By ALEX GIMARC
Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed two pieces of legislation aimed at improving Alaska schools.
The first was aimed at recruiting and retaining teachers via cash incentives. The second was an attempt to codify parental rights and requires school districts to address physical safety and privacy of students in locker rooms and restrooms.
There’s not much discussion on the first one, but much loud and righteous anger over the second one, from all the usual suspects on the political left.
Here in Anchorage, Anchorage School District (ASD) has chased fewer students with more money over the last decade. The approach clearly isn’t working as test scores continue to fall. On the other hand, they are very interested in a variety of new topics that have nothing to do with public education. These include Critical Race Theory, equity, LGBTQWTF, even a return to seclusion and restraint of disabled students.
When parents bring up their concerns, ASD and the Anchorage School Board typically deny they are doing whatever they are accused of doing, bury the investigation and results, hoping the problem quietly goes away. Unfortunately, this approach has worked pretty well in recent years.
End result of this is that few residents trust ASD anymore. This is a sad, completely predictable outcome. And the entire statewide education establishment is back in front of the legislature with their hand out, asking for more money.
Concern over Critical Race Theory hit the fan a couple years ago as parents nationwide found their online students indoctrinated in it. Parents were predictably outraged and demanded ASD eliminate CRT. ASD denied the presence of CRT in Anchorage schools, though 13 current teachers in Alaska (as of 2021) signed an online pledge promising to keep teaching CRT regardless of what they were told to do. Two of them were legislative candidates at the time.
CRT is a loser’s game, as it teaches kids to look backward in life, marinating forever in all the awfulness endured by their forefathers. Rather than teaching a forward-looking approach complete with tools to ensure racism in all its awful forms no longer matters in their lives, our esteemed education establishment is determined to make sure their students never learn how to deal with unpleasantness in life in a positive way.
Next on the list is equity. This is a term meaning equal outcomes. As the left never lifts anyone up, equity means the achievers, the high performers, are pulled down to the lowest possible levels of performance. ASD proudly operates what it calls an Equity Dashboard. The problem is that equity is a loser’s game. The most recent example was the Anchorage School Board hiring an unqualified superintendent last year, whose first action in office was a failure when he did not ensure the bus system was available for the first few months of the fall semester.
Next up is the LGBTQWTF push. Once again, ASD denies it is doing anything other than making sure everyone gets a fair shake. The problem is that books keep on showing up in school libraries that at worst could be described as gay porn and best as instruction manuals for grooming. Every time one of these is discovered, brought to the attention of the administration or the School Board, it quietly disappears without parents knowing how the books got there, who put them there, and who has been checking them out. If the LGBTQWTF world is such a wonderful thing, why is ASD systematically hiding its participation and complicity with it?
For some reason, Planned Parenthood came out loudly and publicly against the parental rights legislation. Why is Planned Parenthood in the public schools? What is it doing with the students that it doesn’t want the parents to know about?
Finally, we have a return to seclusion and restraint for disabled students. This is horrific to parents of disabled students, who generally can’t tell their parents what happened to them at schools. A two-year Department of Justice investigation announced mid-February found it had been going on at ASD for some time.
I get it that disabled students with behavior problems are tough, but everything that happens to them in ASD is defined and controlled by what is written, agreed to, and approved in their Individual Education Plan. Restraint and seclusion never shows up as a solution in IEPs.
HB 105 is intended to get through the wall of silence erected over the years at ASD. It is an attempt to lift up a flat rock and see what scurries out. It is an attempt to shine a little light on what is going on in the public schools. Who knows? If the public schools quit spending so much time on non-academic pursuits, they might even have a bit more time to spend on ‘readin, ‘ritin, and ‘rithmetic. But you have to want to do that, something the Anchorage Education Association clearly doesn’t.
If Democrats, particularly those in the Senate majority, want to have any chance of moving an increase in the foundation formula to the governor’s desk, his proposed parental rights legislation must be equally and honestly considered, as they go hand in hand. At this point in the process, I commend Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens for not burying it in committee as yet, though Senate Judiciary Chairman Matt Claman will do his level best to find some violation of the Alaska Constitution Privacy Clause as an excuse to kill it, which would be a mistake.
This is a start. It is up to us to help make sure this legislation makes its way fully intact through the process.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and information technology professional.