David Nees is a candidate for School Board Seat B in the 2019 Municipal Elections. If elected, he will serve a three-year term for the School Board for the Municipality of Anchorage.

KTVA asked Nees, as well as those running against him, to answer a few questions about his stance on key issues in the community as part of our election coverage this year. Each candidate was given an equal amount of time to respond to these questions and informed of the set publishing date.

Here are Nees' answers to those questions.

Question 1 – Would you support school board candidates running for specific districts rather than the current citywide approach? Please explain your answer.

Yes I would support changing he Anchorage Charter to allow area representation on the board. This would mirror the Assembly members that represent specific areas of the municipality. The school board members would be accountable and responsible to parents and all citizens in a specific area. Board members would also be more responsive to those parents and citizens on all issues. By having board members elected citywide, responsibility and accountability are diluted and no one is really responsible to the electorate. I believe that the neighborhood school in a board member’s district is more important than the pothole in front of an Assembly member’s district.

Question 2 – Gov. Dunleavy unveiled $1.6B in budget cuts in February. As lawmakers make their way through the budget process, what will you do to address budget challenges?

The 2019/2020 school year budget for the ASD has been decided by the current board, before this election. However, with the strong chance that state funding will change between now and June 30th I will have a chance to address any budget challenges. My opponent’s strategy of threatening teacher layoffs to extort funds from Juneau is getting old. She was recently quoted by the media as saying she is “willing to consider laying off 1,800 teachers from a classroom teacher workforce of just 2,200. I believe this is completely irresponsible and does nothing to solve our budget difficulties while harming teacher morale. ASD needs to direct funds to classrooms first. We have $400,000+ in state funds available to every classroom in ASD, the clasroom teacher cost only $100,000 in salary and benefits. So fund classroom teachers first.

Question 3 – Along those lines, there are concerns classroom sizes are growing and will grow even more due to Gov. Dunleavy’s budget cuts. What is your plan to address that?

I will continue to lobby when elected to put into statute a class size maximum so districts cannot starve classrooms.

Question 4 – ASD officials have said 87 percent of the budget covers personnel, more than 60 percent of whom are teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors. Gov. Dunleavy’s cuts represent a loss of 1,000 – 1,800 jobs, according to the district's chief financial officer Jim Anderson. How will you ensure schools are staffed appropriately?

Teachers represent less than 50% of the nearly 6,000 ASD employees, according to the latest audited financial report. Yet teachers are always the budget hostages.

As long as the school board allows the Administration to use budgets to threaten teachers, the stress for teachers will continue. I will end this 40 year old practice by requiring the Administration to prioritize budgets that fund classroom teachers, including arts, PE, libarians and nurses as the first step, using State funds. That is how local control is supposed to work and that is what effective school boards do—manage resources efficiently.

Question 5 – Elementary school teachers have expressed frustration about mandated curriculum and have requested more freedom when it comes to teaching material. How will you support teachers in the classroom while balancing the educational needs of students?

Teachers are the experts, they should have a selection of curricula to choose from and make their decision. The Administration teaches no students and the Soviet style of central planning shows, choosing failed math and reading programs over and over again. Forcing teachers to teach with materials they rejected is more than foolish.

Question 6 – Along those lines, the school community has expressed a desire for more recess time. What is your stance on the benefits of giving more recess?

I support ASD60 in its efforts to increase activity, the gymnasium approach has worked for hundreds of years in public schooling in Europe. The recess period bill should not, however, allow districts to opt out of providing PE.

Question 7 – Test scores in the district run the gamut from highly proficient to not proficient. How do we help underperforming schools?

The ASD Data Dashboard shows that we offer fewer choices to areas of town that have the most needs. As Deena Bishop put it in a presentation to the legislature, “looking at the data, the browner your skin the less likely you will succeed...”. That is not acceptable. I believe all children are a gift and all should be allowed to dream and achieve; some will need more structure and remediation. Some students just need more opportunity. When NCLB required ASD to transport students from under-performing schools to successful public schools, the transportation cost was zero. The reward was opportunity. Finally, I believe that in some schools the discipline system now allows some children to disrupt the education of others. We need to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn by holding teachers, principals and, most importantly, the Administration accountable for effective classroom
discipline.