Issues We Care About

NEA-Alaska members are active and engaged citizens who understand that public education is about more than what happens in the classroom. We tackle the big issues that impact our profession, our schools, and our communities. Learn more about the issues we’re focused on right now.

Retirement in AlaskaTrauma Informed SchoolsCollective BargainingEducation Funding

Retirement in Alaska

In 2006, Alaska abandoned its defined benefit retirement system and put in place a defined contribution system. This change left all public sector workers hired after 2006 without any guaranteed income in retirement. This fact, coupled with the reality that most Alaska educators are not able to participate in Social Security, has created a perfect storm of financial insecurity.

What is NEA-Alaska doing about it?

Since 2006, NEA-Alaska has been advocating for a return to a defined benefit system. Our association has supported legislation and built coalitions with other public sector unions to advance our cause. Unfortunately, these efforts have encountered considerable political pushback and have not yet come to fruition.

The lack of a secure retirement continues to be one of the largest drivers of educator turnover in Alaska and a cause of great consternation for our members. To that end, NEA-Alaska has created the Saving Our Alaska Retirement (SOAR) committee to do in-depth analysis of our current system, develop legislation to provide more retirement security, and host training events and informational seminars on how our members can take control of their retirement savings.

How can you get involved?

Changing Alaska’s retirement system will take all of us working together to raise the profile of this important issue. To learn more about this issue and get involved in our SOAR committee, please visit the SOAR page of our website.

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What is a Trauma-Informed Education?

Trauma-informed education acknowledges the profound physical, academic, social, and emotional effects that trauma and adversity can have on students. Types of trauma that affect our students (often talked about in terms of ACEs–adverse childhood experiences) include violence in the home, poverty, incarcerated family members, and racism.  A trauma-informed educator takes these effects into account, both when planning lessons and when dealing with one-on-one issues like behavior management and conflict resolution.

Why is this important to education in Alaska?

A 2013 study found that Alaskans have higher rates of ACEs in comparison to an earlier study done in five states in the Lower 48; this means that Alaska, as a state, experiences those effects in areas such as the economy, law enforcement, health care, and education. Alaska educators are uniquely positioned to help students develop strategies for resilience, which, the science strongly suggests, are one of the largest factors in helping students with high ACEs scores become adults able to overcome childhood trauma.

Source: Adverse Childhood Experiences: Overcoming ACEs in Alaska

What is Alaska doing to support this issue?

There are many partners out there doing this work: nonprofit groups, state government agencies, and tribal groups, to name a few.  These entities work together through networks and workgroups to support trauma-informed practice in education and beyond, including creating curriculum, advocating for trauma-informed policy in areas like law enforcement and children’s services, and work in treating medical issues like diabetes, obesity, and addiction through a lens that takes trauma into account.

For more information, we suggest visiting DEED’s framework for trauma-informed schools in Alaska.

What is your union doing to support this issue?

NEA-Alaska, in addition to providing virtual professional development on such topics as Social-Emotional Learning and Secondary Trauma, has hosted events such as our Fall Event conference. This gathering brought teams of NEA-Alaska members, school district leadership, and School Board members together with stakeholders such as the Alaska Resilience Initiative, the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, and member experts in the field to provide a dedicated space for them to plan and partner on how to bring trauma-informed education to school districts across the state.

For more information, we suggest visiting: Alaska Resilience Initiative.

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What is Collective Bargaining?

Collective bargaining is the strongest and most empowering way to give educators a voice in advocating for great public education for every student. Collective bargaining is the process of negotiating terms of employment, including pay, benefits, and working conditions, between an employer and a group of workers. In essence, collective bargaining creates a level playing field for both employee and employer when determining the conditions of employment.

What Can be Bargained in Alaska?

