Charlie Pierce: No more excuses for Alaska’s students being at the bottom in education

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By CHARLIE PIERCE

In one word, the state of education in Alaska is “pathetic.”  Finger pointing, arguing and blaming everything except the structure of the current system will accomplish nothing.  The constant cry of a bureaucracy saying “not enough money,” “more money” and “you don’t understand” gets us nowhere while the school children of Alaska are paying the price and are among the poorest educated in the nation.  

The children of Alaska deserve a better education and a future – not an administrative bureaucracy living off the largess of bloated school funding while the actual classroom teachers and their students are left to make due with paltry administrative handouts.

Facts and results are the important thing.  Not the rhetoric of failed administrators and lobbyists closing the eyes of government officials.  

Here are few facts:

Alaska spends over $18,000 per student per year.

54% goes to teachers & students – LOWEST % in the nation.

46% goes to administrative overhead – HIGHEST % in the nation.

The numbers tell a sad tale. While Alaska school officials tell us they need more money for education, they fail to disclose that a properly managed administrative system would have those funds, pay for the needed teacher wage scales and better the education of our students – all without additional funding.  

For example, nationally there are 295 students per administrator. In Alaska, that number is 205. Simple math, we have 50% more administrators per student than the national average. There is an old saying “Follow the money.”  Well the trail leads to bloated administrative costs.

The simple solution is to enhance the direct education of our children by reducing administrative expenses and invest those dollars in teachers and students.

Result? Better educated students being taught by fairly compensated teachers at a reduced cost per student.

The highest percent of education investment from education budgets across the U.S. in students and teachers is approximately 70%. 

Bringing Alaska to 60-65% would make a major change in the ability to serve our students. 

  • Will we have better paid Teachers? YES  
  • Will we have more education dollars directly invested in student education? YES  
  • Will our student education standards increase? YES  
  • Will our students have a better future because of a better education? YES
  • Will the current administration make the changes? NO
  • Will a new Alaska State administration make the changes? 

With Charlie Pierce as your governor, the answer is YES. Team Pierce, with Charlie Pierce for Governor and Edie Grunwald Lt. Governor, is committed to putting “Alaskans First.”  Our children are Alaskans and the quality of their education will be put first.

Support Team Pierce, Charlie Pierce for Governor-Edie Grunwald for Lt. Governor and our children, Alaska’s children, will no longer be last, they will be part of “Alaskans First.”

Charlie Pierce is a Republican candidate for governor and is the current mayor of the Kenai Borough.

52 COMMENTS

  1. Unstated are a pair of SCOTUS opinions, one in 2020 and one this year, that any governor in AK can use to allow public education money to flow to private / religious schools. Both opinions overturn the AK Constitution prohibition against this. Vouchers are in our very near future. The first governor that chooses to do this will be a hero. Cheers-

  2. I hope that children are prioritized by their parents. Alaska is sometimes harsh. Family is always worth preserving.

  3. CP includes fixed costs such as heating and maintenance in adminstrative overhead and ignores that Alaska’s remote and small school districts require more overhead than Lower 48 larger consolidated districts. The truth is conservatives compare apples and ornages and then proclaim they can turn a nickel into a dime with no additional funding. The truth is this stuff costs money and the public funding shell game does not benefit the classroom, restoring the Budget by adjusting the 2017 BSA for inflation to 2023 is needed

  4. Here we go again. All the suggestions and proposals to tweek the government education bureaucracy will never work. The ONLY solution is to give parents control of their children’s education. That control is described in one word: vouchers.

    • Whiskey Charlie, Good luck with the voucher idea. Any sums given up by the Department of Education will have more strings attached to it’s appendages then Big Daddy Xi has stuck into Biden.

      Nationally, education has become an indoctrination scheme. I do not see the brokers of Ed letting that go anytime soon. Way too much power and money involved here. Pull your grandkids out of the dismal and corrupted system to insure their success in life. Simple as that. Let the decaying educational colossus collapse under it’s own stinking and rotting weight of bad ideas. Pulling out the children who actually want to learn will surely speed the impending collapse.

      James Taylor once wrote a song that had lyrics describing this type of event “Let it fall down, let it fall down, let it all fall down” .
      Keep hollerin Timber my friend! To hell with Commies and the NEA, (i realize that was redundant).

      • Parents are not better at teaching than trained professionals, though some parents are better at indoctrinating their children into Christian mythology.

        • Meanwhile, the DOE is indoctrinating to CRT and how there are more sexes than what science proves by chromosomes.

