Dunleavy contradicts himself on boarding schools, education spending for rural Alaska

It is the tale of two Dunleavys.

Speaking to a conservative crowd at a Baptist church in Fairbanks in May, former Sen. MIke Dunleavy said one way to save money in Alaska and improve education is to replace small village high schools with regional boarding schools in hub communities.

It was what his audience wanted to hear.

Speaking to the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage Friday, Dunleavy said he wants to spend more money on education in rural Alaska by building boarding schools in hub villages, while keeping all small village high schools in place.

He outlined a plan that could easily raise the cost of education by tens of millions per year with new dorms and educational facilities in major villages across the state.

it was what his audience wanted to hear.

To review, Bible Baptist Dunleavy wants to reduce education funding for rural Alaska, while AFN Dunleavy wants to spend more. He wants to have it both ways.

In early 2017, Dunleavy said he wanted to permanently cut $1 billion from the operating budget over four years, but he had no idea how to make that happen so he dropped it.

In May, he was asked at the Bible Baptist event: “Do you think that some of the villages will have to go to more regional high schools and things like that as the costs increase for having all these small schools around the state?”

He knew what the crowd wanted from him that day.

He responded: “Yeah, I think that’s probably gonna be the end result in your hubs like Barrow, Kotzebue, Nome, Bethel.”

“I think that’s probably gonna be the end result. I think it is a cost saver, but also more importantly it provides an opportunity for high school kids that they may not get in a high school with one teacher,” he said.

In 2015, Dunleavy said education is the largest government expense and that people should not be afraid to talk about ways to reduce expenses, including raising the minimum number of students to qualify for state education funding.

“I believe word (about changing the minimum) came from me talking with some folks at ASA (the Alaska Superintendents Association),” Dunleavy told a reporter in 2015. “It was just a conversation . . . but it’s the largest part of the budget. It would not shock me if somebody did introduce a bill. Nothing’s going to shock me.”

The law allows for state education funding for every village with at least 10 students. Three years ago, Dunleavy said raising that number was one of many thing that had to be “on the table.”

It doesn’t shock me that AFN Dunleavy said that raising the minimum school size is off the table. It also doesn’t shock me that Bible Baptist Dunleavy said that if elected, by the 100th day of his administration, people will say “That guy did what he said he was gonna do.”

“There is a narrative that I want to close down rural schools,” AFN Dunleavy said Friday, neglecting to mention that Bible Baptist Dunleavy created that “narrative.”

“In the hub areas, beef up those high schools that are in the hub areas. Get some dorm facilities in the hub areas, so that kids can come into the hub areas for terms as they call them, for maybe visits, or biology labs, chemistry labs, because right now they are at disadvantage,” AFN Dunleavy said.

“What I want to do is beef up what we have in the regional areas like Kotzebue, Nome, Barrow, Bethel, so that kids can go to school there, potentially take some college classes,” AFN Dunleavy said.

The expanded options at the rural hubs could potentially also offer vocational training.

“But it’s to enhance, not to take away,” AFN Dunleavy said.

This will come as a surprise to Bible Baptist Dunleavy.

Dermot Cole9 Comments