Government Funding for Mat-Su Madrassa?
That’s what the Christian Conservatives are pushing for this legislative session, even if they’re too obtuse to know it.
Chalk up another one to the Constitutionalists of Convenience – you know, conservatives who squawk and flap about libruls and leftists who want to “shred the Constitution,” and then turn around and fire up the shredding machine for the very document they purport to love. The fair-weather founding father fans now have their sights on one of the hallmarks of the Alaska Constitution – public education.
The Alaska Constitution specifically prohibits using public money to fund religious schools. It’s quite clear. But, since the Christian conservative crowd is out get them some free government money to prop up religious schools that can’t make it on their own, there’s just one thing to do. They’re just take that part of the Constitution that they don’t like, Article 7 Section 1, and get rid of it.
Article 7 is the shortest article in the whole document. It’s short, and it’s sweet, and it gets right to the point, clear as crystal. Here’s Section 1:
§ 1. Public Education
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. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.
So if Mr. Keller and the rest of his ilk get their way, we’ll take that part right there, and send it right here.
There. Now that we got rid of that pesky bit of Constitutional wisdom, we can start funneling everyone’s money to pay for the kind of schools Wes Keller wants – like the ones that teach creationism and evolution side by side, because it’s only fair.
The plan faces criticism on several fronts, including opposition from many who support offering more public school options to students and the expansion of Alaska’s charter school system – the independently-run, state-funded, non-religious schools are available in only a handful of districts.
The voucher plan would allow for stipends given by the government to be used to help students pay for their education outside of the public school system.
Now, mind you, it isn’t that Alaska doesn’t have the money to help fully fund education and improve our schools. We’re swimming in money. We’re lousy with cash. We’ve got it coming out our ears! Governor Sean Parnell was busting his buttons during the recent State of the State address to lawmakers, talking about how Alaska has a big wad of savings, and we’re not suffering like the rest of the country. But don’t get your hopes up children. That giant pile o’ cash is actually slated by the governor to go to something just a little more important than you – the oil companies. And that leaves the Anchorage School District alone facing a $25 million shortfall which will result in layoffs for hundreds of Alaska education workers. Now, don’t get all misty-eyed about it. It would take Exxon alone almost a whole day to make that $25 million. We simply can’t allow them to suffer like that, when all we have to do is fire all the graduation coaches, and other staff. They really weren’t doing anything anyway.
Our new voice of sanity in the State House, Harriet Drummond (D-Anch) used to be on the school board. And she has issues.
She also rebutted the idea that school choice would introduce more money into education, but would instead divert funds away from the public school system. She said a voucher system would be particularly costly for rural or sparsely populated districts, most of which only offer one school to choose from.
“Our schools are already suffering from cuts,” Drummond said. “This will exacerbate that situation.”
The House Education Committee is now reviewing this bit of religious rocket science, and if it gets approved, it will go before the voters in 2014 – not the bill, but the rewriting of the Constitution part. Fortunately, it would first take a supermajority of 75% in both the House and the Senate to vote for the bill, and then a majority of voters in a general election. That’s probably not going to happen. Yet.
Keller has tried these shenanigans before with no success, not even getting the bill through the House. But now, thanks to the new district lines, Alaska’s representation is more conservative (and I would posit, crazier) than is Alaska itself. And therefore, Keller is hopeful.
He also says that there is a “visceral desire to make sure the kid gets every break they can.” So get ready to pony up so that kids in Wasilla can learn all about how Jesus rode a dinosaur, and climate change is God’s plan. Our kids deserve only the best chance at success. Keller even cites studies from the Friedman Foundation to show how this is a totally awesome idea. Scratch the surface of the Friedman Foundation, and lo and behold ALEC and the Koch Brothers can be found. This is not surprising, as Keller is not only a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC), but he serves as the Alaska state leader. And that is why Rep. Wes Keller of Wasilla is driving the bus over the Constitution. In a choice between ALEC and Alaska, he’s got his priorities clear.
An elder from Sarah Palin’s church, Mr. Keller has already had a brief but illustrious history of asshattery as a lawmaker. You may remember him as the one that stalled a proclamation honoring the Girl Scouts, and quizzed a poor legislative staffer asking what she knew about a supposed nefarious connection between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood. The young woman who thought (as we all did) that honoring the Girl Scouts on their 100th Anniversary was a pretty noncontroversial thing, stood agog as Keller explained that he’d heard about a rumor on the internets and had some concerns about these “Girl Scouts” and their wicked ways.
Well, the Girl Scouts eventually got their honor, and while you might have expected that Keller would have slunk away red-faced, and the people would have said to themselves, “What kind of ignoramus have we elected? Wow, are we embarrassed. We’ll never do that again!” you would find your expectations dashed. Because the good people of Wasilla (or at least a majority of them) decided this was their kinda guy, and sent him back to Juneau to wreak his idiocy on the rest of us.
And yes, we’re still waiting for that awkward moment when Keller & Co. realize that if the government gives money to religious schools, that means it gives money to OTHER religious schools, not just THEIR religious schools. Welcome to the Wasilla Wiccan Academy! Hey, it’s all about giving parents a choice, right? I mean, unless you’re just looking to make other people pay for your own personal Christian Theocracy… Oh, wait.