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April 24, 2014

The War on Alaska’s Public Schools — The Basic Outline

by Linda Kellen Biegel

Last school year, I wrote a post about the proposed cuts in the Anchorage School District budget and how they would affect a family of a middle school student. It was then I became aware of the outrageous fees Mayor Dan Sullivan was charging the school district–for example: 100% of the salaries and benefits of those Anchorage Police–called Resource Officers–who only service the School District about 70% of the time. I tried to show how they were taking millions of dollars away from our kids. (Note: As of this week, these fees have not changed.)

Sadly, this week Jeanne wrote a post about this year’s cuts. They are much worse than last year and are precipitated by both Governor Parnell’s under-funding as well as Mayor Sullivan’s refusal to tax to the cap.

But it’s not just Anchorage that is suffering. Fairbanks, Juneau and many smaller and more rural schools are in deep trouble if things don’t change. The worst part: this is all orchestrated as part of a larger and more national attack on public education. Alaska is just next-in-line.

For over a year now, I’ve watched how the anti-public school drama has played out in Alaska on multiple fronts. From the Municipality of Anchorage to the Legislature to the Governor’s Office to outside organizations, the forces at work are performing a complex dance in multiple venues…a dance that is impossible to follow unless one is a complete research nerd (and then, only tenuously). I’ve wanted to write about it all in that context…I’ve started a number of posts. However, I haven’t been able to figure out how to present it. I started writing a list, like an outline…

…and realized that was the best way to start.

So here is a list of the characters in this drama and the means they are using to achieve their agenda — a summary of their activities so far. Jeanne and I will be writing multiple posts in the future on these education issues. This gives you a place to look up the various characters and refresh your memory about their place in the story.

Disclaimer: I want to emphasize that while the characters supporting these false “reforms” in Alaska seem to be Republican, the issue is not a partisan one. From what I can see, the majority of Alaska’s Republican Legislators are not yet “sold” on this bill of goods and are more than happy to receive input from their constituents.

The problem: Like every other Alaska issue, these strategies are generally pushed forward by those religious ideologues and/or those beholden to businesses/corporations who want privatization across-the-board. These businesses/corporations who are pushing this “education reform” agenda can do so with tons of money and the help of friendly politicians. We must contact our State Senators and Representatives to counter any misinformation. I hope this and future posts help you to do that.

Leading the attack:

Governor Sean Parnell — I covered some of the issues with the Governor at the beginning and discuss his budget below. Since the election, Governor Parnell has truly shown his religious extremist leanings and tea party philosophy, which includes a strong “Christian” influence in the interpretation of law. An alarming number of his appointees also seem to reflect his beliefs.

Representative Wes Keller — Originally appointed by Sarah Palin to fill a vacancy in the Legislature, Mr. Keller is a religious extremist and tea partier through-and-through. He is a state chairman for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Mr. Keller is the sponsor/creator of House Bill 145 and House Joint Resolution 16 (see below) with some help from ALEC’s “model bills.”

Senator Fred Dyson — He wasn’t appointed by Palin but “ditto” to everything else. Dyson is sponsor of the companion legislation in the Senate, SB 106 and he attended the ALEC Conference with Keller last year.

ALECA slightly re-worded summary from Pro Publica — I encourage you to follow the link and read the entire post: “For decades, a discreet nonprofit called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC has brought together state legislators and corporate representatives to produce business-friendly “model” legislation. These “model” bills form the basis of hundreds of pieces of legislation each year, and they often end up as laws.”

The Friedman FoundationPer the Nation: “For most of the half-century since economist Milton Friedman first advanced the idea of school vouchers, it’s been the ultimate weapon in our educational debates, always ticking just under the surface, never quite going off. But after last November’s Republican statehouse victories, the right, sometimes abetted by Democrats and liberals, has brought back vouchers and school privatization with a vengeance.”

The Foundation has been heavily involved in most of those voucher battles across the country. As I will discuss below, they have turned their sites on Alaska by conducting a poll of residents regarding school vouchers.

