Today's vote to discriminate against independent homeschool graduates is illustrative of why our state continues to struggle in the area of crime and public safety.
It's no secret that there is a critical shortage of State Troopers in the Mat-Su. In 2005, there were 50 state troopers in the Mat-Su. Now, 13 years later, and with an additional 30,000 residents now living in the Mat-Su, there are only 34 troopers.
Let that sink in for a minute. 30,000 more residents. 16 fewer troopers.
A report released by the state last month confirms that trooper staffing is "critically low". It's not a question of funding more troopers. The legislature funded additional trooper positions years ago. We simply can't find enough good candidates to fill academies.
And it's not just the troopers. For years APD has also struggled to fill its police academies. A partially-filled academy on Day 1 means that an even smaller number will make it to graduation day.
In such an environment, one might expect state agencies to reduce administrative hurdles that make it difficult for quality candidates to apply for police jobs, but for at least one demographic the state has done exactly the opposite.
Eighteen months ago, the state, ignoring public comments against the move, added new regulations that effectively moved Alaska's non-accredited homeschool graduates into the same category as high school dropouts.
While the Air Force Academy specifically targets homeschool graduates for recruitment, the state of Alaska now declares them persona non grata when it comes to police jobs, and instead points to village public safety officers and municipal corrections officer positions, which do not currently require applicants to possess a high school diploma. Alternately, they can incur the time and expense of studying for, taking and passing the GED (General Educational Development) test alongside other students who failed to graduate from high school.
It is remarkable that non-accredited homeschool diplomas are accepted by both the Air Force Academy and West Point, but are rejected by the Alaska Police Standards Council. If even a current West Point or Air Force Academy Cadet isn't eligible to apply to be a police officer in Alaska, maybe that should tell us something.
Such discrimination against otherwise eligible candidates makes no sense and helps no one. I learned recently that the Homeschool Legal Defense Association even had to intervene in a case here in Alaska in which the state was discriminating against an Alaska homeschool graduate even though that student's diploma actually met the requirements of the new regulation.
Listen to the debate we had on this issue before the vote today. It is illustrative of why so many Alaskans are having difficulty finding jobs right now, and, unfortunately for all of us, it's also one of the reasons we currently have a shortage of law enforcement recruits in this state.
Unfortunately, some of those potential recruits will leave Alaska and go to states like Colorado where a homeschool diploma is still welcomed by law enforcement recruiters.