To attract more teachers, lawmaker proposes repealing Alaska law that caps comp for out-of-state experience 

 

March 28, 2024

Rep. Rebecca Himschoot during a session of the Alaska House of Representatives.

James Brooks/Alaska Beacon

Rep. Rebecca Himschoot, I-Sitka, talks with Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage, on Feb. 22, 2023, during a session of the Alaska House of Representatives.

When Carol Mooers came to Alaska to teach, she was not compensated for all of her previous teaching experience in Maine and Texas. That is because state law allows only six to eight years of out-of-state teaching experience to be counted when calculating salaries.

She is still a school counselor in the Bering Strait region, but said Alaska would be more attractive to teachers like her younger self if that limit did not exist.

Mooers testified in support of a new proposal that would allow teachers interested in Alaska careers to be compensated for their previous experience at the discretion of the school district.

"If Alaska wants to bring quality, experienced out-of-state educators, then we must pay teachers according to their actual experience," she said.

Rep. Rebecca Himschoot, I-Sitka, herself a former teacher, proposed House Bill 230, which would eliminate the cap on experience-based compensation from state law. She said the cap is a potential barrier to attracting talent to the state. For example, an experienced teacher with a master's degree can only be compensated for up to eight years of previous teaching experience - even if the district is willing to pay more.


"So you bring that experience in, and you take an immediate potential pay cut by only having eight of the years available to be recognized because of state statute," she said. "I'm trying to get the state out of the way of the districts."

Himschoot said she developed the proposal after reading the Governor's Teacher Retention and Recruitment Working Group report, where it was recommended.


Emily Vanderpool, a veteran teacher and current school administrator in Aniak, said she supports the change because recruitment and retention is a huge challenge in her district in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

"Teacher recruitment and retention has never held a greater challenge than it does today. Currently, we have 20% of our certified positions unfilled still at this point in the school year. And we have one school that has no teachers in person at all," she said.

She said the district has not been able to hire any teachers for the coming school year, and is short on special education staff, principals, and district level directors too.

Alaska's university system does not produce enough teachers to fill the teaching position job openings each year, so the state must compete with the Lower 48. Some districts have hired international teachers to staff their classrooms.

Education Committee Co-Chair Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, gave committee members until next Wednesday to present any amendments.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.

 

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