Gov. Dunleavy gives press corps an education on high-performing charter schools in Alaska


Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who was a decades-long teacher and school superintendent before going into politics, pulled no punches at a press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters that Alaska has tried to fix its bad education system by increasing the base amount that school districts get from the state coffers per student, known as the BSA. And yet, school districts don’t respond with improved outcomes at neighborhoods schools.

The press conference was unusually long, running for an hour. The governor was unusually animated. Reporters asked about 20 questions in all, on things like Cook Inlet gas shortages and other topics. But Dunleavy’s heart was set on helping Alaska students, and that was clear from the outset.

“We’re deeply involved in an educational discussion right now, which personally I think is fantastic,” Dunleavy said, calling education one of the most crucial issues of our time. He described the urgency around education as feeling like “the last couple of days of the session,” presumably because of the intensity of the energy in the Capitol right now.

“And that’s the way it should feel, that we’re involved and we’re engaged in heavy-duty issues that I think can help Alaska, certainly can help our kids and help our teachers.”

Dunleavy has been pushing a bill he offered that has bonuses for teachers for up to $15,000, but the education industry is rejecting those bonuses and instead wants lump sum payments to districts to use however they want, in the form of a base student allocation increase.

That increase has been suggested by Democrats and education industry lobbyists at anywhere between $300 to $1,500 per student more than the current BSA, which gives districts $5,960 for each student. Districts also collect local taxes and get major support from the federal government, and spending on students in Alaska is over $20,000 per student per year.

Dunleavy turned his attention to charter schools and a recent Harvard study of these schools, which are part of the public school system, and are not private schools, as some education union members have characterized them.

“Unbeknownst to a lot of folks, because this is the first study that’s ever been done that measures outputs through the NAEP scores — lo and behold, we’re tops in the nation! You would think you’d hear parade music and people dancing in the streets,” Dunleavy said.

“But in some sectors, this has cause a problem because it doesn’t fit the narrative.”

Then, he verbally channeled the thinking of the education industry: “How could this be? How could Alaska be performing well? This is going to screw things up because we have our usual approach to education in Juneau: Don’t do much about it until the last couple of weeks. Turn up the heat. Declare it a disaster if a large sum of money is not deposited somewhere. And then once that happens, everything goes back to normal, things are good now.”

But things aren’t good, Dunleavy told the small band of reporters in the conference room on the third floor of the Capitol.

Part of the funding issue is that Alaska is in a demographic challenge — losing student population.

“We need more people. We need more kids. We need better performance … And I gotta tell you, for the life of me, I am stunned at this idea that you have the best performing charter schools in the world … Any moment I’ll be called to go talk somewhere nationally about our charter schools,” Dunleavy said.

But the educational establishment is trying to torpedo his education bill in favor of the fixed increase to school districts that education unions prefer.

In the end, Dunleavy said, if he just shoved money into the BSA, “I would be lauded as a hero.”

“But I didn’t run on that ticket … I didn’t knock on people’s doors and say ‘Hey this is Gov. Dunleavy, I’m running for governor and I want to give a ton of money to the educational establishment, and we’re not going to worry about your kids, they’ll be fine. I didn’t run on that.”

Dunleavy had held forth at the microphone for over 8 minutes, and was now reminding reporters that he has more educational experience than any other previous governor.

“In some corners that’s a problem. Why? Because I know education. I know it inside out. And I can tell you this, and I would bet my retirement: If you just put money in the BSA, there will be no change of performance. Because we’ve done that year after year,” he said.

It’s time to target to problems like getting more money to classroom teachers, and helping grow more charter schools.

“This idea that people are speaking on behalf of the parents, the teachers, and the kids of charter schools, that aren’t part of charter schools, [and saying] that charter schools are somehow a negative? That’s insane. We know we have performance issues in our neighborhood schools,” he said. “It’s not the parents’ fault. It’s not the kids fault. These schools have become politicized over the decades. It’s a fact,” he said, adding that if Alaskans want more charter schools, they should be able to have them.

The entire press conference can be viewed at this link:


  1. The governer hit the nail onthe head. The neighborhood schools are more about politics and unions than they are about teaching. Throwing money at the problem will hot solve it and the school board in Anchorage is a HUGE part of the problem. The loan voice of reason is continually drowned out by the majority.

