Senator Berta Gardner

January 23, 2014

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Serving Midtown, Spenard, and UMed

State Capitol Bldg. Rm 417
Juneau, AK 99801
 
Phone: 907-465-4930
Fax: 907-465-3834
Call Me: 1-800-331-4930

Sen.Berta.Gardner@akleg.gov
alaskasenatedems.com/gardner
facebook.com/BertaGardner

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D.C. DELEGATION

Senator Mark Begich
907-271-5915
EMAIL: Sen. Mark Begich

Senator Lisa Murkowski
907-271-3735
EMAIL: Sen. Lisa Murkowski

Congressman Don Young
907-271-5978
EMAIL: Rep. Don Young

Hostage Negotiations?

Will the Governor Hold School Funding Increases Hostage
in Exchange for School Vouchers?

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Senator Berta Gardner address the media over Governor Parnell’s hostage negotiation tactics.
Senator Berta Gardner address the media over Governor Parnell's hostage negotiation tactics.

          Yesterday, the Governor gave his annual State of the State address to the legislature. I have to say that I am very glad he has come around to our view that the Base Student Allocation (BSA) - the part of school funding for direct classroom services - is inadequate to meet the needs of our students. Sadly, however, it appears that the Governor is holding the funding increase hostage in exchange for passing his proposal to allow state dollars to be spent for private and for profit religious and secular schools.  He calls it parental choice but we know it as vouchers. The tactic is shameful.

          During the fall, I visited every school in my district talking with administrators, teachers, parents, students.  At Lake Otis Elementary a teacher said something that I carry in my head and in my heart. “Public schools are not afraid of competition and we can go up against any private school if the playing field is even.  We take all comers.  We provide an education kids with disabilities, behavior problems, English language learners and those experiencing all kinds of challenges, include lack of preparation and support.”

          Also, during his speech, the Governor suggested that there are those who think money is the solution to all problems, and those who want only policy changes.  This is silly.  No one believes that dollars alone solve our problems, even as we argue that schools and students must have adequate resources (yes, dollars and other resources) if they are to continue the good progress. Adequate funding and innovative policy are not mutually exclusive concepts.

          I agree we need to consider data, not just philosophy, as we make decisions.  So what is the data about educational success?

Data for good outcomes shows these elements are important: 

  • Quality Preschool and early assessment and services are needed;
  • Adequate resources
  • Limiting class sizes
  • Use of innovative strategies as well as the tried and true;
  • High standards and expectations; and
  • Highly effective teachers.

Also data shows that poor educational outcomes correlate with:

  • Poverty;
  • Lack of preparation;
  • Inadequate working vocabulary of students entering school;
  • Incarcerated parents;
  • Lack of healthcare (as an aside in Alaska, unnecessarily there are addition 40,000 working adults with no affordable healthcare.);
  • Poor nutrition;
  • Traumatic experiences ; and
  • Chaotic lives, frequent moves.

          Finally, I would like to leave you with this. Diane Ravitch, the former US Assistant Secretary of Education under Bush Sr and reappointed by President Clinton, was originally a strong proponent of school vouchers but as the data emerged she changed her thinking. She says:

Protecting our public schools against privatization and saving them for future generations of American children is the civil rights issue of our time.

          Remember, this is not about school choice. Everyone supports school choice and knows there is school choice in public schools.  Many of those choices are wildly popular and could be expanded. 

          I’m Berta and I’m still listening,

          If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.

signed: Berta

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