ANCHORAGE — Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Scott McAdams says federal education law does not fit Alaska’s geography and cultures and must be overhauled.
McAdams on Monday laid out his plan for education reform, starting with changes in the No Child Left Behind law championed by former President George W. Bush.
Alaska schools need fewer one-size-fits-all rules and more flexibility, he said.
“There can be no national standard in Yupik language instruction. There can be no national standard in Arctic survival,” he said. “When a child in Barrow takes a nationally standardized test and is asked the question, ‘What country is south of the United states, and that child answers ‘Canada,’ is he or she wrong?”
McAdams, the mayor of Sitka, faces GOP nominee Joe Miller and the incumbent Miller defeated, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in the November general election. Murkowski announced Friday she is mounting a write-in campaign.
While the two Republicans traded barbs Monday, McAdams announced himself as the “education candidate” at a press conference at his campaign headquarters in Anchorage.
McAdams holds a secondary education degree and taught one year at Horizon High School in Riverdale, Calif., a secondary alternative education school. In Sitka, he’s a former president of the school board. He’s taking leave from his job as director of community schools to run full-time.
“I have the unique experience of being an employee of a school district and being on the governance side of the school district, so I think I understand public education in a global way, from top to bottom, that will be unique in the Senate,” he said.
The National Education Association-Alaska has endorsed Murkowski but McAdams, surrounded by active and retired teachers, said he’s backed by the smaller state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.
Struggling schools, he said, need resources to help them do better, not penalties. The threat of national standards forces school resources to be steered toward standards-based instruction, putting important enrichment activities in peril.
He said he would work to make sure Alaska schools receive adequate funding.
“An unfunded federal mandate becomes a de facto federal property tax,” he said.
He called for expanded education opportunities for Alaska Natives and use of traditional knowledge and skills.
McAdams also called for high quality early learning programs and said it’s clear that students who attend them do better as they advance in public school.
“What we know is, when we put a little bit of money into early childhood ed, we get a big result.” he said. “We put a lot of money into remediation on the back end and we get small results.”