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Campbell: It’s time to flip the school board


When I moved to Alaska in 1981, we had one of the finest school systems in the nation, ranked second to only Connecticut.  

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Today Connecticut remains near the top while Alaska has plummeted to 47th.  We’re nearly the worst.

Back then, Connecticut and Alaska both ranked in the top five percent for salaries paid to public school teachers.  

Today, Alaska remains in the top five percent while Connecticut has dropped to a middle position.  I guess the old adage, “You get what you pay for,” doesn’t apply when it comes to education.

Alaska has generously compensated teachers over the past 30 years as the quality of education provided to our students has cratered.  

I get it, there are many reasons for this. Both parents working; legislatures passing requirements that have nothing to do with education but consume time teachers could be using to actually teach kids; taking away the ability to discipline unruly children; expecting schools to feed kids; including curriculums that start sex education at the kindergarten level (OK, I probably just lost a bunch of readers, but do kindergarteners really need to know about sexual reproduction, when they’re barely potty trained?)

Alaska has one of the highest per-student expenditures in the nation.  Anchorage topped $16,000 per student per year in 2019, while the US average was around $12,000. Costs continue to escalate while results decline.  

Our education system is in crisis.  

One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things over and over again expecting a different result. It’s time to structurally change our public education system, and it starts with the money. Not more, but how it is allocated.

Public education is formula funded. This formula allocates funding based on the “average daily membership” of a school district determined once per year during a 20 school-day period in October. If one district loses students after October, the school district doesn’t lose any money. And if another district gains students, they don’t get any additional funding. That creates disproportionate funding, and that needs to change.  

The daily membership should be calculated every 90 days and school district funding adjusted to meet the actual student enrollment. This idea was shared with me by a newly elected state representative, for which I highly encouraged legislation be submitted to make this law.

We all know the COVID pandemic has raised havoc with public education.  When are schools open, when are they closed, what is “virtual class,” and how does the system ensure a quality education is being delivered.  It’s a hot mess.  

This chaos has resulted in families opting for private or home schooling.  The number of students enrolled in the Anchorage School District has decreased by nine percent, while the number of students in homeschool programs has nearly doubled.  

Compare this to the decrease from 2018-2020, which was less than 3 percent.  It is clear the COVID pandemic is changing parent’s views about their children getting a quality education only through the public school system.  

So where is the Anchorage School Board leadership?  Right there with the leadership of the Anchorage Assembly, totally out of touch, with their collective heads-in-the-sand. To fix this will take a bold change in leadership, by visionaries who understand education is a collection of public, private, religious, and home-school solutions.  

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled it is legal for public funds to be used to provide students with non-public school alternatives.  It’s time for Alaska law and the Anchorage School District to facilitate this broad-based education solution. It will instill a competitive spirit into our education process and improve outcomes for everyone. 

But our incumbent school board members, excluding Dave Donley, are in lock-step with the progressive movement of quashing all educational programs other than public schools. To them, a unified, single public education system that indoctrinates our children into the virtues of socialism and the evils of American exceptionalism is the only acceptable system. 

Without much public fanfare, but fully intended to develop potential school board candidates who will continue the progressive status quo destruction of our educational system, former school board member Tam Agosti-Gisler started a “boot camp” to provide a crash course on how to campaign for the school board and how to be a board member.  

I really doubt the course spends much time advancing the positive aspects of private, religious, and home-school programs.  It’s an overt attempt to recruit and train progressives to win school board seats and protect liberalism in public education. 

While everyone is focused on the mayor’s race and the oppressive lock down of Anchorage, our uber-liberal school board members have been steadily implementing a more and more progressive doctrine on our school district. They are indoctrinating our next generation in radical liberalism.  

To retain control, they already conducted a “Boot Camp” in preparation for the April 2021 elections.  Current school board members Alisha Hilde, Deena Mitchell, and Elisa Vakalis are seeking re-election in April 2021.  Starr Marsett’s seat will also be open, as she is not running for re-election.  

That’s four seats out of seven that can be filled with people who embrace a conservative, liberty-based education curriculum that teaches the basics necessary to return Anchorage back to the top five percent of quality school districts nationwide. They would join Dave Donley in leading ASD to once again being a respected institution that graduates educated young adults ready to contribute to society, whether furthering their education in college or entering the workforce.

We don’t need bigger budgets in the Anchorage School District, we need leadership.  In April 2021 we have the opportunity to make the changes necessary for success. Are you willing to take on the fight, run for school board, and make a difference? If not now, when? It’s up to you!

Craig E. Campbell served on the Anchorage Assembly between 1986 and 1995 and later as Alaska’s Tenth Lieutenant Governor.  He was the previous Chief Executive Officer and President for Alaska Aerospace Corporation.  He retired from the Alaska National Guard as Lieutenant General (AKNG) and holds the concurrent retired Federal rank of Major General (USAF).