Mayor Dan Sullivan — I have recapped some of the Mayor’s anti-education moves at the beginning of this post and Mudflats as a whole has covered many more. His “Education Summit” is ongoing and I discuss it below.

Jim Minnery–Minnery’s Alaska Family Council lists “School Choice” as one of their top issues. Minnery has been a proponent of changing the AK Constitution in order to use State money for religious education since back in 2008, as this email between Gov. Sarah Palin and then Atty General Talis Coleberg shows.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage It’s not hard to guess the motivation behind the Archdiocese’s push for school vouchers, as reflected in the “Catholic Anchor.” A story in the Chicago Tribune on what the results of Indiana’s voucher program revealed: “…Just as backers had hoped and opponents feared, a new statewide school voucher program in Indiana is draining money from public education and offering new life to struggling parochial schools.” My understanding is that the economy has taken a serious toll on the enrollment in parochial (as well as private) schools in the state. Last year, one of them had a Senior graduating class of three. These schools may be counting on our State money to keep them afloat.

KIPP Charter Schools — I included KIPP on this list even though their only actual appearance in the state was in the form of Dr. Mike Feinberg, who taught 5th grade for three whole years with Teach For America and then founded the “Knowledge Is Power Program” (KIPP) Charter Schools. The reason I list them is because the presentation by Feinberg at the Education Summit (third video, first speaker after Superintendent Comeau) sounded like he was trying to sell a Veg-O-Matic or a set of Ginsu knives rather than inform a group about education alternatives. And it makes sense…Alaska is a rich oil state with a surplus when most other states have deficits. You could almost see the man drooling.

The Artillery:

Governor Parnell’s Operating Budget (HB 284 — starting on page 8) — The Governor promised that his budget was a “full funding of K-12 Education”. In actuality, the budget doesn’t even cover inflation (which averaged 3.16% in 2011) and now has school districts across the state scrambling to cut much-needed programs. How much of a slap-in-the face was it to K-12 Education in Alaska? The “Teaching and Learning” line-item in the Department of Education budget makes up the bulk of the money shared by every school district in Alaska. If the budget stays as-is, Alaska schools will receive a little over $237 million this year…an increase of about $3 million from last year or about 1.3%. However, the Office of the Governor “Executive Office” line-item (which includes the Governor’s Staff) will be receiving over $13 million this year — an increase of almost $2 million or over 13%!

House Joint Resolution (HJR) 16 — A resolution which, if passed, would place an amendment to the Constitution on the ballot, allowing for public (education) money to go for a “public purpose.” According to the text of the resolution, it still specifically does NOT allow state money to go towards private or religious institutions. However, it DOES seem geared to allow state funds for privatized education. Also, I have been told of one more possibility (which will require more research)…it could leave open the option of a for-profit business that owns a religious school receiving funds. From Wes Keller’s Sponsor Statement:

HJR 16 opens some of these doors for both public and private education by allowing the release of funds to more than just public schools. This Constitutional Amendment allows those students seeking to excel in secondary and post secondary education to attend a school that meets their needs.

Like I said…more research…

House Bill (HB) 145 (Senate companion bill SB 106)Titled the same as the ALEC template voucher bill, HB145 is intended to establish: “…the parental choice scholarship program to be administered by school districts for the purpose of paying the cost of attending grades kindergarten through 12 at public and private schools…” In other words, it will establish school vouchers with State of Alaska money.

At this time, it suffers from some major drawbacks:

1) It’s unconstitutional per Article 7 Section 1 a) State money cannot be used to fund private or religious education (see HJR 16) and b) We must “establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State,” — since many village parents will be unable to utilize this “choice” (voucher), it could quite possibly get decimated in the courts.

2) Because there have been amendments on top of amendments in an attempt to get it to work, it is a huge pile of gobbledy gook that most of the members of the House Education Committee don’t even completely understand, based on their Friday meeting. Those pushing the bill (Rep Keller, Rep Dick) seem to think it’s been in the Education Committee “an embarassing” amount of time and just needs to get moved along…whether it functions or not.

