Legislators announce comprehensive plan to improve children’s health, education

Proposals aim to make Alaska the best place to raise a family

ANCHORAGE – A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers today released a comprehensive package of education legislation aimed at making Alaska the best place to raise a family.

The suite of bills addresses a wide variety of issues, including expansion of Early Head Start, universal Pre-K, an effort to increase reading skills for children by the third grade, removal of caps on scholarships Alaska students receive when attending an in-state university, and rolling back years of funding cuts to K-12 students and programs that benefit young and disabled children.

The founding members of the Alaska Children’s Caucus spearheaded this initiative.

Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage) will introduce legislation to expand the top tier of the Alaska Performance Scholarship to cover full tuition, and to create a Childcare Tax Credit based on the Education Tax Credit. “It’s a win-win that gives outstanding students another reason to enroll in the University of Alaska,” Representative Fields said.

Rep. Sarah Rasmussen (R-Anchorage), a co-chair of the Children’s Caucus, introduced a bill to mandate more exercise and physical activity during recess. “Students learn better and are more engaged during school if they have time for exercise,” Representative Rasmussen said. Currently, the Municipality of Anchorage has a pilot program at participating schools to offer comprehensive recess for K-12 students. The bill, known as “Play Every Day,” has a companion bill in the Senate offered by Sen. Mia Costello.

Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), co-chair of the Children’s Caucus, said, “It warms my heart to see the fruit of the Children’s Caucus coming together. My hope in helping to restart the caucus last year was to have a renewed focus on our precious children. I am proud of the work this diverse group of lawmakers has put in so far, but there is more work to do.”

Rep. Grier Hopkins (D-Fairbanks) will be introducing legislation to secure predictable and equitable access to Early Head Start. “The sooner we provide educational support for kids and families, the greater our return on investment,” Representative Hopkins said.

Representatives Andi Story (D-Juneau) and Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), co-chairs of the House Education Committee and former school board members, have prioritized working on early childhood and education legislation. “We know pre-K education helps our kids succeed and strengthens Alaska’s workforce so our state is more competitive,” Representative Drummond said. Representative Story added, “It’s critical we stabilize funding for K-12 schools to provide the best education possible for every student in the state.”

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