State of the States
Big Plans Announced for Alaska Schools
• Gov. Frank H. Murkowski
Gov. Frank H. Murkowski used his Jan. 10 State of the State Address to ask legislators for increased per-pupil school funding—and to hint that another major education announcement was imminent.
And the next day, state Commissioner of Education and Early Development Roger Sampson unveiled a plan to give monetary rewards to school employees—from teachers and administrators to support staff—for improvements in student scores on mandatory statewide assessments. Gov. Murkowski supports the effort and said he would propose bills in the House and the Senate this session to launch it.
Incentive Pay: Commissioner Sampson said the program would mesh well with recent state efforts to improve academic standards, alignment of curricula between grades, and the mentoring of teachers. “The obvious piece that was missing was the reward for thinking differently, and changing the system,” he said in an interview.
The commissioner and the governor say the Alaska proposal for “merit pay” differs from comparable programs tried in some other states and districts because of its commitment to rewarding all school employees. Too often, merit-pay proposals have pitted staff members against one another, they argue.
Alaska’s incentive bonuses for employees would range from $1,000 to $5,500 per year, depending upon workers’ occupations. Bonuses would reward improvement at several achievement levels, not just for producing the highest test scores. The estimated annual cost is $15 million.
Finance: Gov. Murkowski, a Republican, also said he would ask lawmakers to increase per-pupil funding by 9 percent in fiscal 2007, to $5,352 a year. Per-pupil funding increased by 22 percent during his first three years in office.
Vol. 25, Issue 19, Page 19Published in Print: January 18, 2006, as Big Plans Announced for Alaska Schools