**There is another meeting scheduled for Wednesday Feb 1st and I intend to send my testimony to the Committee beforehand. I encourage you to do the same.**

“Alaska K-12 School Choice Survey” — Several months ago, I was listening to a conservative show when the host started discussing a poll that proves Alaska wants to have vouchers private charter schools. It turned out to be a poll that was funded by the Friedman Foundation. The host was quoting numbers over 60% in favor of various types of alternative education…pretty impressive. When I researched the poll, I discovered the most important question:

How familiar are you with [Charter Schools/Virtual Schools/School Vouchers] in K-12 education? Not that familiar/Never heard of it — 62%

So basically, the vast majority polled had no idea what these folks were talking about. So, when these Alaskans who were quite used to receiving free money in the form of a Permanent Fund Dividend Check each year were asked a question worded like this:

“An education savings account allows parents to withdraw their child from a public district or charter school and recieve a payment into a government authorized savings account with restricted but multiple uses. Parents can then used these funds to pay for private school tuition, virtual education programs, private tutoring or saving for future college expenses. In general, do you favor or opppose this kind of savings account system?”

61% were all for it!

Note that 61% is about the same percentage of folks who had no idea what “school choice” really is. In other words, the same percentage of folks who know what all of this means said “no” to the free money.

Another note: if you look at the survey demographics, only 13% were Alaska Native. That does not match the State of Alaska demographics according to the 2010 Census, but it does match the Municipality of Anchorage demographics. In other words, while these folks were claiming that their “sample size” was Alaska, it was probably just Anchorage.

Why is that significant?

Anchorage School District already has really nice charter schools within the system (and there is no reason we can’t have more). If you ask someone from Anchorage about charter schools, especially if they don’t know about the lower-48 kind, that will completely skew their responses.

The Education Summit — Per Municipal Code, Mayor Dan Sullivan’s roll in enacting School District changes is generally signing or vetoing what’s been passed through the School Board and the Anchorage Assembly. However, being that it’s an election year, he adopted the role of Superintendent by collecting corporate and private business money for an Education Summit. It was set up in three parts:

1) He hired Viewpoint Learning, a company of professional “handlers,” then hand-picked a mostly-conservative 100 participants. They brought up seven panelists. All but two of them were clearly pushing a privatized charter school and/or voucher agenda, four of them worked for organizations whose funding was provided directly by privatization advocates and only one had proof of an education plan with long-term success…a non-privatization pro-union strategy in Finland.

2) Now in phase 2, The Mayor’s Office is currently asking for Anchorage residents to attend the “community conversations.” This is the only time that the general public will have any input n the “scenarios” reached during the Education Summit. I’ve already signed up for one and I encourage everyone to do the same.

3) There will be a “Capstone Summit” in June where some of the Summit participants and some of the Community Dialogue participants will get together and finalize “recommendations.”

To be continued…

Comments

comments

Comments
28 Responses to “The War on Alaska’s Public Schools — The Basic Outline”
  1. Nees 4 School Board says:

    Excellent article. I also encourage everyone to attend the education summit. Private school funding is not allowed under the Alaska state constitution.
    Expecting excellence and managing funding is a very logical extension of the conservative position, the liberal position is spend as much as possible and it will fix it self. The ASD is spending over $2 million per day ($800 million divided by 365). There is movement afoot on both sides of the issue. Having been a teacher for 28 years and being a third time candidate for school board the issue is, and should be maximum bang for the buck.
    If mudpuppy wants a real inside view come join mew at the education summit and throw you name into the hat for school board,
    David Nees Candidate Seat E

  2. naughtymonkey says:

    Linda, thanks so much for your extensive post. I just left CROOKSANDLIARS where I left a comment under January 31, 2012 post by Susie Madrak “Catholic Bishop: Obama Administration Birth Control Requirement Is ‘Assault On Religious Liberty’” and put a link to your post about education. psminidivapa, I am not an educator, but I could cry when I think of the cuts Gov. Corbett (R) has made and unfortunately may be making in the future. I shall not be able to read comments past number 12 above, because my computer has not been able to get past 1st main screen of Mudflats for quite some time. My best to all.

