Alaska Juggles Questions On Technology, Funding

Alaska is in the middle of several debates about key questions regarding their educational system, including a disagreement over the funding of correspondence and home schooling programs. Republican Senator Michael Dunleavy put forth a bill to the Alaska Senate Education Committee that requests the funding of correspondence and home school programs in totality –not just the eighty percent that they are receiving now. This would permit home schooling families and correspondence schools to purchase much needed educational resources and materials organized by reputable universities. It also calls for a grant to purchase new technologies for educational purposes.

According to Mike Coppock of Associated Press, some, however, have argued that the bill is unconstitutional because it relieves the state Department of Education and Early Development of it's overseeing role in where educational funds are allocated.

"Committee chair Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, requested that state legal services review the bill for constitutional concerns. The measure does call for school district supervision of grant funds that would go to correspondence schools and home schooling."

But some disagree with this viewpoint. Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley believes that the Department of Education should monitor districts and not individual students. The bill is still in debate within the education committee.

Debate over technology in traditional Alaskan public schools has also included the use of cell phones in schools, relays the Daily Journal of Commerce. The Alaska House Community and the Regional Affairs Committee have passed a cell phone bill sponsored by Republican Senator Kevin Meyer that would allow school districts to make rules regarding the use of cell phones in school zones and on school grounds or property. The new rules would be made at the school districts' discretion and the push for regulation is meant to promote public safety.

Lastly, a new bill is making its way through the Senate Education Committee to increase the amount of money allotted per student to a school district. The increase has been called for due to inflation and the ever-growing costs of education.

Democratic Senator Berta Gardener wants to see an additional increase of four hundred and four dollars per student. This request follows several years of budget cuts for school districts.

"The Anchorage School District cut $25 million from its budget last year and another $23 million this year. Agasti-Gisler said the district will be cutting an additional $26 million next year."

Opponents of the bill claim that the state is already facing major deficits and that adding an inflation component to the education budget would spin spending out of control.

"‘I am reluctant to imbed inflation into our budgets because we would quickly lose control of them,' said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka.'"

The bill is still in the committee, where the debate continues.

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