Alaska Legislature

Alaska House Republicans’ education bill will get public testimony hearing Saturday

JUNEAU — Alaska House Republicans unveiled an education package Wednesday stacked with GOP priorities, including a modest boost to public school funding and provisions to allow a state board to authorize charter schools.

Senate Bill 140 contains a $300 permanent boost to the Base Student Allocation — the state’s per-student funding formula — at a cost of roughly $77 million. The House Republican’s BSA figure is far short of the $350 million annual increase school administrators say is needed after years of flat state funding.

The package contains a roughly $23 million boost for homeschooled students under the House’s formula funding plan, and funding to increase internet speeds for Alaska school districts. There is $7.5 million in extra funds per year for student transportation costs.

One set of provisions would allow the state Board of Education — appointed entirely by the governor — to authorize charter schools. Education advocates raised concerns that would take power away from local school boards.

The House Rules Committee scheduled a hearing for Senate Bill 140 starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, with plans to hear invited testimony from Education Commissioner Deena Bishop. Anchorage Republican Rep. Craig Johnson, the rules chair, said education is a priority for the House majority and the bill as it was introduced Wednesday is a starting point for debates.

Johnson said the plan is to consider amendments before advancing the bill to the House floor on the same day. Alaskans can testify on Senate Bill 140 on Saturday. The deadline to sign up to testify is noon Saturday.

The committee is planning to hear testimony first from people who are at the Capitol in Juneau and in legislative information offices across the state. Alaskans calling in to the committee will then be heard.

Juneau residents can call (907) 586-9085 to testify. Anchorage residents can call (907) 563-9085. Alaska residents outside of Juneau and Anchorage can call (844) 586-9085.