This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

Many of Alaska’s newest educators walked across the stage at the state’s largest university to graduate last weekend. Many of them were also the last to come out of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Education initial licensure programs.

Kelsey Hernandez graduated on Sunday with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and an associate of applied science degree in early childhood development. After this semester, the program she graduated in will no longer exist in the University of Alaska system.

“They have completely cut it,” Hernandez said. “It’s not being picked up by UAF or UAS. It feels like we don’t count, like we don’t matter. It’s even sadder because the growing population of children who need services is increasing and there aren’t enough educators to fill the void. I don’t know how we’re going to do it now as a state if we don’t prioritize education and fund the programs that actually provide.

Hernandez said the first thing she’s going to do after she graduates is take a nap and then find work somewhere in the state.

Jennifer Hoeldt also graduated on Sunday with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and an associate of applied science degree in early childhood development. She said she’s excited she and her classmates made it through the program.

“But also sad we’re not going to have it in Anchorage anymore,” she said.

She said she hopes to find a job within the Anchorage School District.

In January, the University of Alaska Anchorage’s School of Education was notified its accreditation was revoked, a letter from the Accreditation Council for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation said. Out of five required standards, the school only met one, according to the accreditation report. The accreditation letter and report instructed the university on how to meet standards, and apply for an appeal. At the recommendation of the University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen, the Board of Regents voted April 9 to discontinue initial licensure within the School of Education.

“Though this decision may disappoint some of you, I hope you will come to realize that it is the only option to provide you with a clear path to licensure,” Johnsen said in a letter to School of Education students. “I also hope you will stay the course, graduate, remain in Alaska to teach our children and contribute your unique talents to Alaska’s future.

Affected programs include:

Bachelor of Arts, Elementary Education

Post‐Baccalaureate, Elementary Education

Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Education

Bachelor of Arts, Early Childhood Education

Post‐Baccalaureate, Early Childhood Education

Graduate Certificate, Special Education (initial licensure)

M.Ed, Early Childhood Special Education (initial licensure)

The University of Alaska Fairbanks and Southeast are both working with UAA to offer the ability for Anchorage students to become licensed educators. While UAF and UAS both have many of the same licensure programs, neither campuses have early childhood special education and special education initial licensure programs. Those programs would be entirely discontinued from the University of Alaska.

In January, there were 504 students enrolled in the School of Education, with 363 of the students being affected by the accreditation loss. The university said 34 students from affected programs were expected to graduate this spring and summer.

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