Rally for Education
"Really? Not again."
That sentiment painted on one of the many protest signs establishes the problem pretty well. Alaska's educational system is falling apart. When I was teaching middle school, I had classes of 35+ students and not enough space for them to even work in the classroom; two students in my history classes had to sit on a bookshelf in the back of the room because there weren't enough desks. That was almost four years ago, and the budget has been slashed multiple times since then. And now, the Alaska State Legislature sits in Juneau doing it once again.
Thursday afternoon, a crowd of high schoolers walked out of their classes and gathered outside the Legislative Information Office downtown. Signs asked drivers to "honk for public education", and many drivers took the time to stop in the middle of the lane and lay on their horns. But is it enough? What is wrong with our system that students should have to ditch class to feel like they're being heard?
One of the things that really gets me is the complete lack of foresight. Funding education and building up a strong population is one of the most important things we can do to avoid a negative trickle-down effect. We've seen a spike in crime in Anchorage and our prisons are overrun. So we talk about a band-aid for that problem rather than thinking about a long-term fix. If we give Alaska's young people the chance to succeed, the chance to make something of themselves, the chance to get out of a bad cycle, then you over time build a community of involved and productive citizens. You can't do that by taking away electives, early education, sports, and stripping districts of high-quality teachers!