- Session Laws
Feb 07, 2014
HJR 1-CONST. AM: EDUCATION FUNDING
REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS announced that the final order of business
would be HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 1, Proposing amendments to
the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to state aid
JIM POUND, Staff, Representative Wes Keller, Alaska State
Legislature, recapped the previous hearings and reviewed the
points of HJR 1, as it was held over during the interim.
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked about fiscal impacts.
MR. POUND answered that the fiscal impact is zero.
CHAIR GATTIS opened public testimony.
TOM COBAUGH stated support for HJR 1 and said this would level
the playing field and invite public debate. He suggested it
would correct the current economic disparity that exists, where
only parents of means can gain open access to educational
opportunities beyond public schools. Further, the possibility
could result in a competitive school system, and he opined that
competition, in our society, creates a healthy environment.
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON asked witnesses to include a statement
in their testimony regarding parental status and the educational
situation they have chosen for their children.
BOB GRIFFIN stated support for HJR 1 and said it would be
important for residents to be allowed to vote on this important
issue. He opined that school choice improves student outcomes
and reduces costs; as proven through peer reviewed empirical
data gathered from 23 other states.
BETHANY MARCUM stated support for HJR 1 and said it would be
important for residents to be allowed to vote on this issue, and
express their wishes.
MEGAN LOCKARD stated opposition to HJR 1 opining that
educational choice already exists. As a parent of six children,
she said she can choose home school, charter school, or public
school. She said the cost of the private school she looked into
would not be covered by the proposed voucher amounts. Further,
those who choose private school can already afford it and this
bill would not provide enough in tuition to allow low income
families to enroll their children.
MICHAEL CHAMBERS, Chair, Alaskan Libertarian Party, testified
with official support for HJR 1, on behalf of the Alaskan
Libertarian Party, paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which
read as follows [original punctuation provided]:
I have one child who attended and graduated from West
High and is currently attending UAA on a full academic
scholarship. I was a public school teacher in Delta
Junction and currently I am the Chair of the Alaska
Libertarian Party. In this capacity, I am the
official voice of approximately 9000 registered
libertarians. The vast majority of us are in support
of HJR1 because it removes the prohibition of
legislation to actively engage in future educational
choices of Alaskan children. I have heard many "scare
tactics" from citizens opposed to this constitutional
amendment. One issue they are concerned about is the
"loss of accountability" in other educational
settings, hut as you know, the Department of Education
is currently engaged in vacating the high school exit
exam, which is in fact, a measure of accountability in
the current educational monopoly. Additionally, you
know support of HJR 1 merely establishes only two
issues going forward.
1. It allows all registered voters of Alaska to cast a
vote. This issue reaches into virtually every
household in Alaska and should be settled by the
citizens themselves and not the legislature.
2. If approved by the citizens, this passage would
allow our elected representatives the opportunity to
consider and legislate school choice options in a
representative environment instead of the current
environment of "special interests." Thank you for the
opportunity to testify.
ELIZABETH MANNING stated opposition for HJR 1 and said it would
siphon needed funds away from an excellent existing public
school system. Choice already exists, she opined. She reported
that her children currently attend Government Hill Elementary.
MIKE PRAX stated support for HJR 1 to maximize choice for
everyone, as lack of choice causes conflict. He reported that
his two children home schooled and also attended public high
school. He urged passage of the bill to allow a statewide vote.
MARITZA BLADA stated support for HJR 1, stressing the importance
to allow residents an opportunity to vote on the issue.
MARY TOUTONGHI stated opposition to HJR 1, paraphrased from a
prepared document, which read as follows [original punctuation
I observed the invited testimony of the Senate Finance
Committee on Monday, February 3, , would like to
share some observations and concerns regarding that
meeting and the Senate Joint Resolution 9 which was
My first concern was that no one with alternative
points of view was invited. I sincerely hope that as
you acquire information you explore both sides of the
issues to be sure you are making an informed decision
rather than a preformed decision.
Another concern was that prior to spending public
monies you have a workable end goal and a protocol for
exit effectiveness. If you are offering money to an
entity to educate children, how are you breaking down
your goals and measuring effectiveness?