        • Lucinda, the pathetic outcomes derived from your ” trained ” professionals” is to ridiculous for even you to mention. And speaking of mythology, have you any biological evidence to support this new craze regarding gender?
          Thank you for making my point.

        • “Trained professionals?” That is another way of saying mind-numbed semi-literate “Studies” majors.

        • Trained professionals? What a joke! A teaching degree is perhaps the easiest degree to obtain, right behind underwater basket weaving!

  5. As an example, the Juneau School District average academic test scores are abysmal. However, two schools, Auke Bay Elementary and Borealis Montessori, test in high B range. Interestingly, these two schools are disproportionately populated by children of school district employees. The Juneau school district is an immoral disgrace. Rotten to the core.

    • Gastineau school probably spends half their day teaching the kids how to say “ bathroom” in Tlingit, or lingit. However they pronounce it this month.

  6. Good start Charlie, but short on specifics like most politicians. Didn’t see the word voucher or competition for the education dollars. Let the 18k per student, follow the students so parents can pick the best schools, public or private.

  7. We all hoped that with a governor who had worked his way up through a rural school system, and then served in an urban school board we would see some improvement in education. What we spend compared with the results, and the excuses given by the NEA and the liberals should be unacceptable to all Alaskans, especially parents! High school graduates are functionally illiterate. Students are promoted to the next higher grade regardless of their success in the school year. The University of Alaska teaches remedial courses! We need REAAs to convert to virtual schools; no brick and mortar in towns and villages that contribute nothing to education costs. We need teachers to be allowed to forthrightly tell legislators what the problems are, and that cannot happen until the Alaska Education Association (NEA) is abolished. Special education students need to be housed in separate rooms if not separate buildings, as integrating them into normal classes disrupts a class. (Teachers call special ed the droollers.) In larger schools the classes need to be tracked – separated into A,B & C beginning no later than 4th grade.

  8. Thank you, Charlie. But the sad truth is the Alaska Legislature is in charge of education not the Governor per the state constitution. The reform needed is tremendous starting with a constitutional convention and repealing and replacing AS 14, but achievable.

  9. Speaking for only myself and not on behalf of the Anchorage School Board or ASD.
    Easy to propose reducing administrative costs but not so easy to do without specifics and voter support. Every year I have served on the Anchorage School Board I have sponsored budget amendments to reduce non-classroom related administrative costs.

    The State Department of Education requires that these costs be separately accounted for by school districts. I started by offering larger reductions and as those failed worked my way down to amendments cutting only 1%. They all would fail for lack of a second or be voted down. This year, for the first time in five years, by a close vote, the Board voted for an amended version of one of my reduction amendments to cut one-half of one percent of the non-classroom related administrative costs. Of course, that was not enough, but it was the first time I know of a Board Member successfully proposing any such reduction.

    I voted against the final budget for the 2022-23 school year because its increases failed to plan for the upcoming projected $30 million plus shortfall for the school year 2023-24 budget. The projected shortfall for school year 2024-25 is over $60 million. So where is the funding for “better paid teachers” coming from?

    As one of the State Senators that authored the 1990s state education funding reform statutes, we added strong limits to administrative overhead on school districts. Over the years the Department of Education gave many exemptions to school districts greatly reducing their effectiveness.

    As a parent, a conservative, and the only Republican of seven Board Members, I am doing my best to advocate for students, parents, families, and taxpayers and I need help.
    And by the way, state law banning CRT and supporting more patriotic activities in school would help.
    Dave Donley
    Parent of twins in high school; lifelong Anchorage resident; and 16 year State Senator and Representative.

    • Thank you, Dave. You truly know what it means to fight against the Administrative State. No easy day! It’s David v. Goliath. Keep your sling nearby and your pocket full of sharp stones.

    • Dave, I respect your efforts Sir, however when a system like American Public Education has become so irredeemable the only option is to vote with your feet, remove your children from this corrupted institution.

      Education of children is the responsibility of parents. Simple as that.

      • Got news for you Skippy. It takes money to “vote with your feet” and take your children to private schools. Most parents can’t afford it. Ergo, they need the vouchers. Truly simple logic for you Robert.

    • Scary: “And by the way, state law banning CRT and supporting more patriotic activities in school would help.”

      CRT is a hollow far right boogeyman like groomers. And patriotic activities in schools? OK, I’ll bite, what do you mean?

