Bob Griffin

In what conservative Alaska legislators characterized as an open “political attack” against one of the strongest champions for homeschool, charter and correspondence education, 11 Republican lawmakers joined all Democrats in the Alaska Legislature to reject Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reappointment of Bob Griffin to the State Board of Education.

In the wake of Alaska’s disastrous academic performance over the past couple of decades, Griffin has been one of the most outspoken and tireless advocates for Alaska’s popular and rapidly growing correspondence and homeschool programs, as well as an avid supporter of parent-controlled charter schools.

He has become a target of Democrats, teacher union leaders and liberal educational activists, however, for voting to protect girls’ sports from males who claim to be women, while supporting the state’s practice of reimbursing homeschool and correspondence families for classes and instructional opportunities at private and religious educational institutions.

By removing Griffin, these lawmakers insured that he would not have a voice in crafting regulations to support state-funded correspondence programs.

During his May 7 confirmation vote before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature, hardline leftist lawmakers maligned Griffin’s character by leveling a litany of unsubstantiated, vague and openly partisan attacks on his performance as a State Education Board member over the past five years.

The Republicans who assisted Democrats in removing Griffin included Representatives Stanley Wright of Anchorage, Jesse Sumner of Wasilla, Will Stapp of Fairbanks, Louise Stutes of Kodiak and Julie Coulombe of Anchorage. GOP Senators who voted to oust Griffin were Gary Stevens of Kodiak, Click Bishop of Fairbanks, Jesse Bjorkman of Nikiski, Bert Stedman of Sitka, Kelly Merrick of Eagle River, and Cathy Giessel of Anchorage.

By removing Griffin, these lawmakers insured that he would not have a voice in crafting regulations to support state-funded correspondence programs, a task the Education Board will likely undertake this summer in an effort to protect homeschool allotments in the wake of a recent lower-court opinion that claims it is unconstitutional to spend public money to reimburse parents for the cost of having their children access educational opportunities provided by private or religious organizations.

During debate over Griffin’s reappointment, Rep. Loki Tobin (D-Anchorage) falsely accused Griffin of attempting to misrepresent himself as a member of the Department of Education during a recent public meeting. She also claimed he was out of line for supporting the state’s practice of reimbursing homeschool families for opportunities provided by private and religious organizations, and said he should not have used his professional expertise to put together presentations advocating for his educational positions. Offering no examples, she also claimed he “misrepresented” data and violated the public trust by urging lawmakers to support Gov. Dunleavy’s decision earlier this year to veto a massive increase to per-student funding unless it also included meaningful educational reforms.

Tobin’s litany of complaints included claims that Griffin did not favor mandatory testing of correspondence students and didn’t support safe schools because he voted against expensive and controversial public school maintenance projects while serving on the education board. Lastly, Tobin blamed Griffin for failing to ensure proper implementation of the Alaska Reads Act, which was passed by lawmakers last year in an attempt to address the state’s dismal reading scores.

“I’m sorry he has angered some folks with his opinions,” he said, adding that Griffin’s data is “irrefutable.”

Sen. Shelley Hughes responded to Tobin’s attacks on Griffin with an impassioned defense.

She clarified that Griffin actually did support increased per-student spending, but not without meaningful reforms and accountability. She also pointed out that Griffin never falsely represented himself as a member of the Department of Education. The fact that the minutes of the meeting in question listed him as such was a “mistake in the minutes,” not anything Griffin did.

She also challenged Tobin’s assertion that Griffin should be removed for voting against a costly school improvement proposal.

“It seemed to imply that if you’re on the State School Board, you’re obligated to vote ‘yes’ if you really support students and you’re doing your duty,” Hughes said. “If the person doesn’t have an option to vote ‘no,’ why is the capital improvement list put before the state board?”

Hughes said Griffin voted against the capital improvement list because it included $102 million for a single school that served 170 students.

“That’s why he voted no … at some point we have to look at what it is costing for some of these schools, and we need to downscale,” she said.

“Perhaps he’ll be one victim to our cancel culture that doesn’t like opposition, especially when it’s effective. If we don’t like data, we call it misinformation.”

