Alaska’s education mission is “to provide an excellent education to every student, every day.” An excellent education gives children a knowledge of the world and life around them. As children encounter life experience, the information learned in school is converted into knowledge that helps form opinions about meaningful things, such as jobs and family. This leads to knowledge-based decision makers on both sides of the aisle. This part of education is as necessary in Alaska as anywhere.
Alaska’s public school funding, previously cut by $25 million from 2015 to 2018, left education already desperate for resources. There’s no more fat to trim. When education is underfunded, we lose good teachers and vital programs, achievement gaps grow, communities fail, local economies flounder as children become dependent adults and most importantly, we have no promise for the future of Alaska. Therefore, the 2019 proposed $20 million cut from Gov. Mike Dunleavy — the “education governor” — must be appropriated back to education as promised.
This year, my daughter started attending Soldotna Montessori — a charter school that has brought her from the brink of failure to thriving. Because of the outstanding teachers and the robust academic environment, I know that someday she will be a very productive member of the community. It would be catastrophic for her and many others, should something happen to this or similar schools.
As the state considers funding, lawmakers should remember that a budget is always a statement of our priorities and a manifestation of our values. The quality of public education is among the very top considerations of people deciding where they want to live and raise a family. As Alaska’s population is shrinking, we need to consider whether our state is sufficiently committed to our schools.
“Education improvement” is a tried-and-true campaign promise, precisely because it reflects an important civic value, something most of us care deeply about. But the promise of protecting education in Alaska rings hollow, unless those elected on that promise solidly stand behind it.
Please, keep education off the chopping block.
— Angie Clark
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