Compass: Rally was about education, not about oil taxes

By DEENA MITCHELLFebruary 27, 2014 

I read a column on the Perspectives page of Wednesday's Anchorage Daily News by Mr. Mike Dingman. In it, Mr. Dingman talks about an anti oil tax rally sponsored by teachers that took place at the library on Saturday. I'm not sure which library Mr. Dingman is talking about, but I also attended a rally on Saturday, at the Z.J. Loussac Library, where over 500 people gathered to support our students by asking for a halt to the continuing cuts in teachers and staff of our Alaska public schools over the past three years.

That rally was organized by parents and students with the Great Alaska Schools Anchorage and the Students with a Voice groups, two grass-roots organizations supporting our public schools for our (collective) children, and for a strong economic future for Alaska.

While I'm sure many teachers joined the crowd, the rally was an expression of the entire community's concern over the state of public education funding. Truthfully, I don't recall any mention of oil taxes, and I'm sure many in attendance support SB 21.

The rally I attended had wonderful music provided by the UAA Glee Club. It had rousing cheers lead by the Dimond High School Cheer. At the rally I attended, EJ, a student from South Anchorage High School, spoke of the many opportunities he has had within the ASD for a wonderful education, including things that are no longer as available to current students due to these continuing budget cuts. Nora, a student from West Anchorage High School, spoke of her hopes that we will be able to change the way in which education in our state is funded, so that we can provide good opportunities for students still to come.

Michele Brown, CEO of United Way of Anchorage, spoke of the opportunities for our communities to truly come together to support our children from cradle to graduation -- but to be able to do that, she said that our schools need predictable and adequate funding.

Andrew Guy, CEO of Calista Corporation, spoke about how important public education is in helping our rural communities to bridge the gap between Native ways of life and the modern business world.

And Reverend Michael Burke, pastor at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, spoke of the public good that education is, and our responsibility to adequately fund our public schools.

I saw signs that said many things, including: "Increase BSA," "No More Cuts," "Public Education is the Best," "Fund Our Schools" and many more. If you would like to get a sense of what the rally I attended was all about, please take a look at this video: http://bit.ly/1fXPWMN.

The rally I attended was filled with joy around the possibilities that strong public education can provide for the future prosperity of our great state and its citizens.

If you would like more information about Great Alaska Schools, please visit our website at GreatAlaskaSchools.org, or visit our Facebook page at Great Alaska Schools Anchorage. For more information about Students with a Voice, visit their Facebook page.

Deena Mitchell is a founding member of Great Alaska Schools Anchorage.

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