Hughes then challenged Tobin’s assertion that Griffin wasn’t “following the constitution” by differing with a recent Superior Court judge’s opinion that reimbursing homeschoolers for expenses from private or religious educational institutions was unconstitutional, a ruling that is currently being challenged by the state with an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Hughes argued Griffin had every right to simply disagree with the opinion of a lower-court judge in a case that is still being played out in the courts.

Rep. David Eastman (R-Wasilla) Eastman also rose in Griffin’s defense, praising him as an “outspoken advocate for correspondence programs,” and warning his colleagues that rejecting Griffin’s nomination for political reasons would have a chilling effect on the free speech of any Alaskan who serves on a state board.

“It is clear to me that there is a political attack against this appointee,” he said. “There is nothing unethical about a member of the board having a position on those policies.”

Rep. Maxine Dibert (D-Fairbanks), however, suggested Griffin should keep silent on his views, and blamed him for writing opinion pieces for Alaska media outlets, even though he clearly stated that these were his own opinions, not those of the state board.

“I question the need for him to push his own agenda,” Dibert said. “While it may not be unethical, his opinion pieces appear to be disingenuous to the positions he is holding.”

Rep. Kevin McCabe (R-Big Lake) responded.

“I’m sorry he has angered some folks with his opinions,” he said, adding that Griffin’s data is “irrefutable.”

“I think we make a mistake when we try to remove opposing views from a board such as this,” McCabe added. “We should be celebrating opposing views. We have to have a balanced board.”

Rep. Ben Carpenter (R-Nikiski) was perhaps the most blunt in his defense of Griffin.

“I think we’ve heard a half-truths and one-sided opinions, maybe a few red herrings thrown out in order to discredit a volunteer, an Alaskan whose very hard working, highly intelligent, successful, passionate about improving Alaska’s education system, who’s clearly opposed by the education lobby,” he told his colleagues. “Perhaps he’ll be one victim to our cancel culture that doesn’t like opposition, especially when it’s effective. If we don’t like data, we call it misinformation.”

Rep. McCormick

Carpenters comments clearly stirred the ire of Rep. C.J. McCormick (D-Bethel) who was caught on video scowling at Carpenter during his address.

Most of Dunleavy’s other 80 appointees to boards and commissions were approved, including education board members Barbara Tyndall and Pamela Dupras who have been reliable conservative votes. Lawmakers also approved Colonel Torrence Saxe, commander of the Alaska National Guard, to be Lt. Gov. Dahlstrom’s successor if defeats U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola in November and then resigns from her current office.


Below is the contact information for the 11 Republican lawmakers who voted against Bob Griffin’s reappointment to the State Board of Education.

— Rep. Jesse Sumner of Wasilla

— Rep. Stanley Wright of Anchorage

— Rep. Will Stapp of Fairbanks

— Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak

— Rep. Julie Coulombe of Anchorage

— Sen. Jesse Bjorkman of Nikiski

— Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka

— Sen. Kelly Merrick of Eagle River

— Sen. Gary Stevens of Kodiak

— Sen. Click Bishop of Fairbanks

— Sen. Cathy Giessel of Anchorage

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

11 GOP lawmakers join Dems’ attack to boot homeschool champ from Alaska Education Board

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Pencil Sharpener says:

    Sumner and Bjorkman have not surprised me here, but they sure do continue to disappoint.

  • Mark says:

    “In the wake of Alaska’s disastrous academic performance over the past couple of decades,…” Is it just an interesting fact that during the same “past couple of decades” we have had a governors office and a legislature that is republican controlled and they have underfunded and play politics with our Constitutionally mandated education system? Correlation or causation?

  • Dee Cee says:

    Bye bye school choice!
    Alaskan republicans defecting to undermine themselves. Again.

    • Proud Alaskan says:

      It’s still your choice parents, to home school or put your children in private schools

      • Dee Cee says:

        Have you ever tried to homeschool your kids? I have. It’s a lot easier with access to resources than it was back in the 1990s when my mom homeschooled me. Do you have any experience with it yourself, Proud Alaskan?? Any observations about the outcomes of homeschooled kids vs latchkey public schoolers? Or is the dumpster fire we know as Alaskan Public schools simultaneously the most expensive and the lowest performing piss-pot of perfection that we should all just continue to tolerate?

