Legislative Task Force To Perform Educational Review

The state spends nearly $2 billion on its public school system every year, but despite that, districts across Alaska come up against layoffs and strapped budgets. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that a newly formed legislative task force plans to review the state of Education in Alaska.

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Rep. Lynn Gattis says the task force will operate kind of like an audit of how well Alaska is educating its students.

“I anticipate nothing being off the table.”

Gattis, a Wasilla Republican, is one of the co-chairs of the “Sustainable Education Task Force.” She says the group will be meeting about a dozen times over the next few months to look at how public schools are being funded. Gattis says he group will also talk about where charter schools fit into the education system, and if Alaska should consider vouchers. The Alaska Constitution prohibits the public funding of private schools, but an amendment to change that was introduced in the legislature last session.

Gattis and her co-chair Tammie Wilson announced their appointments to the task force Monday, and she says they intentionally went beyond just educators. For example, Rep. Charisse Millett, who heads up the House energy committee, was chosen to look at schools’ heating costs. Brad Keithley, an oil and gas consultant, was selected to look at how education spending fits into the state’s overall budget. Andrew Halcro, a former legislator and gubernatorial candidate who now heads up the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, was picked for the other business seat. Jerry Covey, a former education commissioner under Wally Hickel, and David Nees, a math teacher who has run for Anchorage school board, were selected for the educator slots. Andy Baker of Kotzebue will represent the state’s rural communities.

Ron Fuhrer is the president of the teacher’s union NEA-Alaska, and says that while he’s glad that the legislature is giving education an extra look …

FUHRER: Well, I have some reservation that what they’re looking at is going to be in the best interest of Alaska’s public school students.

Fuhrer says he’s surprised that no current teachers or superintendents were picked to serve on the task force, even though many applied.

“There’s no one on the task force who brings today’s classroom experiences.”

Gattis says the decision to exclude working educators was a conscious one, because she had concerns that they wouldn’t be able to speak frankly.

“I wanted folks to be retired or out of the system, so they could say, ‘When I was in the system, here’s what didn’t work, here’s where we spent a lot of money, and frankly, it was a waste.'”

The task force’s first meeting is tentatively scheduled for the end of August.

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agutierrez (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.209.1799 | About Alexandra

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