A plan to build a better future for our kids

It’s impossible to build a strong economy without investing in our future in a meaningful way. Alaskans have seen the negative consequences of state leaders who attack the university system with a 44 percent cut instead of building it up, reduce K-12 funding until an election year, embrace the worst teacher retirement system in the country instead of making it better, and do nothing to improve the availability of childcare at the exact moment when that is one of the major factors holding our economic recovery back. We propose three core education policies to address these issues: Childcare. We cannot speak about family values unless we also put our money where our mouth is. Childcare options are profoundly lacking in every community in our state. There is no easy or cheap way to solve this problem, but the state should act as a conduit to solutions and be open to the possibility of increased state incentives to childcare businesses. This could take the form of loan funds, capital investment funds, or direct incentives. We will form a Childcare Working Group that will prepare policy recommendations for the Legislature to consider in the first year of our administration. We will place four specific ideas on the table for a thorough review:

1. The possibility of finding a way for communities, Tribes, and businesses to pay for childcare workers to receive state health insurance and benefits as a tool to help with recruitment and retention of workers,

2. Expanding the availability of funding for direct childcare incentives throughout the state,

3. Explore repurposing vacant state buildings and facilities to host childcare services, and

4. Establish a Childcare Trust Fund to fund systematic approaches that creates living wages, increases benefits, and creates better training for businesses and employees while expanding childcare access for parents.

We also propose working with the University of Alaska to create childcare apprenticeships that will help create a pipeline of highly qualified childcare workers who can look forward to a career of serving our most valuable resource. K-12 education. Alaskans today fully appreciate the harm inflation can inflict on individuals and institutions. Teachers and school administrators have known this for years. As policymakers grappled with budget shortfalls, flat-funding and short-funding of the amount the state sends to schools has become the norm. Of course, this approach to budgeting is actually a cut as the value of a dollar drops every year; even the modest election year increase to K-12 funding failed to keep up with the current high inflation. We must increase the base student allocation, and the first budget we introduce will increase the base student allocation so students, parents, teachers and school administrators will not have to worry about cuts and class size increases.

Endowments: Protect Education and Look Towards the Future

We will also establish the Alaska Education Endowment, with the goal of funding pre-K through the University through revenues from additional resource development, and putting it into trust. Second, we must confront Alaska’s poor teacher retirement system and implement reforms that will be financially sustainable. Bottom line: we are hemorrhaging teachers in Alaska.

For the first time in memory, teacher recruitment fairs this year were canceled and some school districts delayed opening because no one from out-of-state was showing up; this stands in stark contrast to the years when people all over the country competed for a job here because we valued education with good pay and the ability to retire. Bringing back competitive retirement benefits for teachers is a key part of solving the recruitment and retention issues that disrupt learning all over our state.

Finally, we will oppose any effort to undermine the Alaska Constitution by directing public funds to be spent on private schools. School vouchers and similar programs simply will not work in a state where a vast majority of communities have just one school. University of Alaska. The major challenge every employer in our state faces is recruitment and retention of workers.

The University of Alaska, through its academic offerings from vocational and technical to bachelor’s to applied research, is the most important institution that prepares our kids for careers here at home instead of forcing them to leave the state because they can’t find a way to fit into our economy. It is also the greatest supplier of workers to build a growing, attractive workforce for outside companies. The current administration’s approach demonstrated what happens when you try to cut your way to prosperity: many people will leave, and we don’t attract new investment despite some saying we are “open for business” without any follow through. Alaska’s struggling economy and lack of progress in the pursuit of economic diversification can partly be blamed on the cuts to our university system.

Alaskan Grown and Hire: Grow our own, train our own, employ our own

The Walker Drygas administration will work to keep our best, brightest, and hardest working young people here by championing three policies:

1. We will introduce a plan to forgive student loans taken out by anyone who completes a degree or trade school certificate here and stays and works in Alaska for at least five years. Alaska needs workers in every sector of our economy. People who complete any program will be treated equally, whether they earn a welding certificate or an advanced engineering degree to build up our state, a bachelor’s degree to educate our kids, complete a pilot training program, or anything else.

2. We will reject any additional cuts to our university system, and will work in particular to increase the number of spaces available for nursing students and the number of seats in the WWAMI Program.

3. We will re-establish core programs that produce employees the state needs the most like the Information Technology Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and we will invest in attracting students from across the country to participate in our distance learning degrees and programs.

In short, we will:

  • Submit a BSA increase in our first budget proposal that combats the rise in inflation.
  • Create and endow the Alaska Education Fund, funded by revenues from additional resource development.
  • Reform the teacher pension system to ensure retirement benefits are finally competitive with the rest of the country Increase the grants to childcare industry.
  • Invest in keeping kids in Alaska after high school by forgiving debt for students who work and build lives here.

Join the Walker Drygas team