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Begich: Public money for public schools

Posted: March 3, 2014 - 9:06pm
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, addresses reporters during a news conference after he spoke to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Monday, March 3, 2014, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)  AP
AP
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, addresses reporters during a news conference after he spoke to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Monday, March 3, 2014, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Mark Begich said Monday that Alaskans should never amend the state constitution as a “fix” for education.

Proposed constitutional amendments pending before state lawmakers would allow for public money to be used for private or religious schools. Supporters see this as a way to allow for more choice in where parents send their kids, but critics fear it could siphon needed money from public education. Republican Gov. Sean Parnell has called on state lawmakers to debate the proposal and send it to voters to decide.

The measures need two-thirds of the vote in each the state House and Senate to pass. The proposal on the Senate side, proposed by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, has yet to receive sufficient support for it to move to the Senate floor for a vote.

Begich, in an address to a joint session of the Alaska Legislature, said public dollars are for public schools, “period.”

Begich said there is already plenty of school choice in Alaska’s public system, including home schools, charter schools and alternative programs. He also said there are “examples of excellence” everywhere. He cited alternative schools that require parental involvement and accountability and a career technical high school in Wasilla that allows students to explore different career pathways, in addition to learning the basics.

But he also questioned whether the state was adequately funding schools, providing districts with enough money to do their jobs.

Some districts have warned of possible layoffs and other cuts without additional funds next year and have pushed for increases in the per-pupil funding formula known as the base student allocation. Lawmakers are considering possible increases. Begich told reporters he thought the $85 increase in the allocation proposed by Parnell for next year was too low. Parnell has proposed an increase of about $200 in the base student allocation over three years as part of his education package.

“The bottom line is, the decisions we make as elected officials also play a big role in student success,” Begich told lawmakers. “It’s our job to give school districts the resources and tools they need.”

The Legislative Finance Division has said general fund appropriations for K-12 education have risen since fiscal year 2011. Those appropriations include foundation program and school busing funding, school construction and major maintenance and money toward public employee and teacher retirement systems.

House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said the federal government “shorted” the Anchorage School District, which is among those facing cuts — not the Legislature. He said the state has funded schools well.

Begich said he is doing his part on education, including pushing to get rid of the education law No Child Left Behind, which he and others have argued takes a one-size-fits-all approach to education that doesn’t fit Alaska’s needs. He also said he has proposed bills to boost early childhood education programs. He told reporters that money approved at the federal level will make its way down to the state “but it will not supplant what some are arguing the state is not doing enough of.”

During a news conference, Begich acknowledged that his son attends a private school but said he said he didn’t think that put him in an odd spot with his opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment in Alaska. He said his son attended public school in Alaska, but when the family moved a private school was what was available in their neighborhood. Begich said he’s a huge supporter of public education and the difference is he isn’t asking for public money to pay for his son’s education.

Dunleavy — who has also called himself a huge public education supporter — said Begich “seems to want to be focused on the internal workings of Alaska. What we really need is less oversight from our own (U.S.) senators.” Dunleavy said the state needs people in Washington fighting for Alaska on national and federal issues.

Alaska’s U.S. senators annually address state lawmakers on the goings on in Washington, their work and any concerns they may have. Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski addressed lawmakers last month and railed against what she saw as examples of federal overreach.

Begich, a Democrat seeking re-election this year, also spoke about efforts to improve the Coast Guard presence with new cutters, speed permitting and expansion for several Alaska mine projects and to try to control federal spending. He said he has signed onto a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget.

He said he commended the Legislature and Parnell administration for progress toward commercializing Alaska’s natural gas resources. Lawmakers are mulling a proposed equity stake by the state in a mega-liquefied natural gas project that would be capable of overseas exports. Begich said he would work to make sure any necessary federal permits are streamlined.

He told reporters he supported a federal loan guarantee for the liquefied natural gas project. Congress in 2004 approved an $18 billion loan guarantee whose value was linked to inflation but the federal coordinator for Alaska natural gas pipeline projects has said that guarantee applied to a project that would serve North America markets — which is not being pursued at this time.

Begich did not answer directly questions on whether he supported an effort to repeal the state’s oil tax structure, an issue that voters will decide in August. But he said he believes there is a need to have some certainty on a tax structure.

