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Alyeska Central School (ACS) is a valuable Alaska resource that will vanish if HB174 and SB107 pass during this legislative session. The two reasons cited in the administration's proposal to eliminate ACS are cost savings and duplication of services. Overwhelming numbers of concerned families, teachers and supporters have refuted both of these factors with compelling testimony before the Special Committee on Education. Many people testified at hearings held over three days, but there are others who will have not been heard.
The Department of Education and Early Development has been grappling with the incredible challenges presented by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Gov. Murkowski and Alaska education officials recently met with a committee representing the U.S. Department of Education to discuss the state's NCLB implementation plan. The Education Department's March 14 newsletter reported that during this meeting, the governor highlighted Alaska's unique challenges for meeting the requirements of NCLB such as small school populations, transportation difficulties between schools, and numerous small schools where teachers teach in more than on content area.
Alyeska Central School is the only correspondence school in the state that is mandated by law to serve all Alaskans. It is also the only correspondence school governed by the State Board of Education and operated by the Department of Education. ACS, being a part of the department, could provide immediate remedies to help struggling schools meet NCLB requirements. Unfortunately if HB174 and SB107 pass, newly appointed members of the State Board of Education and the yet-to-be-named commissioner will never have an opportunity to find out what services Alyeska Central School has been providing and what new services could be added.
Alyeska Central School has been evolving to meet the changing needs of Alaska families for over 60 years. ACS is a 12-month, fully accredited K-12 school. Its staff includes more than one certified teacher in each of the core areas. Counselors guide students through educational, college and career planning. Other services include a library with an impressive collection, a fully stocked warehouse, and a publishing department that prints ACS courses or helps teachers to place them on-line.
Doesn't it seem reasonable to allow the new commissioner of education and the new members of the State School Board an opportunity to put Alyeska Central School to work to help meet challenges by NCLB? Discovering a need for a program like Alyeska Central School after it has been closed could be a very costly mistake. Let's slow down and take a closer look at the facts!