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Parents should have choice in educating children

Posted: February 14, 2012 - 9:36am

An important piece of legislation for Alaska's children is House Bill 145 establishing the parental choice scholarship program to pay the cost of attending grades kindergarten through 12 at non-government schools.

The bill, HB145, was approved the other day by the House Education Committee and is now before House Finance.

The bill would empower parents to choose the school their child attends, with state money following the child. In addition to approval by the Legislature and Governor, the measure requires passage of a constitutional amendment to permit tax money to go to a private or religious school.

In a September 2011 statewide poll, 64 percent of Alaskans said they support the concept of school choice (to review the survey, go to akchoice.org).

Many Alaskans are not convinced government is doing an adequate job of educating our K-12 students. At the Anchorage Mayor's Summit on Education, national leaders told us we are on the bottom rungs in national testing. There is a nationally expressed belief that change is needed. The President, Congress, and most of the state legislatures are addressing the problem.

There is a strong belief good education comes from competition. Government monopoly doesn't produce the best of anything. Competition allows creativity and development of new ideas and systems.

Secondly, parents bring a child into life. They accept the responsibilities and obligations to raise that child into adulthood and become part of the American dream. An impediment to fulfilling that obligation is the limitation of sending their children to public schools. There are other schools, but they can be prohibitively expensive. In Anchorage, for example, a non-public school ranges from $4,000 to $12,000 per student per year. All Alaskans pay taxes to support K-12 education, but only those children who go to a government school actually receive a free education.

Parents know their children best. They love them and have the responsibility of raising them to be the best they can be. Some want their child to get schooling that emphasizes discipline. Others may want an emphasis in school on sports, languages, religious philosophy, or their culture. Some parents of children with special challenges want those aggressively addressed in their schools. The majority of parents don't have that choice because of the substantial cost to send their child anywhere other than public school.

Per the survey, if cost were not a consideration, 39 percent of parents would send their children to public school, 30 percent to private school, 15 percent to a charter school, and 11 percent would homeschool.

Currently, about 85 percent of Alaskan children go to public school and 15 percent are in the others.

The goal of this legislation is that each K-12 child receive the best education available for that child.

Our government spends lots of money on K-12 education. Opening education to competing sources where parents make the school choice will result in the best educated child. In the long run, it will result in a less costly education system. In the short run, the cost could increase as we would be picking up the tuition parents currently pay for non-public schools.

The proposed legislation provides that tuition and fees at a non-public school be paid by the government, not to exceed the state and local funds the school district spends to educate a similar child. The current cost for non-public schools is between 1/2 to 2/3 the cost of public schools.

The National Education Association vehemently opposes this legislation as do some members of local school boards and school superintendents. Their primary argument is that it may take money away from public education. The existing educational establishment has always said they can improve K-12 education if just given more money.

The battle for K-12 parental choice education is moving across the country. Last year, 13 states improved laws regarding parental choice. A dozen additional states are actively pursuing new laws to provide parental choice and improve education.

In the Alaska legislature HB145 or SB106 cover the proposed statutory change. The constitutional change is in HJR16 or SJR9. The public will have the final say as the statute is ineffective without the constitutional amendment which would be on the ballot in the general election in November.

Legislators need to hear from you now.

Tom Fink  is a former Anchorage mayor and heads the group, "Alaskans for Choice in Education."

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cbeard
132
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cbeard 02/14/12 - 10:58 am
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Yuck

The thought of any taxpayer money going to paranoid parents to send their kids to Brainwashing Camp (religious schools or schools with religious teachings) makes me sick to my stomach and I will not put up with it.

Keep religion out of politics and get your filthy biblethumping hands off my tax dollars.

liftit
20
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liftit 02/15/12 - 04:27 am
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Interesting how you

Interesting how you immediately discount any and all private schools based on their religious affiliation. Are you saying that a quality education can't be had at any one of these institutions? Have you ever looked into it?

I like the concept of schools being funded by how many kids attend, but I can't imagine the complications that arise. Obviously we want all of our young people to be properly educated. It is true that a little competition would probably encourage a better output, but at what cost? How do we decide how much a particular school gets in funds? Do the schools in Anchorage get more money(and thus become better schools) than the schools in Homer? How do we go about this without penalizing those that choose not to live in a heavily populated area?

A lot of questions to answer here. I know I don't have all of the answers, and I'm never going to claim to. Completely one-sided comments like the one above don't help anyone.

Allen
585
Points
Allen 02/15/12 - 07:06 pm
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I disagree with liftit. The

I disagree with liftit. The issue is not whether private religious schools provide a quality education, or what funding formula should be used. The issue is whether our taxes (or public funds) should subsidize private schools, the majority of which are religious.

Our founding fathers and mothers in Alaska said no public funds are to be used to pay for private schools. That's what they put in our Alaska Constitution. Tom Fink admits that private school subsidies from public funds will require an amendment to the Alaska Constitution. I hope it never comes to that.

Tom Fink's article is full of slogans like "choice" and "competition" but it all boils down to the same thing: private religious schools want a piece of the public funding pie. His argument that "competition" is good for public schools is also laughable, because he's not talking about a level playing field at all. He wants private schools to continue to be unregulated and unaccountable, while they "compete" for the same amount of dollars as the heavily regulated public schools.

