Sen. Loki Tobin (D-Anchorage) is doubling down in objecting to the idea of holding Alaska’s public schools accountable for any increases they may receive in educational spending.
Tobin is one of several lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Senate who are pushing Senate Bill 52, which entails a massive $250 million increase in school spending. Yet, she simultaneously – and adamantly – opposes requiring school districts to demonstrate any measurable educational improvements with the added money.
In a recent email sent to her supporters, Tobin blamed media “spin” and “misrepresenting data or omitting relevant facts,” along with a “concerted effort to complicate” her plan to flood the educational system with additional public funds.
Currently, Alaska spends $20,000 in state, federal and local money on each and every public school student, annually. Tobin says that’s not enough, arguing that schools simply need more administrators, programs, interventions, trainings, nurses, psychologists, teachers, school buildings and an ever-larger overall apparatus.
In particular, Tobin wants to increase the Base Student Allocation by as much as $1,000 per student. Critics, however, point to the fact that Alaska students have been at the very bottom of the nation in terms of reading and math scores for the better part of a decade, and that any increases must be tied to strict accountability measures.
Tobin admits that test scores aren’t great, but she isn’t interested in accountability.
“The most frustrating argument against an increase to the BSA is that we must first have more ‘accountability,’” she complained. “No one disputes that the statewide assessment results are disappointing but reading and math assessments do not tell the full picture of student success or failure, and it is disingenuous to pretend they do.”
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Tobin offered a litany of excuses as to why Alaska’s public schools perform so badly at teaching basic reading and math. At one point, her message blamed homeschool parents for not letting some kids take the assessment scores. She did not explain, however, how a few homeschool kids opting out of the test would change the dismal scores by the vast majority of standard school students.
She also claimed that “assessments are not infallible tools and do not tell us whether a young person will succeed later in life.” She added that “a young person’s potential should not be measured by a single, point-in-time analysis.”
Few would argue that test scores tell the entire story, but when 77% of Alaska’s public school students fail math, while another 70% can’t read at grade level, it raises concerns about what schools are doing with the public’s money.