Anchorage mayor throws support behind conservative parent rights organization

A handwritten proclamation on two pages, hung on a wall.
The group Alaska Parents’ Rights In Education posted their Parents’ Rights Proclamation during a celebration on Nov. 16, 2021. Several elected officials, including Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson spoke at the event. (Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson is rallying behind a conservative Alaska parents’ rights nonprofit. Alaska Parents’ Rights in Education invited the mayor to speak at a celebration at the Loussac Library Monday night.

In his remarks, he encouraged concerned parents to elect more conservative leaders. 

“At the end of the day, it’s up to you folks, the parents, the pastors and the civic leaders, to take control of the school system,” Bronson said. “Because the left certainly understands what it takes to take control of a society and that’s to take control of the schools.”

The national Parents Rights in Education nonprofit formed in response to a perceived lack of conservative parental input in school curricula across the country. The group has decried LGBTQ content and what it has described as “critical race theory” in schools, as well as perceived assaults on conservative viewpoints. 

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The Alaska chapter has been around for about a year, and lists its specific complaints on the national website, including concerns about sex education and social-emotional education, which teaches students to identify their feelings.

Leigh Sloan, local co-chair, said she and other parents in the group feel their input isn’t being considered when schools decide on curricula.

“There are effects of things like critical race theory on our kids that we’re experiencing that is causing more racism in our society,” Sloan said. “We talked about the sexually explicit material that we disagree on. We disagree with the school board on certain things and we want to be able to opt out of those things.”

Critical race theory is a university-level academic framework. It is not part of the curriculum of the Anchorage School District. The district is made up of roughly 60% students of color, and the Anchorage School Board recently adopted a policy that says the district rejects racism. The district also has a form available for parents to report potentially inappropriate and explicit material. This month, the district pulled the single copy of the book “Gender Queer” from circulation after reviewing one of those forms. 

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Sloan said the parents’ rights group is also opposed to school masking mandates as well as what she described as poor outcomes from schools. 

“We also have a right to demand excellence from our education, right?” Sloan said. “We know that our education… it’s not showing that it’s performing to the level. It’s pretty low.”

Alaska ranks among the bottom 10 states for reading and math scores for fourth and eighth graders. 

Bronson has spoken against school masking, but in practice the mayor has very little influence over what happens in the city’s schools. 

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The event, which roughly 50 people attended, also served as a space for several Anchorage municipal candidates to promote their campaigns. They included Kathy Henslee and Stephanie Taylor, who are running for the Assembly, and Mark Anthony Cox, a school board candidate. All three were endorsed by Alaska Parents’ Rights in Education.

Other elected officials spoke at the Parents’ Rights event after Bronson, including two Mat-Su Borough School Board members, state Rep. Ken McCarty, R-Eagle River, state Sen. Roger Holland, R-Anchorage, and Dave Donley, who is generally the Anchorage School Board’s most conservative voice.

This story has been updated.

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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