Is there a Santa Claus who can deliver education funding?

As a kid growing up in rural Alaska, Christmas was special. We’d hunt for the perfect Christmas tree and write up our wishlist for Santa Claus in case he was real.

Nowadays, as business manager for a statewide trade union, I again find myself making a list to Santa.

Dear Santa,

My own kids always put their biggest ask at the top of the list just in case it’s the only thing they get so I too will get right down to business this Christmas: Alaska needs adequate education funding.

You see, Santa, more than $6.2 billion dollars has been allocated for infrastructure projects for Alaska. This will take electricians, engineers, project managers, accountants, support staff, medical professionals, financiers, communications specialists, heavy equipment operators and other skilled tradespeople. The trouble is, we are short on workers of every kind and we don’t have elves like you do Santa. We need students to graduate with real life skills to fill those jobs and money in the budget to allow for it.

Santa could you please include something in your pack to raise the Base Student Allocation?

The Anchorage School District already offers training in aviation, child care, electrical, lifesaving, culinary, IT, design and is currently transforming to a career academy system. Our university system offers dual degree programs for high school students as well as certifications and credentialing in many areas. Some rural school districts are able to offer Career Technical Education (CTE) but we need to attract and retain instructors to do this.

I don’t know if every child in the district has been naughty or nice this past year but I know one thing. I was a kid who got coal in my stocking sometimes and it was public education that helped turn me around. I had teachers who believed in me and set me on a path to a career as electrician. It’s the reason I am writing to you, Santa. Because I think grown-ups must all believe that kids today deserve the ability to live their best life and that comes from learning.

We are grateful for the federal funding Alaskans were given last year but Santa, if we don’t have people trained and available to build out the broadband and grid projects it will be like when you sometimes forget to include the batteries when you deliver new toys — it won’t work.

If students from rural Alaska have more access to training and apprenticeships, this model will work.

Santa, can you add some funding to see this through?

I know this may be a lot to ask, Santa, but I keep thinking about the future of our state. It is poised to be a great one but we need your help. I have seen the difference good pay, health benefits and a retirement plan can make in a person’s life and kids these days deserve that too.

Oh, and Santa, if your reindeer ever decide to retire, I’ve got some electrical apprentices that can upgrade that old sleigh with electronic vehicle components and some of the students in the high school aviation programs can probably make it fly.

Our state needs a reliable education system and our economy needs skilled workers. So, Santa, as you travel around the world this holiday season, please don’t forget the students here in Alaska. We want to be able to tell each one of them, with confidence, that yes, children, there is a Santa Claus.

Doug Tansy is the business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547, which represents more than 4,000 electrical, communications, construction, government and health care workers across the state of Alaska.