As a parent, former professor, and employer, I know how important education is to the success of our state and each of our citizens. Alaska’s constitution requires the Legislature to maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and establishes the University of Alaska as our state university. To fulfill their constitutional missions, our public schools and our state university must be funded. We must view them, not just as government costs we must bear, but as critical investments in our future.
Studies have repeatedly shown that high-wage states are those with a well-educated workforce. People who have higher education – starting with a high school degree – have higher incomes, lower unemployment rates, lower crime rates, and improved health and decreased mortality rates. Investment in education – beginning with early childhood education – is one of the best investments government can make.
While most educational tasks and most educational funding responsibilities rest with the states, the federal government plays an important role through programs like the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act, Title I assistance for schools with high numbers of children from low-income families, and Head Start programs. I support the continuation and strengthening of these programs.
Making College Affordable
The State of Alaska and the federal government must do more to make college affordable. Many high productivity/high income countries — such as Germany, Norway and Sweden — make college and trade school tuition-free. The United States has not yet followed that path, but our citizens are rightly demanding that we reduce the cost of higher education. Important steps that the federal government can take now — and which I support – include reducing federal student loan rates, allowing students with existing student loans to refinance at today’s low prevailing interest rates, and increasing federal Pell Grants and other need-based college aid programs. It is critical for our country’s future success that our colleges and trade schools do not saddle our young men and women with crippling student debt as they are attempting to launch their careers and contribute to society.