On Tuesday, Governor Mike Dunleavy announced 2 education bills to be filed this week.
The first bill addresses a growing need to recruit and retain teachers. This incentive bill will provide full-time, certified classroom teachers a cash payment each July for a period of 3 years.
The bill, known as the Teacher Retention and Recruitment Incentives bill, identifies cash payment tiers for each school district in the amount of $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000, with the higher tiers directed to Alaska’s more remote and rural schools.
“As a former educator in rural Alaska, I know how big of a difference it makes when a teacher stays in a community for a longer period of time,” said Governor Dunleavy in a press release. “The labor market for teachers is tight across the country, but this bill will help Alaska school districts recruit and retain qualified teachers for years to come.”
Under the terms of the bill, certified full-time teachers assigned to a classroom teaching assignment will receive a lump sum payment on, or around, July 1, 2024, July 1, 2025, and July 1, 2026. In order to be eligible for the lump sum payment, a teacher must occupy a teaching position for the entirety of the school term for the school year immediately preceding the date of payment. The purpose of the bill is to provide a post-school year payment to encourage teachers to remain in Alaska for the entirety of the school year, thereby promoting continuity for Alaska’s students and maximizing education outcomes.
The $5,000 tier is focused on incentivizing teachers in Alaska’s most urbanized areas, including Matanuska Susitna Borough and Anchorage school districts. Also included are Fairbanks North Star Borough, Juneau Borough, and Kenai Peninsula Borough
The $10,000 tier is targeted toward rural schools that, despite their remoteness, are sufficiently linked to Alaska’s urban networks to allow for more regular access to goods and services. These would include school districts such as Chugach, Denali, Ketchikan, Copper River, and the Aleutians, to name a few.
Some of the school districts that would qualify for the $15,000 bonuses include Craig City, Dillingham City, Klawock City, the North Slope Borough, and Pribilof.
Payment of the lump sum is contingent on legislative appropriation.
The 2nd educational bill, dubbed the Parental Rights in Education Bill, would ensure transparency in schools by codifying parental rights and by requiring school districts to adopt procedures addressing the physical safety and privacy of students in locker rooms and restrooms in public schools.
The Parental Rights in Education bill amends Alaska’s education statutes to increase opportunities for parental involvement in their children’s education by creating meaningful notice and consent requirements.
It clarifies existing statutes requiring parental notification prior to discussing human reproduction or sexual matters that would include gender identity, and requires written permission for the child to participate in the activity, class or program.
The bill also requires written permission from a parent before the name or pronoun used by a public school to address to the parent’s child is changed. It also requires school districts to inform parents in writing of the right to pursue legal action against a school district if the parent’s rights have been violated.
“I’ve supported increasing parental involvement in education as a school principal and school board president. Then as a State Senator in 2016, I sponsored the bill that codified some parental rights in education in Alaska. This bill builds upon that work to increase family involvement and secure parental rights in education,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Research shows that involving families more in a child’s education leads to better relationships and improved educational outcomes for students, and this bill will do just that.”
The bill also ensures that a school district does not selectively withhold information regarding a child’s physical, medical, or mental health from a parent, foster parent, or guardian unless a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure of the information would result in child abuse or neglect.
The bill recognizes every child’s right to privacy by requiring school districts to include procedures addressing the physical safety and privacy of students in locker rooms and restrooms as part of the school’s disciplinary and safety program.
Physical safety and privacy of students in locker rooms is to be addressed through the physical separation of students by biological sex, access to single occupant facilities, or other safety and privacy protocols consistent with Alaska Statute 14.18.040.