Today in the Alaskan Legislature, the Senate Finance Committee took up a proposed amendment to Alaska’s constitution that would take out the phrase that prohibits the state from using public funds for the direct benefit of private and religious schools.
Wasilla Senator Mike Dunleavy sponsors SJR 9.
Sen. Dunleavy: “Some would say that we’ve actually stepped over the constitution. And not on purpose and not to be just be blatantly unconstitutional, but in order to meet the very diverse needs of Alaska’s student population. As well as some of our gray areas in our post-secondary offerings.”
Education and Early Development Commissioner Mike Hanley stated he feels that the public should have the final say.
Hanley: “I simply would like to just reflect on what the Governor stated in his State of the State. Is that this conversation has been had in the legislature and been lingering here for a long time. And the Governor urges the legislature to really vigorously debate this conversation and move it to the people for vote. With the understanding that parents can make better choices for their children than the government can.”
Some critics of the proposal say that omitting the phrase could have bigger repercussions and ultimately take money away from the public school system.
Juneau School Board President Sally Saddler opposes it.
Saddler: “It totally restructures it. I think it changes what our founding fathers had built, the premise that we would have a public education system that would serve all students. And all of a sudden when you start talking about a constitutional amendment you’re changing things in ways that I’m not sure we’ve thoroughly thought through all the repercussions.”
The Senate Finance Committee is currently hearing testimony on the proposal.
There is also a similar proposal pending in the House.