FAIRBANKS - Gov. Sean Parnell announced $5 million for a digital teaching initiative as part of his 2015 fiscal year budget proposal Thursday.

The initiative would attempt to increase learning opportunities for middle and high school students in science, technology, engineering and math courses — commonly referred to as STEM — by exploring and expanding distance delivery programs in several districts.

The program would run as a statewide pilot for digital teaching for three years. In the first year, the state would choose three districts from among those, both urban and rural, already pursuing distance delivery programs. While Parnell’s proposal does not include a recommendation for which districts might be chosen, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is one possibility because it operates its own distance delivery program.

In its second year, the program would expand to an additional two districts, and the third year would give the state and chosen programs a chance to examine the outcomes and effectiveness of the initiative.

Parnell previewed the initiative in Fairbanks in October at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.

“It is time for bold solutions, and my administration is committed to going big into digital learning over the next five years to ensure all of Alaska’s children have access to the best teachers available,” Parnell said. “By using a small studio with cameras and computers in one location, and technology in a rural classroom, for example, teachers can deliver higher quality and more diverse classes to our students.”

If the program is adopted by the legislature in its own budget in the spring, the governor’s office hopes it will help improve the state graduation rate as well as increase the number of students taking high-level STEM courses.

Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.