It is difficult to consider what is expected without
common standards that involve thoughtful planning
backed up with appropriate data. It is not clear what
Senator [Dunleavy] meant when he [said] (paraphrased)
everyone should have their own standards in utilizing
the public monies for education. We use goal setting
and evaluation processes with every other aspect of
our planning for state activities, roads,
construction, etc. Why should State standards for the
education of our children not be planned with goals
and exit criteria for all those who utilize public
allotments, (i.e. vouchers) that affect our most
precious assets, our children.
Following this thought it has been my observation that
the plan to draw public allotments (vouchers) been
carefully developed and choreographed with backup
plans of various types. (Changing the State
Constitution, bringing the issue to the voters, etc.)
The actual plan to spend the funds extracted from the
educational budget of the public schools is amorphous:
no goals, no criteria, no evaluation.
In addition the Governor mentioned the use of white
boards as a wonderful opportunity for many of our
children. With the cuts in personnel, who are the
people who will form the goals and objectives to make
these experiences a truly educational one?
It is clear that the individuals in our legislature
have carefully planned their goals for this session.
They are clearly choreographed to produce certain
outcomes. Since this is a body that has sworn to
provide for the common good of the people in the State
of Alaska, why are the State's children offered such a
poorly planned and implemented education?
As a mother, grandmother, educator and speech language
pathologist, I would certainly hope for a better
planned educational program for the children of the
State of Alaska.
BILL LIGHT stated support for HJR 1 and said it is an American
traditional to have choice and discussion. He urged the
committee to send the issue to the polls.
MIKE COONS stated support for HJR 1, paraphrasing from a
prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation
First off HJR 1 is not about vouchers. All HJR 1 and
SJR 9 does is refine the Constitution as to education
and how the State can dispense funds and then to give
We the People the ability to debate, research, find
the truth, vs the lies, and then go to the voting
booth and vote for or against the Constitutional
Amendment, period. In direct response to comments
made that those in the legislature who feel that since
they have a college education, that they are the only
ones able to make such a decision, I say thanks but no
thanks! I as a responsible citizen and voter not only
can, but will make a valued decision on this subject
and will not give up my God Given rights to anyone to
cast a vote for me! If people cannot understand the
issue, don't have the time to research, debate and
listen to the facts, then I say, don't vote! For to
vote No or Yes means you have weighed the facts and
made a decision.
Secondly, our nation and State are not a democracy, we
are a REPUBLIC.
Third, all private/secular/religious schools will have
to meet all existing standards and laws. The
accusation of segregation that is sadly pervasive by
the NEA and NAACP is racist in form, function and
nature and I will do all I can to point that out! In
point of fact, it is a sad fact that when the left is
losing a battle, they revert to pulling the race card
or personally attacking people! That is repulsive and
I will continue to fight back!
Fourth, the continual attack that this is somehow
violating "separation of Church and State" is another
red herring. President Thomas Jefferson for far too
long has been misquoted and I'm sure he is rolling in
his grave with the progressives using his words in
vain! "Congress shall make no law respecting
establishment of religion", that is from the First
Amendment and is clear as clear can be to those who
have even a 5th grade reading comprehension! No where
is a "separation of Church and State" even inferred!
All it is saying is our government cannot force us to
be any religion, nor making a State religion as it was
In closing, I ask only that We the People are able to
vote this Constitutional Amendment up or down and if
NEA and NAACP or other progressive people and
organizations want to vote against it, fine. For I
will be voting YES!
KRISTINA JOHANNES stated support for HJR 1, paraphrasing from a
prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation
I live in Representative Lindsey Holmes' district. I
am the mother of four adult children who at various
times were homeschooled, public schooled and private
schooled. I represent myself. Thank you for this
opportunity to testify.
I urge you to support HJR1 and let the people vote on
this important issue.
HJR 1 is about whether or not we should eliminate
language in our constitution that we now know has an
The United State Supreme Court has made it clear that
this language is not necessary. I feel very strongly
that if it is not necessary to have particular
language in our constitution it is necessary that we
not have it.
