EXISTING FUNDING IS NOT YIELDING GOOD RESULTS
By CHARLIE FRANZ
I had the opportunity to attend Rep. Sarah Vance’s town hall meeting Saturday at the Kachemak Bay campus of Kenai Peninsula College.
The meeting was very well attended by a vocal and emotional crowd. There was much fear expressed about the cuts proposed in the governor’s budget and a strong appeal by the numerous teachers, students and others to protect the funding for the education system.
When I had the opportunity to speak, I expressed my interest in maintaining a strong and vibrant education system. However, I also stated my concern with the performance of an education system that in spite of what appears to be ample funding does not seem to produce results commensurate with the resources invested.
I stated that it is my understanding that Alaska spends more per student on education than most states. It was recently reported that the 4th grade reading scores for Alaska students put them dead last in the nation. I noted that this might have been a quirk in the data or testing process and that I looked for further evidence of the K-12 performance.
I then shared with the group the results of a review of transcripts from 2006 to 2015 done by the University of Alaska for first time freshmen enrolling in UA within one year of graduation. The report showed that statewide 70 percent of the freshmen had to take either remedial English or math or both before beginning their actual college courses.
I noted that the Homer High School principal has reported that our students do much better than state and national averages and the district superintendent has made similar claims about the students on the peninsula.
However, the data in this study don’t really support such claims. The report showed that 55 percent of the students from Kenai and Homer and 45 percent of the students from Soldotna had to take remedial courses. I stated that it seemed to me that something was wrong when, despite the relatively generous funding we have been providing, we got such results.
Here’s the interesting interaction. After the meeting, a teacher confronted me and said she was deeply offended by my comments and that the data I presented were only for UA, which did not give a full picture of the quality of the Homer students.
I told her I didn’t understand, and she said that UA is not a good university and the good students go out of state, which skews the data.
She further stated that UA being a state school takes all applicants, some of whom are not the best quality students. Therefore, the students would need to take remedial courses.
I asked her if she thought the UA was an average university. She said yes. I then asked her why she didn’t think an average high school graduate should be able to start regular course work at an average university. At that point we terminated the conversation.<
Something is not working in our K-12 system. I don’t think more money or even the same money will fix the problem. The legislature must use the budget to force a reevaluation, and hopefully, changes that will improve future results.