Special Edition of the Southeast Swell - Education Package Passes the House!

The final House of Representatives vote on the education package.

February 23, 2024

 

Dear Friends and Neighbors:


I write with a sense of joy. The Legislature heard you asking for support for our schools! They listened to the families, school board members, educators and students who called in, emailed and visited the Capitol. As a result, yesterday evening, the House passed an historical education bill that contains critical provisions that will support rural districts like House District 2. 


Our office has been “all-in” on the education package so please look for another Southeast Swell the first week of March – we need to do some catching up and a little celebrating.


If you will be in town, please call (907.465.3732) or email (rep.himschoot@akleg.gov) to set up an appointment and/or be introduced on the floor.  To learn more about what is going on in Juneau, you, your friends, and neighbors can subscribe to Southeast Swell by emailing rep.himschoot@akleg.gov or by signing up on this website.

Legislative Update


SB 140


SB 140 was amended on the floor and here’s what passed the House last night and will be considered by the Senate as soon as Monday:

 


Broadband Assistance Grant Program


Allows qualifying schools (usually rural) to apply for broadband assistance grants to increase internet speeds in rural schools from 25 megabits per second (Mbps) to 100 Mbps, of download speed. With this grant program there is a nine-to-one match of federal dollars to state dollars.


 

Pupil Transportation


Increases funding districts receive to bus students to and from schools, totaling over $7.3 million of additional funding for pupil transportation statewide.


 

Charter Schools


Provides a path for a charter school to appeal a decision made by the local school board to close a charter school to the commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED). There is also a provision in the bill that creates a position in DEED to provide support to charter schools and groups preparing charter school applications.

 


Correspondence Schools


Increases formula funding for home school programs from 90% of the average daily membership (ADM) to 100% of the ADM. ADM can be thought of as enrollment in a school.


 

Reads Act


Provides $500 for each student in grades kindergarten through three, who struggles with reading (based on statewide screenings or assessments), to help districts provide the support, intervention, and services for the student’s reading improvement plan. 


 

Base Student Allocation


Includes a $680 permanent increase to the Base Student Allocation (BSA) to help schools increase teacher pay and maintain programs and activities that support a world-class education for every student.

 


Intent Language

Encourages districts, to the greatest extent possible, to spend the funds authorized by this bill in the classroom in the form of educator salaries and retention bonuses.


 

In Summary


This package has been negotiated since session started and I am especially grateful the House of Representatives managed to pass this comprehensive education package early in the session. As long as the Senate agrees to the changes the House made to their bill (originally it just provided broadband support) and the Governor does not veto the legislation, districts will be able to plan their budgets and work to provide an increase to all educators. The next stop for this bill is the Senate, where we believe the votes are there to concur with the House version of the bill.

 

The governor then has two weeks to veto the bill or take no action. If he does not take action, the bill will become law. Finally, the legislature must include funding in the budget for the provisions in the bill and ultimately the governor has an opportunity to veto funding (all or a portion) from the budget. A veto of the bill or budget line item can be overridden with a vote of three quarters of the combined House and Senate members.

 

It has been truly humbling to watch legislators from across the aisle and across the state work together to fund our schools. While by no means did I get everything I wanted, (I think districts need a larger BSA increase) this was a compromise and a win for Alaska. There is much more work ahead, but for the moment we can pause to celebrate!

Within hours of meeting this group of student athletes from Hydaburg we passed SB140, an historically important measure that will help the 11 school districts in House District 2 by keeping two schools in House District 2 open, resolving critical life safety maintenance issues in several schools, providing for safer transportation options in many districts and above all, recognizing the invaluable work of educators across Alaska with funding to keep classes from growing in size and providing funds for salary increases or bonuses. Though there is still plenty of work to do, this is a major win for our communities, our schools and our kids!

What You Can Do

If you live in Petersburg, attend my Constituent Connection this Saturday, February 24, 2024 at 10:00 am - Glacier Express Cafe

  • Stop by the cafe and share your thoughts with me this Saturday!


Apply for your Permanent Fund Dividend, Participate in the Education Raffle, and/or Pick Click Give 


Pick Click Give 

  • Be sure to consider using the Pick Click Give program when you file for your PFD to support nonprofit organizations doing important work in House District 2 and around the state. The program was created with legislation in 2008 and it allows Alaskans to donate a portion or all of their Permanent Fund Dividend to eligible charitable and educational organizations. In 2023, 22,690 donors pledged to donate $3,218,075. There are 37 organizations that are based in House District 2 communities. Consider donating a portion of your dividend to one or more of these organizations.  


Participate in the Alaska Long Range Focus Group Meetings

  • The Alaska Marine Highway System is holding another round of Ferry Focus Group meetings to help inform the 2045 Long-Range Plan. The department will share the results from a public survey and invite feedback on our progress and approach to service-level development.
  • The schedule for upcoming meetings for House District 2 is below with Zoom meeting links; please attend the meeting for your service area if you can, or whichever closest fits your schedule. To connect to any of these scheduled meetings by phone, please call (253) 215-8782, and you’ll be prompted to enter the corresponding Meeting ID and Passcode. 


Service Area, Date and Time, Zoom meeting link, Meeting ID and Passcode


Cross Gulf

Wednesday, Feb 21 at 11am

 https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81108866992?pwd=22Aih8rE6WRQo30yL94nOAjMK9sKh7.1

Meeting ID: 811 0886 6992

Passcode: 140659


Northern Southeast

Thursday, Feb 22 at 11am

 https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81512264632?pwd=eOnTwz9cafzfmLnJ7DDMSpYQDc4IVS.1

Meeting ID: 815 1226 4632

Passcode: 916693


Southern Southeast

Friday, Feb 23 at 1pm

 https://us06web.zoom.us/j/86078152113?pwd=oonLPA1fd2YyAxaPXmZBd4w0xYInsw.1

Meeting ID: 860 7815 2113

Passcode: 052249



Share how you would Balance the State of Alaska Budget

  • Commonwealth North invites you to go to www.akbudget.com and suggest how the state should balance the budget. Your individual suggestions will be confidential, but the full results will be shared with the legislature. Commonwealth North was founded in 1979 by Governors Bill Egan and Walter Hickel. Commonwealth North’s mission is to educate Alaskans on significant public policy issues and assist in identifying effective solutions.  


Apply for the Alaska Association of Harbormasters & Port Administrators Scholarship

 

Apply for the Rural Alaska Honors Institute

  • As an Alaska Native or rural Alaskan high school junior or senior, you can apply for the Rural Alaska Honors Institute, a six-week summer program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus that gives students a chance to find out what it is like to be a college student. You can learn more and apply online on the program’s website. The application deadline is March 1st, 2024.  

 

Apply for a Renewable Energy – Village Energy Efficiency Program Grant

  • Small cities and boroughs in Alaska, including many in House District 2, are eligible to apply for a grant to finance building-scale renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation projects in public buildings and facilities. You can learn more on the Alaska Energy Authority’s website. The application deadline is February 27, 2024, at 4:00 pm. 


Follow the Legislature and Comment


  • If there is a bill or resolution you want to follow, you can get an email update every time action is taken on the legislation with the Bill Tracking Management Facility.