Board of Education candidates emphasize economic effects of schools

Prior to Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce Board of Education candidate forum, moderator Mike Satre had a question for those in attendance.

Satre asked people in the room — many of whom are heavily involved in Juneau’s business landscape — to raise their hands if they came up through the Juneau School District or other schools in Southeast.

Almost all of them raised their hands. That, Satre argued, is one of the reasons that the Board of Education election is so important. The education that children in Juneau receive translates to how well the local economy operates, he and the three candidates in the Oct. 3 election all agreed.

The trio of candidates — current president of the board Brian Holst and challengers Kevin Allen and Jeff Short — talked quite a bit about money Thursday, from making the most of it in tough financial times to how much it could pay off for Juneau down the line.

Holst, the executive director of the Juneau Economic Development Council, usually brings up the district’s effects on the economy in his comments. On Thursday, Short was also economically interested, saying that the city needs to invest money in the schools instead of cutting costs.

“My plans for cost-savings for public education are basically nada,” Short said immediately. “I don’t have one. I don’t even want to consider one. I consider every penny we spend on public education an investment rather than a cost.”

In response to the same question, Allen said he would continue pursuing paperless courses on Google Classroom and other applications to save paper. Holst said one way to reduce the cost of K-12 education is to invest more in early childhood education. Preparing young children for school better, Holst said, reduces special education spending in later years in many cases.

They offered their thoughts on how to ensure financial stability in the district with support from the state fluctuating recently. Holst said he’d like to see the district find a way to beef up its reserves, while Allen said he’d like to see the district apply for more grants and Short said he wanted to keep close tabs on each school program to ensure each one is still worthy of receiving money.

The three of them listed their top priorities at the end of the forum, which were wide-ranging. Short said he wants to get a teacher representative on the Board of Education and wants to be on top of compiling and translating testing data. Allen said he wants the district to reassess its math curriculum and add more Alaska Native instruction.

Holst remained on the themes of economy and community, looking to promoting programs such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) that can prepare students for technology-driven jobs. He also said he wants Juneau’s local businesses to interact more with the school district, offering advice and services to students to help prepare them for college and the business world.

“That is the way that we’re going to be able, with limited resources, improve our schools,” Holst said, “by tapping into the incredible resources of our community.”

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or

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