Strong support for public education squares with Republican principles

Since the Legislature has recessed to return home, consider this registered Republican's missive his personal voter input they have returned to hear and weigh against other constituent perspectives.

When I read the Alaska Dispatch News quotes from the two West High School students who demonstrated April 15, I saw a different and very powerful statement about how the budget cuts will weaken our economic potential. First, I'd like to call these students by what they really are and what they really represent: Future Earners. These "Future Earners" have a much better understanding of what lies ahead for them, and by default, the rest of this state and nation.

The quote from the young woman is prescient. Social Security takes a chunk out of her paycheck and she knows this. If she can't get and maintain a good job because she doesn't have the education credentials to back it up, her earning power declines and the deduction erodes her own economic choices. She has less to save or spend -- critical economic activities essential to all of us. She wants to earn more to offset the impact to her bottom line. We should ensure she is equipped to do that.

The young man fully realizes in order to move to the next step in his earning potential, he needs to stand out against other candidates nationally — and internationally. He knows simply attending school and getting good grades is not enough. He needs to be involved in extracurricular activities and build that "resume" so that he can get into top tier schools, so he can attend advanced courses, so he can compete against other job applicants, so he can get the high-paying job, so that he is an economic asset versus an economic liability.

Education is not just some expense. It is an investment and these Future Earners know it.

My small farming community paid taxes 30 years ago, built a new high school, and paid for advanced courses, extra-curricular programs, etc. They had no idea if or how the investment would pay off. But their sacrifice — and foresight -- allowed me and others to capitalize on those business decisions. The results of their far-sighted choices built the foundation I needed for acceptance to the U.S. Air Force Academy and to sustain my 20-year military career where, hopefully, I gave back as much as was given to me. But I am not unique. Somewhere along the way, people pooled together their resources and invested in the education of each and every one of the senators and representatives now making decisions in Juneau.

I personally don't believe the answer lies in figuring out a new oil tax regime. Our relationship with oil is the same as it is with our Future Earners: They are both investments. I like the idea of "trigger taxes" proposed by state Sen. Click Bishop, that only become activated based upon the balance in the two budget reserve accounts, thereby ensuring constitutionally mandated investments get funded and restricts the temptation of future politicians to spend the revenue elsewhere.


This Republican voter believes the current proposals in Juneau are more likely to result in long-term economic mediocrity than to create long-term economic prosperity. Investing in the conditions for these Future Earners to take advantage of our system of free enterprise is fully consistent with Republican ideals. We should view -- and fund -- education the same way we view and fund national defense. Educational programs and curriculum that are shortchanged to meet a short-term challenge risk eliminating earning potential for years -- an effect that will compound year after year in lost personal revenue and opportunity.

As I reflect back on the path my own life has taken, I know with a high degree of certainty my acceptance to the Air Force Academy and opportunity to serve would never have occurred if the sports, music, and advanced science and math courses in high school had paused at any point during those years. Whether our younger citizenry wants to earn or serve or both, this competitive world won't let them walk through the door without the educational credentials to back up additional human capital investment.

I encourage my Republican legislators to consider this perspective as they move forward.

Will Hastings lives in Eagle River.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

Will Hastings

Will Hastings is an Air Force veteran and longtime Republican. He lives in Eagle River.