Alaska Legislature

Alaska House Republicans accused of rushing unvetted education bill

JUNEAU — Opposition from Alaska House majority members could thwart the progress of an education package advanced by leaders of the predominantly Republican majority caucus.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, a former speaker of the House and one of only three non-Republican majority members in the 23-member caucus, said Monday he was “not optimistic” that an education bill would pass this year, after members of his own caucus bypassed the typical legislative process to pack an education bill with several Republican priorities.

“I am really reluctant to support something that hasn’t been fully examined, cross-examined, involved the public at every step of the way,” said Edgmon, a Dillingham independent.

The education package unveiled Wednesday grouped a long-sought-after funding increase for the per-school public education formula together with provisions meant to increase the number of charter schools in the state and the amount of state funding going to around 20,000 homeschooled students.

House majority Republicans have appeared united behind the proposal, which includes provisions offered separately by several House members in numerous separate bills. Leaders of the caucus said they planned to bring the bill to a vote on the House floor this week. But there are only 20 GOP members in the majority, meaning they would need to gain support from at least one of the three majority members who are not Republicans — or from the 17 members of the chamber who are not in the majority.

Rep. CJ McCormick, a Bethel Democrat in the majority, already indicated he was opposed to the funding increase included in the Republicans’ package — $77 million per year, instead of the $350 million sought by education advocacy groups representing schools across the state.

The House Rules Committee, typically responsible for scheduling when bills will be considered by the full House, hosted an unusual Saturday hearing on the Republicans’ proposal, which was added to a bill that was adopted by the Senate last year, before promising to advance it to a full vote by the chamber.


[Alaska House Republicans advance education bill over strong opposition from teachers and parents]

The rushed committee process, which circumvented what would have been weeks of committee hearings and public input, drew discontent from the Senate majority.

In a Monday letter to House majority leadership, leaders of the Senate bipartisan majority — including Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak — complained that “significant policy changes” were made to the bill.

“In its amended form, the Senate Majority will have a hard time supporting significant unvetted policy changes in SB 140 that affect the delivery of public education, the loss of local control, increased classroom sizes, and continued hardship on our dedicated educators,” Senate members wrote.

The proposed $300 increase to the $5,960 Base Student Allocation “leaves schools woefully short-funded, sending the wrong message that schools must do more with less,” Senate members wrote.

Republican advocates for the bill said they favored a fiscally conservative approach to the problem of lagging educational outcomes for Alaska public school students.

Among those advocates is Rep. Mike Cronk, a Tok Republican and former school teacher. In floor comments on Monday, he said that increasing funding would not necessarily solve the problems facing Alaska schools.

Educators have persistently pointed to the fact that education funding has not meaningfully increased since 2017. Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat, noted that Alaska lawmakers green-lit a substantial pay increase for themselves last year, urging lawmakers to provide funding for pay increase for educators, as well.

While Republicans have promised to fast-track the consideration of the legislation, a Saturday hearing on the bill indicated that significant questions about some of its provisions remained unanswered, including the total cost of the measure. An initial estimate pegged the number at $190 million — but lawmakers said the number could change.

On Saturday, Education Commissioner Deena Bishop said she did not know if a provision in the bill to allow the creation of more charter schools would require local school districts to increase their spending to cover the cost of students at those schools.

Reporter Sean Maguire reported from Juneau and Iris Samuels reported from Anchorage.

• • •

Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at

Iris Samuels

Iris Samuels is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News focusing on state politics. She previously covered Montana for The AP and Report for America and wrote for the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at