  • Darrell Harmon says:

    Unbelievable. Correct me, I’m just a public school educated bunkin, but this is theater right? Someone made a decision behind closed doors and our reps and senators just take orders from above them in their ranks and not from the people, correct?

    • Dee Cee says:

      Correct. The people above them in this case are the NEA’s lobbyists. $cha-ching$

  • Mark says:

    “As Arizona approaches two years since the universal expansion of the school voucher program, researchers at the Brookings Institution found that vouchers are handed out in disproportionately high numbers to families living in wealthy areas.”

  • John. J. Otness says:

    just call them bolsheviks…its what they are,

  • Richard H Russell says:

    As usual, many of Alaska’s legislators are forgetting that they were elected by the people of Alaska, but seem to think that they were selected by God.

  • Akdale says:

    and..the politicians will be voted back in. everyone whines about the politicians yet either the whiners don’t vote, or vote them back in. also just say no to govt money and control of your life. own it folks. Weak never wins

  • micah says:

    Gary Stevens and Louise Stutes are way past their sell by date. They are completely bought and sold by the teachers unions and no longer represent the interests of their constituents.

    Kodiak needs new leadership.

  • jon says:

    Good news for public education win AK. My sons received an excellent education in Alaska public schools.

    • Mary H Rapp says:

      Sorry Jon, but I have bad news. With the exception of one grandchild who was self-motivated, loved reading and practically self-educated, all my other five grandchildren had a lousy education. One was so bullied that the parents became worried over his depression that they decided to home school him. He’s doing great now, and will be done in 2 years. I worked in the trenches back in the 70’s when teachers were allowed to really teach, so know how broken our education system has gotten. I was able to help my grandkids during the summers to fill out all the education holes left out during their regular school year, but most kids have not been that lucky. The teacher’s union was helpful until it became militant and politically self-serving back in the mid seventies. Teachers have never learned to stand up against their incompetent union, but keep bowing their heads in servitude. Until NEA is brought to its knees, our public education system will keep on being broken. Sadly, those in the lower income segment of society will be the hardest hit unless we get vouchers. The union here is too strong and will never allow it. Alaska’s education is not excellent, but actually at the bottom of the education barrel.

      • Mark says:

        Unions fighting for good pay and benefits for teachers are not the problem. I applaud your commitment to your grandchildren’s education. Bullying is an administrative issue, administrators are accountable to parent advisory councils. As parents and citizens We should be involved in those councils. It is the most basic form of democracy. Most of the studies of the impacts of vouchers and charter schools show that they benefit higher income folks. It certainly won’t help our villages and small towns where the resources don’t exist to create 2 education systems. Kinda seems like we are parroting low 48 talking points when we should be looking at solutions that fit our unique and awesome states challenges. We are not the lower 48!

    • DaveMaxwell says:

      Marijuana: check. DEI card: check. Pronoun: check. Penis hiding underwear: check. Rainbow flag: check. Face mask: check. Backpack: check. Jon’s kids are ready for school!

  • Gabby says:

    Great article, Joel! It’s really sad that the greatest performing schools in our state, even nation, are undermined by legislators on both sides of the isle to appease NEA lobbyists that do not have the backs of good teachers. Watch parental rights go down the drain while students graduate not being able to send a professional email or calculate simple interest. Another option is to act. Districts need to provide accountability for further funding. It’s not that hard to teach a child to read when you leave politics out of the classroom. Please contact your representatives and share your disappointment in their level of service.

  • Sharon says:

    I don’t forget when it’s time to vote.

  • Dave says:

    It would be very appreciated if our legislators would allow this question on the ballot pursuing a possible change in the wording of our constitution to clearly allow funded school choice with funding attached to the student wherever they choose to attend within Alaska. Public school or otherwise.

  • Kathy L. says:

    I remember my parents being concerned about public schools in the 1970’s! They know that if the state gets ahold of young minds, they can indoctrinate them to their agenda…against the parents, against morals, against God. And then get them to do their bidding. Praise God that He is in control and is always at work bringing folks back to Himself no matter how they grew up or what they were taught.

  • John J Otness says:

    A demon emanating from McCormick,,, what a shot…

    • Jeanette Exner says:

      Why do you think Alaska Watchman chose that particular photo?

      • Framed says:

        Perhaps because it captures the comically irrational contempt in which Democrats tend to hold conservative view points.