Alaska is currently reeling from depressed revenues from the oil industry, directly affecting the money pipeline to sustaining the state’s coffers. As
educators and schools districts struggle with the legislature’s yearly
“smackdown,” wielding once again the hammer of reduced funding, districts will
be facing increases in PTR, with threats once more to early literacy programs
statewide. Universities are facing unprecedented reductions. Although
Governor Walker has prudently addressed the issue of a state income tax,
additional taxes, and a revamping of the Permanent Fund accessibility, the
funding issue has become the annual boondoggle between political interests, with
the children’s interests left in the dust. Apparently supporting continued
growth and competitiveness with increasing educational outcomes, is not seen as
a prudent investment in Alaska’s future. The resounding mantra, “Do more, with
less!” appears to be the tome of the day!
According to a recent article published in the New
York Times by Kirk Johnson on
March 14, 2016 reported:
“…[S]ome legislative proposals are … more drastic. One lawmaker proposed closing dozens of the smallest rural schools. Others…the university should retreat from its expensive research function and become more like a community college system, focused on teaching. A proposal to cut back on subsidies for high-speed Internet in rural parts of the state sent another shiver through the education system, since about 90 percent of University of Alaska students take at least one course remotely.”
The article also addressed the effects of shifting the teacher retirement system In 2006 for “new hires, from guaranteed pensions to self-directed plans similar to a 401(k). Then, to make the idea more attractive, it made benefits portable, meaning that teachers vested in plans could quit and not lose money that they, or the state, had put in. The result, as tough times have walloped the schools, is a flood of resignations, and teachers heading south with Alaska money in their pockets, looking for new starts somewhere else.” The brain drain and costs to districts to build a sustainable core of educators invested in Alaska’s future is obvious.
Along with the chaos of
impending reductions, the state’s Commissioner of Education, Mike Hanley,
resigned on February 3, 2016. In March, the assistant commissioner, Les Morse
Now both positions are been filled by interim appointments, Dr. Susan McCauley and Betty Walters, respectively.
The statewide response to The AMP testing from last spring has been met with significant controversy, as the results failed to give teachers detailed information for remediating student learning. Although it will be administered this spring to fulfill federal requirements, it is anticipated that there will be a yet undecided new test mechanism in place for subsequent years.
On January 16 of this year the Alaska State Board of Education paused the teacher evaluation /student assessment scores requirement in light of the revamped ESSA.