Cordova Jr./Sr. High School is seen on Aug. 10, 2021. File photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith for The Cordova Times

By Lon Garrison 

The Association of Alaska School Boards wishes to thank Governor Dunleavy for speaking to Alaskans about his concerns with the education bill (CSSB 140) now sitting on his desk awaiting action. We appreciate knowing where things stand. 

School boards across the state are in the midst of creating their annual budgets for 2025. For once, we had hopes that addressing the question of funding for education early in the session might prevent the inevitable pink slips to valuable and necessary staff and the further diminishment of a system of public education mandated by the Alaska Constitution. It appears more likely that the education funding question may not be resolved until the end of the session unless the Legislature holds firm on its commitment set forth in CSSB 140. 

AASB contends that increasing the Base Student Allocation (BSA) is a “strategic investment” in public education because it is the foundational basis for all aspects needed to operate a safe and secure learning opportunity. Without sufficient and predictable funding, proposals such as the teacher retention bonus may have little chance of success. AASB does not feel these have to be mutually exclusive, but the priority for the BSA must come first. 

AASB has long supported Alaska’s locally authorized public charter schools. Undoubtedly, these schools provide an important option for many students across the state in both rural and urban settings. AASB has worked with Academic Policy Committees (APC) for many years to help them understand their role in school governance.  

The governor’s contention that Alaska needs another option for public charter school authorization is refuted by the results of the recent study by Paul Peterson of Harvard’s School of Education. That study heralded the fantastic news that Alaska’s charter schools are the best nationwide when looking at NAEP scores. What is most interesting is that local school boards authorize all of Alaska’s charter schools and are closely supported by local school districts. In most other states, authorization can occur via the state board of education or a university. As Peterson noted, “Why fix something that is not broken?” 


AASB is eager to continue to work with the governor, the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, and local school boards to improve charter school support and provide access to students who desire to attend a charter school. However, AASB’s membership is resolved against enabling any other authorizers of a charter school (Resolution 1.3 Maintaining Local Control of Charter School Formation). 

The current bill before the governor provides direct support to students with an Individual Reading Intervention Plan as identified in the Alaska Reads Act. School Boards and staff have continually noted insufficient funding for this critical statutory requirement. We are puzzled when statements assert there is no specific support for the Reads Act in the bill. 

AASB recognizes the Legislature’s hard work in passing CSSB 140, one of the most critical education bills in the last decade. For school boards currently working on their budgets, it is important to determine the substantial increase in funding available to school districts as soon as possible. The governor has the opportunity to make that happen in a positive way. 

Lon Garrison is the executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards.