What is Sarah Palin’s record on education as Governor of Alaska? One place to look would be her two State of the State addresses to the Alaska legislature, in which she laid out her plans for education. These speeches do not indicate what was actually enacted into law in the following legislative session, but they offer a glimpse of what Palin hoped to do.
So here are the education sections of her speeches, without comment – except that at the end of the post, I include her office’s release of Alaska’s educational acheivement on standards measures, as recorded in 2008.
Alaskans? How did she do? Comments are open.
I especially invite comments on the contrasts between Sen. McCain’s acceptance speech and Gov. Palin’s speeches.
. . . First, my philosophy: More government is not the answer. But we all know government’s proper role is to help change the conditions to improve lives and economically stimulate communities. Government can’t make you happy, it can’t make you healthy, it can’t make you a productive member of society. Government’s role is to provide the tools.
One such tool is education. My commitment to education is unwavering.
My budget includes fully funding the “K through 12” foundation formula. In addition, I’ve included more than $200 million in new dollars to cover the increased retirement costs for local school districts, so that more local school district dollars get into the classroom, where the money belongs.
Remember, we’re facing a potential $10 billion dollar PERS / TRS retirement plan shortfall that affects local schools. Our $200 million dollar line item for school districts is part of the half BILLION dollar proposal to help the districts, local governments and the state alleviate the pension plan burden while we work with the Legislature on a long-term solution.
I’ve also committed to help provide local school districts with more predictability, for better planning by supporting “early funding of education.” So I’ll introduce a separate education appropriation bill and ask the Legislature to begin work on it immediately and ask that it’s passed within the first 60 days of the session. Our local school districts deserve to know what they have to work with early enough for them to create efficiencies through planning. They shouldn’t have to “pink slip” teachers in the spring, and make “last minute” rehire attempts in the fall.
But my vision for education is NOT only about funding – it’s about changing the way we think about, and operate our schools. It’s not the amount of money we pour into each child, but how we spend the money that counts.
We’ll look at successful education programs statewide and Outside that can be replicated, and we’ll look at new approaches! We’ve got to do something different. Our high school graduation rate is 61%. That’s unacceptable! Our vo-tech opportunities need to grow so that our kids stay in school and then fill the voids in our industries. And at the same time, we need to make sure those who want to go to college are ready.
We know that we need more mechanics, technicians, teachers, doctors, and nurses. We shouldn’t have to import our workforce when it’s growing up before us.
And so a centerpiece of my administration IS our commitment to a “world class education” system. Let’s take education and move beyond No Child Left Behind to ensure that “no ALASKAN is left behind.”
We’ll work with our Congressional delegation to ADAPT federal mandates to fit Alaska. I’m so thankful Sen. Lisa Murkowski is also committed to changing federal requirements so they make sense for the uniqueness here. Flexibility is needed, for rural schools, especially.
To meet our challenges, I’ve asked our departments to bring together the private sector, the Department of Labor, postsecondary institutions, and our wonderful alternative education choices, including home schools, to ensure that students have the skills to meet Alaska’s workforce needs. And, I will continue to ask families and individuals to take more responsibility.
You’ll hopefully find this theme consistent throughout my administration – cooperative efforts and personal accountability. . . .
. . . Challenges lie ahead, but let’s look back at the last year and at some accomplishments. In Education, we are shaping a three-year funding plan to finally shift the school debate from perpetual “money talk” to accountability and achievement! We are focusing on foundational skills needed in the “real-world” workplace and in college. . . .
It is our energy development that pays for essential services, like education. Victor Hugo said, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” It’s a privileged obligation we have to “open education doors.” Every child, of every ability, is to be cherished and loved and taught. Every child provides this world hope. They are the most beautiful ingredient in our sometimes muddied up world. I am committed to our children and their education. Stepping through “the door” is about more than passing a standardized test. We need kids prepared to pass life’s tests – like getting a job and valuing a strong work ethic. Our Three-year Education Plan invests more than a billion dollars each year. We must forward-fund education, letting schools plan ahead. We must stop pink-slipping teachers, and then struggle to recruit and retain them the next year.
We will enable schools to finally focus on innovation and accountability to see superior results. We’re asking lawmakers to pass a new K-12 funding plan early this year. This is a significant investment that is needed to increase the base student allocation, district cost factors and intensive needs students. It includes $100 million in school construction and deferred maintenance. There is awesome potential to improve education, respect good teachers, and embrace choice for parents. This potential will prime Alaska to compete in a global economy that is so competitive it will blow us away if we are not prepared. Beyond high school, we will boost job training and University options. We are proposing more than $10 million in new funding for apprenticeship programs, expansion of construction, engineering and health care degrees to meet demands. But it must be about more than funds, it must be a change in philosophy. It is time to shift focus, from just dollars and cents to “caliyulriit,” which is Yupik for “people who want to work.” Work for pride in supporting our families, in and out of the home. Work for purpose and for action, and ultimately destiny fulfilled by being fruitful. It’s about results and getting kids excited about their future – whether it is college, trade school or military. The Lieutenant Governor and I are working on a plan to make attending Alaska’s universities and trade schools a reality for more Alaskans through merit scholarships.
Education achievement statistics from the Governor’s Office, 2008:
- The number of students who scored proficient or higher in 2007 and maintained that score in 2008 was 60.9% in reading, 54.9% in writing, and 49.7% in math. Those students who demonstrated improvement in their proficiency levels were 14.5% in reading, 12.2% in writing, and 14.2% in math.
- 59% increase in the number of schools achieving annual yearly progress 2003-2007, 328 out of 498 schools were meeting AYP in 2007
- The University of Alaska awarded 587 more degrees in high demand job area (HDJA) programs in FY2007 than FY2003 (a 32% increase) for a total of 2,446 HDJA awards exceeding the FY2007 target by nearly 250 awards.
- 63% of students graduated on time for the 2006-2007 school year, reduced from the 2004-2005 school year by 2%.
- 5.8% dropout rate in grades 7-12 for the 2005-2006 school year, reduced from the prior year’s 6% and meeting the annual target of a 2% decrease
- For FY 2008 the rate of employment for trained participants was 94%. The rate has been within three points of the target of 95% for the last four years.
- Participants trained in Alaska Workforce Investment Board priority industries increased well beyond the 60 percent target to 84 percent in FY 08, representing the highest gain since 2004, and up from previous FY 07 rate of 57 percent.