Gov. Parnell announces digital learning initiative

JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell on Thursday announced a digital learning initiative aimed at ensuring students have access to the best teachers available.

In an address to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Fairbanks, Parnell said every child deserves access to a high-quality education and kids in rural areas cannot be shortchanged.

He said rural teachers do a good job but cannot be expected to provide expert instruction in every subject to every child in every grade level they teach, such as those in small schools who teach grades 1-12.

Some schools currently offer digital learning, where students are connected to a teacher in another city. But Parnell said it’s “time to go big into digital” over the next five years so all Alaska children have access to a high-quality education. He said this can be done using a small studio with cameras and computers in one location and technology in a rural classroom and lead to more diverse and higher-quality classes for students.

He said the details are still being fleshed out, but he envisions attracting top teachers to provide math, science and college-credit courses and career and technical education. He said it would entail a five-year commitment to bring the project to scale.

“I believe that when we provide our kids with access to the best teachers in a given subject area, they have a greater chance to succeed. They will be better prepared for life,” he said.

He did not say how much he would seek in funding from the Legislature for the work.

Parnell also announced that the state is considering allowing tribal courts to handle some alcohol and domestic violence cases.

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