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

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 an 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 first hand the impact of a positive, healthy environment that children need in which to grow and thrive. Having experienced the foster care system as a child, Les Gara knows the benefits of supporting students outside of the classroom goes 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. 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 that 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.

Winter Marshall-Allen