  3. Red says:

    Thank you for this wealth of information, Linda. This is great stuff. I have not had the time to read the post in its entiriety yet, but I appreciate all the research you have accomplished and shared with the rest of us.

    To see first-hand how our legislatures determine education budgets, I encourage folks to tune into the House/Senate Finance Sub-committee hearings. They are televised by both KTOO (Gavel-to-Gavel: http://gavelalaska.org/) and AlaskaLegislature tv (http://alaskalegislature.tv/). There is at least one “school choice” supporter on the house finance subcommiteee (Rep. Dick). And, in the last hearing (1/31/12: the archive should be available soon from Gavel to Gavel) Rep. Tammy Wilson seemed astounded why kids and teachers alike cannot learn and teach like they did on Little House on the Prairie. Yes, really. These people, unfortunately, have a say in determining the fate of the Department of Education & Early Development’s budget.

  4. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    To some extent I am talking generally here and to some extent just to Zyxomma.

    Depriving people of education is a main goal of the plutocracy. Disparaging education is another means of dicouraging its pursuit.

    The surest way out of economic despair is being able to think. That is of course frightening to the small number of people who happen to have acquired almost all the economic and political power in the global system. I think it is even slightly more subtle than that though. Look at the example of Palin. You have a half wit with regular access to an audience of millions. For some inexplicable reason they welcome the projectile vomitus and somehow ignore the smell. How could such a population survive in any decently competitive society?

    I had a public education from start to finish and it was rocky, but by and large it was very good, I think I turned out rather well though it took some time and effort. I don’t think of myself as exceptional so I also think that anybody could do as I have done, in their own way. I get a sense that due to the increasing cost, and the relentless propaganda, fewer people will be able to obtain a good eductation. That fact alone makes me glad that I am old.

    • Zyxomma says:

      Your critical thinking skills are top notch, KN. I’m sure everyone here would agree. I had public school education through 10th grade, then quit (I was accepted a year early for an early admissions program to college; my mother did not approve). The only credits I needed for graduation were history and gym, and I hated warming a seat in classes where I was learning nothing. I’d read my textbooks cover to cover at the start of the school year. Let’s just say I was different.

      I’ve never stopped educating myself, and hope I never will. I believe basic education should be a right, not a privilege. NCLB has been a disaster; teachers teach to the test, whether or not the material is understood.

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        Zyxomma – all you say is quite true, and worse than that is also true. Even though the teaching profession, whether under duress or out of a spirit of cooperation adopted the NCLB philosophy (I am being generous here) and were repaid with concerted attacks on their unions, their right to bargain collectively, and their professional reputations. It could be argued that this attack on the professional teachers has not yet peaked. In that respect alone the next few elections will be telling. WI for example.

        The main purpose of education is to teach individuals how to learn on their own. Yes give them a foundational knowledge, but nothing in the world is static. Change is the only thing that doesn’t. There is so much knowledge readily to hand that it takes years and an almost fanatical dedication to pursuing even some of the most obscure stacks of the ever increasing library. It goes something like, first you learn enough to be competent within a certain discipline, then you acquire enough experience in that discipline to have what might be called a working knowledge of the state of the science, or art. At that point you are prepared, if you are brave enough, to undertake to identify and then answer some deficit of knowledge. It may be a very small thing, a single idea, that happens upon detailed examination and rigorous testing to point out entirely new questions to be answered and at the same time provide a means of making accurate predictions.

        If I cannot learn, I cannot live.

  5. psminidivapa says:

    Basically the same nonsense is happening in Pennsylvania (where I am a middle school teacher in a rural public school). Our Governor, Tom Corbett (R), was elected with IMMENSE donations from private charter school corporations, private cyber-school corporations and the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg area. Once he was elected, he was “beholdin’” to those special interest groups. He – and his tea-bagging minions – immediately gouged nearly 50% from public school funding, introduced legislation to give tax money to private/religious schools in form of vouchers, and encouraged various other bills to decimate public education in PA. We all believe that the national “plot” is to get rid of public education and fund private education with public funds (via tax dollars). Then, rich people can have their expensive private education – which, coincidentally does not have to accept students with learning problems, discipline problems, ESL issues, special ed, emotional disabilities, (hell, they don’t have to accept black students, girls, atheists, you name it) paid for by the state. It’s a way to keep the rich educated and the poor “warehoused.”