    • Mind explaining, Dave, how it was that Anchorage School Board voted -unanimously- for construction monopoly by labor unions?
      .
      (https://mustreadalaska.com/anchorage-school-board-votes-for-construction-monopoly-by-labor-unions/)
      .
      Looks like betrayal of the worst kind, Dave. You aided and abetted. You’re guilty.
      .
      Why are you still chattering about Anchorage’s education industry, the lousy rotten, overpriced performance of which is a national disgrace, for which you and your co-conspirators are guilty?
      .
      Isn’t it good for you, Dave, that no law fits the crime which you and your colleagues committed against generations of Anchorage school children and the outright theft from productive Anchorage citizens you and your colleagues extorted to finance that crime?

  10. It’s ridiculous to have 55 school districts in Alaska, some with less than 100 students. All have highly paid administrators.

    • The REAAs are an expensive fiction and a failure. Most of them do nothing more than provide sinecures and lots of travel money for board members and administrators. Let’s make it simple; if a community/region makes a local contribution to the schools of, say, 30% then it can be a district, have a board, and at least limited self-governance of its school(s). If they don’t make the required local contribution, the board is advisory and the school(s) are run by the State using State rather than local employees, though a local residence preference would be acceptable.

      Few people would have fewer illusions than I about the efficacy of State employees, but at least there is some centralized control of State employees and it is less likely to matter whose relative the employee is.

  11. Get rid of public employee unions. Why should my property tax money, via teacher wages, be used to support political causes and programs (CRT) I do not support.

  12. “ The highest percent of education investment from education budgets across the U.S. in students and teachers is approximately 70%.”

    I wonder where that state’s students rank? First?

  13. And highly paid support staff under each Superintendent (qualified or not) – Anchorage: heavy on the admin staff and direct reporting staff (all publicly available info):
    Dr. Jharrett Bryantt, Superintendent (in training since he does NOT qualify to be one, yet)
    Direct Reports: 1) Jim Anderson, Chief Financial Officer 2) MJ Thim, Senior Director, Communications & Community Outreach 3) Mike Fleckenstein, Chief Information Officer 4) Janet Hayes, Executive Assistant
    5) Sonya Hunte, Senior Director, Office of Equity and Compliance 6)Kathy Moffitt, Director, Administrative Projects 7) Rob Holland, Chief Operating Officer 8) Dr. Mark Stock, Deputy Superintendent and 9) Matthew Teaford, Chief Human Resources Officer

    James Anderson, Chief Financial Officer
    Direct Reports: 1) Katie Rutledge, Senior Director, Payroll 2) Lois Hartsfield, Office Manager 3) Melissa Myers, Senior Director, Finance 4) Andy Ratliff, Senior Director, Management & Budget and 5) David Whiting, Senior Director, Purchasing & Warehouse

    MJ Thimm, Senior Director, Communications & Community Outreach(no people direct report to this position)

    Mike Fleckenstein, Chief Information Officer
    Direct Reports: 1) Hasaan Herrington, Senior Director IT Services (Service Delivery and Support) 2) Jack Johnson, Director Information Management & Security 3) Julie Melson, Senior Director IT Services (Service Development and Operations) and 4) Heather Smith, Office Manager

    5) Kathy Moffitt, Director of Administrative Projects (no people direct report to this position)

    Rob Holland, Chief Operating Officer
    Direct Reports: 1) Leslie Clark, Senior Director, Community Services 2) Deborah Engles, Director, Risk Management & Safety 3) Thomas Fenoseff, Senior Director, Capital Planning & Construction 4) TBD, Senior Director, Maintenance & Operations 5) Cassie Jeremias, Executive Secretary 6) Ashley Lally, Director, Safety & Emergency Preparedness 7) Andrew Mergens, Senior Director, Student Nutrition 8) Heather Philp, Senior Director, Transportation and 9) Katelyn McClelland, LCSW, CDCII, Senior Director, Health Care Services

    Dr. Mark Stock, Deputy Superintendent
    Direct Reports: 1) TBD, Senior Director Elementary Ed. 2) Dr. Michael Akes, Director, Assessment & Evaluation 3) Cassie Jeremias, Executive Secretary 4) TBD, Director, Charter & Homeschool Programs 5)
    Dr. Kersten Johnson, Senior Director Secondary Ed. 6) Dr. Jennie Knutson, Senior Director Professional Learning and 7) Tarlesha Wayne, Senior Director Special Education

    Matthew Teaford, Chief Human Resources Officer
    Direct Reports: 1) Ellie Soto, Executive Secretary 2) Peggy Rankin, Senior Director, Talent Management 3)
    Thai Walty, Senior Director, Benefits and 4) Andrew Sundboom, Senior Director, Labor Relations
    https://www.asdk12.org/Page/1446

  14. Michael Dunleavy came from Alaska’s Education Industrial Complex. He was our first Education Governor.

    Gov. Jay Hammond had the opportunity to look at our primitive education system and cause a public dialogue about what education options would best suit future Alaskans—when faced with the Molly Hootch lawsuit—he decided by consent decree to build 125 high schools anyplace with 10 kids.

