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From the Board Room: KIBSD to participate in 2 AASB Legislative Fly-ins

February 10, 2017
From the Board Room: KIBSD to participate in 2 AASB Legislative Fly-ins
By Noelle H. Lowery

The Association of Alaska School Boards has two Legislative Fly-ins scheduled for the current Alaska State Legislative session, and Kodiak Island Borough School District administrators and Board of Education members plan to be in Juneau to be part of the discussion.

The first fly-in will take place this weekend — Feb. 11-14 — and the second is set for April 1-4. The 90-day 2017 Alaska Legislative session began Jan. 17 and runs through April 18. KIBSD Superintendent Stewart McDonald discussed the educational legislative landscape with BOE members during the board’s Feb. 6 work session.

Alaska Governor Bill walker set the tone for the statewide discussion on education during his January State of the State address when he introduced “Alaska’s Education Challenge” — to establish an efficient, sustainable and comprehensive system that will provide an excellent education for every student every day. The ultimate goal of “Alaska’s Education Challenge” is to graduate students ready for career training and college, whether in the workforce, the military, apprenticeships, technical education courses, or associate degree and bachelor’s degree programs.

The legislative docket seems to be taking this challenge very seriously. This session bills and discourse are focused on Civics education, pre-elementary school programs, broadband access and virtual education, instruction in foreign languages and including dyslexia as a Special Education classification. The State Board of Education will be promoting its education goals, which include amplifying student learning; inspiring community ownership of educational excellence; modernizing the educational system; ensuring excellent educators; and promoting safety and well-being.

Tops on KIBSD’s list of legislative interests are:

  • Civics education - KIBSD has a Civics education program already installed at the high school, and supports local control, implementation and monitoring of the program, standards and testing without additional statewide mandates. This is in contrast to Civics Education Initiative model which currently is being considered for the state of Alaska. The crux of the model is that it requires high school students to pass a 100-question U.S. history and basic facts test in order to graduate. Many of the questions come directly from the U.S. Citizenship Civics Test, which is the same test new U.S. citizens must pass.
  • Dyslexia and Special Education - KIBSD officials believe that including dyslexia as a Special Education classification would be extremely costly to local districts. This possible change would substantially increase the number of qualifying students without correlating matching funds. 
  • District consolidation - There are two sister bills in the house and senate that address mandated consolidation of Alaska school districts. While KIBSD may not be a target for these bills, the restructuring of foundation formulas and other regulation changes will certainly affect us. I do not have a number for either bill, but please watch for these to be introduced in the next few weeks. 
Finally, KIBSD officials are closely watching work being conducted by a University of Alaska and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development joint committee. This committee has two priorities. First, it wants to increase the college/career readiness of high school graduates; and second, it wants to improve the preparation of teachers at the University of Alaska. The committee will be making presentations for the legislature over the coming weeks.