Statewide affordable Pre-K education

As Alaskans, we have a constitutional and moral responsibility to provide the best education possible for our children. Yet we remain one of the only states that do not provide affordable pre-kindergarten on a statewide basis. Our bill, SB 6, would establish voluntary, universal early education statewide, and would add Alaska to the ranks of most states that have recognized the need to invest in our greatest resource: the children of Alaska. SB 6 will be heard Thursday (March 21st, 2019) in the Senate Education Committee at 9 am. We encourage you to listen in and share your thoughts.

According to one of the world’s leading early education researchers, Dr. James Heckman, every dollar invested in Pre-K saves the state up to $7 in the long-term. Children who receive pre-k require less remedial and special education, are less dependent on welfare, are less likely to need substance abuse treatment, and are less likely to become involved in the costly criminal justice system. If we invest in early education now, Alaskans can expect to save up to $364 million per year in the long-term.

Investing in early education doesn’t just save the state money; it also builds the economy. The Perry Preschool Project, a multi-year study done on the long-term effects of early education, found children who benefit from early education are more likely to graduate high school, obtain a college education and earn higher incomes as adults. Dr. Heckman estimates early education creates a 13% return on investment.

To put that in perspective, the Permanent Fund has earned 8.94% over the last five years. According to the Alaska Early Childhood Advocacy Group, Alaska’s early care and learning sector account for $343 million in annual spending and a workforce of 7,700. Because of early care and learning services, another 48,900 adults can participate in the labor force, generating $512 million in economic output. The positive results of early education cannot be overstated.

The few state grant-funded early education programs show student improvement in critical skills like social engagement, language comprehension, and counting. Outside of a few school district classrooms, the state only provides structured early education through Head Start. The Alaska Head Start Association estimates that more than 50 percent of children who qualify cannot receive Head Start education due to insufficient funding.

In Fairbanks alone, the Head Start and Early Head Start waitlist exceed 240 children. Best Beginnings estimates that more than 62 percent of young Alaskans (more than 43,000 children) have both parents in the workforce, yet there are only just over 18,000 children in licensed childcare programs and more than 24,000 children without an affordable option.

Governor Dunleavy’s FY20 would eliminate all funding for pre-k and those early learning programs designed to help support parent-led education. It even proposes eliminating state funding for Head Start, which is the largest provider of early education for low-income families across the state. That means less options for working parents and fewer educational opportunities for Alaska’s kids.

Educating children should be more than just a financial decision. Providing education is about more than teaching classes on reading, writing and arithmetic. It is about creating the next generation of innovators, business owners, and leaders. It is essential that we provide enough funding and support to make sure the children of Alaska can be competitive in the marketplace and lead healthy and fulfilled lives. Unless our education priorities match our education funding, then we are limiting the potential success of our students and hurting the future of Alaska.

We all say that we want the next generation to have more opportunities than we did and the chance for a better life. Investing in early education that delivers on that promise is a significant step towards creating those opportunities. The Senate Democrats have made early education a priority because we know that Alaska can and must do better by its children. Our future leaders depend on it.

Senator Tom Begich

Senator Scott Kawasaki

Juneau, AK

Historic Alaska Native Vets Allotment Provision Signed Into Law

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) today thanked President Donald J. Trump for signing S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. The legislation includes a version of Senator Sullivan’s Alaska Native Veterans Land Allotment Equity Act. This provision will allow several thousand Alaska Natives who served during the Vietnam era (or their heirs) to apply for their congressionally-promised Native allotment after they missed their initial opportunity to do so because of their service to the country.

Senator Sullivan attended the signing ceremony today at the White House, and afterward, visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to deliver a message to Alaskans about this historic achievement for Alaska’s Native Vietnam veterans.

We all know that our Vietnam vets came home to a country that didn’t respect their service. Despite fighting for America, they came back and were treated with disrespect … Alaska Native veterans also came home and were told that the Native allotment that you were allowed to apply for since 1906, you can’t apply for that anymore either… A terrible injustice to some of the most patriotic people in America.

I’m glad to say I just came back from a White House signing ceremony with President Trump where he signed the broad lands bill that Senator Murkowski shepherded through the Senate, but it also had my bill in it that was focused on righting this wrong— that now allows Alaska Native veterans from the Vietnam era, or their heirs, to apply for a Native allotment in our state—finally fixing and correcting a wrong that has been out there for many, many years.

Congressman Young and Senator Stevens took this on many years ago, but we had a lot more work to do and we made good progress…

I will also say that just a couple of minutes ago in the Oval Office, [President Trump] specifically highlighted this provision in the bill … and he specifically highlighted the Vietnam service of Alaska Natives…

We made good progress today. This is now a law—signed into law by the President just a few minutes ago.

To the Alaska Native vets: Congratulations, because you’ve been working on this for so long. And for all of our Vietnam vets: Thank you. Welcome home.

As the Senator from the state that has more vets per capita than any other state in the country—thousands of Vietnam vets—thank you for your service.

Senator Dan Sullivan

Washington, D.C.

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