School Board Issues

Education issues

Candidate Responses

All photos by Michael Penn/Juneau Empire

What do you think are the most pressing issues facing education in Juneau and the state of Alaska?

Kevin Allen

Candidate for School Board

There must be a assurance of education. Too many times I have seen students strive for the grade more than the education. If Alaska wants educated, well rounded students coming out of it, there must be a long term shift to try and enthuse students rather than cramming as much as possible into their education as possible. This is something I believe more than just Juneau is experiencing, but the whole state.

Brian Holst

Candidate for School Board

Stable Funding. It is extremely hard to execute a strategy to improve student achievement when budgets are uncertain or declining. School funding should be forward-funded by the State to increase predictability and so that we can execute strategies over multiple years.

Kindergarten Readiness. Per the state’s assessment tool, approximately 60 percent of Juneau students are not “ready” for kindergarten when they start school. The rate of unpreparedness for the entire state is even higher. Lack of readiness to learn pulls resources towards needy kids and away from other priorities. Investments in early education have been shown to have rates of return of 10 percent per year for society — better than the stock market.

Career Readiness. Of the students that choose to enter into the University of Alaska system, about 50 percent are required to take remedial classes, which do not earn them college credit. This is costly to the students and the university. I hear employers complain that many high school graduates lack basic work skills. Juneau is not immune to this problem. Every student that graduates needs to be ready to either keep learning or start earning.

STEM & Arts Integration. STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education that is integrated into the curriculum develops needed skills in critical thinking, cooperation, and creativity. Our schools should be rich with hands-on learning opportunities.

Jeff Short

Candidate for School Board

Poor academic achievement, especially for students who aren’t college bound. Testing data indicates that students on average make too little progress from kindergarten through the fifth grade, and that the accumulated deficits are not overcome subsequently. While our schools do a generally adequate job of preparing motivated students for college, they do not do an adequate job of preparing non-college bound students for the workplace. These students comprise more than half our graduates and are most likely to remain in Juneau. This means we graduate too many students who won’t qualify for much more than minimum-wage jobs, and too few who will qualify for the more demanding jobs our employers need filled.
Fixing this will require close collaboration between our school district, our employers, our elected officials and our unions, along with greater engagement of parents, teachers and students. Policy changes need to be based as much as possible on available evidence rather than intuition, emotion or ideology. Fixing our schools requires first of all finding out what the biggest obstacles to learning are, and then building consensus for a plan of action throughout our community. I believe an outstanding school system is well within our reach. If elected, I intend to devote most of my workday to crafting a plan of reform based on evidence, and then bringing our community together to carry it out.

KTOO solicited the candidates’ answers by email. We’ve edited their written responses for typos, grammar and news writing style — but not for length or substance.