Winter Marshall-Allen

Point of View: Les Gara for governor, for Alaska’s children, and our public education system

Les Gara has already displayed his commitment to Alaska’s youth during his time in the state Legislature.

Winter Marshall-Allen

Residing in a pristine resource-rich state, such as Alaska, is a blessing. Developing these resources in a culturally responsive and responsible manner is of utmost importance as we look to the future. Our youth are one of those precious resources, and I am honored to be a 15-year educator currently with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District teaching our next generation of leaders. It is necessary for us, the adults and electorate, to ensure this precious resource is not overlooked. One way to ensure the development of the next generation is by electing Les Gara as the next governor of our great state of Alaska.

Les Gara has already displayed his commitment to Alaska’s youth during his time in the state Legislature. He not only moved beyond conversations, but put his words into action via policy. The most recent funding increase for Alaska’s public education came in a bill passed by the State House in 2018. Through the hard work to reach a compromise, which was spearheaded by Les Gara, this bill made way for negotiation of a two-year budget increase, allowing Alaska’s schools to keep up with inflation in 2019 and 2020.

A study published in 2020 (Schochet et al., 2020) reaffirmed prior published evidence validating exposure to publicly funded early childhood education, such as voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, providing students a solid foundation for school readiness and narrowing achievement gaps. Les Gara has strongly advocated, alongside educators, for smaller class sizes and a voluntary pre-K program throughout our state. These actions only begin to demonstrate his dedication to Alaska’s children and their education in our public schools.

Beyond being a strong voice for public education, Les has also been an unwavering advocate for youth in the foster care system. He understands firsthand the impact of providing a positive, healthy environment in which children can grow and thrive. Having experienced the foster care system as a child, Les Gara knows that the benefits of supporting students outside the classroom go a long way in ensuring the desired outcomes in the classroom and community. During his tenure in the Alaska State House from 2003 to 2019, Les worked faithfully to see that our children had the best start to a successful life that will benefit them and Alaska as a whole.

What can we say about our current administration? As a state senator, Gov. Mike Dunleavy pushed for severe cuts in public education funding every year, which necessitated the House blocking those cuts. Dunleavy’s first budget proposed a cut of more than $269,000 in funds for public education (Brehmer, 2019). How do actions like this demonstrate past and current leadership’s desire to develop our children and their education?

Alaska needs a governor who will act in the best interests of our children, who are the next generation of leaders and voters. We deserve a governor who will promote the education of our children and who will help ensure Alaska graduates students who are CTE, college, career, and life ready. These children are the future leaders of our state. Their academic, career and social-emotional development needs to be a priority now when they are young, so when these students become adults, our youth will be able to and want to continue to make Alaska an amazing place to live, work and play. Alaska’s children need Les Gara as the next governor.

Winter Marshall-Allen is a special education instructor at Homer High School and owner and co-founder of H.O.M.E.R. Organization for More Equitable Relations: Education, Wellness & Advocacy.

More in Opinion

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade

The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Physicians oppose Alaska Senate Bill 115 — Independent Practice for PAs

Alaskans don’t want access to just any health care, they want access to high quality care

Norm McDonald is the deputy director of Fire Protection for the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service)
The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
Opinion: This wildfire prevention month, reflect on ways to protect each other and our communities from wildfire

Alaskans saw what happened in Canada last year, and they know it can happen here too