As a Catholic I would prefer that my constitution not
contain language derived from an animus against my
As to those who fear removing this language is an
attack on public education, let me reassure them. If
HJR 1 passes, the education section of our state
constitution will still say, "The legislature shall by
general law establish and maintain a system of public
schools open to all children of the State, and may
provide for other public educational institutions.
Schools and institutions so established shall be free
from sectarian control."
Again, I urge you to pass this amendment and let the
people vote on this issue.
MARTHA FREEMAN stated opposition to HJR 1, opining that the
difficulty for school success is poverty based. She paraphrased
from a prepared statement, which read as follows [original
I'm a resident of Anchorage, and have two children in
Anchorage public schools.
I have two points to share regarding HJR1 and the use
of public funds for private schools.
First, our public schools are providing an excellent
education for most students. With a daughter in
college and another in 8th grade, I've been
consistently impressed with the quality of their
experience, thanks primarily to many outstanding
teachers. Students that are succeeding in our public
schools don't need vouchers - they already have access
to a fine education.
Second, vouchers won't help the students who aren't
succeeding. Several years ago I attended a parent
assembly meeting to hear a presentation by the
Anchorage School District's testing specialist. He
stated that if you know the percentage of students at
a school that qualify for school lunch subsidies, you
can predict that school's average test scores within a
few percentage points. Why? Because school lunch
subsidies are an indicator of poverty. Poverty is
correlated with a host of other problems from
transience to poor nutrition to weak English language
skills. These are the real challenges that make it so
difficult for some children to succeed in school.
Sadly, vouchers don't address any of those problems.
In short, most students succeed within our public
schools without a voucher system, and vouchers won't
help those who don't. The real goal for us as a city,
a state, a democracy is to address the poverty that
undermines school success, so that our public schools
can provide a great education to all students.
LISA PAESANI stated opposition to HJR 1, testifying as a parent
of three children. She opined that it would siphon funds away
from Alaska's excellent public schools and a voucher system may
create a segregated atmosphere. She said choice exists, that
her children attend Romig, and that there is a healthy diversity
represented in the student body. Having attended an information
meeting on this topic, she reported that there is more to
consider than tuition cost, as logistics play a large part in
having a child attend a school outside of the neighborhood.
Additionally, comparing Alaskan needs statistically to the
contiguous states is incongruent.
TERRIE GOTTSTEIN stated opposition to HJR 1, and said she is
thankful that her two children were able to attend the public
school system and are currently succeeding at the college level.
The proposed bill would allow state funding for private and
religious education, which goes against separation of church and
state mandates. At a time of decreased public school funding,
this type of action could decimate the current system. The
legislature will be held accountable, should a dismantling of
the state education program occur, as a result of this
constitutional amendment passing. She suggested that those in
support of this measure could bring the topic to the ballot via
a grassroots petition, and opined that such action would
eliminate outside funding of the issue. Finally, the full
fiscal impacts need to be further investigated and understood.
HOPE FINKELSTEIN stated opposition to HJR 1 and said it is
important to uphold the current constitution. She thanked the
committee for their public service and reminded them that they
are elected to uphold and protect resources, as state stewards.
She cautioned that it is important for the members to refrain
from manifesting personal interests, while in office. She said
her two children attended charter schools. Choice exists, and
for her family it meant relocation. To a member's question, she
indicated that her children have attended Romig Middle and West
LADAWN DRUCE, Representative, National Education Association of
Alaska (NEAA), testified with official opposition to HJR 1,
paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read as follows
[original punctuation provided]:
I am speaking on behalf of NEA Alaska and the over
13,000 members who work in our public schools.
I thank you for the opportunity to testify because
constitutional changes should be considered very
carefully. HJR 1 if passed would start the dialogue
which would lead to the greatest change in public
education in the state of Alaska since statehood.
To date there has been no relevant data or information
presented what would suggest our state needs to open
the constitution for this purpose.
If "choice" is the concern; I would ask, "Is the
public aware of the numerous choices we currently have
within our public school structure today?"
I would also ask; "What is our state trying to address
with this type of action?" If the answer is "greater
accountability in education", then what evidence is
there that opening the constitution and allowing
public monies to follow the student to "undefined
educational choices" would result in students being
better educated in our state?
