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What does it mean to be an "educational" candidate?

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As summer begins to wind down, Alaskan families are inundated with two things: back-to-school sales and political ads. Especially this year, with so many districts put to the ballot due to redistricting, our mailboxes and airwaves are full of different definitions of promises, attacks and adjectives. Those with diametrically opposed records both claim to be “law and order” candidates or “business pro-business” candidates.

One such claim is the “education” candidate. But what does it really mean to be an “educational” candidate? It’s not as simple as it sounds. For political purposes, education is an abstract idea that all politicians claim to support. As you survey candidates in your district, hold them accountable not only for their words, but also for their actions, including those that seemingly do not fit into the field of education. The Aspects are so deeply intertwined and interdependent that there are few legislative votes or stances that do not affect the future of future generations, the state’s greatest resource. While it may be a binary choice for determining candidates who endorse education, those relating to health care and equal rights may require further analysis.

Analyzing every candidate in terms of their status as “pro-education” candidates is tricky, but let’s talk about the marquee election for Alaska’s next governor. This same process can be easily adapted to the probing questions you ask your candidates. When they knock on the door and hold town hall.

Start with education funds. Even something as simple as the dollar becomes more complex when you analyze its impact more deeply. Governor Mike Dunleavy and former Governor Bill Walker cut hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding from both the K-12 and college systems. For every dollar the district has to pay to maintain a safe building, it takes a dollar out of the classroom.

Conversely, as a legislator, Le Gala not only fully funded education, but also systematically increased the Basic Student Quota (BSA) and tied it to inflation with a one-time funding each year. Fixed funding issues and provided financial certainty to districts. Planning. Again, every dollar that school districts are forced to spend due to inflation is money taken directly from students. Les’ support also includes forward-funding education to better align district financial and legislative calendars and prevent unnecessary layoffs and last-minute changes. No other candidate has so strongly endorsed support for education funding.

Gara also fully understands that student success begins before kindergarten and continues after graduation. He supports universal preschool legislation and a well-funded college system to keep students in Alaska so that all children get off to a strong start. He understands the importance of education to prevent the “brain drain” of our young people leaving Alaska for school and never coming back. Bringing home education to every student, combined with the many world-class programs we run at our universities, will bring economic prosperity.

Students cannot learn and succeed unless their basic needs are met, and candidates who claim to support education and Alaska’s youth should start by helping them access health care. Gara has helped ensure that care is accessible to the most vulnerable by voting in favor of expanding Medicaid and returning Denali Care income eligibility to the poverty level of 200%. Meanwhile, Gov. Dunleavy has cut or opted out of programs to expand access to health care for all Alaskans, including students. These basic health care needs are paramount to success in school. This includes the fundamental right of Alaskan women to be in charge of their own health care decisions, including the right to choose. Our young female students have the right to make their own health care decisions, and doing anything other than supporting women’s choices does not support all students. Gala is the only contender with a long and unshakable record in this regard.

Additionally, Gara has been a strong vocal advocate for equal rights for LBGTQ+ Alaskans, including youth. Let me be clear, it becomes very difficult to succeed in school when your humanity is under attack. This is only supported by Gala, and both Dunleavy and Walker opposed it when given the opportunity as governor. . Dunleavy has continuously worked with individuals and groups seeking to dehumanize LBGTQ+ youth. Especially in our school, every student deserves to be a perfect version of himself, and a candidate who denies that by law or rhetoric is not an educational candidate.

Finally, “professional education” candidates support school professionals. Les has continuously voted to limit class size to a reasonable level and pay for that change. In addition, Les is the only candidate who has actively supported the return of educators to defined benefit retirement, retained strong teachers in Alaska, and attracted teachers to stay in our community. With an annual teacher turnover rate of over 20%, millions of dollars in already scarce funding are being lost. Les voted to keep the defined benefit program in 2006 and in 2009 introduced a bill to bring it back. As governor, he will make it a priority to return all defined contribution employees to defined benefits, without increasing costs to the state. Neither Dunleavy nor he Walker actively supported this change when given the opportunity during his tenure. Les chose the education expert as Jessica Cook’s running mate. Jessica brings over 20 years of experience in various grade levels and classrooms as a teacher in the Governor’s Office, helping shape policies that directly improve student outcomes. The last thing Alaskan kids want to do is rely on outsiders and the educational industrial complex of testing and curriculum companies. There are thousands of professionals who know the needs and challenges of their communities.

Keep an eye on the local elections for the “Education” candidate, as the primary will be held on August 16th. As with the gubernatorial election, after reading the first few lines of the mailer it becomes clear who is really supporting the future of the students and who is just lip service. For governors, there is only one ticket with the highest rating for “professional education” and that is Les Gala and Jessica Cooke. Les and Jess support all things state education. Fully funded classrooms, as well as classrooms staffed with professional teachers supported by defined benefits, classrooms filled with happy, healthy children are the early start needed through Pre-K. cut and stay healthy. Providing the care they need and the community support they deserve to achieve their full humanity and thrive into Alaska’s future. In addition to supporting your local true “education champion” candidates, join me in supporting Les and Jessica and investing in our future.

Ben Walker He is a member of NEA-Alaska and a recipient of the 2018 Alaska State Teacher Award.

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