State Legislature passes Alaska Reads Act to strengthen childhood literacy

Published: May. 24, 2022 at 4:43 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The 2022 session of the Alaska State Legislature has ended, and in the final days of the session, the Alaska Reads Act was approved by both the House and the Senate.

This act takes several steps designed to improve reading skills in Alaska’s youth.

The legislation also increases the amount of money schools receive per enrolled student by $30.

According to a press release from the Senate Minority, the act also includes universal, voluntary pre-Kindergarten education and a Reading Intervention Program.

Governor Mike Dunleavy calls the program a moral imperative.

“We are roughly, by some estimates, 49th in the nation in reading. 49th in the nation. That’s not okay. There’s no way that you can spin that. That’s not alright. That’s not okay. That’s not acceptable,” Dunleavy said. “Mississippi and Florida went through the same thing. They had populations of students that, for the longest time, people just said, ‘You know what? They can’t learn how to read.’ Well, we reject that whole concept that certain groups, certain people, certain types of kids can’t learn how to read.”

The Act passed in the Senate unanimously before heading to the House.

There, in a narrow vote of 21 to 19, the House concurred with the Senate’s decision.

District 4 representative Grier Hopkins voted against the concurrence. He says this vote came partly because the house didn’t have an opportunity to make needed amendments to the bill.

“There was a lot of things that needed to be strengthened for our students, supports for our students and our educators to make sure that they were going to be able to read by nine and learn those tools, and I didn’t feel that the package that the Senate sent us gave us those schools,” Hopkins said. “It stripped them of the resources that they needed and it stripped school districts of the ability to support the kids by just not giving them the funding to go along with the mandate.”

The bill now awaits Governor Dunleavy’s signature to become law.

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