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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Former Educator Hurts Student Opportunity

By Derek Reed


May 17, 2020
Sunday PM

I want Alaska to thrive. That’s why I teach high school. I am a lucky individual who gets to work with the next wave of entrepreneurs, chefs, carpenters, and fishermen, just to name a few. I dedicate my waking hours to ensure Alaskan students have the skills needed to live happy, healthy, productive lives. Investing in students helps Alaska long term; student success equals Alaska’s success. However, due to the constant cuts and politicking from a former educator, Alaska’s success is in jeopardy.

Shockingly, Governor Dunleavy was a classroom teacher, principal, superintendent, and school board member. I’m baffled by his actions, which systematically work against student success, and by extension, the success of our state. Governor Dunleavy promised to reform education, stating ?“it is at the top of his ‘to do.’”? Evidently to him, that means ?cutting K-12 public education? and ?outsourcing teacher’s jobs to Florida? in the midst of a pandemic.

Despite Alaskans’ overwhelming opposition to these drastic measures, he plowed forward with cuts. Cutting education funding - which always results in disruptive staff layoffs - isn’t a recipe for student success. Outsourcing to Florida isn’t how we build a thriving Alaska.

The data is clear: class size matters. Class sizes across Alaska are out of control. Teachers like me are expected to teach 30-35 high school students in one class. High school teachers usually teach five class periods... we can do the math.

Ask any teacher you know; with sizes this large, we are unable to give students the time and feedback they require to succeed. High school teachers are simply, and understandably, overwhelmed. Giving accurate feedback on assignments, teaching students critical thinking, or the how and why (rather than rote memorization), takes time and attention. Any high school teacher with this workload struggles to perform his/her job as it should be done. Early childhood and elementary have similar experiences of crowded classes. I doubt Governor Dunleavy has recently imagined a room full of 30 kindergarten students.

No two students are the same. Rural, road system, and urban students have different needs. In Anchorage, something as simple as a 20 minute drive down the road to a different neighborhood will greatly affect a student’s needs. The only way we can rise to the challenge of this moment and build a better Alaska is to provide adequate funding and support to teachers so they can perform their jobs. At current levels, student needs and safety remain at risk.

Lastly, layoffs aren’t limited to teachers. A thriving school maintains a full support staff: teaching assistants, clerical workers, counselors, janitors, maintenance workers, IT workers, cafeteria workers and security. Eliminating these positions means that teachers are forced to assume new roles on top of their core responsibilities - they become mental health counselors, security staff, or another necessary role.

It baffles me how Mike Dunleavy, who claims to understand student safety and the importance of reasonable class sizes can repeatedly advocate for less funding to our students.

The right to recall has never proved more important. We don’t need to stand by, powerlessly watching Dunleavy weaken Alaska’s investment in our future--our students. If you have not already signed the recall petition in 2020, visit www.? to request your free petition in the mail. We need 40,000 signatures to pose one critical question to Alaskans: shall Governor Michael Dunleavy be recalled? My vote will be, “yes.” For Alaska to thrive, our students must thrive, and for our students to thrive, we need to remove Mike Dunleavy from office.

Derek Reed
Anchorage, Alaska


About: Derek Reed is a high school English teacher in Anchorage, Alaska.


Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.

Received May 12, 2020 - Published May 17, 2020

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