Local affiliates can legally bargain many topics affecting the working lives of educators but not everything is on the table. The 1977 decision in Kenai Peninsula School Dist. v. Kenai Peninsula Educ. Ass’n, 572 P.2d 416 (Alaska 1977) enumerated the topics which could not be bargained. In that decision, the Supreme Court of Alaska ruled that local affiliates could not bargain matters of education policy: class size, teacher load, evaluation of administrators, assignments of teachers’ aides and paraprofessionals, the Pupil Teacher Ratio formula, specialists, calendar, etc.

UniServ Directors help local bargaining teams assemble proposals which improve educator working conditions under the law.

What Does Collective Bargaining Mean for Me?

Through collective bargaining, educators receive higher salaries, teach smaller classes, and enjoy greater preparation time compared to non-union educators. NEA-Alaska affiliated Education Support Professionals also enjoy higher wages and lower insurance premiums than non-union counterparts. However, NEA-Alaska members fight for more than their economic security. They make demands to improve student learning and the educational environment.

In Alaska, collective bargaining agreements will often determine other factors of employment that directly impact your quality of life, like teacher housing in rural Alaska, healthcare, and even time off for subsistence activities like fishing and hunting.

How Do I Get Involved?

Every local association in Alaska approaches collective bargaining a bit differently, but most have a process by which their bargaining team is selected and provides various opportunities to participate. Your local president and UniServ Director can provide the best information about what the process looks like in your district.

While non-union members are still covered by the collectively bargained agreement, non-members cannot participate in bargaining nor vote to ratify a contract. Learn more about joining NEA-Alaska here.

What is NEA-Alaska’s Role in Bargaining?

NEA-Alaska supports local affiliates to produce great bargaining outcomes. Through the UniServ Program, every state affiliate has professional labor relations staff available to help them achieve their bargaining goals. Annually, the NEA-Alaska Bargaining Training prepares local bargaining teams to understand Alaska public sector bargaining laws, school district finances, and their collective power to create great schools for their students.

Contact an NEA-Alaska staff member to learn more about collective bargaining. 

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Education Funding

Your local school district’s budget is generally composed of three elements: state funding, local contributions, and federal funding. You can find your local school district’s annual audits and financial statements on your district website.

State funding is generally the largest component of a district’s funding. Basic Need is calculated by using the Adjusted Daily Membership (ADM) multiplied by the Base Student Allocation (BSA).

ADM, the Adjusted Daily Membership, is the number of enrolled students during the 20-school day count period. The 20-school day count ends the fourth Friday of October.

BSA, the Base Student Allocation, was $5930 for FY 2020.

Other factors that contribute to the level of state funding are as follows:

  • School size adjustments
  • District cost factors
  • Vocational & technical funding
  • Intensive needs student counts
  • Correspondence programs

Local Contributions

Local governments with the ability to assess local taxes are required to make the Required Local Contribution. The local requirement is the equivalent of a $3.65 Million tax levy on the full and true value of the taxable and real property in the district. There is a Maximum Local Contribution, which means local communities can choose to contribute more than the Required Local Contribution.

Regional Education Attendance Areas (REAA’S)

In Alaska, there are many communities that do not fall within an organized government. In these unorganized areas, the State has declared them to be a Regional Educational Attendance Area. Communities in unorganized boroughs do not have a local government to meet the local contribution that is outlined in the foundation formula. When there is no local government, the state pays 100% of the basic need.

Federal Funding

Depending on the school district, federal funding can compose 5-10% of your school district budget. School districts generally receive federal funds through formula grants or by applying for federal grant programs.

Sources of these funds can range from E-Rate which provides internet discounts, to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which provides formula grant funding for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).

For more detailed information regarding federal education grants, visit the U.S. Department of Education website.

Get Involved

NEA-Alaska members are on the front lines when it comes to advocating for robust public education funding, forward funding, and budget stability. Our Legislative Action teams frequently travel to Juneau to meet directly with legislators on the education budget, provide personal narratives on education issues, and promote NEA-Alaska Priority 1 Legislative items.

Members also receive weekly updates from the NEA-Alaska President throughout the legislative session and action alerts when important issues come before the legislature. To learn more about getting involved in NEA-Alaska’s legislative advocacy programs please contact us.