By DANIEL SMITH
With the upcoming election on the horizon, it time to make some choices. Two Anchorage School Board seats are up for election.
Allow me share what I know about two conservative candidates, Mark Anthony Cox and Rachel Ries. You can vote for both of them regardless of where you live in Anchorage. If what follows sounds like an endorsement, that’s because it is.
Mark Anthony Cox is driven by a strong belief in God and a simple desire to do good while here on Earth. Mark was raised here in Anchorage and graduated from Eagle River High School. He is young but does not lack life experiences. Mark is a self-help author and motivational speaker, imparting wisdom to teenagers and young adults struggling in Title 1 schools (schools that receive federal funds to help educate low-income students).
Mark has worked in the banking industry, served honorably in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and this spring will graduate from UAA with a major in finance. As president of his homeowners association and a volunteer in the homeless community, he was inspired to launch the Family Charity of Alaska, providing food, clothing, and other short-term emergency relief to families in need in Alaska. Mark is genuinely concerned with the well-being of family’s and students. A strong family is a critical foundation and best thing for a good education.
Mark has experienced frustration with the Anchorage School Board, as many of us have. With a young child of his own, he and his wife recoil at the prospect of sending their kid to Anchorage schools while a socialist agenda is driving the district policy. Mark wants a higher quality education for our kids and his. That is not going to happen unless our school board members are focused on the foundational things that make education great. By adopting the Saxon Math curriculum for example, he intends to help our students claim a spot in the top 25 percent, at a minimum. Saxon Math has been used forever by the top scoring schools. It is not the new, language based, flavor-of-the-year math program.
Mark understands the struggle we all have with high and ever-increasing property taxes. The Anchorage School District is the biggest parasite draining what little is left in our depleted wallets. He is an advocate for a full budget audit of ASD. Having experience and a degree in finance will no doubt be an asset that he can deploy when sitting on the ASD board.
One of his biggest concerns is the disconnected nature of the current school board when it comes to parental choice. He believes in the empowerment of parents and that all child medical decisions should be in the hands of the child’s parents.
Mark Anthony Cox enjoys the endorsement of the Republican candidate he ran against last time and Mayor Dave Bronson, to name just a couple. He wants to do better than we have been doing and he wants to start now.
Rachael Ries is another solid conservative candidate running for the ASD School Board. Rachael believes that service on the board transcends political parties. Schools should not waste time and money on indoctrination and programs with “equity” as the intended outcome. Forced equity leads to the authoritarian mandates we have experienced, and much worse. Equality of opportunity should instead be the goal.
Rachael served honorably in the military after graduating from high school just shy of 16 years old. Her service included time as a paralegal, a soldier, and staff sergeant. She went on to flight school and piloted helicopters as platoon leader and company commander. Rachael will tell you that her time in the military did not build character so much as it helped her reveal and realize who she is as a leader. For Rachael, leadership is about ownership of her own decisions for and responsibilities to the people, mission, and the standards she is entrusted to uphold.
Classroom content should be available for review by parents and teachers should be relied on for the priorities they think their particular class needs most. We should not be teaching to the lowest common denominator and we need to keep all students challenged in school.
We need trainable citizens coming out of school with reading, writing, and math skills that meet the state standards. High school graduates need to be educated in history and civics in order to appreciate where we have been and where we can go.
College is not for everyone. Rachael would like to see trade skills brought back into the building at Anchorage middle schools and high schools. As a start, wood shop, metal shop, and auto shop classes should be brought back into our schools and offered as electives. This would not take away from the King Tech High School. Rather it would benefit KTHS and foster a renewed interest in the trades that currently suffer from a lack of skilled and trainable employees. Students could at least discover if they like the option if it was offered in their school.
Investing in our kids is an investment in our future. Contrary to popular belief on the left, more money is not the answer. That has been tried and it failed. Once elected, Rachael will help coordinate a full ASD policy review. By examining all policies and programs we can discover where all the money is going.
The “use it or lose it” budgetary policy is on the top of her list to be overhauled. It does nothing but promote waste. Rachael would prefer to see performance based funding and reward successful educational models. The current policy, where most of the money stays with the school is flawed. When a student leaves or transfers to another school the money should follow the student in Rachael’s opinion.
Rachael is endorsed by Mayor Dave Bronson and an extensive list of conservative-minded individuals.
A $40 million gap looms on the near horizon in just two short years and $70 million the year after. Anchorage student enrollment has gone from 50,000 to 42,000 students over the last several years. During that same time, the ASD budget has increased by millions and test scores have fallen to some of the lowest nationally. Still ASD wants more of your money with a budget of $850 million dollars. The ASD budget comprises fully 50% of your property tax bill!
Transparency, accountability and integrity are the guiding principles we need on the School Board. Mark Anthony Cox and Rachael Ries both possess those qualities.
The majority of the ASD board has failed us. If you are OK with the mental and physical abuse our children have suffered under the mandates of the current ASD board majority, then these are not your candidates.
Alternatively, if you believe parent choice is paramount when it comes to children’s health, Mark and Rachel will make sure that it never happens again.
Let’s get School Board conservative Dave Donley some help and elect these two highly qualified and dedicated problem solvers: Mark Anthony Cox and Rachael Ries.
Dan Smith is a lifelong Alaskan and Anchorage resident who writes for Must Read Alaska.