As the Advocacy Chair for the year between the 2014 conference 2015 conferences, I am pleased to represent you in the best way I can. The first thing I would encourage you to do is learn about the issues. As in any organization and as a citizen of your community, you have a responsibility to make your voice heard. Here in Alaska it is easy to know your neighbors and even easier to know your representatives. Due to Alaska’s small population, we only have three United States Representatives: Mark Begich, Lisa Murkowski, and Don Young.
Often Alaskans follow federal policy changes and initiatives very closely because of the heavy dependence of education funding in the state (especially in rural areas of the state). This year there have been numerous changes in state in terms of Executive Branch initiatives and Legislative Bill submissions. To help you make sense of it all I thought it might be nice to share a concise list of topics addressed during this session and approved in the Governor’s budget:
- $850,000 funding for AKLN
- An increase in the BSA with an outside chunk available over 3 years
- $7 million for broadband expansion
- Governor’s initiative for expanding distance learning (DTi – Digital Teaching Initiative)
- $4 million for the digital teaching initiative
- A teaching academy to help teachers statewide implementing online and blended learning
- STREAM pilot school
- $100+ million increase to BSAs & a plan for another 100 million for three years
Working closely with the Department of Education, ASTE has followed the Governor’s goals. Those goals that were mostly met included:
- increasing the BSA
- repeal of the HSGQE
- allowing high school students to test out of a class for credit and still qualify for the APS
- tax credits for scholarships
- increased access to charter schools
- more vocational education and dual credit partnerships
- funding for residential schools
The proposed Academy for helping teachers to implement online and blended learning will most likely happen next summer and is not to be confused with the concept proposed earlier this year for three teaching centers around the state. Applications may be out as early as the end of the summer. The Academies may start as soon as next summer and fall. The $100+ million increase to BSAs & the three-year plan for districts is meant to fund innovation. In essence, it is a grant to upgrade systems in such a way that future savings can be made possible. With all these positive actions, you might be asking, “What is out?” In a nutshell, the Common Core: the State will withhold funds to districts using the Common Core in lieu of the AK State Standards.
Being informed is great, but how do you tell your representatives what you support and what you oppose? Do you know your representatives? If you don’t know them off the top of your head, maybe it’s time to share your thoughts. To see a map of the state and districts click here. To sort out who your Representatives are, click here. Once you find out who represents you, find out what they think about the issues that matter to you and let them know what you think!
Your Voice Matters!