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Doberg907
15
Points
Doberg907 03/04/14 - 06:43 am
3
2
Opposing public funding for private schools

Thank you Senator Begich for your clear statement opposing a Constutional amendment to allow public funding for religious and private schools. Governor Parnell's position to allow the public to vote on such a change is "hogwash" and fails to offer leadership. Either he supports public funding for private schools or he does not. The same goes for our local legislators who have the duty to make their views on public funds for private schools known and vote their position. I urge Alaskans ( not private school adocates from other states) to let our legislators know our opposition and let them know they were elected to make decisions and not hide behind a "let the public vote" argument. Anyone who takes that position is in effect supporting public funding for private schools without any safeguards against abuse and will have to wear that badge at the next election.

Suss
4043
Points
Suss 03/04/14 - 08:25 am
5
2
Let big oil pay for church schools.

Why doesn't Parnell just have his buddies "big oil" pay for the church schools? He has seen that they got the State's money from reduced taxes and they sure can afford to give to a pet Parnell project. Church of the burning pot plant wants to start a school and get funded by State money.

Norseman
3616
Points
Norseman 03/04/14 - 12:56 pm
6
2
Thank you Senator for being

Thank you Senator for being on the right side of history. I am vehemently opposed to the thought that my tax dollars may go to fund some religious private school.

if you want to send your kid to a religious private school, then fund it yourself.

dragonfly2014
48
Points
dragonfly2014 03/04/14 - 03:37 pm
1
5
Begich Speaks out for Unions Not Needed Education Reform

Unions do not want to lose their power and the Democratic Party does not want to lose the huge amount of funding they receive from the unions or the power it provides. It is tax payer’s dollars that pay for our Public Schools and parents should have the freedom of choice for their children’s education. The same choice that Senator Begich and most members of Congress have to send their children to private school. School choice is about fairness and opportunity not bureaucratic special interests.

Recently the DOJ sued the state of Louisiana ostensibly because its “controversial” school voucher program. The DOJ has dropped its unconscionable lawsuit for now, that victory may only be short-lived. Democrats under the Obama administration which Begich supports 97% of the time will continue to attack school choice by lawsuits or intrusive regulations which circumvent Congress.

Senator Begich used his invitation to speak to our state legislatures as an opportunity to deliver a message or threat (pick your choice) on behalf of the unions. He told reporters that money approved at the federal level will make its way down to the state “but it will not supplant what some are arguing the state is not doing enough of.”

Begich suggests higher state funding for our public schools under the pretense of improving our educational system. One size does not fit all and if we expect our children to compete in a global economy education reform is necessary.

Begich also fails to recognize that unlike the federal government our state operates under a balanced budget. This concept is mentally challenging for a Democrat-Progressive to understand.

According to the International Student Assessment (PISA) United States performed near the middle of the pack. On average 16 other industrialized countries scored above the United States in science, and 23 scored above us in math. The United States has one of the biggest gaps between high and low-performing students in an industrialized nation.

When a senator is against allowing the peoples voice to be heard in an election it is time to vote them out of office.

Norseman
3616
Points
Norseman 03/04/14 - 05:01 pm
5
2
nice job of cut n paste.

nice job of cut n paste. Bottom line is this, if you desire to send your kid to a private religious school, them pay for it yourself. I'll be damned if one penny of my taxes will go to any religious sect, cult, or whatever.

If you want us, the taxpayer, to pay for your kid to attend a wiccan, or muslim, or even a baptist school, then you are sadly naive if you think for even one second, that that will ever happen.

Suss
4043
Points
Suss 03/04/14 - 05:21 pm
6
2
Budget?

Dragonfly2014 I call b.s. on your balanced budget.

"Begich also fails to recognize that unlike the federal government our state operates under a balanced budget. This concept is mentally challenging for a Democrat-Progressive to understand."

Show me how the State budget is balanced! Without dipping into reserves we are losing ground. After the tax giveaways and the underfunded liabilities, this State has had some serious fiscal shortcomings and it is getting worse.

Go back to the reasons why the State is prohibited from funding private and church schools and try and rewrite history and our constitution!

