OPINION: Alaskans want more school funding. Dunleavy and legislators should listen.

Last week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy shared results of a poll that showed 77% of Alaskans believe our schools need increased funding. This is no surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. School funding has been virtually stagnant for seven years, causing districts to lose almost 25% of their buying power to inflation. We feel it.

I applaud the governor for polling Alaskans about this. Now it’s time to listen to us — and to stop peddling false narratives about what we do and don’t want.

For example, the governor implies that those who don’t support his teacher bonus proposal don’t want better pay for teachers. He implies that all homeschool families support the current allotment system. He implies that those who want increased funding for schools support the status quo, and those who would like to see reforms support his agenda.

These logical leaps twist the wishes of real Alaskans like me. I’d like to set the record straight.

I support our community charter school, and my daughter attended it. I do not support the governor’s proposal for state approval — it undermines local control.

I support homeschool options and my son currently homeschools half-time. I also support tight fiscal controls over the use of public funds — if you want a religious education for your kids, pay for it yourself, like I do.

I support better pay and benefits for teachers and school staff. I do not support the governor’s teacher bonus legislation — districts need tools and funding to improve pay and benefits across the board.


Supporting education reform doesn’t mean support for the governor’s top-down policy proposals.

Governor, please stop mischaracterizing us and start listening.

If the governor had attended the joint site council meeting of Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé a few weeks ago, this is what he would have heard: Thunder Mountain families are reeling because their school is slated to be consolidated. Students’ grades are falling, their anxiety is rising, and many are depressed. Parents are worried.

Education funding is not a game. Holding funds hostage to narrow policy demands does damage that cannot be unwound. “Don’t worry, the funds will be approved eventually” is not comforting when layoffs are happening now. Our newer teachers can’t afford to shrug off their pink slips, and many will have taken jobs out of state by the time that money comes through and our district says, “Just kidding, we want you back.”

By then, more families will have given up. I received a text today from another parent saying after 25 years in Juneau, their family is putting their house on the market and moving out of state — because this state isn’t providing the support for education they want. I am getting too many of these texts.

The harms of inaction are real. I would like the governor to attend local school meetings and listen to what we are experiencing and what we want.

For most of us, I think it’s pretty simple. We want thriving schools and confidence that they will be supported with funding that keeps up with costs. Because as often as the governor says some variation of “money won’t fix it,” 77% of Alaskans aren’t buying it.

After years of inflation with no commensurate budget increase, our schools can’t keep up with costs. It’s hard to innovate when you can barely balance the budget. It’s hard to attract and keep the best when you can’t offer a competitive salary and benefits. It’s hard to build community confidence when everyone is fighting over whose school to close.

Please listen to us. Listen to the students, who two weeks ago walked out of schools across the state in an unprecedented show of support for increased education funding.

Stop holding education funds hostage. Commit to a significant and sustained funding boost, and do it now to stop the hemorrhaging of teachers, students, and families out of our great state.

Rebecca Braun is a longtime Juneau resident. She serves on the Juneau Douglas High School Yadaa.at Kalé site council.

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