Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan does not spend much time lambasting other politicians in his quest to win the nomination for lieutenant governor of Alaska. Instead, he boosts education reform and fiscal prudence as a vision for the state.
His plans call for a master teacher in every classroom and a more frugal Alaska with a Standard & Poors AAA bond rating like Anchorage.
“The only city in Alaska ever to get a AAA,” said Sullivan, 62.
His second term as Mayor of Anchorage ends this year and he is running for lieutenant governor, the seat currently held by Mead Treadwell. He also served three terms in the Anchorage assembly.
Treadwell seeks the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
A fourth-generation Alaskan, Sullivan was in town for CrabFest and used the time to reach out to voters in town halls.
“I want to continue in public service,” Sullivan said. “I think my team and I have done a really good job with Anchorage. We’ve inherited a pretty deep financial mess and we’ve turned it around.”
Sullivan boasts five straight years of budget surpluses in Anchorage.
“We’ve been very, very frugal with how we manage money,” he said.
Sullivan admires the traditional industries such as fishing and logging, but is not a fan of seeing logs processed outside the state.
“It just kills me to see round logs leaving Alaska. It’s one of the few things where we had secondary manufacturing with pulp mill, wood chips and staff. Now we’re back to third world nation status, shipping round logs o somebody else,” he said.
But perhaps his most impassioned belief is of the need for an education overhaul in the state, starting with teacher reform.
“For all the money that we spend in education we’re last in the nation in fourth grade reading, we’re in the bottom third of eighth grade math and those are two of the key indicators of future academic success. We’ve got to do better. We’ve got the resources,” Sullivan said.
He advocates modeling a system on Finland, which has been able to attract top students into the teaching ranks and then training them to become “master teachers” in the classroom. Finland and Singapore, Sullivan reports, top the world in student performance.
They incentivize the top high school students by paying the college costs for students who must agree to teach for the same number of years for which the state agreed to pay. Also, the teaching programs are demanding – six years of college and a masters degree are required for elementary teachers, eight years for high school.
His proposal: Create something called “The Great Teacher Fund” using $100 million or $200 million from Alaska’s $10 billion surplus. Pay college costs for top students “and in return they have to come back and teach in Alaska for as many years as you’ve paid for their college,” Sullivan said.
Also, impose “rigorous” standards and curriculum so that teachers getting out of college will face a very competitive landscape.
“Only the best of the best get hired. Their theory is we want a master teacher in every single classroom. No exceptions.”