Coalition for Education Equity is working on securing predictable, consistent, and adequate funding for education; recruitment and retention of quality teachers; continuation of stable, accessible, and equitable funding for school construction and major maintenance; statewide voluntary pre-K; and supporting the capacity of our school districts. We continue to make progress in these areas through research and policy development; collaboration and innovation support through Ed Connector; partnership with DEED and other stakeholders; legal activities; and our legislative program. Priorities for the 2018 Legislative Session are below.
Operating Budget and Legislation
1) Ensure adequate investment in Alaska’s public education system and public schools.
Continue our pre-emptive, comprehensive strategy to protect education funding from 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 education funding is consistent, reliable, and adequate and that funding decisions are made in a timely manner that enables school districts to plan efficiently and responsibly. We advocate for inflation-proofing funding for our education system.
2) Address issues that affect teacher recruitment and retention (could include salary, benefits, retirement, retire/rehire, alternative pathways to teacher certification, teacher housing)
We will work this legislative session to increase legislator awareness of the issues and factors that affect teacher recruitment and retention across Alaska. In particular, we will share our 2015 Educator Quality and Quantity (EQQ) report and our current Research based Educator Systems Support (RESS) pilot study, and also invite partners and stakeholders to share their research, potential solutions, and successful approaches in a coordinated collaborative approach.
Teacher housing is a concern for many of our member districts. Lack of teacher housing can lead to districts being unable to open positions due to the inability to house a potential new teacher. Aging teacher housing units require expensive maintenance, and in some cases present safety and health concerns. Lack of safe, sufficient, comfortable teacher housing has an impact on districts’ ability to recruit and/or retain quality teachers. We will highlight this issue with legislators and work with them and stakeholders to surface potential solutions to this concern.
3) State & Federal level: Federal Impact Aid
The Impact Aid Program office has recently started conducting reviews of properties claimed in school district Impact Aid applications. Many districts do not have the required documentation to prove eligibility of properties in Alaska, and if such documentation is obtainable, it is often expensive and time-consuming to locate. The burden on districts to research and collect this verification is tremendous, and districts that are unable to provide sufficient documentation are being denied impact aid funding, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars to our state. This loss of federal funding to school districts must be made up by the State. We are working with our members, Senator Murkowski’s office, State legislators, EED, and Federal agencies to develop a statewide response and provide direct support to districts
4) Statewide, voluntary pre-elementary programs
We will continue our efforts to ensure sustained pre-K funding at FY2018 levels ($3.2 million) and work with our partners to expand pre-elementary programs so that all Alaska’s children have a strong foundation when they start kindergarten. We support SB99.
5) Broadband access and BAGs
Hold funding for broadband assistance grants steady or expand, and work to set a minimum threshold amount for BAG funding ($10,000). 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.
6) Ed Connector
We will share information and provide demonstrations of Ed Connector in order to promote this platform as the place to house and share statewide education resources, tools, and best practices – to include curricula aligned with state standards – in order to increase the capacity of school and district leaders and to expand collaboration and knowledge building.
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
7) Continue efforts around REAA school construction and major maintenance funding
As part of a multi-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, but a 2016 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 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. We worked to introduce HB212 in the last legislative session and will work toward passage of this bill in the House and Senate.
This bill allows the Commissioner of Education to extend the time frame in which a district must provide the required participating share of the projected construction cost to five years, with a three year extension for good cause. The bill passed the House and has moved to the Senate for consideration. The bill is currently in Senate Finance and we anticipate that the bill will be heard at the beginning of the next legislative session.
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.
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.