While I am grateful for the investments in education, our state must do better. We need a steady stream of support, along with high expectations, to get Alaska producing the very best workforce our businesses depend on for success. And when we achieve that, our young Alaskans will proudly stay here to work and raise their families.
More in Pre-K: In order to build a culture of education, we must invest in our youngest children and their families to better support more readiness for K-12. Even with the new funding in Pre-K this year (including Headstart) our state still invests less than every other state per capita. And it shows. 81% of Alaskan kindergartners are 1 or 2 years behind when they start school. There are programs that have worked in other states that we can adopt, and with more political support we will get there!
Increase the BSA: Investing in our K-12 system must have the predictability of funding inside the BSA so that schools and school boards are able to attract and hire the very best. Only then, can we expect our graduates to have the job-readiness skills Alaska needs.
Restore University Investment: Our University system is still clawing back from years of severe cuts and is not only having trouble attracting and keeping students/faculty, I also learned of many deferred maintenance projects that must be taken care of in order to avoid very costly and dangerous problems.
A Sustainable Fiscal Plan: We can’t balance the budget through PFD cuts without causing significant pain and hardship for the most vulnerable Alaskans. Our savings are nearly depleted, and we don’t have the reserves in case of emergencies. We need new revenue measures, now. I am hopeful that new blood in the Legislature is ready to tackle this difficult issue and turn a corner so our economy can grow and Alaska can begin to prosper again.
New Energy in the Legislature: The good news is that there are lots of new legislators, many of whom were elected because they ran on the importance of a strong education system. These legislators are growing strong relationships across the aisle and learning the ropes. Already, we are seeing changes and I expect more on the horizon.