Gov. Dunleavy authors bill boosting teacher bonuses, but not BSA

Teachers in large, urban districts could receive the lowest payout offer of $5,000 on an annual basis to combat poor teacher recruitment and retention.
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 9:17 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Amidst calls to raise the Base Student Allocation (BSA), Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday presented his latest effort to improve teacher recruitment and retention in Alaska, the Teacher Retention and Recruitment Incentive bill.

The bill was read across the House and Senate floors in the Legislature on Wednesday as H.B. 97 and S.B. 107, respectively. If passed by the Legislature, the bill will offer cash bonuses to teachers over the next three years, offering larger sums to rural districts as high as $15,000.

But some say the bill doesn’t go far enough to support educators in Alaska.

The president of Alaska’s largest teachers’ union, NEA-Alaska, Tom Klaameyer, feels there are more avenues to find and keep good teachers in Alaska. He says that it starts with raising the BSA, the formula used by the state to determine school district funding.

Klaameyer highlighted the variety of educators in a school that aren’t included in the governor’s bill.

“It’s a temporary fix,” Klaameyer said. “It’s only three years long, it only addresses classroom teachers, not the many other educators that are in a building that go to helping students be successful from the time they get picked up on the bus to the time they arrive back home.”

Klaameyer doesn’t deny that the bill could inspire some positive outcomes, but he said it’s not enough to address all of the problems affecting public education, from rapid outmigration of working-age Alaskans to low test scores across the state.

“The conversation needs to be first and foremost about an increase in the base student allocation,” he says, elaborating, “If there are additional things that can be done on top of that, we can have that conversation. The more resources directed to our public schools the better.”

Speaking on behalf of NEA-Alaska, Klaameyer says there’s more work for legislators to do as they comb through the bill during the session.

“The governor’s proposal alone is not a substitute for increasing the BSA,” Klaameyer said.

Rep. Calvin Schrage echoed concerns that the BSA funding remained a critical yet unresolved issue for lawmakers to address.

“People are looking to the Legislature for leadership on this issue, and looking to us to increase that base student allocation,” Schrage said in a press conference Wednesday.

“Even the Governor acknowledged during his press conference yesterday that bill would need to be passed along with other bills to really move the needle on education.”