    Everything that you stated about the public’s lack of understanding of the issue in Alaska is happening right now in Pennsylvania. The public has been misled to believe that all public school teachers are “fat cats” collecting HUGE salaries for doing nothing…trust me, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Catholic church sees the Governor’s plan as a win for their declining private school enrollment. CEOs of the for-profit cyber-schools and charter schools see their bank accounts growing with tax dollars.

    Our Governor announced today that he will cut even more from public schools in the next year because his initial plan to funnel tax dollars to private and religious schools failed this year. The programs that have defined my high performing, awesome rural public middle school – such as the arts, the related arts, technology, HISTORY (there is a reason that history is not tested – schools can eliminate history as a course without a problem…hmmmm??) – may not survive this cut.

    This is a frightening time for public education in many states, apparently. See what is happening in your state. MAKE SOME NOISE!

    • Zyxomma says:

      One of my dearest friends was a teacher starting in 1967. He retired last year. He spent a few decades in middle school, teaching English, then moved to high school, teaching English and History. His salary was commensurate with the years on the job, but one could not call him wealthy with a straight face. He gave the kids all he had. He finally left because NJ’s Governor Christie (you know, the morbidly obese Romney supporter) has every intention of decimating teachers’ benefits, and enough was enough.

      It’s happening in every state with a Republican governor, as far as I can tell (and I admit, I don’t follow this news closely, because I’m not a teacher and I don’t have children).

  6. Zyxomma says:

    I’m in a city where our billionaire mayor (who illegally bought himself a third term, against the will of the people, who twice voted for 2-term limits) has “taken over” the schools. His real goal is busting the teachers’ union, and he’s at it relentlessly. He lays the blame for failing schools squarely at the feet of the union. In truth, a lot of our schools are overcrowded; a lot of the kids in these schools are poor. Many have too-young, barely-literate parents who have no clue how to interest their kids in anything that will help them get ahead in this world. Many of the kids have behavioral problems and very poor diet. How in the world are teachers to blame for any of this?

  7. beth. says:

    How familiar are you with [Charter Schools/Virtual Schools/School Vouchers] in K-12 education? Not that familiar/Never heard of it — 62%

    So basically, the vast majority polled had no idea what these folks were talking about. So, when these Alaskans who were quite used to receiving free money in the form of a Permanent Fund Dividend Check each year were asked a question worded like this:

    “An education savings account allows parents to withdraw their child from a public district or charter school and recieve a payment into a government authorized savings account with restricted but multiple uses. Parents can then used these funds to pay for private school tuition, virtual education programs, private tutoring or saving for future college expenses. In general, do you favor or opppose this kind of savings account system?”

    61% were all for it!

    Note that 61% is about the same percentage of folks who had no idea what “school choice” really is. In other words, the same percentage of folks who know what all of this means said “no” to the free money. — from the article. bold emphasis added. b.
    ““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

    Linda — YOWZA, girl! Did you ever do some magnificent digging and excellent reporting! I’m in awe of your ability to pull all the info together and make it easy to understand/follow. Thou art remarkable!

    That said… a clarification, please, for me (who seems most addle-brained, of late). Shouldn’t the above (in bold) be:

    (A) “IOW, the same % of folks who do not know what all this means said “yes” to the free $.”

    OR, alternatively,

    (B) “IOW, the same 38% of folks who know what all this means said “no” to the free $.”

