46 with a longer life expectancy—those who have more education tend to adopt better health habits and take advantage of preventative care. Another component of this relationship is that higher incomes, offered by education, provide greater access to health care (G reenstone et al., 2012). With greater investment in education, overall health expenditures would decrease and the population of the state would become generally healthier and live longer. A final reason to improve education is for the success of democracy. The government cannot reflect the needs of its citizens if people cannot find avenues to express desires and concerns. A quality education “aids in the cognitive, ideological and strategic development of democratic citizens, allowing voters to acquire political information, deliberate about the issues, voice perspectives and engage in politics” (Levin, 2005). Racial disparity in education levels, such as occurs with Native Alaskans, can result in unequal representation in government. Education is a cornerstone to democracy and increases political participation. Ultimately, education is a pressing concern not only for young people but also for the better health of society as a whole, since the quality of education impacts the economy, the safety and health of society, and the legitimacy of democracy. The Foundations of Alaska’s Public Education Alaska’s constitution tasks the state legislature with establishing a school system. That Figure 2 NAEP Achievement-level Percentages and Average Score Results: Grade 8 Reading ■ Below NAEP Basic ■ NAEP Basic ■ NAEP Proficient ■ NAEP Advanced 2003 2017 2019 2019 Nation Alaska Average Score 256 258 252 262 33% 40% 24% 3% 30% 44% 25% 1% 37% 40% 21% 2% 28% 39% 29% 4% Table 1 2019 State Reading Scores by Grade and Race/Ethnicity Race/Ethnicity Percentage of Students Average Score Grade 8 White 45 265 American Indian/Alaska Native 24 229 Grade 4 White 45 221 American Indian/Alaska Native 24 173 Data source: National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2019. Data source: National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2019.