National Newswatch

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Alaska House of Representatives has passed a bill that attempts to prevent teachers from being laid off over the next two years.

The lawmakers passed the education bill on Thursday that is supposed to lock in the school funding budget through 2023. It passed with a vote of 26-14.

“Alaska’s students, teachers, and parents deserve certainty that our schools will have the resources they need, year in and year out,” Republican House Speaker Louise Stutes said in a statement. “Forward funding of education is one of our majority’s top priorities, and today we worked across the aisle to make sure education will not be held hostage to the budget process.”

In previous years, late budget finalization has forced local school districts to budget based on worst-case scenarios, which caused temporary teacher layoffs.

While many of those teachers were eventually rehired, the layoffs made some reconsider, which increased teacher turnover and hurt student performance, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

The House's action on Thursday is aimed at providing guaranteed school funding ahead of time so local districts to budget with concrete financial information.

While some local school districts must approve their budgets by mid-May, lawmakers do not expect to finish work on the state's budget until May 19, the last day of the legislative session, the newspaper reported.

The education bill now moves to the state Senate.

All of the state House’s Democrats and independents supported the bill, while some members of the Republican minority said they could only support a budget that included one and not two years of funding.

Republican state Rep. Ben Carpenter, a member of the House Finance Committee, said it wasn't wise to budget for the next school year because finances could change significantly.

Other Republicans such as state Rep. Mike Cronk supported Thursday's measure. He is a former teacher and school board member.

“I saw way too many of our good teachers leave,” Cronk said. “When you’re in a small community, that is very hard to get — having the consistency of teachers that actually want to stay and live there.”

The Associated Press

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