State Sen. Loki Tobin (D-Anchorage) blasted her fellow lawmakers who are wary of pumping hundreds of millions in additional funding into Alaska’s failing public education system without added accountability measures.

Tobin’s Feb. 13 speech on the Senate Floor echoed teacher union talking points which have have flooded lawmakers phones, emails and offices over the past two weeks. Specifically, they want at least $250 million more in public education spending.

Others, however, point to the latest round of statewide assessments, which show that the vast majority of public school students have failed to master basic reading or math skills. This has spurred lawmakers and education reform advocates to demand greater accountability before any additional money is poured into Alaska’s struggling education system.

“So let’s stop using the false narrative of more accountability in our schools to justify not doing our job.”

Alaska Sen. Loki Tobin (D-Anchorage)

Tobin, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and is a leading advocate behind the controversial education funding bill (SB 52), does not want to hear about more accountability.

“Mr. President, over this past week, we’ve been hearing the need for more accountability before we can adequately fund education,” she said. “It’s a weird rallying cry. What does more accountability actually mean? So far, nobody has really been able to define it. So let me try to unpack it.”

In Tobin’s estimation, accountability is not so much about tying funding to actual performance, as it is making sure lawmakers are accountable to approve additional spending.

She claimed Alaska’s schools are already accountable because they participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as NAEP.

“This data is publicly available, and used by local teachers, principals, superintendents and local school boards because it’s at the local level that these tools have efficacy, Mr. President,” Tobin said.

What she didn’t mention is that NAEP scores reveal that the vast majority of Alaska’s students are not proficient in either reading or math.

While Tobin briefly noted her “disappointment” in the data, she said Alaska already has adequate accountability through the recently passed Alaska Reads Act, which she said is already “chocked full of accountability measures.” Passed last year, the Act has not yet been implemented, but it does contain a number of accountability measures related to reading performance.

Ultimately, though, Tobin said she doesn’t ascribe to the whole notion of assessment tests as a means of holding schools accountable.

“Personally, I don’t like talking about third-grade reading scores on a statewide level,” she said. “I find it disingenuous.”

Ultimately, Tobin thinks those who call for educational accountably are disingenuous.

“When I hear we need more accountability in our public schools, Mr. President, I hear a thinly veiled political talking point that demands we defund education,” she asserted. “So let’s stop using the false narrative of more accountability in our schools to justify not doing our job.”

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AK lawmaker demands more educational funds, while deriding calls for greater accountability

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.