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Constitutional amendment is not for the good of the people

Posted: February 28, 2013 - 9:18pm  |  Updated: March 1, 2013 - 9:47am

One of the sponsors of legislation that would have Alaskans to vote to amend the state constitution to allow public funds to go directly to private or religious schools insists that funding should not be part of the current debate.

If passed by a two-thirds vote in the state House and Senate, the legislation would put a constitutional amendment before Alaska voters to change two parts of the constitution. It would remove language that prohibits public funds being paid directly to private of religious schools. And it would add language the requirement that public money only be spent for a public purpose by stating that requirement would not prevent funds from being used for the “direct educational benefit of students.”

In some respects, we agree with Rep. Wes Keller, a Wasilla Republican. Certainly, a discussion of a school voucher program, which passage of a constitutional amendment would allow, is relevant to the debate.

But before we even get to that discussion, we need to take a step back and understand the profound significance of what is being proposed. The suggestion that the constitution be amended to allow public funds to be allocated to private or religious institutions runs counter to the bedrock principles of American democracy.

Rep. Keller, it seems, should know this — he’s also pushing legislation to require that Alaska public schools teach “American Constitutionalism.”

Providing public funds to private institutions raises numerous legal and ethical questions. How does the public track the way that money is spent? If a private school accepts public money, can it continue to be exclusive in the students it admits? What if a private institution receiving public funds teaches values that run counter to anti-discrimination laws, or teaches a curriculum that does not meet current standards?

Beyond political philosophy and education policy, the proposed constitutional amendment would set up a system that would benefit a small number of Alaskans, arguably to the detriment of the vast majority. That in and of itself should be enough for this legislation to be rejected.

It hardly sounds like government “instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole,” as set forth in the Alaska Constitution’s Declaration of Rights.

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Arthur_500
2
Points
Arthur_500 03/01/13 - 12:02 pm
0
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Courage

I congratulate you on the courage to state the obvious. It is too easy to get wrapped up in enotion and forget the unintended consequences of our actions. Virginia grappled with this very issue over two centuries ago. Possibly our legislators should read some history.
There are ways to provide funding for education. A Constitutional ammendment that is unconstitutional is not the correct path.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 03/03/13 - 10:36 am
0
0
September 25th, 1789

Amendment 1 to the Constitution of the United States of America.

1st sentense of Amendment One :
"Congress shall make no law representing an establishment of religion"

Using Public Funds to finance Private Religious Schools is un-constitutional Period end of story.

SPW

jlmh
344
Points
jlmh 03/07/13 - 11:28 pm
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Vouchers are constitutional

This article certainly asks some important questions about what vouchers would mean for Alaskan education, and I myself am not sold on that solution either. But I'm annoyed that the Clarion staff singularly dismisses vouchers from consideration, among all options, instead of weighing them against the other choices. Or even doing some research on their impacts (positive or negative) where they have been employed. Is it better to let our education system fall apart than to even consider the value of private schools?

It does sound like nothing more than a phobia of religion. I suspect many "religious schools" would not even want to accept these vouchers and compromise their own educational philosophies. I also suspect that those families who would take advantage of vouchers to attend a parochial school are the same families who already desire this option, but lack the financial resources to make it happen.

We all have our own interpretations of how to apply the Constitution, but often it isn't unanimous, which is why courts ultimately decide on many issues. In this case, the Supreme Court has already decided on whether it's constitutional to allow religious schools to participate in vouchers, and the answer is yes. See Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. So the declaration that "Using Public Funds to finance Private Religious Schools is un-constitutional Period end of story" is simply false.

Norseman
2843
Points
Norseman 03/08/13 - 08:16 am
1
0
If any religion wishes to

If any religion wishes to have a religious school, then the members of that religious sect can pay for it.

Why on gawds green earth would anyone want to see any of their hard earned tax paying monies go to some religious group? If you feel so inclined to send your kid to some religious school that will teach that the earth is only 2500 years old, then pull out your wallet and YOU pay for it.

Church schools need to be funded by their members, NOT by begging us taxpayers to pay them so they can teach their dogma. Tired of religious groups trying to stick their snouts in the feed trough called taxpayer monies.

Suss
3060
Points
Suss 03/08/13 - 09:56 am
0
0
Already in the trough

"Why shouldn't those people be able to fund schools which preach what they believe?"...they are able to fund their schools, just not with my and your public tax dollars. Let me guess that you were taught your beliefs about government somewhere other than public schools. The reason tax exemptions are given to religious institutions is to allow this freedom, now you would want to get greedy and take public tax money on top of the free ride, shameful and very un-American. BTW, Walmart is funding the push for private school vouchers, go figure.

jlmh
344
Points
jlmh 03/08/13 - 03:16 pm
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0
"Church schools need to be

"Church schools need to be funded by their members, NOT by begging us taxpayers to pay them so they can teach their dogma. Tired of religious groups trying to stick their snouts in the feed trough called taxpayer monies." -quoted

I don't think this is a push by any religious organizations at all. It sounds more like the legislature wants to dodge its responsibilities to improve public education by handing a check to private entities instead.

"If any religion wishes to have a religious school, then the members of that religious sect can pay for it." -quoted

The same can be said for so many things in society. If only that philosophy applied to all personal choices, instead of just the things you personally dislike! Why can't a person wishing to have an elective abortion pay for it themselves? Or abortion rights activists pay for it themselves (such as through donations to Planned Parenthood)? These are the only groups I see actively "trying to stick their snouts in the feed trough called taxpayer monies." Not any private or parochial schools of any creed.

Norseman
2843
Points
Norseman 03/08/13 - 04:18 pm
0
0
...Why can't a person wishing

...Why can't a person wishing to have an elective abortion pay for it themselves?....

They can and they do. I'll refer you to roe vs wade.

This is not a personal choice as you try to paint it. It is and has been the law of the land since the founding of our country. Our forefathers saw what huge problems would arise if taxpayers had to support private religion.
That is why the dimwitted legislatures are trying to CHANGE our state constitution.

It is almost impossible now to see who is funneling money to the state legislatures who are footing these kind of bills.
Somebody is lobbying and paying money to see these bills get heard.
Stuff like this has money involved. If you don't think so, then you are naive.
It will be a cold day in h e dbl L before any of my tax monies go to supporting any private religous schools.

jlmh
344
Points
jlmh 03/09/13 - 10:59 pm
0
0
Which constitution?

It's unclear if you are talking about the U.S. Constitution or Alaska's state constitution. I assume you mean the U.S. Constitution when you refer to "the founding of our country," but then you switch over and refer to the bill trying to change our state constitution. They're two separate documents. The federal government allows school vouchers to fund private and even parochial schools, with certain requirements. Our state constitution does not. I see that as very unlikely to change. It's hard enough getting the state to approve new charter schools. Perhaps the bill is being pushed by parents whose students are in failing public schools, who couldn't secure a spot in a charter school and want access to quality education of some sort - private, parochial or whatever. The homeschool-based programs aren't exactly exceptional either. Look at Connections, the most popular homeschool program on the peninsula. It's failing too. (Not that I can really see that as the program's fault, since it's essentially up to the parents to deliver a homeschool education properly.)

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