JUNEAU – Following two days of committee hearings and hours of public testimony, the House Rules Committee, chaired by Rep. Craig Johnson (R-Anchorage), passed a sweeping re-write of SB 140 to address not only education funding but other significant components including teacher incentives, student transportation, support for charter schools and correspondence programs, assistance for deaf and hard of hearing students, and high-speed internet access for Alaska’s schools.
Most notably, the revised version of the bill includes a $300 increase to the Base Student Allocation (BSA). Critics claimed the amount was woefully inadequate. However, the amount is the largest single increase to the BSA in over a decade and more than all BSA increases, combined, in the same time period.
Following the conclusion of the 2023 legislative session, half of the $175 million in one-time funding for education was vetoed from the budget. While the $300 BSA increase equates to less than the one-time funding, it represents a much larger permanent increase to education funding. Even $175 million only equated to a $68 dollar increase to the BSA. Today’s action equates to a net present value increase of more than $770 million.
Rep. Johnson said, “It was critical for the Alaska House Majority to propose a comprehensive package of measures to improve Alaska’s schools and support our students. One-time funding is a band-aid, at best. Our vote today represents a long-term investment in education.”
“Alaska’s school districts deserve long-term solutions and funding parity for students attending traditional schools or correspondence programs. SB 140 now extends our education tax credit program which helps our businesses and state education programs”, commented Rep. Justin Ruffridge (R-Soldotna), the author of the original measure providing support for correspondence programs and extension of education tax credits.
The bill also provides support for deaf and hard of hearing students throughout the state, which was originally sponsored by Rep. Jamie Allard (R-Eagle River). Following the hearing, Allard said, “Previous majorities have talked extensively about supporting education, but the current majority has finally delivered. I’m proud to be a part of this historic effort.”
House Speaker Cathy Tilton (R-Wasilla), a member of the Rules Committee stated, “The new version is our caucus’ affirmation of our constitutional obligations to provide quality education for all Alaska’s children. We look forward to a spirited and productive discussion with our colleagues in the State Senate as the bill moves forward.”