Alaska House passes bipartisan education compromise bill with funding boost

Happy lawmakers
Rep. Maxine Dibert, D-Fairbanks, right, speaks with Rep. Stanley Wright, R-Anchorage, who presented the Alaska House with a bipartisan compromise on a key education bill on Feb. 22, 2024. (Eric Stone/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska House passed a wide-ranging, bipartisan education bill late Thursday. 

The $246 million bill would permanently increase state education funding, boost internet speeds in some rural schools, and provide new support to charter schools.

House Rules Committee chair Rep. Craig Johnson, an Anchorage Republican who shepherded the bill on behalf of House leadership, said it’s a compromise.

“With this, we are ensuring that schools can plan. Is it everything they want? No,” he said. “Very seldom do you get everything you want. This is one of those examples.”

The bill increases the base student allocation, the biggest piece of the state’s education funding formula, by $680. That’s the first substantial increase since 2016. 

The House minority leader, Rep. Calvin Schrage, I-Anchorage, said it falls far short of what’s needed — but it’s something.

“It provides schools necessary support. Does it make them whole? No. But does it provide essential support to help them keep going? Does it put some fuel in the tank? It absolutely does,” Schrage said.

The bill adds a new position in the education department dedicated to supporting charter schools and an appeal process for charter schools whose contracts are canceled.

The bill would also boost state funding for correspondence students and provide support to young students with reading deficiencies. And there’s nonbinding intent language directing schools to spend the increased funding on “educator salary and retention bonuses,” replacing a more controversial bonus proposal.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, the Anchorage Democrat and Senate Rules Committee chair, said he planned to vote for the legislation and said he would not be surprised if the Senate simply voted to adopt the House’s changes. He said he’s optimistic.

“I think this bodes well for the rest of the session. I think this bodes well for the other big issues that we have out there,” he said, referencing a Senate-passed public-sector pension bill and a looming Railbelt gas crunch.

But it’s an open question whether Gov. Mike Dunleavy will sign the bill. The governor’s press staff did not immediately return requests for comment.

Before the package was unveiled on Thursday, the governor’s communications director said in a prepared statement that the governor would not support a bill that “fails to address educational outcomes in public schools.”

“Expanding access to charter schools and financial incentives to recruit and retain teachers are necessary to reforming Alaska’s educational system,” Turner said ahead of Thursday evening’s floor session.

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at

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