Alaska’s Education Opportunity Act
“The brightness of Alaska’s future depends on the success of our children. That strength hinges on whether we are able to provide educational opportunity for all students and ensure they are well prepared.”
-Governor Sean Parnell
In 2014, Governor Parnell championed Alaska’s Education Opportunity Act, a package of educational innovation, new funding, and new opportunities for Alaska’s children. After passing the Legislature with bipartisan support, this legislation gives Alaska students better tools to prepare for life and work.
More Educational Opportunity
Inspire more students through vocational and career training.
The expansion of dual-credit options for high school students seeking a diploma or certification in a career field improves career and technical programs. These options allow students to take college courses that simultaneously fulfill high school graduation requirements. Job training programs receiving Technical Vocational Education Program funding are now required to establish and maintain partnerships with Alaska high schools for dual-credit and certification options.
Increase access to charter schools.
As a result of Governor Parnell’s legislation, Alaska’s public charter schools are stronger. Charter schools now receive more equitable funding for their students. Additionally, barriers for new charter schools are removed, and school boards are required to approve or deny charter applications in writing, while providing parents an appeal route to the Commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development. This promotes transparency and accountability in decision-making.
More access to residential schools.
Governor Parnell worked hard to create greater opportunities for rural students. Besides more funding for digital teaching and his support for vocational and career training, we now guarantee more access to residential schools by requiring the Department of Education and Early Development to provide an annual application period. Further, the Governor succeeded in increasing room-and-board stipends from the State in district-operated residential schools, better reflecting true costs.
More Funding in Alaska’s Classrooms
Alaska’s Education Opportunity Act increases the Base Student Allocation by $150 million over three years, while providing an additional $150 million in funding that school districts can apply to classrooms and to innovation and new educational opportunities.
School District Relief
Governor Parnell led efforts to better secure teachers’ pensions and take some of the financial burden off local taxpayers by paying down Alaska’s debt. As a result, $2 billion was placed into the Teachers’ Retirement System from the Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund.
Additional Reforms in Governor Parnell's Alaska Education Opportunity Act
- Repealed the Alaska High School Graduation Qualifying Exam and replaced it with a student’s choice of the SAT, ACT, or WorkKeys assessments, measuring readiness for postsecondary education. The State pays for a student to take the first test.
- Allow high school students the opportunity to test out of a class for credit, including math, language arts, science, social studies, and native world languages. Credits earned would apply toward both graduation and the Alaska Performance Scholarship.
- Allow tax credits for businesses that contribute to scholarships for high school students enrolled in college-credit courses, and for contributions to housing at residential schools serving students statewide.
- Other important provisions include additional digital teaching opportunities and a substantial funding boost to allow more students to participate in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP).