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Gubernatorial Candidates Answer Student Questions

By | April 30, 2014 - 5:30 pm

2014 Gubernatorial candidates answer questions formulated by Anchorage middle schoolers on April 30, 2014. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)

2014 Gubernatorial candidates answer questions formulated by Anchorage middle schoolers on April 30, 2014. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

Middle schoolers from across Anchorage had a chance to hear from Gubernatorial candidates on Wednesday about a variety of issues the state is facing.

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Over 100 students representing all of the Anchorage School District’s middle schools gathered in the lobby of the Loussac Library’s Wilda Marston Theatre.

While they were waiting for the forum to begin, students and teachers munched on Moose’s Tooth Pizza while mingling with Gubernatorial candidates Byron Mallott, Bill Walker, and current Governor Sean Parnell.

Once the pizza was finished, everyone filed into the auditorium to hear the candidates respond to a number of questions generated by students and teachers, who worked together to research topics they thought Alaska’s next governor needs to address.

Governor Sean Parnell, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, speaks with students prior to the AARP-sponsored candidate forum on April 30, 2014. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN - Anchorage)

Governor Sean Parnell, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, speaks with students prior to the AARP-sponsored candidate forum on April 30, 2014. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“Our question is, do you think Alaskans should be required to show a photo ID to vote? Why or why not?” Robert King, an 8th grader at Clark Middle School, said.

When the candidates addressed the question during the forum, they answered with a unanimous “no” – primarily because it would limit Alaskan’s ability to vote…especially in rural communities.

Corin Kotzke is an 8th grader at Romig Middle School. He was particularly interested in the candidates’ responses to education-related questions.

“I would like to see another increase in the base student allocation and more stability for the jobs of teacher so teachers don’t have to be worrying about retirement and class sizes will be reduced so there can be more 1-on-1 working with teachers and students,” Kotzke said.

All of the candidates said they are in favor of improving Alaska’s education system.

Republican candidate Governor Sean Parnell says education funding has increased substantially since he has been in office.

Independent candidate Bill Walker says the best way to increase education funding is for the state to generate more revenue with more resource development.

And Democratic candidate Byron Mallott says education must be funded fully… and create certainty for students, teachers and administrators.

But Romig 8th grader Aaron Jenkins wasn’t satisfied with those answers. He wanted more specifics from the candidates

“I was hoping to hear some of the 7th period that they are proposing for high schools next year,” Jenkins said. “Yeah, they did talk about their plans to increase the budget for schools, but not their plans for the schools themselves – which I would have liked to hear.”

Other topics ranged from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid in Alaska, to the growth of Alaska’s economy, and how to strike a balance between new construction and maintaining existing infrastructure.

Byron Mallott – the Democratic candidate – was happy with the forum’s turnout. And he says it’s important that adults work to get young people interested and involved in the political process.

“In many ways, Alaska is a vast land, but it’s a small community,” Mallott said. “And children influence every aspect of our lives; they should be our highest priority.”

The forum was organized by AARP Alaska and moderated by Andrew Halcro, of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, and Jeannine English, the incoming AARP National President.

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