By Dave Donaldson
One of the top items on the governor’s agenda for this year is his merit-based scholarship plan — rewarding students who meet the standards by paying all or part of their university tuition. Besides grade standards, students would have to meet a curriculum minimum of four years of courses in math, language and science and three years of social studies.
Rural legislators are questioning the fairness of the plan when some schools in their districts do not even offer all the courses it would be necessary to take.
Governor Parnell says that Department of Education checked on that possibility before he announced the plan.
As best we knew at the time, that was not going to be a problem. Notwithstanding that, we thought that issue might arise — that some schools might not have the curriculum available. And so we have distance learning options as well that are available for all students across the state.
And Commissioner of Education Larry LeDoux says every student will have access to what is needed. He says he is certain of correspondence schools’ ability to offer the curriculum. But the legislation also includes an alternative path.
Now, it’s not a waiver because it doesn’t allow us to waive the expectation — and we don’t want to. We need one standard for all. But it does allow if a child has been unable to meet the criteria because of something beyond their control — beyond their control could mean not having access because of their geographic location to the courseware, or it could be something in their personal life like a medical condition — then they would have the opportunity to contact the commissioner’s office and we will set up a plan for them to achieve the criteria. And there’s lots of different ways to do that.
He says the alternative methods of meeting the standard do not apply only to rural Alaska –he says they could originate with students in urban school districts as well. He says it’s necessary to recognize that there is an alternative.