There is no evidence that HJR 1 would result in
students having a better educational experience and
greater opportunities than they currently have. Please
consider the following: Access in rural Alaska would
be limited at best, it would not expand their
education and would in fact dilute it. Outside money
will pour into this state if this is on the ballot.
Americans for Prosperity, members of ALEC, and the NEA
will spend millions to convince our citizens this
would be good for our state.
With school districts and the state facing budget
deficits, we should not gamble on an expense this
large and should instead invest in all of our
Please do not pass HJR 1.
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD asked how many polled members were being
represented by her statement.
MS. DRUCE responded that no poll had been conducted.
STEPHEN O'BRIEN stated opposition for HJR 1, and stressed the
need to proceed with caution. He paraphrased from a prepared
statement, which read as follows [original punctuation
My primary concern [regarding] HJR 1 is its vagueness
and lack of accountability. With this potential re-
allocation of state resources how will these
expenditures be monitored? Who will oversee the
curriculum? Will the teachers be certified?
Administrators? How will budgets and expenditures be
monitored? What discipline protocols be determined?
How will student admission requests be handled? Will
these students be eligible for buses? I am very
concerned about the lack of accountability.
Our country was founded on the cry "No taxation
without representation." From my perspective this
Amendment would jeopardize the public's right to
monitor these public expenditures.
JOE BOYLE, President, Matanuska-Susitna Education Association,
stated opposition for HJR 1, paraphrasing from a prepared
statement, which read as follows [original punctuation
I'm the president of the Mat-Su Education Association
and the father of two Wasilla High School graduates.
I am speaking in opposition to HJR.
Our goal as stakeholders in public education is to
provide a quality education to every child.
We need to provide that education to every child
because the health and prosperity of our republic
depends on it.
When Horace Man and others advocated for universal,
public education in the 19th century, their intent was
to unify our increasingly diverse population. And it
worked! When I was a little boy reciting my lessons
about George Washington, I had no idea that my
relatives came to this country long after the
Revolution. George Washington was the father of my
country, and it didn't matter when my ancestors
arrived on these shores.
Even today, it's a wonderful thing to hear little boys
and girls, some with distinct accents, talking about
our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution
as if they were there when they were written.
That's what public schools do. They continue to unify
our ever more diverse people. Because of public
schools we celebrate our diversity and our unity at
the same time. This is one of the things that make
our country exceptional - it's not that common around
the world - and we have public education to thank for
I don't know why some people want to weaken and dilute
universal, public education, but I know if they
succeed, our children and grandchildren will regret it
and ask us why?
I support public schools; I support the idea of a
people united; I don't support the dividing and
sorting of American children, and I don't support HJR
ALISON ARIANS stated opposition to HJR 1, paraphrasing from a
prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation
Sometimes when I've listened to the debate on this
bill, I've wondered whether it's really worth arguing
about. "So what," I think. If people want to risk
sending their kids to unaccredited schools that might
spring up to take advantage of their stat-sourced
funds, well, that's not my problem. Lots of people
have had bad experiences in the Lower 48, with
unscrupulous school owners taking off with their
money, or just not educating their children properly.
But my child will be safe in our public school system.
Why should I bother weighing in?
The reason is that I have listened to what teachers
have to say about this bill. I am not a teacher, nor
have I ever been a member of the NEA [National
Education Association]. But I have great respect for
the teachers in our schools. They are doing a
wonderful job educating our children.
Some legislators seem to feel that teachers' testimony
on this resolution is worthless. But teachers are the
very people we should be asking about this bill.
Let's acknowledge teachers' expertise. If we were
instituting a change in oil policy, of course we would
ask the oil companies their opinions.
When I listen to what the teachers are saying, I hear
a resounding NO on this resolution. Will this
resolution have a negative impact on the kids with
plenty of parental involvement and economic resources?
That's not clear. What is clear is the negative
impact on the kids without it. Lots of kids don't
have the option of having mom or dad driving them
around town to a school other than a neighborhood
school. And if resources are bled from those very
neighborhood schools educating our poorest students,
they are shortchanged even more.