    This has been nothing more than a money pit and every time education funding is cut for government schools the enablers of mediocrity get it back through the courts.

    Hammond didn’t have the political will to take on 50+ school boards, so he threw money at the problem hoping a future governor/legislature would show the leadership to do it. Gov. Dunleavy has long known this is perhaps the most critical matter facing the State of Alaska.

    Now we know since Gov. Hammond we could have bought the best teachers in the world, with what we have paid for government schools from resource development, but instead Alaskans have suffered teachers of the caliber of Mike Dunleavy.

  15. Even though I will be voting for you Charlie, in my opinion, you are wrong on this issue. The state, and indeed the nation, would reap spectacular savings & better outcomes if we only could institute a voucher system for education. In one fell swoop we could reap anywhere from 30 to 50% savings, cut off the teacher’s unions from the public teat, and finally empower parents who care about their children’s education. We have the technology to do this today. Brick and mortar schools are so archaic nowadays & the Soviet style of crating employment for “teachers” needs to be thrown into the dustbin of history. Vouchers are the future!

    • I like the money follows the student idea. One huge problem in Alaska is that rural schools simply cannot have the sort of specialized upper level math and science teachers and facilities that Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai Peninsula schools can provide. I would propose regional high school boarding schools for those families who want their kids to have those opportunities one in probably Bethel and one in Nome or Kotzebue. Or perhaps just one in Anchorage or Fairbanks. Mount Edgecombe does a great job with producing college bound graduates this would expand that opportunity to all.

      • Got news for you Lucinda; the following are religions: Theory of Evolution, Critical Race Theory, College Sports, Soccer, NFL, NASCAR, Quilting, Transgenderism, Social Media, Political Correctness, Environmentalism, Climate Change, Republicans, Democrats, Communism, Socialism, Unions, Masonic Orders, Moose Lodge, Boy Schouts, Girl Scouts, Pledge of Allegiance (flag worship), Hollywood Idolatry, Fan Clubs, Rock n Roll, etc, etc, etc. ….. basically, anytime we set anything on a pedestal other than our Creator.

        Currently, the public education bureaucracy is turning our children into stupid zombies at taxpayer expense. Please explain how a private Christian school could be worse.

        • You state that evolution and NASCAR are religions and at the same time demand an explanation as to how a private Christian school could be worse?

          How about this; it would be worse if kids were taught to believe as you.

          Here’s the deal and it’s not a complex issue: If you want the next generation to be something greater than you and your S/O you’ll have to stop teaching children bronze age fiction.

          You can do it, Coogan. Ask yourself this… if fossil records confirm that people have been here for between 100k-250k years (let’s just pick 100k for fun) what’s the likelihood that a generous creator sat back and watched human atrocities for eons and then after 98,000 years said ‘Whoa! My little ant ranch has gotten out of hand! I better send my son in to kill himself for these cretin’s benefit!”

          Does it really make sense to you that people with such loopy perspectives should be provided public money to indoctrinate their spawn however they wish? Heck noooo… you’ve got to spend your own money to do goofy stuff.

  16. Right on Charlie. Leaders are willing to take on the hard things in life.

    Alaska needs a real Leader in the Gov office not a politician or weak willed man. I encourage each of you to compare those currently running for the office and see that Charlie Pierce is the correct choice and is Alaska’s best choice.

  17. For alaska education change its direction to go this new route be a miracle only of God with his unseen angels actually walking the capital nudging and protecting leaders as God’s miracle unfolds. But!
    Alaska’s poorly educated people have to be crying out to God for his rememberence of us
    as the hebrews did before God used
    a shy insercue moses to
    work God’s power and miracles through delivering His people. This dream, its impossible with men, when our industries and administration leaders got us right where they want the people of alaska eventhough our leaders groan at their added
    responsiblity to be fully responciable over a dependent people. You know i ain’t deaf. I overhear both democrats and
    republican enough to hear both kinds of people can’t stand welfare recipents- how much harder our better educated have to work just to provide for a poorly educated populace not able or refusing to do their
    part. Charlie and like minded leaders You try do what you can do, and the *church will do what they do. By humility and repentance, through prayers, God will work out for us a miracle changing public education’s direction. You know the people need to want change and
    crying out for it. And no! Not using homemade protest signs and screaming and chanting in the streets defying their leaders by exhbiting how upset they feel about
    them. But! By going on knees behind a closed door making prayers and partitions. God hears and moves from heaven through a person or peoples broken, contrite ,and humble heart consistently, daily, diligently seeking God’s face by what he gave us a printed version of His Word.
    . Pray alaskans seek out God so by God’s Word we can recognize good shepards from
    the shepards who make poor shepards during elections. Just as the . Word of . God speaks, ‘my people perish from a lack of knowledge.’