Any parent can send their child to any school they choose, Just don't expect the State to pay your kid's tuition. It is not a union issue it is a State's right issue. Some people only like parts of our State laws like some church goers only like some of their faith's doctrines. Pick and choose is not the option you have in law and church. Practice what you were taught in government and in church and remember they are separate! Home schoolers will not understand what they are not taught.

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 03/04/14 - 08:13 pm
5
2
Tax Monies Usage

First! I am against any public funds to go to parochial,or private schools.These are schools for profit.I do believe in the Separation of church,and state.I do not think it would be a good practice to give public monies for religious schools.The governor will once again cost Alaskans money by having another frivolous losing court battle.The cost will be only a drop in the bucket.compared to the huge tax breaks that he pushed for the oil industry.Hey! Has the employment rate risen.Since the big oil got their tax breaks?
Secondly! Why do the Alaskan voters keep reelecting the people .Who overtly serve themselves,and not the wishes of their constituents i.e. the quitter,pandering Palin. Does the voter not realize. Things do not change if a change for the better is desired. Voting the same greedy ass mindsets back in office.Will not accomplish any betterment. The Alaskan politicians vote not their conscious,but votes for the side. Which has given them the most MONEY.

dragonfly2014
48
Points
dragonfly2014 03/05/14 - 01:03 am
1
4
What Home Schoolers Miss

Suss,

“Home schoolers will not understand what they are not taught.”

Why would any parent want their children to miss out on early sex, drugs and the normalization of homosexuality?

I can’t tell you how impressed I was back in 2008 when I heard a neighbor’s child chanting an Obama song that she learned in school. Would that come under the indoctrination of our youth or education?

I agree that it is concerning that the state has to dip into its reserves during an extremely weak recovery. We are still far better off than the states that run a deficit. One must consider the reasons why there is such a difference in the economies of red and blue states.

As for school vouchers the US Supreme Court has already ruled on this issue.

Some excerpts from Education Week
http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/vouchers/

In addition to conflicting research findings, the voucher issue has been further complicated by legal questions. Are vouchers creating unconstitutional entanglements between church and state since parents have used them to send their children to private religious schools? The question was addressed in June 2002, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a state-enacted voucher program in Cleveland did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on government establishment of religion. The court found that the program “is entirely neutral with respect to religion” since it permitted the “participation of all schools within the district, religious or nonreligious” (Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 2002). It concluded that the government provision of funds to religious schools through the rubric of a voucher program did not violate standards on church-state separation.
The decision—claimed as a major victory by voucher advocates—has clearly changed the landscape of the debate. After the ruling, government-supported voucher programs popped up in the District of Columbia, Florida, Maine, Ohio, and Vermont.
From the AP:

Michael Bindas, attorney for the Institute for Justice which focuses on civil liberties, said some states already offer vouchers or other school choice programs, including Wisconsin, Ohio, Arizona and New Hampshire.

Passing an amendment to our State Constitution for school vouchers would take a two-thirds vote in the Legislature and then a majority vote in an election. The amendment is not linked to any other educational reforms that Governor Parnell is proposing.

So calm down I'm sure the unions will hire plenty of protesters just like they did for Governor Walker. You know what you might even get the most popular president since Carter to come to Alaska to help your cause. Just think how much that could help Senator Begich! I get excited just thinking about it ....don't you?

Raoulduke
3055
Points
Raoulduke 03/05/14 - 12:24 pm
3
1
Protecting From the World

Dragonfly-Home school has its positives,and also has its proven negatives.The one thing a parent can not do. Is protect their offspring from the REAL world.They will find.It takes a lot of diversity to make the world,and the sooner one acknowledges this fact of life the better.I believe.The more a person is exposed to in this world the better.They are faced with more choices.The early sex,drugs,and the homosexuality.Especially homosexuality seems to be YOUR issue.The early sex,and drugs can be prevented.This is where good parenting comes in to play.I believe.
When it comes to homosexuality.There is no choice.It would be like dictating your body color at birth.Homosexuals are born Homosexual. Denying gays any rights that we take for granted IS discrimination.Gays are entitled to "LIFE,LIBERTY,and the PURSUIT of HAPPINESS .Just like the rest of the American population .I hope as a parent. You are aware that almost 100% of the child molesters are heterosexual.

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