Please be responsive to what our public school
teachers have to say. Thank you.
ANDY HOLLEMAN, President, Anchorage Education Association (AEA),
testified with official opposition to HJR 1, paraphrasing from a
prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation
I'm president of the Anchorage Education Association,
representing 3500 educators in the Municipality of
I'm in Representative Lynn's district, and I have one
son that went to private kindergarten. In the ASD he
was in an alternative school, an optional program, a
neighborhood school, a program within a neighborhood
school, an ASD charter school, and a private/public
partnership his senior year.
I am a member of the NEA. I'm speaking against HJR 1.
I'm also a happy resident of south Anchorage, and it's
a fine part of town. I've lived there for decades,
and taught there for some time as well. We're pretty
independent. We do some of our own road maintenance,
and some of our neighborhoods have their own
individual or community well and septic. We take care
of a lot of things on our own. We tend to be pretty
well mannered and cooperative. And yes, we chip in
for police and fire and the all kinds of stuff all
over Anchorage even if we don't use so much of it
I've often thought how nice it would be for us to be
our own school district. If we were smaller and more
nimble we could do things we cannot now. We have a
lot of parental support in the neighborhood, and that
would add a big boost to us as a compact district. If
we as a community wanted to run our own schools, we'd
do a great job. We'd just need some of our property
tax money and the money you currently give to the
Anchorage school district.
But there's a reason we shouldn't ask you for that,
and there's a reason you should say NO to us if we
Yes, we would do a great job with our children. But
YOUR job is to see to the education of ALL
children…..not just ours. That we are "in" with the
rest of Anchorage makes a lot of sense, and even if we
want to draw a line around ourselves, and take this
on…...well, we could do that, on our own. But you
shouldn't fund it.
Similarly, although the logic is inviting, when you
fund individuals to make choices about their own
children, you may have made them happier, but you have
not met YOUR responsibilities to the State of Alaska
as outlined in the Constitution. You have a
responsibility to educate all children. That includes
the students with great parents, the students of
parents that aren't doing so well, and the students
that have no parents at all.
If you try to solve education problems by handing
vouchers to people to spend on their own children, you
don't fulfill your mandate to educate Alaska's
children. Make Alaska education the best you can, and
leave people free to make their own choices.
MEGAN RICHOTTE stated opposition to HJR 1, agreed with the
previous speaker and said the conversation needs to be fully
explored and expanded. She said harm could occur, such as in
the Copper River Basin school district. The area once had seven
schools, but three have been closed in recent years. As a
parent, she has one child at Roger's Park Elementary and one in
DEENA MITCHELL stated opposition to HJR 1, stating that it would
be naïve to expect no impact to the public schools. She said
her three children have been attending the public system for the
last three years, having arrived from an area in Chicago that
has received national recognition for school quality. A non-
partisan study shows that an immediate $100 million would be
drained from the Alaska public system, should the voucher system
be adopted. Oversight of the voucher system would be costly or
possibly lost, and she opined that the vetting process on the
entire bill appears to be weak. Statistics from a poll,
recently released by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, indicate
strong community support for the public schools. Further, she
maintained it is the responsibility of the legislature to use
their resources and time to vet issues of this nature. She
To say that you should put it to the voters for a
choice, to me, is very disingenuous. ... Only if you
think it is in the best interest of Alaska, and your
stewardship, for all our ... children, should you
release this to a vote by the general public; which is
going to be greatly influenced by money from the Lower
CHAIR GATTIS clarified that it was the recent National Education
Association (NEA) poll, which indicates how 90 percent of the
parents throughout the state would recommend their public
DAVID NEES stated support for HJR 1 by making four points.
First, he said the state constitution has been continually
amended since it was written; by both legislative action and
citizen initiative. Secondly, the term "voucher" does not
appear in the language of HJR 1. Thirdly, the religious school
argument is false, he opined and read language from the bill,
which states, "... will be free from sectarian control."
