No Gov’t Handouts for Private Schools
Today in Juneau, hundreds of concerned parents, students and community members assembled on the steps of the Capitol building to support an increase in school funding (by raising the Base Student Allocation) and to oppose government handouts to private and religious schools.
“We just cannot divert public money to private schools. It’s simply a bad idea,” said Dave Noon, a parent of a public elementary school student and a history professor. “As you look through history, there is no roster of heroes who opposed public education.”
“Constitutional Conservatives” who usually advocate for the Constitution as an unassailable, and unchanging document, and the notion that things should stay as they are, have now abandoned those ideas. Diverting public money to private and religious education is in direct violation of the Alaska State Constitution. And this is no dusty relic demanding to keep up with the times. Alaska’s Constitution is barely 50 years old, and at least one man who helped to write it – Vic Fischer – is still here and loudly advocating to keep it as it was meant to be, and abandon constitutional amendments (SJR9 and HJR1) that would allow public money to go to private schools.
Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage) a former member of the Anchorage School Board who now sits on the House Education Committee spoke out. “We have seen teacher layoffs across the state and flat funding for years. I think Alaskans from every walk of life have had enough, and this is a way to be heard. I’m very excited about the turnout today. It sends a loud message that Alaskans expect us to do better by our public schools.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott issued written remarks:
“Our Founders envisioned a system of public education open to all children of the state. They knew that universal public education is the bedrock of our American democracy and what keeps our businesses the most competitive in the world.
“Is our system perfect? No, but it is accountable, accountable through elected school boards, accountable through teacher standards. We know we can do better. But the proof of its worth is all around us.
“I do not criticize parents who choose to send their children to private or parochial schools. I owe much of my education to the Mission Boarding School in Skagway and Sheldon Jackson in Sitka.
“There is no doubt we can do education better and we must. As governor, I will welcome an open discussion of how we strengthen and improve education in Alaska.
“But we should take no steps that further disperse the increasingly limited resources available for our public schools. Let us instead reaffirm the values embodied in our constitution, and leave them unchanged.”
During the rally, the PTA of the Juneau Harborview Elementary School held a bake sale to raise money for their school. Over the weekend, Great Alaska Schools hosted sign making parties where Juneau students could create their own signs for the rally.
The government has already broken the bank with handouts to oil companies. Stand with educators, children, and those who are fighting to prioritize the future. Contact your legislators and tell them we need more money for kids, and to keep the government out of religious and private schools.