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Questions raised over proposed voucher system

By Charlo Greene 8:57 PM January 23, 2014

SJR9 would implement a system where students would be granted vouchers containing public funds to use at any school of their choosing, public or private.

ANCHORAGE - SJR9 is a proposal to amend the state constitution. Currently, public funds — local state or federal –cannot be used to fund private schools. If SJR9 is passed, however, that will change.

The proposal, introduced by Gov. Sean Parnell, would implement a system where students would be granted vouchers containing public funds to use at any school of their choosing, public or private.

SJR 9 has drawn criticism from opposition such as democratic Sen. Hollis French.

“Diverting public money to private schools simply continues to deprive our public schools the resources they need to do their job,” French said.

Supporters argue  the voucher system would make both public and private schools better.

“It’s a very much a healthy, positive thing for not only school choice, but also for bringing some competition into the public school environment,” said President of Alaska Family Action Jim Minnery.

Pacific Northern Academy’s head of school Arnie Cohen said he’s been left with more questions than answers.

“We value our independence,” Cohen said. “I’m wondering what then will happen to the independence of a school that begins to take state funds. Will we turn into another sort of charter school? Will we be just a in-disguise public school?  I’m not sure what that means because I don’t see any details about that yet.”

Alaska Family Action, a local public policy organization that supports this voucher proposal, will be holding a town hall meeting for anyone interested in learning how this change could affect them. That meeting is scheduled to take place Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at  Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton School, located on Huffman Road.

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