Fourth, an [education] task force member has stated that the
discussion, for too long, has been between three groups:
unions, legislators, and EED; it is time to bring parents,
teachers, and business into the discussion. He said HJR 1 would
bring the absent voices into the discussion. Finally, he added,
no Title I charter schools exist, and the working poor have no
options for education. He said they want the best for their
children also, but trust the legislature to provide a quality
system; having no time to leave their jobs and lobby for
DANNA GRAMMER, Business Owner, stated opposition to HJR 1,
paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read as follows
[original punctuation provided]:
I am a small business owner and single mother living
in the Anchorage School District. So to say that I do
not have the time to be here today is putting it
politely. However, I am here because I'm very afraid
of how our state is proposing to handle our current
public education system. My daughter attends
Government Hill Elementary School and is registered in
the Spanish Immersion program. She has been given the
gift of a second language through this program. What
I call a "gift" of a second language is actually
mandatory in most developed nations throughout the
world. So I am thankful that the Anchorage School
District offers this program so my daughter has an
additional skill that she can use when she is an adult
and faces having to compete in a very competitive
I am here to testify in opposition to the [HJR 1] bill
currently under consideration in the Senate to
eliminate the part of the Alaska State constitution
that specifically states that public funds will not be
used to fund private schools.
I understand the proposed bill is only to take this to
a vote of the people. However, why are we even
considering such a measure when our public schools are
facing harsh budget cuts such as increased class sizes
in already overfull class rooms, less funds for school
supplies when many teachers are already purchasing
supplies out of their own pockets, less
extracurricular activities that contribute to overall
develop of a child, less school counselors to help
assist and guide our students to a better future, and
the list goes on. I would like it if our elected
public officials would spend their time and energy
into fixing the problems in public school system
rather than trying to fund private and religious
schools. I know there are some legislatures that are
working toward that goal and I do appreciate your
The Alaska education system is not without its flaws
as is how the state of Alaska appropriates the funds
in its budget. However, it should be a mission of ALL
members of the legislature of this state to continue
to work on those flaws and improve public school
education--NOT pass off this responsibility to
privately run schools or schools based on a particular
religious philosophy that is only going to benefit a
small segment of school age children in Alaska. With
90% of Anchorage school age children (and 90% of
Alaska school age children) attending public school,
this bill does not accomplish that mission. It is my
belief that this bill undermines that mission.
Thank you for taking the time to hear my concerns
today. It is my hope that what I have said today will
encourage you to prioritize the education of the
majority of Alaska's children who attend public
DON GRAY stated opposition to HJR 1 stressing that the public
schools would suffer economic harm through the process being
proposed. He said his two children graduated from the public
schools and both had successful college careers, as well, who
have produced two grandchildren now attending Anchorage area
charter schools. This measure would dilute the public funds and
remove schools from democratic control of a locally elected
MARY GRAHAM stated opposition to HJR 1, stressing the negative
effect that occurred in her home town in Wisconsin, which, once
a model system, is now being decimated by this type of action.
She urged the committee to consider what has happened in that
area. Additionally, she clarified that the previously mentioned
poll was funded by the NEA but designed by the Anchorage Chamber
of Commerce and United Way. She urged the need to have a
discussion about supporting public schools, not a constitutional
ANN FULLER stated opposition to HJR 1, stating that her child
attended public school. She said she has taught for the Bureau
of Indian Affairs and acknowledged that it is a challenge to
educate children throughout Alaska. Funding a public school
system open to all children is the job of this committee, she
MARY HAKALA stated opposition to HJR 1, and said her school
career was in the Juneau public school system, as were three of
her children. When the Juneau Community Charter school formed,
she was one of the founders; volunteering many hours to help
offer a unique opportunity as an improvement on the public
system. She suggested focus be brought to improve the existing
public school system, and said the amendment would be an act of
violence on the state.
ANDREA STORY, Member, Juneau School Board, testified with
official opposition to HJR 1, paraphrasing from a prepared
document, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]:
I am a member of the Juneau School Board and I am
testifying today on behalf of the Board. The Board is
in opposition to HJR 1.
The intent appears well meaning to give more choices
to families in education and to make improvements to
education. But in examining what has happened in
other states, this is not the case.
