Local families met with statehouse candidates Friday night for a meet the candidates event at the Wells Fargo Dimond Park Field House.
The cost of child care and education funding top a list of parent priorities. Families brought their kids, who took advantage of free time on the field house turf, while parents spoke with all six candidates for statehouse.
Ben and Rachel Disney, parents of a 5-year-old daughter, said they’re still undecided. Ben Disney said he’d like to see some funding for pre-kindergarten programs. Above all, mother Rachel Disney said she’s voting for whomever will reach across the aisle.
“My biggest concern with all of these elections is how the two parties are going to work together,” Rachel Disney said. “If it’s going to be something where they’re going to just say no to one another just out of principal, I’m not looking for that. I’m looking for them to reach a middle ground.”
Miriah Twitchell, mother of three, was taking diligent notes. Child care costs are so high in Juneau, she said, that she had to leave her job at the State of Alaska to take care of her 3, 5 and 7-year-old kids.
She said her vote is already settled, but she would consider changing her mind if she heard some out-of-the-box ideas to solve child care.
The idea that Alaska doesn’t have enough money to do something about child care costs
doesn’t ring true, Twitchell said.
“It’s not just a problem here, I recognize budgets are an issue everywhere,” she said, but other countries are able to provide better child care options.
Alaska could ease licensing burdens on child care providers, she said, or add more flexibility for state workers with children.
Gunnar Gissel, father of an infant and a 2-year-old, said issues with local crime are overblown. He’s looking to vote for a candidate who prioritizes early childhood education and child care.
Local carpenter Richard Phillips looks after his 9-year-old grandaughter. Education is his number one issue. It’s not the funding, he said, but how our politicians direct it that’s important.
“We throw more money at schools than any other state in the union, and we’re dead last. But if you talk to each one of these guys, they’ll say it’s out of their hands,” Phillips said.
He’d like to see the state stop emphasizing standardized testing, he said.
“They’re teaching kids to take a test now, they’re not teaching them how to think,” Phillips said.
The Southeast Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children sponsored the meet and greet, along with the United Way and Thread.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.