with education funding,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham).
For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.