- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The University of Alaska has completed an action plan to create more homegrown teachers and shrink the annual rate of teacher turnover, among other objectives.

The plan leans on a nearly $2.8 million funding request from state legislators this session, the Alaska Dispatch News (https://is.gd/LQx8Q8) reported. The university also will pitch in about $278,000 from fees and tuition.

The plan creates new programs and expands existing ones in the state, which has failed to produce enough teachers to meet the needs of its 54 school districts, some of them off the state’s limited road system. The plan seeks to graduate 50 percent more teachers by 2025, decrease the teacher turnover rate, ease the way toward teacher certification and heighten admission standards.

Most school districts now must spend money to send personnel outside Alaska to recruit teachers. Research shows most of those teachers who wind up in rural Alaska will leave after a year or two.

About 40 percent of the university system’s funding comes from state dollars and remains at the mercy of falling oil prices. The university is bracing for a smaller budget next academic year, like most state-funded entities. Just because the $2.8 million funding request is new, however, doesn’t mean the plan won’t become a reality, said Carla Beam, UA’s vice president of university relations.

“We’re expecting an overall cut to the budget and then we’ll have to figure out, internally, what we can fund and how do we fund it,” Beam said. “I think we’ve all identified that this is a huge issue for the state and we have to figure out how to solve it.”

Dana Thomas, former vice president of academic affairs and research for the university, said the UA system launched two similar efforts in the past 10 years to increase the quantity and quality of graduates from specific programs. The programs, one focusing on engineers and the other on health care professionals, were successful, receiving significant attention from industry, said Thomas, who retired in late December.

A push for educators would be a different sort of challenge, Thomas said.

“The teacher issue is twice the size of either of those and we don’t have industry backing for this because it’s a public service, so we need the state to help engage in it the same way the industry did.”

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Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, https://www.adn.com


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