      • Hard no! By in large teachers in alaska are substandard and it shows. They have been for years. We don’t hire and promote based on merit any longer. If teachers are so critical and important, why not drug test the lot of them? We drug test pilots, dot licensed drivers, heck we even drug test the kids if they go out for sports. Alaska teachers as a whole have been failing for many years. The standardized testing scores support it.

  2. We need a scrapper that fights for what’s best for students throughout Alaska, NOT what’s best for the union grifters..The Guv is off to a good start in that direction with this presser..hope it gains momentum and defeats the “just throw more money our way” public school “leaders” and leftist media tax n spend supporters… 💪 🔥

  3. Great news conference, wish I could have understood the mumbled questions from the media. Our governor is definitely on the right track.

  4. A union complaint against Charter Schools I heard was that Charter Schools perform well because that’s where teachers kids go to school. The union gal claimed teachers don’t want their kids in public school where they teach.
    I asked our Superintendent about it and she said yes, the District requires a teacher first allocation priority before they approve a Charter School. Fascinating.
    A Charter School principle explained to me why she went to all the effort to set up their school. She explained it was because they just wanted to teach. Less administrative blather. The faculty of Charter schools love what they do.
    This Charter School attracts students who are at risk of failing in conventional public schools. Not high end achievers, the students vastly improved their learning. Change the environment, change the kid. Amazing.
    Interesting facts from Fbks school district budget proposals and materials: projected 12,408 students. Budget $188,250,040. = $15,171/student. They propose to increase the number of students in each classroom up to about 30/teacher.
    Butv wait, the District also has over 1,500 employees, or about 8 students per employee. Yes: janitors, support staff, special Ed teachers and such are add ons. But the number of high dollar admin staff sitting in the central office is hard to find. Hmmm.

  5. The unions will fight to the nail to get the money that’s all they want. The proof is in the study. Our charter schools are top-notch. Our regular schools are bottom notch.
    Who’s running the circus must be the unions.
    They sure don’t care about educating the kids they just want their fair share of the money and my fair share and your fair share they want it all remember it’s for the kids

  6. And how do I get my children into these schools? What is the student to teacher ratio? Are these two factors on even par with other “public schools?”

  7. At the end of the day, politics aside, teacher teach in the classroom mostly to the best of their abilities. Teachers I witnessed in SW Region SD were teaching their ass off when I was there. That was pre covid.

  8. The academic monopoly has proven that noncompetitive performance results are a constant of quality – always downhill. Think of some industries that had monopolies and were broken up. Oil industry and communications industry would generally get the + side of beneficial breakups to our society today. The monopoly of public education is the largest in the world. The difference is the government and a union; which one has more control? It will never be the government stepping in to break this spiral down. It has to be parents and private individuals to get onboard with …..change, that feared word!

  9. It is the parents fault if a public school is underperforming. Education begins at home, with supportive families, and going to the library. But, your research is skewed because those demographics are not announced or not included. Only test data.

    • If “education begins at home,” as you assert, why spend so much on superintendents, principals, teachers and admin? I have given my children a better education at home for less than $5,000/year than they ever got for $20,000/year in my district. Even a truly exceptional private school is only $12,000. School districts are shameful, wasteful and unaccountable to student outcomes. Public Education should be canceled for non-performance.

      Your comments make you sound like a teachers union crony puppet. Turn off their nonsense false rhetoric and do some critical thinking about this based on the hard facts that public education is failing in Alaska and the majority of people know it.

  10. Bob Griffin and I studied this problem fifteen years ago and found the solution which no one at the time or since wanted to hear about. Dr Bill Ouchi wrote a seminal couple of books that he spent over twenty years researching and solved this very issue of cost vs performance. Dr Ouchi even volunteered to come discuss his well researched and documented solution with our state leaders at the time. They all refused. The Secret of TSL is the book.

  11. Funny he should tub thump on Charter schools when it’s almost impossible to get one approved by either Borough or the chicken$$$$ State education board. The commissioner is feckless in that regard as well. This is just politics as usual. Nothing to see here. The administration isn’t promoting charter schools but he sure likes to ride their coat tails.

  12. The decline of our public schools began shortly after unions were approved for government workers. The union leaders care only about increasing membership (and dues) and cementing power. The kids are not a priority. Decertification of teacher’s unions is the only fix for declining schools.


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