Safe schools, strong foundation in basic skills, vision for future all part of equation

Building world-class school system

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2001

Alaska is one of the most prosperous states in the United States, and as such our children should have the best education possible. Every child deserves a world-class education in a safe, drug-free environment where the best, brightest and most devoted teachers teach them. We are very fortunate to have exceptional teachers on the Kenai Peninsula.

"We can no longer afford to educate today's students in yesterday's schools for tomorrow's opportunities."

-- Author unknown

First, it is critical we teach our children the basic skills at an early age. By the time they reach high-school age, they must have the knowledge and talent to compete in a world our generation can only imagine.

Legislators must choose to make education of future generations our top priority. Studies estimate that more than 30 percent of education dollars never reach the classroom, but are lost in bureaucracies on local, state and federal level. Efficient management is the key.

Students cannot learn if they have to constantly look over their shoulders concerned for their safety. I am currently working on legislation to ensure schools take immediate action to quell situations having the potential to erupt into physical violence. It is disturbing children take weapons to school, sometimes without the realization of deadly consequences. Teachers have to be much more sensitive to the tone and attitude of students carrying weapons.

During the past two years, the presence of drugs, alcohol, GHB, marijuana and Ecstacy is on the increase in our schools. In some instances, educators do not recognize these substances until they are educated to look for signs and symptoms. The education process is an ongoing effort of local police, Alaska State Troopers, emergency medical technicians and Central General Peninsula General Hospital.

Students must make sure they know how to utilize future technology. Regardless of the job choices our children make, they will be exposed to complex technology. Skills needed to accomplish jobs today are broader and deeper than in past years -- broader involving technical skills and deeper involving problem-solving, creative and people skills. It is very clear that higher skills once needed only by management are now needed by most everyone. Workers at all levels need technical skills, the skills to adapt to change, increased responsibility and to demonstrate a critical understanding of their jobs.

If we give our children a world-class education in a safe, comfortable environment, we have the possibility of nurturing outstanding citizens. Our children will have the opportunity to make a good living, regardless of their chosen vocation. I am dedicated to do my part. My wife, Tanna, and I have four school-age children and are very involved in their education. With parental involvement and volunteerism, we can all work together to ensure that future Alaska generations will live happy, productive lives, regardless of the vocation they choose.

As the Class of 2001 steps up to the podium to accept their diplomas, let us take a look at incoming kindergartners and have vision to anticipate their needs, and give them every opportunity they deserve, and go one step further and anticipate opportunities not yet conceivable.

Join me in doing whatever you can by volunteering, nurturing and encouraging our children to be the best they can be. Our children deserve to have the highest aspirations, and the environment to attain personal goals.

I encourage every person, young and old, to contact my office at 1-800-469-3779 or through the Legislative Information Office in Kenai. Staffs in both offices assist people with problems with state government every day, from child support enforcement to permanent fund dividends. My office can only help if you pick up the phone and call.

And, as always, it is an honor to serve Nikiski, Kenai and Kalifornsky Beach in the Alaska House of Representatives.

Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, is in his first year of legislative office.

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