Carl Jacobs

Age: 35

Family: Alicia (Spouse), Four Therapeutic Foster Youth, Adorable Dog (Zoey).

Occupation: Victim Advocate with Victims For Justice

Previous government experience or community involvement: I am a first-time candidate for public office, have governance board and budget management experience via my time on the executive board of the Alaska State Employees Association. I’ve been active in our community, serving as a volunteer organizer for events hosted by organizations like the Food Bank of Alaska, the Children’s Lunchbox and even the Anchorage School District.

Highest level of education: Some college

What is the latest book you’ve read? Or, what book do you recommend and why?: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

Why are you running?

I’ve spent my career working to protect the public as an investigator and enforcement specialist for licensed professionals, assisted living homes and child care facilities. My work helped ensure vulnerable seniors and children were safe and treated with dignity and respect. In addition, my wife Alicia and I have served as licensed therapeutic foster parents to approximately 40 children with mental or behavioral health challenges over the last decade. We will be celebrating our 11th high school graduate this May, and couldn’t be more excited to help young Alaskans successfully transition to independent life. I’m intimately familiar with not just the traditional classroom experiences, but how well our systems are functioning when it comes to serving students who need extra support- either through IEP’s, 504 plans, or gifted educational programming. I’ve seen what’s working, what’s not and what the impact is. I am committed to making those systems work better by partnering with our community.

What is the role of the school board as it relates to the school superintendent and the operation of the district?

As elected officials, the Anchorage School Board is responsible for the capable governance of our system of education. Setting the direction of our district, and closely monitoring achievement of our goals and guardrails are critical responsibilities of the board. I’ve watched multiple recent school board meetings where Superintendent Bishop has been in tears, and she has publicly indicated she has not always felt supported by the current board. Those we elect on April 6 should have a more active role in ASD operations, and in our community, to ensure every child is given an opportunity to succeed.

Do you support public money funding education in public schools? (Yes-No) Why?

Article VII of the Alaska Constitution is clear: our legislature is bound to appropriate the funding necessary to adequately facilitate the education of all children, and public funds should not be used to benefit religious or private academic institutions. Supporting public education is critical for the short and long term health of our state, our economy and all citizens. I firmly support utilizing public funds to meet this core mission.

Do you have children in Anchorage public schools now? How did they handle pandemic virtual learning? If they attended in the past, how was that experience?

Yes, Alicia and I have four teenage youth in our home. Unfortunately, our school board has demonstrated a lack of leadership during the pandemic, which negatively impacted our district, and it’s operations. ASD failed to implement a plan to respond to the pandemic in a timely manner this year. When they did set a plan up, they didn’t stick to the plan. Worse, they failed to keep students, parents, teachers and staff involved in the process, and waited until the last possible moment to decide and communicate deviations from the plan to the public. Now there is a push for reopening, which I absolutely believe is a priority, and some families are being left behind who prefer a distance learning environment.

Can the ASD continue to afford so many different schools of choice? Could these many options be a distraction from the mission of excellence for all students?

Our charter schools, special and gifted programs are a core strength of the Anchorage School District. The recently adopted district budget initially included a deficit of over $20 million, which was only filled with the use of one-time federal funding. A drop in enrollment this year directly related to our handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rising costs associated with inflation, and flat-funding education will result in tough choices in the very near future. We must act as good stewards of public funds, continually find efficiencies in a budget which still exceeds $800 million, but also advocate and educate key decision makers as to the benefits of a functional and fully funded system of education.

What ideas do you have to incentivize the best and brightest teachers to come to this district and do great work? What ideas do you have to encourage teacher longevity?

Alaska is one of the only states where teachers can’t access full social security benefits or a pension. That means for people who would choose to spend their lives building up the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, electricians, doctors, caregivers, etc. have nothing secure to fall back on when they’re no longer able to teach. Furthermore, teachers are taking pay cuts in some years because their health plan costs are rising higher than their wages. Teaching is a noble and necessary pursuit, but we can’t expect people to build our futures while asking them to give up the ability to secure their own. Addressing retirement options available to our educators is critical, and I look forward to being an advocate in this area, once elected.

National studies indicate closed schools and/or prolonged online learning has not been successful for all. What ideas do you have to recover this learning loss?

The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) provided approximately $50 million in one-time funding to our district. We must wisely use these funds to facilitate an expanded and accessible summer program for our students who have fallen through the cracks. As we begin planning for the 2021-2022 school year, we must take into account educational gaps in our student population which will be larger than ever, and facilitate after-school options for children who need them most. Recovering from the losses sustained this year will take time, and we must begin working immediately to address the challenge.

How will you reach out to the different community constituencies to hear concerns about their students’ education?

A perceived lack of transparent communication and accountability has rightfully frustrated many within our municipality. Public records confirm my opponent has regularly failed to attend community meetings, and on more than one occasion I have presented on ASD news and updates in her absence. Our paid public servants must do better to show up for our community – especially when there isn’t an election on the line. I’m running for Seat G because our children, families, educators and staff desperately need our engagement right now. I intend to meet our community where they are already gathering, and utilize the digital innovation forced on us by the pandemic to better connect with all areas of Anchorage.

Given the rich diversity of our school district and community, what is the best approach to equitably meet the needs of all students, regardless of socio-economic differences?

The underserved families and students in Anchorage are not a monolith, and there isn’t one solution which will transform our district into the functional and equitable system of education all children deserve. We must tailor our educational products to meet the individual needs of our students – especially those who aren’t currently being given the resources or opportunities necessary to succeed. We must first better engage the public, listen and identify barriers to success, and then take action to resolve deficiencies. Ensuring resources are equitably distributed is essential, including access to charter, special and gifted programs.

What ideas do you have to ensure that English Language Learners and students with disabilities have equal learning opportunities in the Anchorage School District?

Families with students who need IEP plans, 504 plans or ELL support can struggle to navigate the process and describe having to constantly fight to secure accesses to services the schools are legally obligated to provide. This process ties school staff and parents up in bureaucracy when those resources could be better spent teaching and supporting students. These families know what they need, and we need to ask them where they are getting hung up, listen to that feedback and follow through on making or influencing those changes.