Our public education system, of which I am a proud graduate, is open to all without discrimination and is the best in the world. I know it's popular for some to trash our public schools but all I have to say is, do some traveling and look around and you will see how lucky we are in the United States and in Alaska. Our children can get a very good education, free, all the way through high school. Very few other countries provide that. Don't mess with it, because it works. And don't knee cap it by taking away funding and giving it to unaccredited, unaccountable, unregulated private schools.

liftit
20
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liftit 02/15/12 - 10:53 pm
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You say "best in the world"

You say "best in the world" as if that is a fact. A quick and easy search reveals that we indeed ARE NOT among the top in the world(in math and science, at least). Instead, we're ranked very average. I'm not saying that we're all a bunch of gomers. Statistically speaking, only half of us are idiots and the other half is all above average.

Previously, I was only making the point that people shouldn't discredit a school because it happens to be a private religious school. I do not believe that any school should be handed a bunch of money without being able to prove its worth. Again, this brings up questions that I can't answer.

How do we prove a school's worth? Obviously, a private school can turn away people that they don't feel are qualified, thus eliminating the remedial population and making their product(graduates) look better. This would increase the number of applicants to the school, and take away some of the brighter individuals from the public school system. Eventually, we could see the public school system filled with underachievers and the like.

Complicated...

forchoice
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forchoice 02/16/12 - 04:52 pm
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"unregulated and unaccountable"?

Inorder for a students transcripts to be accepted by colleges, the school they attend must be accredited. The school we choose to send our children to is accredited by the same accrediting that the public schools go through. So, we are regulated and accountable.

forchoice
0
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forchoice 02/16/12 - 09:45 pm
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"unregulated and unaccountable"?

Any private school that wants their transcripts accepted by colleges must be accredited. The school we choose to send our children to is accredited by the same institution that accredits the public schools. So yes, we are regulated and accountable.

justamom
12
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justamom 02/17/12 - 11:20 am
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to cbeard

What a sickening comment you made. I would certainly rather have kids get bibles handed to them in school, instead of getting them in prison.

Jerry
0
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Jerry 02/17/12 - 02:15 pm
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Leave it to a few,

Leave it to a few, or the MANY, "MR Worldly Wise" & a few of their other self made people, ALL wanting to restrict the Truth in education for children with REAL HISTORICAL FACTS, by substituting instead with a continual bombardment of non Historical facts, commonly called BS.
You know what they say about BS? The longer one spreads it the more it becomes truth, unlike the Bible, which has NEVER been proven wrong, NEVER.
Its always eazier to believe a lie than search out the truth in all things, and thats what most of the worlds people do, believe a lie, even religious lies of which way is the right way.
They all can't be right with their many differances, now can they?

Its kind of like Islam, they want to restrict & kill everyone that rejects their ideals.
What do Christians do? We allow the Worldly Wise to have it their way, while we pray for them to see the light of truth.

I see a very BIG differance here between the ideals of praying people & teaching others, from those that would totally restrict people from learning or those that wouuld be killing people that have a differant opinion or belief, can you see the differances?

A heads up, its gonna get far worse with controlers as we see the End of the Age discribed in Matthew 24; Mark 13; & Luke 21;.
Even those that claim their religion is the right way, even from those that have a religion of self, known as humanism, all will become more controling with the desire to do away with all that disagree with them to the point of almost Total distruction of everything on Earth.

As i have said before its a Spiritual Battle being waged for the souls of mankind, with many casualties along the way, and Billions more to come any day now.
Whose side are you on?

forchoice
0
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forchoice 02/17/12 - 03:02 pm
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Sorry about the double post

Sorry about posting the same thing twice. The first time I posted it didn't show up later, so I posted again. Now they are both there.

jlmh
344
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jlmh 02/18/12 - 10:09 pm
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Drawbacks of vouchers

School vouchers are becoming a popular concept, but I can think of a number of problems with it.

First of all, if the voucher is equal to the state's per capita school funding, then it may very well not cover a private school's tuition. So parents might still be financially excluded if they are unable to make up the difference. In fact, schools might increase their tuition by that amount exactly in order to push out low income families, while padding their programs with additional state dollars. (And since a portion of school funding comes from the district level, would districts also be forced to offer vouchers, or would the state or parents absorb that portion also?)

Secondly, it is not necessarily the private school that is responsible for a student's successful education. The kinds of parents who are successful enough to send their child to a private school are probably the same parents who are highly educated themselves, and actively participate in their child's education. If private schooled students enter K-12 with more skills, and parents support, tutor and discipline their children at home, then it's a lot easier for the private school to teach those children. Throwing under-prepared or poorly disciplined children into that same school may not result in those children achieving the same results.

Thirdly, money always comes with mandates. Do we really want the state telling our private schools how to operate? There's not much "school choice" if the state commandeers all education standards in the name of funding.

I think the best compromise is charter schools. This is not really "school choice" either, because enrollment is by lottery. In some states, charter schools have to accept all applicants, so it really is a parent's choice. But not here. Perhaps we should focus instead on giving charter schools the resources to expand as needed, and actually comply with the state's mandate to attempt to accommodate all applicants, instead of leaving a good education to a lottery system.

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