By LEIGH SLOAN
As a nation educates its children, so goes the nation. Do you want to see what our nation will look like in 10, 20, 50 or 100 years? Look no further than our schools. In the same way, as Alaska educates her children, so goes the state.
Alaska was once an educational beacon, but now we are scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to educational outcomes. People are leaving the state. Enrollment numbers in public education are rapidly declining. It’s no secret we have a problem. We are not reaping a very significant return on our hefty investment of education dollars. We are losing out on our most important natural resource: human capital.
While a slow drift in Alaska’s education might not feel urgent, it is an issue that we should all be concerned about. It’s not funding that is the problem— it’s who is controlling the funding that makes all the difference.
Economies work best when the individuals who are most invested in the outcome are empowered to make the decisions concerning any business, entity, or individual. A company’s owners and investors should have more say than the average person on the street concerning a business because they have the most skin in the game. A person’s family should have more of a direct say in how their loved ones are cared for when there is a health crisis. Things generally work best when the closest stakeholders are empowered with those important decisions.
The brilliant strategy of various school choice efforts are to shift the decision making power of education back into the hands of those who are most invested in its outcomes: the students and their parents. If we fail in education, the people most directly affected are those students.
It’s time we elevate their voices and back them up with the funding they need to make those very important decisions for themselves. They should be able to make the choices that are most closely aligned with their deeply held personal and cultural values. When more of the funding follows the child, suddenly what parents and students want is finally heard over noise of the bureaucratic machine.
This 2023 we celebrate and elevate the importance of increased family empowerment through school choice. Starting on January 21st at the Sheraton Anchorage, we will come together for a School Choice Celebration. This day marks the statewide kickoff of School Choice Week, a national effort to increase awareness and advocacy of of school choice in America. On this day from 10 am to 12:30 pm, school choice advocates, schools, nonprofits, and business supporters will convene to celebrate the choices we do have in Alaska and advocate for more.
This year Gov. Mike Dunleavy has re-affirmed his support of school choice by signing his second School Choice Proclamation, officially acknowledging School Choice Week for Alaska 2023.
Schools around the state who also want to empower families with greater education choice are encouraged to participate in this week’s school choice festivities from January 21st to the 28th. There are some great ideas at schoolchoiceweek.com to help educate your own community about school choice.
If you are a school choice supporter who wants to empower families in a greater way, or if you just want to learn more, come to this School Choice Celebration! Speakers include community leaders like Kelly Tshibaka, Nick Begich, and Stephanie Taylor. You’ll get to interact with vendors who provide great educational solutions for our students. With free goodies and performances from local multicultural talent, it will be a fun experience for the whole family.