Parnell introduces sweeping education bill

Rep. Lindsey Holmes, R-Anchorage, left, and Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, listen to David Teal, director of the Legislative Finance Division, give an overview of the Governor's FY15 budget proposal in the House Finance Committee meeting at the Capitol on Friday.

Gov. Sean Parnell submitted an education bill on Friday that would increase per-pupil funding by $201 over the next three years.

 

It’s the first increase to the base student allocation in four years, but the state’s largest teachers union says the added funding won’t be enough.

According to the bill, per-pupil funding would increase $85 the first year and $58 in the second and third for a total of $5,881.

National Education Association-Alaska President Ron Fuhrer said that while the organization supports an increase in per-pupil spending, Parnell’s proposal falls short.

“ ... Clearly a $201 dollar increase to the BSA over the next three years in no way will stop the teacher layoffs and program cuts that school districts are proposing across the state for the 2014-15 school year,” he said in a statement.

Parnell’s office released a statement saying the increase mirrors that of school employees’ contracts. The overall increase would cost the state $50 million.

Also included in the governor’s bill, introduced in the House and Senate as HB278 and SB139, respectively, are provisions to repeal the state’s high school exit exam; allow for high school students to test out of courses; increase stipends for residential school students; and allow high school students to receive dual-credit toward technical or college degrees.

Parnell’s bill also includes a provision that would allow for an appeals process for denied charter school applications. Currently local school boards have final say as to whether a public charter school may open. Under the bill charter school applicants could appeal to the education commissioner.

“No one knows better how to help a student succeed than his or her own family,” Parnell said in a statement. “The measures in this bill will increase opportunity for families to make wise choices regarding their student’s education in the public school system.”

• Contact reporter Jennifer Canfield at 523-2279 or at jennifer.n.canfield@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/canfieldjenn. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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