ISSUES: Where I stand
My public service roots are firmly planted in our schools. I understand these issues and have worked for our schools since before my son started kindergarten in 1992. The two biggest factors influencing good results from schools are high quality teachers and small class sizes.
Alaska’s educational system faces many complex challenges including poor access to technology, high poverty levels, childhood trauma, and the worst retirement system in the US. We are the only state with neither Social Security nor a pension for teachers (or any other public employees, see Defined Benefit Retirement below), and we face a growing crisis in hiring and retaining teachers.
The Governor’s response has been to starve our public schools of resources. His efforts bolster school vouchers and other ways to circumvent our constitutional prohibition of state funding of private and religious schools.
Our schools and teachers have been doing a great job working with diminishing resources:
Alaska’s high school graduation rates have increased by more than 10 percent since 2011
Alaska students score at, or above, the national average for SAT and ACT scores
The dropout rate in Alaska among high school students has decreased by nearly 50 percent since 2005
Alaska, as a state, leads the nation in improved reading scores
There’s been a moratorium on school bond debt reimbursement by the state since 2015, which I fought against. This has led to dozens of school districts falling behind in both new construction and major maintenance, and a huge uptick in costs to local taxpayers. I’m fighting to lift that moratorium and return to the state bearing its traditional 60% to 70% share in the costs of building and maintaining Alaska’s schools.
Wasteful spending is not one of our problems. We simply must invest more in education in order to get the results we want. You get what you pay for.
The single greatest known indicator of a child’s success later in life is their social-emotional development at the age of three. Every child must feel safe—and be safe, as must all Alaskans. People are responsible for their actions and we must have a robust criminal justice system focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment. To truly solve the problem we must take a long term approach and make sure all children are able to thrive.
On another note, I am thrilled that we were able to thwart efforts to send hundreds of Alaska prisoners to out-of-state private prisons, and instead reopen the mothballed Palmer Correctional Facility, providing jobs for Alaskans rather than paying for substandard incarceration Outside.
Fair Oil Taxes
When the oil companies pumped millions of dollars into ads to promote the oil tax giveaway, we were told that our problems would be solved: the pipeline would be full, the state treasury would be solvent, and there would be high paying jobs for all Alaskans. And great big dividend checks every year.
Now we Alaskans are getting cheated out of our constitutional right to benefit fully from this vital public resource. I hope more people will join me in supporting efforts for a fair share for our resources. It’s our oil.
Protect Our Permanent Fund
Currently the Permanent Fund provides about two-thirds of Alaska’s revenues to fund essential state services, through the conservative Percent of Market Value annual transfer. If we allow it to grow, the Permanent Fund can fully fund state services and continue to provide Alaskans with annual PFDs. If we empty the Fund through ill-conceived huge “dividends” the only way to fund essential services will be through onerous taxes that will impact every Alaskan.
Defined Benefit Retirement
I’m frustrated that we made no progress on returning to the defined benefit retirement plan that was eliminated in 2006. We are losing talent and expertise in every public employment sector. Too many vacancies in state or local government mean that Alaskans don’t get the services they need in a timely manner. We are the only state with neither Social Security nor a pension for our public employees. The bill that would have returned Alaska to this system was going to SAVE the state alone $30 million a year over the current 401K style plan. Our public employees have not even been able to establish or contribute to their own Social Security accounts over the last 16 years. We must provide a decent retirement or staff will not stay and our investment in them will vanish to other states.
Equal Rights for Women: NO CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION!
I oppose a constitutional convention—Governor Dunleavy has lost court case after court case because of our model constitution, and that is reason enough to keep it the way it is. The constitution protects education and mandates a fair share for our resources, but more importantly it protects our right to privacy in our personal medical decisions—something the US Supreme Court has failed to do. Protect your rights. Protect privacy. Don’t change Alaska’s model constitution! Vote NO to a constitutional convention in November.