Begich says state needs funding for education

Posted: Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alaska should compete for a cut of federal education dollars aimed at helping reform-minded schools, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said.

The Democrat said Alaska wasn't among dozens of states that applied for a share of about $4 billion in a first round of funding. In a recent letter to the governor, Begich urged the state to compete in a second round, saying it faces challenges in areas like rural education and poor graduation rates.

Eric Fry, a state education department spokesman, said Wednesday no decision has been made on whether to apply. The deadline is June 1.

While he said the state isn't complacent about reforms and has been working toward implementing its own reform package, he said change should come from Alaskans. There are concerns that in accepting federal aid, schools may have to implement changes the state doesn't necessarily agree with.

Based on the state's population, he said Alaska could possibly stand to receive a one-time grant of $20 million to $75 million, if its application were successful. Alaska currently spends about $1 billion a year on K-12 public education, he said.

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