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School vouchers move step closer to ballot box

Committee votes 3-3 to advanced HJR1

Posted: February 9, 2014 - 12:09am

Giving Alaskans the option to vote on whether or not the state should provide families with vouchers to attend private schools moved one step closer to becoming reality Friday.

The House of Representatives Education Committee narrowly advanced HJR1, which would amend the state constitution and pave the way for tax dollars to be used by students seeking private education.

If approved by a two-thirds majority of the Legislature, voters would then decide the issue this fall.

“I would hope the Legislature would not stand in the way and let Alaskans express their opinion on HJR1,” Bethany Marcum, of Anchorage, testified to the committee.

The resolution itself strikes a line from the constitution that states: “No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

The Juneau school board and National Education Association-Alaska came out in strong opposition to the resolution, saying it is not a foregone conclusion that the move would be a good thing for Alaska.

“There is no evidence that HJR1 would result in students having better educational opportunities and options in school choice,” said LeDawn Druce with the NEA.

When asked, Druce said a survey of teachers’ opinions on the matter had not been conducted.

Juneau Board of Education member Andi Story cautioned the committee that voters may not be getting what they vote for should the constitution ultimately be changed.

“Vouchers give choices to private schools, not parents,” Story said. “Students may qualify for a voucher, but not be able to use them.”

Public schools are not allowed to discriminate based on learning ability, socio-economic status or any other grounds, but private schools are not under that same standard, she added.

For Anchorage resident Elizabeth Manning, the issue comes down to ensuring equality in the Last Frontier.

“It makes no sense why we would siphon public funds for private schools when most people who send their kids to private schools already have the funds to do that,” Manning said.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said the base student allocation would have to be raised by $500 to offset the loss in funding if voters approved HJR1.

“If this goes forward, we would be reducing by a major hit the funding that goes to public schools,” Seaton said.

Reps. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, and Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, joined Seaton in voting against the resolution, but a no-recommendation vote from Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, meant the bill would be moving on to the House Judiciary Committee on a 3-3 vote.

“I feel strongly that we’re going to have unintended consequences with this,” Wilson said. “We’re going to start funding private schools. That’s what this is going to do.”

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Karl Ashenbrenner
Karl Ashenbrenner 02/09/14 - 08:52 am
Of course

this bill is meant to fund private schools. We cannot have all that education money going to public schools when it looks so much better in private bank accounts. This is about freedom and religion. SNARK.

Bill Burk
Bill Burk 02/09/14 - 09:29 am
School vouchers

Private and religious schools are the choice of the parents. If parents make that choice they should paid for by the parents. NOT the money give the school districts! ALL the school districts in the state are having finical problems as it is, why should monies be given too private and religious schools?

Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor 02/09/14 - 11:38 am
Our country is already in the

Our country is already in the middle of an inequality crisis and people want to crush public schools? In states where this has happened, people are using it to recreate segregation. Our state has a long dark history of segregation based on race and religion. This is a step backward. I do not want to see our state go down this path again.

Tom Taylor
Tom Taylor 02/09/14 - 11:44 am
8/19/10 letter to the editor

8/19/10 letter to the editor Anchorage Daily News:

With the federal deficit at record levels, I must vote for fiscal restraint. Sen. Murkowski voted to spend billions to bail out Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Wall Street and billions more for TARP and a stimulus package -- and often her votes were in opposition to most Republicans. I must demand fiscal restraint from those who are spending my money

That means supporting Joe Miller for U.S. Senate.

-- Bethany Marcum


Wayne Coogan
Wayne Coogan 02/09/14 - 11:45 pm
Its about competition...

The intent of the constitution is to provide public education to students but not necessarily to fund bloated, ineffective, bureaucracies. School buildings, books, supplies, heating oil, school busing are all purchased from the private sector through competitive bidding. The only privileged, inefficient, monopoly is the school bureaucracy itself.

It is nonsense to say vouchers cause segregation; the fact is, vouchers enable poor parents to choose private schools they could never otherwise afford. No one is suggesting crushing public schools but rather making them compete in the marketplace.

Only lazy malingerers fear competition; hardworking achievers embrace it eagerly. It is illogical to argue against competition and to do so seems disingenuous.

Reference Milton Friedman, "Free to Choose" and Thomas Sowell, "The Vision of the Anointed."

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