The Juneau Empire editorial published in the Feb. 6 Peninsula Clarion caught my eye and stimulated me to reflect on some of my experiences with education in Alaska. I think those experiences speak to a major problem in our approach to educating our children and particularly here in Alaska.
In 1976 the beginning salary for a new teacher in the Kenai Peninsula Borough was about $26,000. This salary was based on the new teacher’s investment of 4 years of study, of thousands of dollars in tuition, living expenses and of four years of lost wages.
At the same time period, oil companies were offering salaries of, as I recall, about $60,000 to beginning employees with a high school diploma. At the time I recall thinking about the message this tells us about the values and priorities of Americans and Alaskans.
For example, teachers have a major responsibility for educating and preparing our children for life and success. I add that in my opinion our children are our most valuable resource and their development should be our highest priority.
In contrast the dollar salaries disparity told me that the powers that be in Alaska placed a higher value on the development of our oil resources than they do on the development of our children. Try to imagine a high school teacher trying to convey the value of further education to young students eager to begin earning big money.
Fast forward to today, the situation seems to remain the same or maybe worse. Our governor and legislature have passed a bill giving about $1.5 billion to the oil companies annually and reducing state funding of our schools.
The Anchorage School District has reduced their budgets about $25 million for the last two years. This is not the type of government I want to have for Alaska and Alaskans. I want a government that is working in the best interests of all Alaskans and particularly putting our children and their futures first.