Keep up the pressure!
Status Report: SJR9, and HJR1 – identical bills proposing a constitutional amendment to allow public funds to be used in support of private and religious schools. Both bills are moving quickly with little focused attention on their long term consequences. SJR9/HJR1 advocates respond “let the people decide”. Yet, isn’t it Legislators’ responsibility to research, question and debate the implications, costs and benefits of any measure – particularly constitutional amendments – before sending the question to voters?
SJR9: Senate Finance heard one-sided expert testimony from a prominent national pro-voucher group. There was no balancing testimony lined up to offer alternative perspectives. To the Committee’s credit it did hear volumes of testimony from Alaskans, with the vast majority of those testifying opposed. Despite that testimony the bill moved onto Rules. Senators Bishop, Hoffman, and Olson logged in with “no recommendation” (think – these Senators may be undecided or no votes). Senators Meyer, Kelly, Dunleavy, Fairclough recommend “do pass”. SJR9 now sits in Senate Rules awaiting scheduling for the floor of the Senate. It’s likely it will be held in Rules until 14 “Yes” votes are secured (2/3rd vote required for a constitutional amendment), or the session ends, whichever happens first.
The Senate majority doesn’t have 14 votes yet – and here-in is our work.
HJR1: On Friday, Feb. 7, the House Education committee considered HJR1, taking testimony from across the state. The Chair abruptly curtailed testimony to 1 minute per person, barely enough time to introduce oneself for the record and log in one’s position on the bill. Many of those wishing to testify were left wondering why, given the monumental implications of the bill, the public was not given a meaningful time frame in which to testify. What was the hurry? But, in the end, HJR1 moved out of committee with the following recommendations: Do pass – Representatives Gattis, Reinbold, Saddler; Do Not pass – Representatives Drummond, Seaton, P. Wilson; No Recommendation – Representative LeDoux. HJR1 now moves onto House Judiciary Committee chaired by Representative Wes Keller, a strong advocate for vouchers. No hearing on HJR1 is scheduled the week of Feb. 10, but we can anticipate the bill receiving favorable response from committee leadership.
* Email or call your Senator and Representative and express opposition to SJR9/HJR1 and convey reasons for your opposition (see talking points for message starters). Thank legislators if they are opposed. Politely disagree if they support SJR9/HJR1 and encourage them to reconsider. If they are undecided, encourage them to look at the near and long term consequences and urge them to oppose. Offer down to earth, practical reasons. Do not alienate or offend. Email using HOME addresses and computers.
Message idea (see “talking points”): Dear Senator/Rep ____________. I am opposed to SJR9/HJR1. As a parent and active volunteer in my son/daughter’s school, ___________(school name) I see the impact of limited resources. I also see good/great things happening (describe something great happening in your son/daughter’s school). I urge you to increase the state’s investment in my son/daughter’s school. Do NOT adopt a constitutional amendment that paves the way for vouchers and diversion of precious state dollars away from our neighborhood schools.Respectfully, __________(name)
* Spread the word. Enlist friends, neighbors, colleagues, family to weigh in on this momentous decision. Should public funds be used for public education? or Is it okay for public funds to be diverted to support private and religious schools? Where will the funds come from if the Legislature chooses to invest in private schools? As Representative Paul Seaton (Homer) noted, it will take an increase in the BSA (Base Student Allocation – think per student amount) of $500 to simply meet this increased cost. Governor Parnell is proposing an increase of $200. The non-partisan Legislative Research Agency estimates it will cost the state $100 million to absorb voucher costs. All this, when schools are facing crippling cuts that will negatively impact educational opportunities for Alaska’s public school students.
* “Like” Great Alaska Schools Anchorage and Great Alaska Schools FACEBOOK pages. (Anchorage has a vibrant group moving mountains – Yahoo!) Numbers matter.
* Rally to support Alaska’s public schools! Juneau – Feb. 17; Anchorage Feb. 22. Stay tuned.
Let’s roll up our shirtsleeves and get to work — the goal — Great Schools for All Alaskan students!
Demand investment in public education!
Week Ahead (Feb 10-15, 2014) focusing on school funding and voucher legislation
Senate Education Committee: Monday, Feb. 10, 8 AM: SB 107, Establish K-3 Reading program; SB139 Governor’s education package (teleconferenced – watch via link at http://www.legis.state.ak.us)
Senate Finance Committee: Thursday, Feb. 13, 3:30 PM: Overview by Legislative Finance – Appropriations for K-12 Education (ie., school funding) (teleconferenced – watch via link at http://www.legis.state.ak.us)
House Education Committee: Monday, Feb. 10, 8 AM: Governor’s education package w/ focus listed as residential boarding stipend – 3rd bill on schedule (teleconferenced – watch via link at http://www.legis.state.ak.us)