• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 4s

Governor calls for education reforms in State of the State speech

By Rhonda McBride 5:33 AM January 23, 2014

Parnell's proposals include expanding charter schools and rural boarding schools.

JUNEAU – Like a mantra, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell kept repeating the phrase “to keep Alaska strong” in his State of the State speech Wednesday night.

In fact, he used some form of the word “strong” more than two dozen times to talk about state investment in a natural gas pipeline, state spending and education reforms.

“Tonight, I propose key changes to keep Alaska strong,” the governor said as he outlined his plans to improve education.

Among those changes:  a digital teaching initiative, scrapping the high school exit exam, more vocational and technical training, expanding charter schools and rural boarding schools.

“To keep Alaska strong, we need more significant reforms that create more educational opportunity for our children,” Parnell said. “Tonight, I want each of us to climb out of whichever trench we are in and declare 2014 will be the Education Session.”

Democrats sitting on the house floor visibly flinched. Up until that point, they had been applauding politely.

As school districts across the state have announced drastic cuts in funding and teacher layoffs, Democrats have pushed for increases in the state’s per pupil spending formula — the Base Student Allocation (BSA).

Until now, this increase is something Republican leaders, including the governor, have resisted.  They say every year they’ve spent more money on education for big-ticket items like energy, transportation and school construction, as well as protecting school funding from the budget ax.

But Democrats argue that classroom costs have risen sharply and so flat funding amounts to a cut.

Parnell pitched a deal he’s hoping will end the standoff.  He promised to increase per student spending in exchange for help in putting a measure on the ballot which would make it possible for the state to pay some of the costs of students in private schools.

The state constitution currently restricts the state from using public money to benefit religious or private schools.

“To keep Alaska strong, I urge the House and the Senate to vigorously debate the provisions of Senate Joint Resolution 9 and move it to the people for a vote,” Parnell said.

“The question of school choice is not about private schools or religious schools, it is about whether parents should have the freedom to say what school best meets their child’s education needs with their child’s share of public money,” he said.

Republicans warmly embraced the governor’s education reforms.

“It’s definitely one of my priorities, so I was very pleased to see that the governor has made it one of his top priorities in the state of Alaska,” said Eagle River Rep. Lora Reinbold, one of the co-sponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 9

Rep. Lance Pruitt, the House majority leader, called the governor’s education reforms bold.

In contrast, Democrats responded coldly at a news conference following the governor’s speech

“I’m disappointed he’s going in this direction,” said Sen. Hollis French, (D) Anchorage, the Senate minority leader. “Diverting public money to private schools simply continues to deprive our public schools of the resources they need to do their job.”

“Remember, education is a constitutional obligation, and it can’t be done with half measures,” said French, who called the governor’s vision a “mirage.”

Other Democrats said they were insulted by the governor’s proposal and felt they were being bribed to trade their vote for something they don’t believe in.

But if the governor can lure a few Democrats to his camp, he might be able to get the two-thirds vote from the Legislature needed to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

“It’s time legislators let Alaskans decide,” the governor told lawmakers during his address.

 

Latest Stories

  • News

    Coal seam fires again spark wildfires near Healy, coal mine

    by Dan Joling / AP on May 06, 14:28

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Alaska wildfire officials are tracking four wildfires started by underground coal seam fires near the community of Healy. Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says coal seam fires have lit four wildfires. The largest has burned about one square mile. Mowry says wildfires started by coal seam fires that burn all […]

  • Sports

    Tri, Tri Again: Kids take on the Trailside Triathlon

    by Dave Goldman on May 06, 12:59

    Elementary school youngsters will triple their fun meter this weekend as the annual Trailside Kids Triathlon takes off. With moderate doses of swimming, biking and running children ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade will begin at the Service High School pool. Then it’s onto the bicycle and finally some road work. “It’s important for health, […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: Classical guitar with Mischa Shimek

    by Daybreak Staff on May 06, 11:50

    Mischa Shimek is a music major who attends the University of Alaska Anchorage. When he’s not focusing on his studies, he can be found playing at the Anchorage Lutheran Church and Organic Oasis. Friday, he joined Daybreak for a Mic Check in the morning where he played two pieces on his classical guitar. This fall he […]

  • DayBreak

    Daybreak Adopt-a-Pet for Friday, May 6

    by Daybreak Staff on May 06, 11:33

    From the Anchorage Animal Care and Control Cats: Keo: affectionate and loving girl Quinn: a social girl who loves to cuddle Linus: a bashful boy who gives his whole heart once he trusts you Nightfury: a relaxed and friendly girl

  • News

    Small explosion detected at Alaska’s Cleveland Volcano

    by Associated Press on May 06, 7:51

    Scientists have detected a small explosion at the Cleveland Volcano on Thursday night. The acting coordinating scientist for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute says Mount Cleveland is one of the most active volcanos and regularly produces these kinds of eruptions. David Fee says the explosion, which was detected at 6:44 p.m., lasted only […]

  • DayBreak

    For the love of lingerie: Victoria’s Secret coming to Anchorage

    by Sierra Starks on May 06, 6:49

    Be it a matching bra and panty set or whatever’s sitting at the top of the delicate drawer — lingerie is something most women don’t leave home without. But where do women in Anchorage go when it’s time to restock? Most name Nordstrom as their go-to for undergarments, while some soon-to-be moms say Motherhood Maternity is […]

  • News

    Bienvenidos! Spanish newspaper launches in Anchorage

    by Shannon Ballard on May 05, 22:28

    Thursday was Cinco De Mayo. For some people that means margaritas and Mexican food, but a group of Latinos who call Alaska home celebrated with the launch of a new bilingual newspaper. It’s called Sol De Media Noche, which means Midnight Sun. The paper advocates for a community that its writers say is often overlooked. “We’re […]

  • Lifestyle

    The Clean Air Challenge and the ride for Nancy

    by Emily Carlson on May 05, 22:01

    When Nancy Ferrell found out she had lung cancer, she didn’t complain. The emergency room nurse smiled through cancer and looked classy during radiation. But nagging at the back of her mind; one fear that daughter Dana McDonald said, she just couldn’t shake. “I remember my mom wasn’t one to cry. The only one time […]