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Alaska Constitution framer weighs in on amendment debate

Posted: February 23, 2013 - 9:29pm  |  Updated: February 23, 2013 - 9:31pm

JUNEAU — One of the framers of Alaska’s constitution spoke in opposition Friday to a constitutional amendment that would allow public funds to be appropriated to private educational institutions.

Vic Fischer, a delegate to Alaska’s Constitutional Convention in 1955 and 1956, told the House Education Committee Friday that those attempting to change the constitution must prove there is a fundamental problem with the existing language. He doesn’t believe one exists.

“This is a very serious matter, amending the constitution” Fischer said. “This is the reason why you have to vote two-thirds of a majority in each house in order to even put it (the proposed amendment) before the people.”

Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla and the sponsor of HJR1, argues that the measure would give Alaskans the choice of whether to allow the government to propose a system in which public funds could be appropriated to private schools. Critics fear it could hurt a public education system already seeking additional funding.

Fisher classified the “let the people vote” defense for the measure as a “lousy” argument based on his beliefs regarding the intent and serious nature of constitutional amendments.

During Friday’s hearing, Keller was adamant the resolution does not set up a specific voucher system, and therefore in and of itself would not cost the state a dime minus printing costs.

“This resolution has absolutely nothing to do with funding,” Keller’s aide, Jim Pound, reiterated to the committee. “That is a discussion down the road.”

Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage and a former Anchorage school board member, told Keller that argument “appears to be skirting the issue.” She added that if he wanted to allow the appropriation of public funds to private or religious educational institutions, she wants to know where that money is coming from.

“I do believe we have to consider the down-the-line implications of a positive vote on this constitutional amendment,” she said.

The committee itself appeared to be divided on whether it has the responsibility to debate certain ramifications of the amendment, particularly the cost of a voucher system that the amendment would pave the way for.

Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, said it’s the job of the legislature to discuss in-depth the possible ramifications in order to help the public be as informed as possible if, or when, the measure were to make it to the ballot.

“If we don’t ask some of these questions,” Wilson said, “then they will be going into it blind.”

Another committee member, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, reiterated that sentiment.

“We have questions that have been posed, and so far the sponsor has just said that the additional dollars or where that money will come from doesn’t account at this time (for) the approximately 9,600 kids that are currently in those private or religious schools,” Seaton said. “We really don’t talk about those because those aren’t in a bill at this time, but all of those things are ramifications for if this is passed and what that (resolution) would allow.”

Rep. Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla and chair of the committee, said she believes there needs to be a “grand” discussion in the committee about the ramifications of the amendment, but did not want to discuss specific financial ramifications of a voucher system that would be legal if the amendment were to pass.

“Should this get passed and the voters of Alaska make the choice, then we’re definitely going to have to sit down and really have those hard conversations on what this may mean to our state,” Gattis said. “I think we’re way ahead of ourselves asking these questions.”

Voters in November overwhelmingly defeated a ballot measure to call a constitutional convention to make changes, of any kind, to the constitution. That issue goes to voters every 10 years.

The bill was held in committee and will be discussed again on March 1.



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Norseman 02/24/13 - 07:36 am
Let's see a list of the

Let's see a list of the "donor's" who are for this bill. That will pretty much explain it.
Since the Supreme Court made one of the stupidest decisions ever when they said corporations are people and therefore can contribute unlimited amounts of money without disclosure, has allowed rich special interest groups to drive state legislature's agenda.

Just look at what this legislature has done so far and then think WHO are the one's lobbying and funding these bills?

We caught almost a dozen republican legislatures with taking bribes from special interest groups, now they don't have to do it in a dark hotel room.

Now they get bribes legally. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that when the cruise industry pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the coffers of certain republican legislatures, boom....we roll back our people voted policy prohibiting cruise ships from illegally dumping thier wastes in our waters.
Or look at the millions of dollars the oil and energy companies have doled out to our elected offcials trying to get us to give them huge tax breaks because they can't make enough money anymore.
Yea right. Look at the corporate profits from Exxon, BP, Shell, etc. for thepast 10 years. They are the richest companies in the world.

I used to ponder why on earth anyone would want to run for office. They pay isn't that great and you get loved and hated equally. However, this is where the supreme court decision comes into play. Look at who got elected and who funded them.
Micche is a big oil employee....hmm. Geissel received tons of money from corporations.....hmm. The guv was a lobbyist for big oil...hmmm.
See the picture? No need to bribe a dimwit with 2k to get them to vote your way. Now just pour big sums of money to them "legally" and get your play for pay done.

The religous right has plans for us, the taxpayer, to foot the bill for us to pay for their kids to learn their theologic beliefs. This will be the end of public education. Perhaps that is what they want. They realize that if they dumb down the general population enough they can get away with everything.
Last thing we need is producing thousands of students who believe the earth is 5000 years old.......

Get a hold of your legislature and TELL them to kill this bill now.

Aknauta 02/24/13 - 09:30 am
Sadly it appears that the

Sadly it appears that the left-wing reveals it's hatred of things religeous. How sad, in a great nation founded by the religious, that their enemies should hate them so.

Now who are the biggots?

cbeard 02/24/13 - 01:20 pm
Religious bigots

Sorry Aknauta, if you think stealing from all citizens to give to a small religious extremist groups to indoctrinate their children against having to live in the real world is fine, you're still the bigots.

jlmh 02/24/13 - 03:01 pm
The state has a

The state has a responsibility to supply quality education to its students. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, 30% of the public schools failed their AYP last year. Families who live where the local public school consistently fails to meet its adequate yearly progress goals, who cannot afford a private school and don't make it into a charter school lottery, want options. Vouchers are one way to supply those options. There are concerns and challenges involved in a voucher system, and it may not ultimately be a viable option. But labeling private schools as uniformly small, religious, extremist, dumbed-down indoctrination factories isn't addressing the problem either. Most private schools provide an excellent education, and produce students with superior reading, writing and math skills.

Raoulduke 02/24/13 - 03:09 pm

There is by mandate separation of church,and state. I believe.This separation means no TAX dollars for churches,or parochial schools. The churches are tax exempt.They already request 10% from church goers yearly yield. When churches pay taxes like any other corporation.Then,and only then. The Treaty of Tripoli Which was passed by Congress unanimously.
Stated in the Articles that the United States was not a christian nation. The United States can not claim any religion.There by the Separation.

jlmh 02/24/13 - 04:39 pm
No one is forcing anyone to

No one is forcing anyone to go to a religious school, a church-affiliated school, or even a private school. It would just extend the option. This was sufficient for the Supreme Court when it ruled school vouchers to be Constitutional in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. Perhaps you think only the rich should have access to good schools?

KenaiKardinal88 02/25/13 - 03:19 pm
Liberals Oppose It - It's a Good Idea

When mega-liberals like Vic Fischer and Drummond of Anchorage oppose anything - it's likely very good for the state of Alaska.

Fischer and Begich are lackey's of Obama.

Norseman 02/28/13 - 08:30 am
What does obama have to do

What does obama have to do with this? You sound like wow, he who got banned, blaming the tidal changes on obama and everything else. Please stick to the topic and quit spewing your obama hatred at every turn, gets real old fast.

What pertains to this topic is the notion of Alaska tax payers to foot the bill for religious schools.

Just put the bottle down for a minute and think about that. The westboro baptist church sets up a church school in the area and begins teaching kids to protest at soldiers funerals.

They are hundreds of religions and I as a taxpayer will refuse to give them one red cent of my hard earned money just so they can spew their idealogy amongst their sheeple.

This bill will not pass. There are enough Alaskans still around who can see how bad this could impact us all.

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