AASB 2020 Legislative Priorities

By Norm Wooten, AASB Executive Director

Each year the AASB Board of Directors determines what the legislative priorities will be for the session. During the annual conference, the Directors facilitate the like-sized district forums and pay particular attention to the debate in the resolutions session of the Delegate Assembly. Following the close of the annual conference the board, in their post-conference board meeting, engage in a facilitated discussion of what they learned from the membership. Out of this information is distilled a workable number of priorities that guide the legislative focus for the session. These priorities are then distributed to the legislative offices and to our educational partners. There are six priorities for this year:

1. Sustainable, adequate funding for public education and our university system is the key to Alaska’s future.

Several important elements are included in this priority. The Board recognizes that flat funding is, in effect, a cut as labor, material, and equipment costs continually rise eroding the buying power of district revenue. The Board also recognizes that a strong post-K12 university system is critical to the continued success of our graduates. Additionally, the Board wanted to emphasize that education money is not just another expenditure – it is an investment in the future of Alaska.

2. Provide a culturally responsive education that includes language, place, and relevance.

Alaska is a state that embraces a wide variety of indigenous people as well as more recent arrivals from many additional backgrounds. Our school districts must provide an education to every one of those students in a manner that respects their heritage while bringing us together as one Alaska. These strategies may involve language, customs, traditions, dress, and learning styles as well as other culturally relevant topics.

3. Embed practices to support the whole student and whole school (trauma engaged).

While gaining traction in schools across the nation, Alaska has been aware of and stressed the importance of trauma engaged practices for many years. Students do not leave their problems at the school door and these issues affect their capacity to learn. Our educators must be prepared to recognize and address the needs of students to make them successful citizens as they exit the K-12 system.

4. Support literacy as a fundamental educational right and responsibility of the State of Alaska.

Free and appropriate education is the basic responsibility of the state. A public education system is a premise of our constitution (Alaska Constitution, Article 7, Section 1). To fulfill that obligation to our students, districts must be supported in their efforts to create literate graduates prepared to function and contribute to society.

5. Preparing students entering school ready to learn.

School districts only have thirteen years of school with 180 days per year. Alaska’s standards include Art, Computer Science, English/Language Arts, Geography, Government & Citizenship, History, Library Information & Literacy, Mathematics, Physical Education, Science, Skills for a Healthy Life, World Languages, Cultural, Digital Literacy, and Employability. Educators need every minute of every hour of every day to cover these topics making the importance of early learning a critical need for our students. Having universal early childhood education available for every child is a necessity.

6. Increase retention, recruitment, and training of highly effective teachers.

Along with every other state, Alaska’s teacher shortage is approaching a crisis. Fewer are entering the teaching profession and even fewer are applying for positions in Alaska. We must increase the number of Alaskan graduates entering the teaching profession. We must elevate the nobility of the teaching profession. And we must offer attractive incentives to encourage new teachers and to retain them.

The AASB Board of Directors listened to every school board member and created the priorities to assist you in educating the students of your district. They encourage you to share these priorities with your Legislator and residents of your communities. Alaska’s students deserve no less.

# # #