Perspectives on Business and Economics, Vol. 40

45 ■ Below NAEP Basic ■ NAEP Basic ■ NAEP Proficient ■ NAEP Advanced 2003 2017 2019 2019 Nation Alaska Average Score 212 207 204 219 42% 30% 22% 6% 44% 28% 22% 6% 47% 28% 20% 5% 35% 31% 26% 9% Figure 1 NAEP Achievement-level Percentages and Average Score Results: Grade 4 Reading Collectively, Alaska’s education system is not serving its children as well as it should. This article outlines the system’s history, identifies specific issues it faces, and offers possible solutions. Education’s Impact on Society Flaws in the current education system are not limited to those studying and teaching in the classroom. Education affects many other aspects of life in Alaska as well. Children who do not have access to a quality education may find themselves facing poor economic, societal, and health outcomes in the future. Improving education is a crucial step needed to tackle economic issues. Alaska’s education shortfalls are reflected in their economy. In 2018, Alaska had the highest unemployment rate among the states, at 6.6% (Stebbins, 2020). Among Alaska’s largest industries, gas and oil, construction, and health care all have positions necessitating technical or vocational training. Poor-quality education results in lower earnings, since having a high school diploma typically is required to access higher-paying jobs. Improving education should be in the economic interest of everyone: a less educated population leads to lost income and tax revenues. Research has shown that increasing the average education level increases the productivity of a state’s workforce. Every additional student who attains an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, instead of stopping formal education after high school, over their lifetime will return to the state, in the form of taxes, substantially more than the cost of their education (Berger & Fisher, 2013). Thus, a high-quality education system is a strategy to improve the state’s economy and pays off for everyone in the long run. Greater educational opportunities also can be tools to foster a safer society. Alaska deals with a higher per capita crime rate than most other states. At the beginning of 2020, USA Today ranked Alaska as the most dangerous state, with the highest rates of violent crime and most murders per capita. They note, “crime can tend to concentrate in areas that lack economic opportunity” (Stebbins, 2020). Research has shown that a quality education system can decrease crime rates (G​ reenstone et al., 2012). On a national level, a one-year increase in average years of schooling reduced murder and assault rates by about 30%, motor vehicle theft by 20%, arson by 13%, and burglary and larceny by 6% (Levin, 2005). Research shows that improved education should be in everyone’s interest because it fosters a safer community. Furthermore, higher education levels are linked with improved health prospects. Achieving a high school diploma is correlated Data source: National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2019.