Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy today announced plans to enact the Alaska Reads Act, a bipartisan effort with rural and urban support, which lays the groundwork for improving student reading skills through a increased accountability and resources. The announcement was made during a celebration of successful legislation with members of the Alaska State Legislature and the Dunleavy administration at Turnagain Elementary School in Anchorage.
The Alaska Reads Act, which became part of House Bill 114 (HB 114), was passed by the Legislature in May and included three key elements: the Alaska Reads Act, a technical solution to public school funding, and an improvement to the Alaska student loan. program. Governor Dunleavy and Senator Tom Begich first introduced the Alaska Reads Act in January 2020.
“Two and a half years ago, Senator Begich, Commissioner Johnson and I first shared our common vision for improving educational tools, resources and outcomes. Today we come together again to celebrate the historic combination of investment and responsibility. Improving results will not happen overnight, but other states have proven that it can be done with determined and focused effort. We cannot, and we will not, accept that last place is the best we can do. This legislation will ensure Alaskan students have a bright future while providing our steadfast educators with the resources they need,” Governor Mike Dunleavy said. “Overall, this educational brief shows that legislators and the executive can come together around common goals, in a bipartisan way, to achieve good things for the people we serve. We are sent to Juneau to do this work, and I am proud of the work we have done together for the students, parents and educators of Alaska.
“Today is a transformation for public education in Alaska. As a young Alaskan, I watched my father help create a preschool for this great state. Being part of the universal, voluntary pre-K offering for every child in Alaska is truly humbling,” said Sen. Tom Begich (D-Anchorage). “Through bipartisanship and dedication, we have provided every child in Alaska with a proven path to start their educational career on a solid foundation. A universal and voluntary pre-kindergarten, combined with an evidence-based and culturally appropriate approach to reading, ensures that these early gains are retained. This is how we move the needle to improve educational outcomes in Alaska.
“The Alaska Reads Act opens a new chapter in Alaska’s public education journey. It’s more than just funding. It’s a wait” said Dr. Michael Johnson, Commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. “On behalf of the students of Alaska, I thank Governor Dunleavy, lawmakers, and educators who have had the courage to abandon the status quo and support this student-centered policy.”
“After working on it for several years, I was thrilled that the Alaska Reads Act was finally passed. It’s a real game-changer for students. Ensuring kids are fluent in reading will improve school outcomes overall. , but more importantly, it will open up more opportunities for students to succeed as adults,” said Sen. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer). “Good third-grade reading is essential to opening the doors to future rewarding careers and productive citizenship. I am grateful that my bill was one of two used as the basis for this transformative policy and I am proud of the bipartisan coalition that came together to make it happen.
“Every child in Alaska should have the opportunity and the tools to succeed in their education,” said Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna). “For Alaska to increase its educational gains, we need to make critical changes to the system, and it starts at an early age. To prepare for a fulfilling life, an effective reading program will ensure that every child in Alaska can read by age nine. I am glad to see that we are finally putting some accountability in education for Alaska and this bill is the cornerstone of that effort. Thank you to Governor Dunleavy for actively working with the Senate education team throughout the process.
“The Alaska Reads Act is the most significant education law passed in the last 20 years,” said Rep. Mike Cronk (R-Tok). “It fulfills the DOE’s #1 strategic objective for reading. Empower students, parents and teachers. He modestly increases the BSA to help fight inflation and establishes a grant program for highly qualified pre-k programs. This legislation is the first step toward educational responsibility and benefits Alaskan children.
“The Alaska Reads Act is the most significant improvement in public education policy this state has ever seen, and it’s just another step in the process,” said Sen. Roger Holland (R-Anchorage). “With early reading intervention programs, well-placed resources and increased accountability, it will be up to our teachers, our students and, yes, even our parents, to use these tools to improve the performance of our students. from kindergarten to 3rd grade. I am proud of this bipartisan effort by our legislature to improve education in Alaska.
“Today we celebrate a commitment to Alaskan youth to provide high-quality, evidence-based education in reading skills through the Alaska Reads Act to all children,” said Dr. Deena Bishop, ASD Superintendent. “There is nothing more fundamental to success than learning to read well. This act will implement the programs and funds to ensure that schools and teachers throughout Alaska are supported in leading our state toward literacy for all.
“I am proud to have worked on this bill on the House Education Committee for the past two years. It took a lot of compromise and all parties came together, but this bill is a long overdue step in the right direction to get our Alaskan students reading at the grade level in elementary school,” said Rep. Ron Gillham (R-Soldotna). “Reading is fundamental to success in school and in life, and I’m grateful that we finally got to see this bill cross the finish line.”
“The Alaska Reads Act has the potential to transform our education system. By investing significantly in our classrooms, focusing on reading fluency, and expanding pre-K across the state, this legislation will enable generations of Alaskan children to succeed in life,” said Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).
“One of the most important aspects of this bill is that it will help schools and parents measure students’ progress toward reading proficiency and develop more effective reading instruction programs. Helping our children become proficient readers is essential to their future success,” said Rep. Mike Prax (R-North Pole). “I tip my hat to everyone who helped get this bill through the Legislative Assembly.”
Today, HB 114 contains the Alaska Reads Act, which creates four new programs within the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEED): an early childhood education program, a comprehensive intervention program in reading, a school reading improvement program and a virtual education consortium. This part of the bill responds to the number one priority of the Alaska Education Challenge, “Helping all students read at the grade level by the end of third grade,” and was a bipartisan effort. to improve reading skills through increased accountability, well-placed resources, and leveraging modernization efforts we have already begun during the pandemic.
The bill includes language that requires the Department of Education to ensure that its regulations and policies to implement the bill are culturally appropriate and will meet the needs of rural and Native Alaskan students. . The bill aims to retain local control to avoid pushing statewide policies into smaller communities. Each community will have control over the implementation of programs that meet the needs of students in a way that best meets the unique needs of the community and its culture. The bill also requires an annual convention, including representation from rural Alaska, which will facilitate conversations with the Department of Education about how the bill does or does not meet the culturally appropriate standards outlined. in the bill.
The bill fixes a technical glitch in the state’s public school funding formula that only affected Hooper Bay School in the Lower Yukon School District (LYSD). The problem arose when the district, which is a single school with over 425 students, opened a charter school and cost them about $1 million a year in formula funding.
Additionally, the bill responds to demands from Alaska’s students and higher education community, including current student borrowers repaying their loans, by improving the ability to meet the financial aid needs of borrowers. The Governor originally introduced this portion of the bill through HB 114 and Senate Bill 94. It allows the state to help more Alaskans with their educational needs while expanding the market for the program student loans.