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  1. Perhaps it would make more sense to go back to when Alaska had the best schools and see how things were done then compared to how they are being done now, rather than relying on the guessing game that comes with public elections. Finland had a national school system that was in disarray twenty years ago, and now their system is considered to be one of the most successful in the world.
    Looking for real world based solutions that have records of success makes more sense than simply changing the personnel in the school board, because, in many cases, board members don’t necessarily have expertise in educational management or philosophy.

  2. Never gonna happen. The left is already at work to retain those seats. Conservatives talk big and do little. Want proof? Look at the current school board, assembly, legislature.

    The left wins because they flat out outhustle conservatives.

    Hurts, but it’s true.

    The reason education will continue to crater is because standing up it the education mafia takes a special kind of courage most people don’t have. A willingness to be labeled a bigot, a racist, homophobic, anti woman, anti immigrant, climate denier – and more.
    Most people don’t want the hassle. Frankly, who can blame them.

    If you genuinely want education reform it’s on paper easy, but will never happen until people are willing to catch the hell that will come at them for trying.

    Want to fix it? Here is the recipe.

    1-Understand the purpose of state education is not to educate kids. It’s to grow and survive as an entity.

    2-Break the teachers unions. Replace them with genuine faculty/staff advocates to protect them from administrative wanna be tyrants. But end the unions.

    Until these two happen, nothing else matters. It’s a bandaid on a chest wound.

    3-The money follows the student, not the district. The student should be free to go wherever they want that has an opening for them. In district students get first shot at their local schools, but can travel if they want. This includes private schools.

    4-Eliminate high school sports in favor of community teams. Kids are there to learn, not score points.

    5-Teacher accountability. Be fair and consider the crap many of them have to work with. But hold them accountable for outcomes.

    6-End social promotion. A kid stays where they belong. Not their age peers.

    7-End mandatory high school. If a kid doesn’t want to be there, and mom and dad agree, cut him/her loose. Let teachers focus on teaching, not babysitting.

    8-Bring back discipline. Suspensions and expelling are great tools to protect good kids.


    10-Required parental involvement. If you want your kid there, mom/dad have to do x amount of service to the school every semester. It builds ownership and gives mom/dad a look behind the school’s curtain. Makes it harder to hide agendas, bad apples, ect.

    11-Stop making education a social experiment. Reading, writing, math, US history, civics, sciences. Let mom/dad teach about sexual preference, the church God, ect.

    Do the above and within 10 years you’ll see higher test scores, a weeding out of crappy social problems, competition, and better teaching.

    But it won’t happen. The left will work much harder to prevent it than the right will to implement it.

    • To this wish list, may we add:
      12- classroom cameras with archived data available after school hours,
      13- firing Anchorage education industry officials who caused the problems and contracting out Anchorage’s education and administration to an organization recognized for excellence in education.
      Of course, the Left won’t have to work so hard to implement it. Anchorage’s Assembly forced its easily corruptible mail-in vote scheme on productive residents, we believe, so the Left wouldn’t have to work hard for anything.

  3. The unions are the problem. Teacher unions will fight tooth and nail to keep their members in the money. Irregardless of student performance. Unions will support school board candidates that will vote the status quo. Other unions, like asea, will support the teacher union candidates. It is a high bar to get over the disgusting public unions!

  4. Good article, Craig Campbell. The Alaska Constitution does NOT prohibit INDIRECT funding of other-than-public education. Education Savings Accounts would work in Alaska and provide a better education for many children. Trouble is, there is no political will in the legislature to take on the most powerful special interest in Alaska–the Education Industry and its unions. Alaska will probably be the last state to have Choice in education. Thus, it will languish in last place nationally and steal children’s futures in the process.

  5. Going to have to get our hands dirty to dig those communists out of their little offices. They never give up power and will cheat you to death to stay in there forever.

  6. Good, sensible points, General…
    Making it happen while Anchorage’s easily corruptible mail-in vote system is in place to make sure it doesn’t happen… that could be challenging.

  7. By “liberty-based” curriculum I’m guessing you are throwing a bone to Ron Paul’s Liberty-Based homeschooling curriculum. For the unindoctrinated the main selling point is that it “provides a systematic defense of limited government and the free market economy”.

    Seem to me Craig is just promoting that we indoctrinate our kids into a system that appeals to him.

    I would agree that if sex ed really does start in kindergarten that is too early. However, I’d wager the religious homeschooling Craig advocates is going to be remarkably short on real sex ed other than just saying no, and prohibiting birth control.

    Quality sex and available birth control = fewer abortions.

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