By REP. KEVIN MCCABE
Recent events in the Alaska Legislature and in Alaska have brought a new, yet pervasive, problem to light: People will do, or say, anything if it pushes their agenda forward.
It apparently does not matter if you are a teacher, an advocate for Right to Life in Alaska, a school district administrator, a reporter, or one of the many people who are taken in by these comments and pass them along without a thought to their veracity.
The first sacrificed truth is from a diatribe from Alaska Right to Life, attacking Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton for not removing some legislators who the group feels are not as “right-to-life” as they should be.
Notwithstanding the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the missive they published, the truth is that it is just not possible without some dangerous repercussions.
Consider that the House Majority is not a binding caucus. Because of this, Speaker Tilton cannot remove a person from any committee by herself. She needs the support of at least 21 members of the House Majority Caucus to do so. So, the truth is that the only way to do what the Alaska Right to Life says they want her to accomplish is to disband the House Majority altogether.
Alaska Right to Life knows this, but is that what Alaskans really want? I am sure you don’t and I know I sure don’t. But I am left wondering about the true agenda of Alaska Right to Life: Why have they sacrificed the truth?
Next up we have watched very senior school administrators, district officials, and even some elected officials, sacrificing the truth for what they call “education funding.”
The truth is that a Base Student Allocation increase is not education funding.
The BSA goes to the school districts, not the teachers or classrooms in any appreciable amount. School districts have variable expenses, such as heat and energy, but how well are they being managed? That should be the question every parent who wants the truth should be asking.
The $1,413-per-student that school districts are demanding is derived from merely entering the last Base Student Allocation increase (from 2006) into an online “inflation calculator.” This amount has no basis in reality and the math is pretty nebulous. The truth is that $1,413 is far above what most school districts need (and they don’t want an audit or even to be transparent for some reason) and this amount is far above what we can afford.
Among other misinformation, the assertion that we haven’t augmented “education funding” since 2006 is quite disheartening.
You can see that, contrary to this sacrificed truth, the Legislature has allocated nearly $450 million dollars toward “education” since 2002. Additionally, the truth is there were hikes in education funding in 2017 and again last year.
Also bear in mind the truth that a $1,413 increase in the Base Student Allocation will cost almost $400 million dollars. Where is the money going to come from?
The answer is one truth they do not want you to consider. The money will almost certainly come from your Permanent Fund dividend. There is no other pot of money to accomplish this funding. The truth is that even a $300 increase in the Base Student Allocation surpasses the total of all other increases combined. But that doesn’t fit the agenda, so you won’t be told that truth.
Next truth sacrificed is the idea that teachers do not want bonuses and that bonuses “don’t work.” The truth is that bonuses have consistently proven to be effective in incentivizing retention and hiring throughout the world. This holds true in the military, aviation industry, and virtually every other business or career field at one time or another. Many careers in the state right now, such as bus drivers, CDL and equipment operators, medical professionals, and others receive hiring and retention bonuses.
Why are the alphabet soup groups surrounding education telling everyone that teachers are an exception to this, and would not appreciate or benefit from bonuses?
Oh that’s right – they have an agenda so the truth does not matter.
Why would school districts, teachers’ unions and others sacrificing the truth about charter schools. Is their agenda to protect the neighborhood schools? Do they want to limit parental choice to use a charter school? Is their agenda only to meet enrollment quotas for additional state funding? Parents should ask if school districts are primarily a business, or are they an entity dedicated to delivering high-quality education?
The truth is that a school districts paramount concern should be empowering parents with the option to choose the best educational environment for their children. The truth is that our dialogue should not be about preserving district interests or sustaining neighborhood schools at all costs. It should be about the quality education of our most precious resource.
Next on the chopping block of truth comes the idea that we are experiencing a huge “outmigration” of students. This is also false. Families are not leaving the state in droves.
Instead, the data shows that parent are making choices to homeschool or charter school their kids; school districts should ask themselves why.
As a closing thought, one should note that the Mat-Su School District, which has long committed to prioritizing students and effective teaching, has the lowest cost per student in the state, and the yet their student outcomes have experienced significant improvement in the last two years.
This truth can be attributed to the school board and district leadership’s unwavering dedication to education and placing emphasis on the students rather than money. Why don’t we hear about that truth?
Rep. Kevin McCabe is the House of Representatives member from Big Lake, House District 30 (formerly District 8.) He is a retired 747 captain and is retired from the U.S. Coast Guard.