• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 10s

Democrats offer their own education initiatives

By Rhonda McBride 7:49 AM February 21, 2014

The Democrats will officially introduce their legislation on Friday.

JUNEAU – Democrats upped the ante on Thursday with a buffet of bills on education.

They come fairly late in the game; more than a third of the way through the legislative session. But Democrats said they want to take Gov. Sean Parnell up on his pledge to make 2014 the “Education Session.”

“You start the conversation. You push it forward, and incrementally, it can happen. Or a groundswell makes it happen,” said Sen. Berta Gardner, a Democrat and member of the Education Committee.

For Democrats, the top priority remains the same since the session started — an increase in the Base Student Allocation formula, or the amount of money the state spends on each student.

Among the measures on the table:

·     Increasing the BSA by $404

·     Increasing the BSA for charter schools by 10 percent

·     Create a mechanism for charter schools to be based in an existing neighborhood school

·     More money to help charter schools with start-up costs

·     Expanded preschool programs

·     Awarding outstanding school principals a $5,000 bonus

·     Expand traffic safety zones to include all charter, private and religious schools

Democrats said that the increases in the BSA will help schools regain lost ground and avert massive cutbacks.

“If you don’t mow your lawn all summer, and you do it for the first time in September, you’ve created a mess,” said Rep. Les Gara, (D) Anchorage. “And we’re here to fix the mess that’s been created over the last four years.”

Although Democrats will face some tough odds shepherding these measures through a Republican-controlled Legislature, they said there’s widespread public support for their proposals, which may ultimately bring success.

While Gardner acknowledged it’s unlikely many of these proposals will make it past the gauntlet of legislative hurdles this session, she said seeds have now been planted for future sessions.

“Good things can take a long time to happen. There are lots of examples of that,” said Gardner, who noted there are plenty of cases where a Democrat has introduced a bill and several years later a Republican picks it up, runs with it and the measure becomes law.

“You start and you fight and you don’t care who gets the credit,” Gardner said.

A measure to scrap the high school exit exam is popular in both parties this session, but Gardner said that wasn’t the case when Democrats first raised the issue.

Republican majority leaders in the House seemed less than enthusiastic over the Democrats’ education initiatives, especially over the measures raising the BSA.

“There’s 60 bills here dealing with education on 30 different subjects,” said House Speaker Mike Chenault. “I think the Legislature at the end of the legislative session will put together a package that will address some of those needs, whether we get $405 or whatever fictitious number that’s out there. We’ll see.”

Chenault did express frustration over how Democrats are trying to influence the process through public pressure.

“We’re in the building. We’re doing the work. We’re not having rallies on the front porch. We’re not missing floor sessions so we can go to these things. Our people are here working,” said Chenault, who was referring to Monday’s education rally on the Capitol steps, organized by Democrats.

The Republicans maintain that education funding in Alaska has grown every year, though the increases have been in areas other than the BSA.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, said Parnell has not had a chance to review the Democrats’ package.

“However, he is pleased the discussion on education is continuing,” said Leighow in an email. “The governor is hopeful that the minority will join him in supporting more career and technical training, more charter school opportunities, and more residential school opportunities.”

The Democrats will officially introduce their legislation on Friday.

Latest Stories

  • Politics

    Survivors’ insurance bill likely to pass despite addition of municipal opt-in option

    by Eric Ruble on Apr 25, 20:01

    A bill that would provide funding for healthcare premiums for the families of state officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty is just a few steps away from becoming law. Various versions of Senate Bill 48 have been debated by lawmakers in Juneau for years. Last week, the senate unanimously passed the bill. […]

  • Politics

    Senate Leaderships defends education cut, amid threat of layoffs

    by Liz Raines on Apr 25, 19:52

    In Juneau, the Senate Majority is defending itself against accusations that its budget cuts will severely harm education in Alaska. This after the Anchorage and Mat-Su School Districts announced publicly they’re standing in solidarity against the 5 percent cut. The districts say more than $90 million in cuts to school districts and the university system […]

  • News

    Northern Edge to go ahead, along with continued community concern

    by Bonney Bowman on Apr 25, 19:26

    The Navy got the green light for Northern Edge 17, just days before the training exercise is scheduled to start. Northern Edge is scheduled to start May 1. It involves the Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines, training in the Gulf of Alaska and areas of the Interior. The National Marine Fisheries Service issued two […]

  • DOC officer smuggled drugs into Goose Creek

    by Lauren Maxwell on Apr 25, 18:16

    A former Department of Corrections officer was sentenced to eight months in a federal prison on Tuesday after admitting he smuggled drugs into the Goose Creek Correctional Center. Jason Spindler, 33, accepted a plea deal, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of drug conspiracy and one count of possession of a controlled substance with […]

  • LifeMed EMT charged with distribution of child porn

    by Daniella Rivera on Apr 25, 18:07

    An Anchorage man, who works as a LifeMed EMT, is accused of distributing child pornography. According to court documents, Anchorage Police were able to download eight video files containing child pornography during an undercover online investigation in November of 2016. In a criminal complaint, APD Officer Torres writes he was able to connect the IP […]

  • News

    Melting snow uncovers Anchorage’s major pet waste problem

    by Heather Hintze on Apr 25, 17:37

    The signs of spring are evident at Taku Lake in Anchorage: birds chirping in the trees, a thin layer of ice melting on the lake and dog waste everywhere. “Right on the edge of the water. That’s where kids are going to be swimming,” David Jensen said. He volunteers his time picking up after other […]

  • Officer in passenger-dragging incident tells his side of the story

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Apr 25, 17:18

    CHICAGO – The physician who was dragged off a United Airlines (UAL) flight in Chicago this month was verbally and physically abusive, and flailing his arms before he lost his balance and struck his mouth on an armrest, according to the aviation officer who pulled the man out of his seat. The Chicago Department of […]

  • News

    U.S., North Korea face off in high-stakes game of chicken

    by CBS News on Apr 25, 16:45

    BEIJING — North Korea conducted a large-scale, live-fire military drill on Tuesday morning in yet another show of force. It was part of celebrations marking the 85th anniversary of the founding of the country’s military. While the North fired weapons near the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, the U.S. and South Korea conducted drills […]