    • Quit looking to God to save the system, do it yourself. God gave you the tools to act. You have to use them.

      1-Get involved. At the classroom level, starting in K.
      2-Attend every PTA, meet the teacher/principal etc opportunity that comes up. Every one.
      3-Stay actively involved in your kids education. Signing the report card and complaining on social media doesn’t cut it. Make the teachers know you by name.
      4-Get every like minded person you know to do the same.
      5-Get involved in the school board. Get everyone you know involved in the school board.
      6-Bother to vote in local elections. All the way down to dog catcher

      Most important: stop making excuses why you can’t. If you won’t get involved, stop whining or praying to God to fix what you couldn’t be bothered with.

      The left worked hard to hijack the school system. Work harder to take it back.

      • Masked, you’re dreaming. No enterprise functions responsively without competition. Our education bureaucracy is simply an unaccountable, government-run, unionized, cabal of corruption whose sole purpose is harvesting money from complacent taxpayers. Educating children is the least of their concerns; abysmal test scores are the proof. Its a complete disgrace. Parents must be given a choice to send their children to small, grass-roots, quality education providers. The only solution is vouchers. Competition–unions hate it.

  18. Charlie Pierce has some good thinking and the fact of the matter is that every governor has a ink pen that works well when you veto what the legislature does. We know Dunleavy is scared to death of actually doing what he stated when running. So, using the ink pen is the key and that means even when it hurts. A constitutional convention works for the political field of runners for positions but the governor can be the key to government for the people. Dunleavy use to teach and yet, his students fit in the failure category. Why is that? He needs to go, so vote him out. There is a saying. ‘ serious, and bad happenings, happen in threes” and the state is in the third of “bad” governors elected to do a job they couldn’t prove up on. So, time to vote Dunleavy out and put a governor in that has the character, integrity with “the people” to do as he said and keep that promise strong. If he/she can do it and make it happen.

  19. Two words, Governor Charlie: teachers’ unions. You won’t do anything they don’t like, or else they’ll go on strike, shut down their day care centers, persuade angry parents you’re the villain.
    .
    Think of it like a metastatic brain tumor infesting Alaska’s education industry from kindergarten through Marxist college. About all you can do is call hospice, help it die in peace.
    .
    Then maybe think about hiring nationally recognized experts to build a classical education system from the ground up… without teachers’ unions, CRT, Common Core, gender studies, child grooming, etc., etc.
    .
    That sort of change won’t be an overnight thing, might even be generational. Helluva legacy, Guv.
    .
    Remember, the budget’s just a piece of paper. No one outside the industry knows, or is allowed to know, where the money actually goes. No one inside the industry’s accountable for where it goes or for the functionally illiterate wokesters it produces. Sweet deal, no? Think they’ll let you break it up?
    .
    Then there’s your lobbyist-legislator team, in which special interests outnumber legislators 7 to 1. Think they’ll sit idly by, let you break up what fuels Alaska’s finely tuned education industry, especially when a lot of them financially benefit from that racket?
    .
    Appreciate your interest, Guv. Enough resourceful angry Alaskans put their minds to fixing something, it’ll be fixed.

    • Greg, your logic is seriously flawed. “Our education system” as you call it, is comprised, to a great degree, of teachers. Those teachers are all unionized. It is no longer the noble profession you seem to visualize. I’m sorry if someone in your circle is a teacher; but they are part of a corrupt system by their own choice. We must “blame teachers” also.

      • You are correct in my opinion that the nea sucks. I lived in deep Bush Alaska for 15 years and I feel I know what I’m talking about. Bush people are great folks, the most friendly, giving and accepting people that I know of. However, education is not first on their priority list and that trickles down to their children. I have observed teachers teaching their butt off to no avail. Many good teachers have left due to frustration. Yes I’ve seen some bad teachers too, but I’ve seen some bad auto mechanics, some bad cops and definitely some bad politicians. In the bush reality, they’re not broken and I have to agree with them

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