It appears that this gives a false choice to many
parents and community members. It assumes a
significantly better education for their children and
the community's children than public schools.
In looking at information on evaluation of student
performance in current voucher programs, research and
evaluation have found little of no difference in
voucher and public school student performance.
Vouchers from D.C. to Cleveland to Milwaukee have not
raised student achievement.
Another false choice to parents and community members
is that vouchers give choices to all families.
Vouchers give choices to private schools, not parents.
Private schools decide if they want to accept
vouchers, and how many students they want to admit.
Private schools can discriminate against students on
the basis of disability and economic status or reject
students with poor academic performance. Students may
qualify for a voucher but may never be able to use it
because private schools may choose not to accept them.
Public schools are not to discriminate against
families based on any circumstances, if they do, there
are grave consequences.
Public education is a building block to our society.
It brings our youth and families and community
together, it is a basis of our democratic system. Our
families of different faiths, ethnicities, and
financial backgrounds come together and learn to work
together and respect our diversity and see how alike
we all are.
Public schools are accountable to their communities
and state. Elected school board members and school
staff are working very, very hard to improve student
achievement. Higher standards have been adopted,
attention to professional development, monitoring
student progress and providing choices within the
public schools. Budgets are scrutinized
SUSAN SIMMONS stated support for HJR 1, and said she is the
mother of four children who were home schooled as well as
attended charter and public schools. The charter schools in the
area have long wait lists and a voucher system could prove
helpful, even to low income families. In some states, this type
of move has been helpful; she finished, urging passage of the
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD moved to report HJR 1 out of committee
with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX objected for discussion.
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX said she remains conflicted on this topic
and postulated at length on both sides of the issue, mentioning
legal as well as public considerations, and the existing
educational options. Finally, she said, although it does not
necessarily represent any future vote, at this point she will
support moving the bill from committee.
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON recapped that the committee's
responsibility calls for consideration of the fiscal constraints
prior to passage of the bill. He said fiscally it would be
difficult to support this proposed legislation, and he reviewed
the funding requirements and the possible negative impact on
public school allocations. Further, accountability must be
considered. Referring to a section of previously drafted
legislation, labeled committee substitute (CS) for HB 145, 27-
LS0223\G, which preceded HJR 1, and passed this committee, he
paraphrased the language which states:
(b) Nothing in this chapter authorizes the department
to regulate a participating private school except as
necessary to carry out the program.
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON pointed out, that given this language,
there is no criteria that can be used for oversight by the state
to ensure teacher/curriculum quality and standards. He reminded
the committee that a two-thirds floor vote is required to amend
the constitution, and such restriction is imposed to ensure that
the legislature takes the time to understand all facets and
effects in detail. He said that given the current level of
discussion, and seeing no benefit to the public education system
by passage, he would not be supporting moving HJR 1 from
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER said moving the bill out of committee
will not be the final word, but will serve in allowing the
process to continue.
REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD reiterated that the Blaine Amendment was
a bigoted, anti-Catholic, antireligious measure and enabling
legislation was forwarded to ensure that federal territories
planning to become states included this, or similar, amendments
in the development of constitutions; every state formed after
1876 has included the Blaine Amendment. The passage of HJR 1,
she opined, will allow the voters of Alaska to have a voice in
the question of whether to alter the state's founding document.
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON commented that other states hold their
own counsel, and all are attempting to improve their local
public schools. No silver bullet exists, nor is there evidence
that state funding of private schools is effective, and she said
it is important to consider unintended consequences. The base
result of this legislation is that the state will be charged
with funding private schools. She maintained that the committee
should have the opportunity to delve further into the possible
ramifications and fiscal implications, and opined that passing
the bill from committee today would be premature.
REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND said the feedback to her office has been
overwhelming opposition for this bill. Further, she opined that
it would be remiss, and irresponsible to release the bill from
committee without further investigation regarding fiscal
A roll call vote was taken. Representatives LeDoux, Saddler,
Reinbold, and Gattis voted in favor of HJR 1. Representatives
Drummond, Seaton, and P. Wilson voted against it. Therefore,
HJR 1 was reported out of the House Education Standing Committee
by a vote of 4-3.