Bill requires Alaska-created conservation, development curriculum

JUNEAU — The chairman of the House Education Committee has proposed a bill that requires Alaska public schools develop curriculum conveying constitutional principles of resource use, development and conservation.

Rep. Alan Dick, R-Stony River, said students are getting a skewed idea of resource development, often from teachers who don’t hail from Alaska and aren’t familiar with the state’s constitution. He said constituents district have complained that students are being taught exclusively that development is bad without learning of economic benefits and the other side of the story.

His bill, HB352, requires that curriculum conveying constitutional principles of resource use, development and conservation be developed “without regard to personal opinion.”

“I want to empower citizens of Alaska so that if they feel there are things being taught in their districts that violate the constitution, they can go to their school boards,” Dick said.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and a committee member, said during a hearing Friday that the bill would put a burden on school districts. He said the wording of the bill makes it so districts might be required to purchase books that don’t exist, and that supplementary curriculum materials might be a better solution than limiting the types of books districts can buy.

“I’m worried about unintended consequences and whether this will be applied to individual school boards and districts and how it would affect them,” Seaton said. “We need to hear from them.”

An opportunity for public testimony was provided Friday, but no one from the public testified.

Betsy Beardsley, environmental justice program director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in an interview that she wants to know more about the bill before it passes.

Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited, said the legislation “isn’t necessarily bad as long as the pro-development themes that teachers will be required to espouse are balanced with information about how important clean water is to Alaska’s world-class fisheries.”

Most House committees face a tentative deadline next week to stop hearing House bills and to focus on Senate bills.

Dick said he plans hear the bill again.


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