Friday, Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) President Julie Kitka testified before the Alaska State Senate Committee on Education in support of legislation that will authorize the Commissioner of Education and Early Development to establish a demonstration project for the creation of state-tribal compact schools.
Working in partnership with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development AFN, Alaska’s largest statewide Native organization, has been working to investigate and identify legal and practical pathways toward a state-tribal compact with Alaska Natives to operate and run schools in their local communities.
The ultimate goal of this initiative is for Alaska’s tribes and tribally empowered Alaska Native organizations to have the opportunity to partner with the state of Alaska to carry out educational programs, functions, services, and activities to better meet the education needs of Alaska Native students. Senate Bill No. 34 by Senator Gary Stevens would provide the authorization necessary for the demonstration project to move forward.
“This legislation is a critical step in moving forward to achieve one of AFN’s long-standing priorities: to ensure that Native children in Alaska have access to the best education available,” said Kitka. “AFN thanks Senator Stevens for his work to support innovation in the education of Native children in Alaska. We encourage the legislature to act swiftly to move this effort forward.”
This initiative grew out of the Alaska Education Challenge. In September 2016, Commissioner Michael Johnson and the Alaska State Board of Education & Early Development, recognizing the need for educational reform in Alaska, established five strategic priorities designed to better ensure an excellent public education for all of Alaska’s students. One of the strategic priorities is to “inspire tribal and community ownership of educational excellence.” The recommendation under that priority is the use of state-tribal compacting for the delivery of education. Senator Steven’s legislation authorizes the necessary steps for the Commissioner to begin to implement this recommendation.