    The reason I ask is twofold:
    1) The last number floating is 62%. That is the number people have in their head when they go into the next sentence of the paragraph. There is nothing to indicate they should have in mind a *different* number when reading the rest of the paragraph, even though the number(s) being referred to is clearly not the floating 62%….leastwise, I don’t think it is. and,

    2) if 62% had *never* heard about the program and/or are not that familiar with it [the first question posed to them] that would mean 38% *had*. *That* percentage reflects very well the % of people who said “no” to the free $ [the second question posed] … but I’m not so sure a direct correlation could be made between the *had*-heards/*are*-familiar-withs and the % who said “no” [see (B), above]. I’m thinking the argument you make [that the respondents are familiar with annual PFD check] makes a *solid* explanation of why the results are most probably as they are, though [see (A), above].

    In any event, if you could clarify the point for me, I’d thank you greatly.

    Again: Oh, what a great article! beth.

  8. akglow says:

    I will be so happy to sign up and attend, if there is still space available, and if you have any suggestions on key talking points, I would be grateful.

    • John says:

      I believe all you need is an open mind and a willingness to think. They are going to present some different ideas, and ask for the public’s response. I don’t think there will be an opportunity for “talking points” though I could be wrong. More of an opportunity to say “well what do you mean by charter schools? the ones we have in Alaska or the unaccountable schools in the lower 48 that have shown no difference in test scores?”

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      akglow – I hope you can attend. My only suggestion is this: ask them “why are we giving tax money to private for profit companies? We have a school system. We should fund it. We should not spend tax money on any other educational methods. If people want to send their children to private schools they should have to pay for it themselves.

  9. Mo says:

    One of Paul Krugman’s recent columns is relevant here:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/29/destructive-austerity-usa/

    digby wonders:

    “It’s very hard not to believe the conspiracy theorists who say that this is consciously being done to lower wages and standard of living. Can anyone really be this dumb?”

    Yes, digby, Alaskan Republican voters and legislators are indeed this dumb.

    • Mo says:

      In other words:

      We’re in a Depression.
      People are out of work.
      Infrastructure – schools, roads, bridges, etc etc are deteriorating.
      Research is foundering.
      Interest rates are astounding low – great time to get a loan!
      Governments (state _and_ federal) borrowing money to spend on education, infrastructure, and research would put people back to work and improve our competitiveness in the world economy.
      More people with money to spend buy more stuff, businesses start re-investing their cash reserves to accommodate the extra customer demand, gross national product swings upward, taxes increase accordingly, loans are paid off efficiently.

      This is all basic entrepreneurship a child with a lemonade stand could comprehend: you have to spend money to make money.

      So what about this do Alaska Republican voters not understand? Is it just Palinesque resentment against bright, educated “elites”? They really don’t want their kids able to think and understand better than they do, because they fear that the kids will wake up and smell the roses?

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        Mo – I think it is complicated. Many of the people most susceptible to this kind of fear mongering are hard case believers. They see it as their duty to make sure their progeny toe the line and are also believers or they will burn in hell for eternity. Any purely non-secular objective and fairly decent education is going to expose children to enough of the modern world for them to realize that “faith is believin’ what you know ain’t so.” Add to that a demographic that went through the older public school system and came out the other end with a relatively bad taste from it, not a high percentage but a goodly few. The NCLB act was kind of slipped through congress with no publicity, no public debate and virtually no scrutiny. Compare that to the ACA. There had to be complicity on the part of media to accomplish that. Then look at who is interested in capitalizing on the privatization of education and you find Murdoch is one of the front runners. Another is Gates. One wants to sell ideology, the other wants to sell software, neither of those objectives is productive from the stand point of education.

        The really glaring problem in all this is very simple but almost never mentioned, the whole point of the privatization movement is to use TAX money to fund private enterprise. That sounds like a good argument to use against this kind of subversion.

  10. Ratfish says:

    Parnell says he doesn’t support any more school money because he hasn’t seen any “tangible results.” I guess by the latter he means layoffs and program cuts- which he will soon see.

    At the same time, he had no problem including a 3.3% increase for state agencies so there won’t need to be any reductions to state-funded trips to Hawaii and other key junket destinations.

