2017 CEE Legislative Priorities

Operating Budget and Legislation

Ensure adequate investment in Alaska’s public education system and public schools. Develop a pre-emptive, comprehensive strategy to protect education funding from any further cuts and quash any efforts to transfer costs to districts and/or local communities. Work closely with legislators and the Governor and Lt. Governor’s offices to provide tools and strategic advice that will help ensure that the budget is not balanced on the backs of our children and our schools. Work to ensure that funding sources are reliable and adequate and that funding decisions are made in a timely manner that enables school districts to plan efficiently and responsibly. 

Pre-elementary funding held steady and expanded. We will continue our efforts to ensure sustained pre-K funding and work with our partners to expand pre-elementary programs so that all Alaska’s children have a strong foundation when they start kindergarten. 

Broadband access. Hold funding for broadband assistance grants steady or expand. Seek opportunities to improve broadband access for all school districts. Work with administration to improve clarity in grant language to reduce confusion and increase access. 

Restore funding cut in 2017 budget.  

  • Seek to restore education funding cut through Governor Walker’s vetoes: $30.5 million cut from debt reimbursement funding, and the $6.35 million cut from pupil transportation. 
  • Seek to restore legislative cuts to Teacher Mentoring program. 

Protect small schools. Look for solutions (protect the small school minimum, encourage collaboration across districts, improve broadband access, explore proportional funding) to ensure our small schools are able to stay open and serve the children in Alaska’s villages. 

Protect all school districts from legislative overstepping. Prevent the legislature from passing unfunded mandates that overstep local control. 

Secure a defined benefit retirement option to recruit and retain new educators. Teachers and school district employees in Alaska do not currently have a secure pension they can rely on, and they do not earn Social Security benefits. This lack of a dependable retirement plan is a serious impediment to our ability to attract and retain high quality educators. Under the current defined contribution retirement system, public employees vest after five years and can take the money their employer has invested in their individual retirement accounts elsewhere. Since Alaska switched to the current retirement system in 2006, a troubling number of educators have not been working here for longer than five years of service. Creating a pension option for public employees in Alaska will restore a key incentive for educators to work and retire in Alaska. It will also save the State of Alaska money, as defined benefit systems are less expensive than defined contribution retirement systems. We will look for opportunities to support legislation that would give Alaska’s educators a secure retirement choice. 

Revenue

We believe it is time for us to take a position on revenue. The budget cannot continue to be funded at current levels without additional revenue. If we want sustainable, consistent education funding, we must advocate for revenue generating options. Read our position statement. 

Capital Budget and Legislation

Continuing funding schools on the school construction list. Unblock list for future school construction funding; ensure that the REAA Small Schools fund is fully utilized by qualified districts. 

Continue our efforts to ensure the Rural School Construction Fund may be used for major maintenance projects (some of these items will be addressed in Kasayulie breach negotiations). As part of a three-year effort, we have made the case that the Rural School Construction Fund ought to be available for qualifying districts’ major maintenance needs. This will reduce deterioration of schools and, in the long run, save the state millions of dollars in full school replacement costs.  In the past, the school construction fund was underutilized. A recent AG’s opinion has allowed the DEED to fund schools on the list that qualify – once revenue is appropriated into the fund.  Knowing that the State has the ability to draw on the fund, securing our use of the fund for major maintenance will keep that list moving and save us millions in the long run as we maintain our structures instead of having to completely rebuild them. On the school construction side, eligible schools had been blocked by schools on the list that require general fund support (which have now been funded). If we a) fund schools on the REAA list; and b) allow for major maintenance funding, then we can be sure that we won’t miss years of deposits that would otherwise not go into the fund due to its $70 million cap. 

Restore the debt reimbursement program. The REAA fund is filled by a formula that is calculated based on how much the State pays out to school districts in debt reimbursement. If debt reimbursement is lowered or eliminated, it has a direct impact on the REAA small schools fund deposits. This program has also been critical for decades to ensure that urban districts are able to maintain quality school structures for students. 

We need to fight even harder this year to protect education funds from further cuts and, frankly, turn the conversation around so that our legislators are making budget decisions that adequately invest in Alaska's schools. The strength and unity of our membership translates to the strength of our position and voice as we approach critical education issues in the state. 

Position on Revenue for 2017 Legislative Session

The Coalition for Education Equity believes that a thriving state requires a successful education system.  This means that we need a stable, sustainable, and predictable budget supported by diversified revenues.  We recognize that further reductions to our education budget are not in the best interests of such a successful education system and that such cuts will, in fact, do damage to our fragile education structure. The Coalition for Education Equity also acknowledges that opportunities for youth to come to school prepared to learn, and to leave school with the ability to pursue further education or a meaningful vocational occupation are obligations guaranteed in Alaska’s constitution.  

To this end, the Coalition for Education Equity supports the following actions: 

  • Continued support of a robust foundation formula that reflects the diverse needs and interests of our Alaskan residents – regardless of where they live or their particular needs; 
  • Stop further cuts to education and advocate for supports for those populations most in need; 
  • Create a forward-funded education system that reduces uncertainty for our local districts as they make their funding decisions and plan their budgets; 
  • Continue to support pre-k and early childhood education to prepare youth for learning. 

To meet these goals, the coalition supports certain revenue measures including: 

  • Ending corporate tax subsidies and rebates that could cost the state potentially over $700 million annually 
  • Use of up to 5% of the annual earnings of the Permanent Fund to support general operations of the state government. 
  • A statewide income tax or similar revenue measure to further ensure a stable funding stream for state expenses, including education. 
  • Supports increases in user fees and incidental taxes on alcohol, fuel, mining, and other similar items where those taxes have not been altered in many years 

Together these measures may generate as much as $3.5 billion – offsetting the current anticipated budget deficits. 

The Coalition for Education Equity acknowledges and supports efforts at diversifying our economy to further sustain our budget revenues, identifying efficiencies in government that do not compromise local control, and the development of alternative fuels and other energy sources to reduce the cost of energy in rural Alaska.