Leigh Sloan: As the schools go, so goes the nation



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. 


    • Looks like it M.A., and there is no time left to lose – WE MUST FIGHT FOR OUR KIDS and the future! No more trusting the government baby-sitting service. This is no time to give up.

      • Back when I had kids in school, I was always amazed by how few parents bothered to meet teachers, volunteer at school, attend school board meetings, ect.

        My kids friends parents would complain. I asked why I didn’t see them at see above. They would get defensive and offered up any and every kind of defense.

        Bottom line. I was involved, they weren’t.

        The single most important vote anyone can cast is for local school board.

        • MA, back when our son was in High School my wife at a school function whereby parents got to speak with teachers she noticed one teacher with nobody lined up to speak with him and she asked him why. His reply was that he was not teaching any “advanced placement” classes that semester.
          Some parents are more involved than others, no question about it IMO.

  1. Like I said, find the gifted curriculum materials for the grade level your kid is working at. Buy the entire set kit and kaboodle. Work with it at home. Refute any lies. Continue. ASD will segregate the various kids from the curriculum materials. The enriched material will be taught in the same room as your kid but your kid will be in remedial adult ed reading materials and you’ll never know. The family is responsible for educating completely their offspring. No getting out of it. You don’t have time to screw around.

  2. We need some type of change. Our current system is an absolute failure. It’s a combination of many things…Woke teachers who teach social engineering opposed to the three Rs, unruly children from broken homes, mentally ill children, ill maintained facilities, and there’s much more.

  3. Best thing parents can do is home or private school. Neighborhoods need to band together an create a home school environment for themselves.

  4. I agree with the author, as far as she goes, but she overlooks the fact that there are an ever-increasing mountain of regulations, rules and mandates on so-called “alternative” and “charter” schools, and even on private schools as well, that are making the meaningful differences between them and the ‘normal’ public schools less and less all the time.

  5. Sadly, at least half of our children do not acquire basic proficiency in arithmetic. No one, regardless of ethnicity or pronouns, should be unable to make change. We spend more than almost any other state. How can teachers and unions think this is acceptable?

    • The teachers’ unions don’t give a rip about education – they pay lip service to the product to keep the tax dollars flowing to their members in ever-increasing amounts… The unions’ job is to get more money for their members and better benefits and working conditions – and when their system’s failure becomes apparent, blame and demonize parents to protect their members. Many teachers really do care and want to see their students succeed (note possessive pronoun…). But the one who defines the “outcome” (success is a prejudicial term…) and controls how to get there are defining for the teacher, who merely delivers for the system and enjoys relating to the kids. Get the evil out of our schools and return to the classic 3Rs – no more social engineering.

    • Because they really don’t care about kids. Really don’t.

      There are a lot of teachers I know in Juneau who want to do more/do better. But they don’t because there are too many institutional obstacles in the way.

      I know a couple teachers in Fla of all places who took pay cuts to get out of public Ed so they could actually teach.

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