P.O. Box 1564
Homer, AK 99603-1564
Telephone: (907) 299-3434
Paul@VotePaulSeaton.com
Paul Seaton

    for Alaska State House of Representatives
    District 31
Issues

Education
Paul has volunteered in the schools since his children were very young.



Personal Conviction

Education should be one of the State's highest priorities. I was a member of the Legislative Education Funding Task Force which came to consensus on how to adequately fund our schools and equitably implement the district cost factor. We finally have adopted a forward funding mechanism. However, we need to think about more than just money. Society has added so many new tasks onto the schools that we need to encourage innovative solutions to make the schools more effective and relevant to all students. My experience in education is broad based and my keen interest is rooted in my belief that education is the key to our children's and society's future. I will be attentive to both the funding and quality initiatives that must be addressed. I will seek active involvement from both the educational community and constituents in these vital issues.

In 2012 to help move education forward I used almost 10% of the districts 'discretionary money' to fund a pilot project to bring itouch technology to the classrooms. The iPod touch technology allows rapid, inexpensive updating of curriculum and engagement of students in learning. An example of the success of bringing almost all students to grade proficient language and math is at the Canby Oregon website. Go to that link to see the amazing graphs of measured performance by the various grade and subject classes using iPods compared to the entire school district.

A Distorted Funding Formula

The Foundation Formula, the policy wherein the state pays a 'basic' allotment per student to the individual school districts, was a 'model for the nation' when I first taught school in Fairbanks in 1969. The formula - established by the legislature - considers various 'cost' factors for education in each school district. It is obvious that education in the bush is more costly on a per-student basis than in urban areas.

The federal government caps the amount any school district can spend above the formula to ensure the legally required relatively equal funding across the State. I worked to change the formula to adequately reflect what is needed for top quality schools.

Before & Beyond K-12

Education beyond K-12 is a vital part of many communities in this District. I support the expansion of all the branches of the Kenai Peninsula College and vocational education such as the Alaska Vocational and Technical Center in Seward. The addition of shipboard firefighting school to AVTEC and Kenai provides a much-needed service. Studies have shown that pre-K preparations such as Head Start are our most truly effective long term investment for education outcomes. I supported increases in voluntary pilot programs so we can find the most effective models that coordinate with local institutions. I was the instigator of the new in-person and distance education program through the University of Alaska, Kachemak Bay Branch for pre-correction officer training program. This certificate program was developed in conjunction with Corrections and Public Safety. Good paying jobs are available within District 31 and this program will allow local people to develop the skills for a successful career. The program also allows students to determine whether corrections, court, police or a trooper job is a career in which they are truly interested, without obligating themselves to the extensive and expensive training for a specific job.

Interactive Education

I presented to the School Board candidates in 2001 copies of the '40-year experiment' in education, "Northern Ireland's Education Row", The Economist Jan. 20, 2001. England adopted our 'comprehensive' one-size-fits-all approach, and Northern Ireland had maintained a 'tracking' system. Obviously Northern Ireland includes numerous political problems and a mixed social structure. Yet all social 'classes' of students performed better in the Northern Ireland model where they learned with appropriate educational experiences. This recognizes the same learning advantages that occur in the Chugach Model which uses the appropriate technique for each individual student to learn better. The sit-at-your-desk model does not work well for many of our students. We MUST progress to appropriate interactive education. The expansion of home schooling, Flex school, and the Connections program are recognition of the reality that students learn in different ways. Although these are good responses to select problems, they are indicative that our 'regular' schools are not filling the student needs. Of course, many of our great teachers try to do this as individualized education, but I believe our system must integrate these proven lessons if all our children are to receive the great advantage of superior education through appropriate learning experiences for each child. The Federal "No Child Left Behind" program served to highlight disparities between schools but has also harmfully narrowed the focus of education to only "test the 3 R's". It has also constrained great teachers from exciting students with the diversity of the educational world. I'm looking forward to working with our district to implement the new Federal ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) to meet our unique needs in Alaska.

Recent Education Funding

In 2005 I sponsored HB24 which would have required an early, separate education operating budget. However, after passing the House, the Senate attached conditional language to our earliest ever House education bill, requiring passage of a retirement bill before it became effective - making education funding in 2005 about the latest ever passed. Under this future procedural threat, the early funding bill never left the rules committee and died. However, as a member of the Legislative Education Funding Task Force, I helped craft forward funding by incorporating the 3 year base student allocation for 2008, 2009, and 2010, in statute, additionally implementing a phased-in Geographical Cost Differential solution. The legislature in 2012 did incorporate forward increments for student transportation and deposited money for next year's school funding but the per-student amount is not determined so school budgets will again be hard to anticipate. This led to the old timing of 'pink slips' problem which needs correcting.

Incentive Systems

I support the teacher mentoring program that had proven results in retaining teachers within Alaska by almost 10%. I believe we need to get more money directed to Vocational/Technical education without reducing the quality of purely academic education for the college bound. We were able to target a ‘VOTEC’ increase for 2012 and beyond. Incentive systems must be carefully designed to accomplish the goal of improving student outcomes. I hope we will incorporate the lessons of "The Science of Motivation" into any new program. You can see what our challenge is at www.TED.com, for a short video by Dan Pink on this new science.

State Scholarships

The Alaska Performance Scholarship merit-based system combined with needs-based Alaska Advantage program funded at a 2 dollar to 1 dollar ratio has been a success. This creates a good 'bang for the buck' and expands the number of Alaskans getting higher education in Alaska. However, a presentation by the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education showed that our population now has one of the lowest education levels in the country and just addressing high school seniors would take a generation to improve that situation. I will push to be sure we have definitive goals and mechanisms that will target our money in ways that research shows will most effectively accomplish the goal for continuing education.