New student community workforce requirement for ASD construction projects passed by school board, opposed by district

A new policy will make student community workforce agreements a requirement for Anchorage School District construction projects that cost over $1 million.
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 9:51 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A new policy passed by the Anchorage School Board will make student community workforce agreements a requirement for Anchorage School District construction projects that cost over $1 million, effective within 30 days of passage and approval by the school board.

The memorandum was met by a lengthy discussion and amended twice before it was eventually passed by six board members who voted in favor, while member Dora Wilson abstained.

This new policy came from members Carl Jacobs and Dave Donley, and the memorandum said the student community workforce agreements intend to provide students with additional work experience for those in career and technical education.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, the proposal online outlined the qualifications for a construction project to meet the requirements to be subject to a student community workforce agreement, which include renovations, new construction, expansion, or demolition when costs are estimated to exceed $1 million. There will also be an review team of five members, two from the school board, an industry representative, and a representative from the Building and Construction Trades Council of Southcentral Alaska.

Many from the construction industry testified during the public comment period and opposed the new policy, arguing it would drive up costs.

“There are too many questions and not enough evidence proving the claim CWA’s (community workforce agreements) will improve the economy or efficiency of a project,” Associated General Contractors of Alaska Executive Director Alicia Amberg testified on Tuesday. “Please vote no on this policy.”

After the public testimony was over, board President Margo Bellamy said she was surprised by the public testimony opposed to the policy, and asked to table the memorandum until April, giving the board time to hear out those who opposed the memorandum. Bellamy was met with pushback from other members who felt the vote should take place Tuesday.

“So we’ve been through this over and over and over again, and every time the administration says, ‘well give us more time to think about it,’” board member Pat Higgins said. “It’s been a very long process. I think all of our meetings have been properly, publicly posted. We’ve got a good effort here.”

The district made it clear during the meeting that they opposed the new policy. Superintendent Deena Bishop said she brought up her concerns to the board in a public meeting before Tuesday.

“We have shared time and time again that this will drive up costs. I think tonight there is evidence of that,” Bishop said. “... There is a breadth of apprentice opportunities, union and non-union, in our city. So if we want to help children — it’s a good thing to help children through the trades, and all trades — we just have been sharing this might narrow what we say we want to do.”

Bellamy’s motion to push back the vote failed, and they proceeded toward amendments. The first amendment passed added that the requirement for the work agreements becomes effective within 30 days of approval by the school board. The other amendment changed a section of the policy replacing “labor organizations” with “labor organizations and other parties.”

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