This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)

This photo shows the University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: I’m a longtime educator, and I’m supporting Walker/Drygas

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education.

  • By Heather Batchelder
  • Friday, July 29, 2022 11:44pm
  • Opinion

By Heather Batchelder

I have been in education since 1996. I served as a paraprofessional, a special educator, and I currently prepare teachers to work with students who experience exceptionalities. The state of education in Alaska is why I write in support of the Walker/Drygas gubernatorial campaign.

The issues our state faces are significant with regard to education, the teacher shortage and the compounded years of defunding P-12 and post-secondary education systems in Alaska.

Under the Dunleavy administration, the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast and their community campuses endured large budget reductions. Providing inadequate funding for the university system means shrinking the economy as economic growth depends on the availability of skilled workers who are educated within the UA system. A university system that is constantly operating under a crisis cannot maintain faculty and students to meet Alaska’s needs. The cuts to the university system and the elimination of scholarships for students attending the universities have resulted in the loss of faculty, and student enrollments are in a downturn.

Recent news stories have highlighted the severe shortage of teachers in Alaska. An appropriately funded university system can work with the State to alleviate these shortages collaboratively. The National Education Association chapter in Alaska, an educational advocacy group with over 12,000 members statewide, endorsed the Walker /Drygas team for their documented track record of support for education. Alaskans need and deserve a high quality public education system. We have to elect a new governor who supports and funds P-12 education for the public good in a sustainable manner.

Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas are leaders who understand that in order to have a sustainable and prosperous state, we need an appropriately funded stable university system that can maintain faculty and serve student needs now and into Alaska’s future. They each have stated their support for public education and the UA system.

I urge all Alaskans to vote in the upcoming Aug. 16 primary where we will vote for one candidate.

Vote for the Bill Walker/Heidi Drygas team and the future of our state.

Heather Batchelder is an associate professor of education at University of Alaska Southeast.

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