Ulmer education plan ups funding

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2002

ANCHORAGE - Under Fran Ulmer's education plan, school districts would be in line for more money and would have more time to figure out how to spend it.

As for students, Ulmer said, they need more time in school.

Lt. Gov. Ulmer, the Democratic gubernatorial front-runner in the primary next week, outlined a four-part plan for improving education in the state and acknowledged it would require spending more money.

"I think those are investments we need to make if we want to make good on our promise to have the best education system we can have," Ulmer said.

Every organization needs to have priorities, she said, and education would be No. 1 for her.

"If we want to grow a great economy, we have to have a great education system," she said.

Her ideas brought a quick reaction from Wayne Anthony Ross, the Anchorage attorney seeking the Republican nomination.

"How is she going to pay for it?" Ross asked.

Ross compared Ulmer's plan to an old Sears catalog. "They used to call it the 'wish book,"' Ross said.

Ulmer plans to announce her fiscal plan sometime next month.

Ulmer called her education ideas the 4.0 Plan for Alaska, and it came with four "R's": more resources, enhanced teacher recruitment, a focus on student results, and continued renovation of unsafe or unfit schools.

Ulmer said the first piece of legislation she would introduce as governor would be a bill to inflation-proof the education foundation formula, the state's means of paying for K-12 public schools.

"Over the last decade, inflation has increased 27 percent while the foundation formula has increased by 7 percent," she said.

She said education should be funded on a two-year cycle to remove fiscal uncertainty for school districts.

Under recruitment, Ulmer said, she would propose incentives to attract and keep teachers. Additional state support for local districts would mean higher wages. Ulmer said she would push for a student loan forgiveness program for teachers.

She said she would push for mentoring support for new teachers.

She said teacher-preparation programs at the University of Alaska should be strengthened and that she would push for the training and hiring of more Alaska Native teachers.

Ulmer also said she would focus on results. She proposed more instructional time in the form of a longer school year to make up for days now sacrificed for standardized tests and other requirements. She said Alaska could add two days per year for five years.

She proposed instituting a master teacher corps, providing support from retired, experienced teachers for low-performing schools, plus early interventions for struggling students, expanded online opportunities and truancy laws with more bite.

Finally, she said she was committed to systematically renovating or replacing school buildings in disrepair.

U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, a Republican candidate for governor, called the plan unoriginal. Rather than simply inflation-proofing the foundation formula, Murkowski said, the formula should be made fair and equitable.

Murkowski said the Ulmer plan ignores opportunities for innovation and improvement outside the public school system such as charter schools, cyber schools or home schooling, plus the need for increased parental involvement.

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