The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2008 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Gov. Palin and Alaska lawmakers have approved the creation of a $2 million pilot preschool program and an overall boost in the state budget for schools, continuing a pattern of increased K-12 education spending during her tenure.
The governor, whose national profile soared last year with her unsuccessful bid for vice president on the Republican ticket, supported the program, which will let school districts apply for state grants to operate preschools and provide resources to parents who want to home-school their children.
Participating districts will be allowed to partner with private-sector or nonprofit organizations, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. Initially, the program is expected to serve 500 children.
The overall budget for K-12 education will rise to $1.026 billion in fiscal 2010, a 5 percent increase from the current $977 million. Per-pupil spending will rise to $5,580, from $5,480. That state funding does not include roughly $170 million for education, out of $929 million total, that Alaska accepted in federal stimulus aid, according to the state’s budget office. Gov. Palin vetoed $32.5 million in federal stimulus aid.
Funding for students with relatively severe disabilities—those who require the care of an adults throughout the day—will rise to $61 million, from $40 million, according to the department. Alaska’s policies governing students with disabilities received close scrutiny during the 2008 campaign when it became known that Gov. Palin’s infant son had been born with Down syndrome.
Alaska’s education department also will use the increased K-12 funding to hire a new director of rural education for the state. That individual will work extensively with Alaska Native communities, said Eric Fry, a spokesman for the department.
A version of this article appeared in the June 10, 2009 edition of Education Week