NEA Alaska President Says Teachers Should Not Be Armed

State education officials are in Atlanta for a national assembly. National Education Association Alaska President Ron Fuhrer says representatives from all 50 states believe they have as much if not more information about how to reform public education than lawmakers do. Fuhrer said in light of recent school shooting tragedies there is a heightened concern over school safety, but he says that doesn’t mean teachers should be armed.

“The last thing that an educator should be concerned about is trying to shoot someone, ” Fuhrer said. “They should be there looking after the students, providing them a safe exit and not concerned about confronting someone in the school building.”

Fuhrer said educators believe that schools are generally safe and safety drills are performed regularly. Fuhrer says current immigration policy has a harmful impact on students. He says reform that creates a path to citizenship needs to happen.

“We need an immigration reform that creates a road map to citizenship for immigrants who have been a part of our communities and families for years. And we hope a bipartisan immigration bill makes it way to the floor,” he said.

Fuhrer said adequate school funding in Alaska has been challenging and troubling. He said there has not been an increase in the base student allocation in Alaska in four years and schools across the state are cutting their budgets every year.

“While at the same time, our state has one of if not the highest surpluses in resources for the last four years,” he said. “Granted, oil prices were high, but we’re nearing 20 billion in savings over the last four years where we’ve had no net increase, so I’m still trying to wrap my head around that scenario where we’re one of the richest states but we don’t increase the funding for our future which is our students.”
Fuhrer said the controversy over funding private schools must be clarified. He said there is a big difference between charter schools that operate within the public school system and private schools that are religious or for-profit entities.  He said Alaska has one of the best charter school laws in the country and charter immersion programs operating within the school districts in Alaska do well and don’t increase administrative costs because they operate within the districts.

“These charter schools,  there could be more of them that are more tailor made to certain constituencies , unfortunately we’re not getting the funding, but then some legislators want to quote, unquote ‘use the public funding for these private, religious or for profit charter schools,” he said.

“If this were to be done, they would be outside the public school system and they would have to create their own administration, increasing costs, not decreasing costs.”

Two pieces of legislation dealing with using public dollars for private schools were brought forward in the last legislative session.

One would have amended the state constitution to allow state money to flow to private schools. Another bill would have allowed private schools to be formed outside public school districts. Currently only public school districts can develop charter schools in Alaska.

Neither bill made it to the floor for a vote but both pieces of legislation could come up again next year.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin.

She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director.

In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN.

Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley.

She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests.

ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori