Skip to Content

### Education Reform: The Desired Change Alaskan Families Seek

If one peruses the mainstream publications, blogs, or delves into social media briefly, the prevailing sentiment is that the realm of education is in a state of crisis. While the proponents of this viewpoint may have valid concerns, the issues extend beyond mere financial considerations. The educational sector in Alaska is in dire need of restructuring.

My interactions with the Legislature, school district officials, education advocacy groups, and the general public have been marked by transparency. I have consistently emphasized the necessity for increased funding in education. However, I have also underscored the imperative for transformative changes in the educational landscape of Alaska.

Opting for the path of least resistance, which involves a straightforward escalation of funding without accountability for outcomes or demanding transparency in local school district budgeting, would be a disservice. Neglecting the escalating calls for enhanced public-school options from parents and students and solely focusing on monetary increments would be an irresponsible course of action. This conventional approach, favored by education special interest groups (the same entities that opposed salary hikes for classroom educators), does not align with the aspirations of Alaskan families. When I assumed office, I made a commitment to the people of Alaska, reiterating in my State of the State address that my governance would not cater to special interests. I unequivocally stated, “Don’t expect me to obstruct progress at the behest of special interests. You’re knocking on the wrong door.” This declaration remains steadfast.

Ordinary Alaskans, who are not entrenched in the corridors of power in Juneau, lack the financial means to engage lobbyists and face challenges in participating in legislative hearings due to their demanding schedules. However, feedback from my conversations, incoming calls, and survey results unequivocally indicate that Alaskans are dissatisfied with the existing state of affairs.

While Alaskans advocate for augmented educational funding, they also demand and anticipate more substantive changes. Their expectations encompass expanded public-school choices, adequate remuneration and support for teachers, and assurance that their children are receiving quality education to prepare them for future success.

Alaskans recognize the significance of selecting optimal educational frameworks for their children, evident in the increasing number of families opting to enroll their children in non-traditional schooling options. The burgeoning interest in public charter schools is noteworthy, with a recent Harvard study ranking Alaska’s public charter schools as the best in the nation. This accolade is magnified by the fact that historically marginalized students exhibit remarkable progress in these charter schools. Given the national trend towards bolstering charter and alternative public-school opportunities for vulnerable student demographics, Alaska’s pioneering stance merits commendation.

As discussions surrounding education persist, I am committed to collaborating with every legislative member to secure augmented funding and essential reforms. Prioritizing the welfare of educators, facilitating access to diverse public-school alternatives like charter schools for students and parents, and channeling resources towards classroom instruction to enhance outcomes and bolster literacy proficiency are paramount. These endeavors are reflective of the desires of Alaskan families, who rightfully deserve an education system that caters to their needs.

While ensuring adequate funding for public schools is non-negotiable, the crux of the matter lies in whether we will allow a select few special interests to undermine the welfare of our teachers, parents, and students. Will these vested interests impede progress, or will they relinquish control to facilitate the development of a public education system that benefits all stakeholders?