Dear Friends and Neighbors, 

With only three weeks left until the 121-day legislative session ends, I want to provide friends and neighbors with a brief update on where we are in the operating and capital budget process, the recent ruling on correspondence school allotments, and education legislation.

As always, it is an honor to serve our community and I am here if you have questions, need assistance with an issue you may be facing, or to share your thoughts, ideas, or concerns. I work hard to represent the diverse views of our community and hearing from friends and neighbors such as yourself helps me accomplish this. You can reach me by email at Rep.Calvin.Schrage@akleg, on my personal cell at 907-240-8986, or at our office at 907-465-4931. 

Operating Budget Update

Earlier this month, the House passed our version of the Fiscal Year 2025 operating budget to the Senate. I am extremely proud of the hard work my colleagues in the House Coalition put toward improving the operating budget. I am also grateful to the members in the House Majority who came together to make key investments in Alaska.
Although the operating budget passed by the House was far better than the initial proposal, I ultimately voted against the budget due to some major issues that remained. One such issue was that the operating budget was unbalanced when taking into account the capital budget and the numerous expenses we know will need to be funded this year. Examples of omitted expenses include, fiscal notes for legislation (e.g. the $40 million for rural broadband grants, childcare tax credits, senior benefits, etc.), ongoing labor contract negotiations, Medicaid fees for updated Medicaid Halfway House negotiations, costs of fire response, federal match for the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnership. These items, when added to the agreed upon $550 million dollar capital budget and proposed $2,300 PFD, resulted in an unrealistic budget that would require the legislature to either raid the permanent fund or recklessly drain our last available savings account below levels recommended by legislative finance and OMB (the Office of Management and Budget). Because of this, I could not support the budget as proposed.

Capital Budget

The Senate passed the FY25 capital budget earlier this month which is now being considered in the House Finance Committee. So far, the capital budget is expected to be roughly $550 million and includes various statewide capital projects, funding for major school maintenance and deferred maintenance, renewable energy projects, and some district-level projects. This is a good start, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to make additional investments. In particular, I believe we should be doing more to address deferred maintenance throughout Alaska and to take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime federal funding to upgrade our critical energy infrastructure and modernize the energy grid.
Rep. Schrage and Rep. Fields speaking on the House floor.

Correspondence School Allotment Decision

Earlier this month, the Alaska Superior Court ruled in the Alexander v. Teschner case that Alaska’s laws allowing for cash allotments to parents in correspondence programs were unconstitutional because they lacked restrictions necessary to protect against abuse of the system. While the vast majority of homeschool parents, students, and families rely on these allotments and use them to support and enrich their students’ education in a constitutional manner, it is clear that some families were intentionally using the funds in a way prohibited by our constitution, and as a result, all student allotments are now at risk going forward. I strongly support all students, whether they attend local neighborhood schools, charter, or correspondence and I am determined to find a solution that is constitutional and ensures all students have access to the support and resources they need to thrive. 

You can read the full ruling here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/24544944-3an-23-04309ci 

Path Forward for Correspondence Programs

There are various paths forward in the wake of this ruling. The easiest and simplest option would be for the State Board of Education to pass emergency regulations returning our correspondence school program to the same rules that existed before 2014. At that time, allotments were allowed for education expenditures so long as they were from an approved list. This prevented abuse of the funding and provided for transparency on how state funds were being used to support correspondence students and families.

In the upcoming weeks, I am committed to working together with legislators and the governor to find a meaningful solution for correspondence school students and to address the numerous other crises in education, including years of flat funding and barriers to recruiting and retaining high-quality educators and support staff. I stand ready to support all Alaskan students, parents, and teachers and hope that we can pass a new education package to support all of our students. 

Build Your State Budget

Alaska Common Ground has put together a survey for Alaskans to build their own version of the state’s budget! This is an insightful exercise and helps provide context on Alaska’s current fiscal restraints and options on various paths to take the state. You can build your own budget here and feel free to share your response with your legislators.
Below are some additional resources for staying up-to-date and engaged:
Watch Committee Meetings – Most committee hearings are broadcast on Gavel Alaska at www.360north.org or through the Live Now tab on the AK Legislature’s home page. House and Senate floor sessions are also available on Gavel Alaska at www.ktoo.org/gavel

Access Budget Materials – The Office of Management and Budget website has many helpful tools and presentations relating to the state budget. You can find these resources, and more, at https://omb.alaska.gov.
 
Keep Track of Bills – Interested in tracking bills through the legislative process? You can follow along on BASIS: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Home/BillsandLaws. Just type in a bill number in the search bar (ex: HB 36) at the top of the page. You can also text a bill number (ex: HB 36) to 559-245-2529 to enroll in text alerts.

Use Your Legislative Information Office (LIO) – LIOs are a great local resource for navigating the legislative process. The staff at the LIO can help you research bills and issues, navigate the state computer system, and participate in hearings by providing public testimony. You can chat with LIO staff Monday-Friday between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM through their new chat interface, located in the lower right corner of AKLeg.gov.

Contact the Anchorage LIO – You can reach the LIO by phone (907-269-0111) or email: LIO.Anchorage@akleg.gov. 

 
Warmly, 
Representative Schrage 
PS - I am honored to serve as your Representative. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our office anytime. 
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Representative Calvin Schrage - Proudly serving our friends and neighbors in House District 12






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Representative Calvin Schrage · Alaska Capitol · Juneau, Ak 99801 · USA