    Parnell’s real war on public education is to squeeze school districts into making unpopular decisions, make parents as unhappy with public schools, take on the unions a la Scott Walker in Wisconsin by blaming teachers, and then miraculously- using unhappiness that he has created- come up with a scheme to siphon public money to private religious schools.

    An oil company CEO, a teacher, Governor Parnell and a Fox News viewer are sat at a table. On it there is a plate with 10 cookies. The oil company CEO scoops up 9 of them. Governor Parnell turns to the Fox News viewer and whispers, “Watch out, that teacher is after your cookie!”.

    • Mo says:

      Y’know, Ratfish, I think you’ve homed in on the exact problem:

      “Parnell’s real war on public education is to squeeze school districts into making unpopular decisions, make parents as unhappy with public schools, take on the unions a la Scott Walker in Wisconsin by blaming teachers, and then miraculously- using unhappiness that he has created- come up with a scheme to siphon public money to private religious schools.”

  11. John says:

    Anchorage Mudpuppies need to sign up for the Mayor’s community meetings. Otherwise they will be stacked with the far right crowd.

    • John says:

      Space is limited and you must rsvp in advance. That way, people with limited time, money, and computer access are unlikely to be involved.

  12. beaglemom says:

    I’m glad that you brought up the ALEC involvement. This is one scary group.

  13. Diane says:

    very well written. I do not live in Alaska, but could understand the issues very well.

    When my 3 children were younger, they attended Catholic grammar school. I was for school choice then as the cost to us was high. I worked in a public school at the and I worked with all the kids that never would be admitted to a private schools. learning disabled, learning impaired and behaviorally impaired. It was hard to balance my personal with my professional views.
    In the end, I decided that public schools were in the best interest of the students, and country.
    That if I wanted a Catholic education, then I needed to pay for that.
    My children except for the oldest, ended up in the public school system. We were lucky that our school system is fantastic and our small city supports our schools.

    I would be hesitant today to work for vouchers. Back then, we were trying to obtain money for our children. Today, I see it as a fight to end the public school system as we know it. And that, I cannot support.

  14. Alaska Pi says:

    Linda- Thank you!
    I don’t have time this morning to read this carefully but will come back. Will be contacting my House member to say the resolution to advance a vote to change the Constitution is wrong.
    I’m ducking while I say this (because I have relatives and friends in ANC and the valley whom I love dearly) but all this stuff is deeply dangerous not only to education as a whole but to rural Alaska first and foremost. there is some hope in rural areas that allowing this will allow for better education possibilities in small communities. I’ve had communication through my Regional Corporation floating the idea of hub schools for rural kids which may actually address some of the problems rural education poses BUT I don’t see how it could really work with the options proposed.
    I hate to see Southcentral drive so much of how we do things here- it is not the whole state.
    Also- too- watching the flap and settled court case for for the unorganized borough and its 10 census areas and their schools- how in the world can the state even use the word “choice” for those vast regions of the state?

    • That was the crux of the argument during the HB145 meeting on Friday. Because some of the schools in the villages are so small if just one or two children leave to go to another school could close them, they are basically exempting them from being able to participate.

      Last I checked, that’s unconstitutional and I don’t think you’re going to get a Resolution to change that.

      We have an opportunity with the recent court settlement to look at systemic ways to improve education within the system we already have…for all Alaska kids.

      Oh yeah…why am I still up?

      • Alaska Pi says:

        I hope you got some sleep!
        The Resolution if passed through Leg would allow for the question of changing the constitution to put before voters. If the same 61% of people who didn’t understand what school choice was don’t understand this we’d be sunk.
        If you are correct that the survey was primarily conducted in ANC and environs it doesn’t begin to get at what this state as a whole needs to do about education- let alone what it wants to do. ( No offense to you and other wonderful ANC friends )
        I read a bunch of the other links and am just flat steaming.
        Will be watching what you and AKM post on this very carefully.
        And question for the whole school choice yahoo bunch- Alaska has a very good choice already besides some good charter schools here and there- home school. Lots of support for parents, adequate oversight of kids’ progress in most ways. What about THAT choice?

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