As a father, former school board member, and State Representative, I have always judged public policy by its impacts on families and the future. I am convinced the State of Alaska must do more to support public education, especially early learning. That’s why I accepted the challenge last year of sponsoring the Alaska Reads Act.
As I recently wrote in a commentary published in the Anchorage Daily News, the overarching goals of the Alaska Reads Act are to expand access to high-quality pre-kindergarten across the State of Alaska and support all children being able to read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade. This would be done by building upon Alaska’s already successful pre-K grant program and establishing a new evidence-based reading program to support Alaska’s lowest-performing schools.
I introduced the Alaska Reads Act 10 months ago but in reality; I and others have been working on a reading and pre-K bill for many years. While the most recent work on the bill in the House Education Committee has been lengthy, it’s also been productive. The committee adopted several thoughtful amendments, including adding language to the bill affirming the right of students to learn to read in multiple languages. The committee also adopted an amendment increasing the number of struggling schools that can get direct help to implement a reading program for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade. And finally, the House Education Committee added language directing the State of Alaska to appropriate additional funding for each struggling reader in kindergarten through 3rd grade. This direct support to school districts will allow them to pay for the resources and materials needed to ensure children are reading at grade level by third grade.
While it sometimes looks messy, I have great faith in the committee process to make well-intentioned legislation better. That faith was instilled in me by the late Representative Max Gruenberg whom I served with for the first seven years of my time in the Alaska House of Representatives. Max taught me the importance of working through the legislative process to make good laws and meaningful public policy.
Despite the delays and criticisms, I appreciate the work the House Education Committee has put into the Alaska Reads Act to make the bill better. By working together, we can improve educational opportunities and outcomes for Alaska’s most precious resources, our children.
I’m here for you. I welcome your input and ideas. Call my office at (907) 465-2095 or send me an email to Rep.Chris.Tuck@akleg.gov.