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Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Education funding

By John Tracy 9:29 PM April 20, 2017

Who says the state Senate can’t come together and find fiscal solutions? Last Friday, the Senate on a 19 to 1 vote approved what amounts to a raffle to help fund education.

Like the Pick, Click, Give program, you could buy a $100 raffle ticket by checking it off your PFD application, and you could gamble with your entire dividend if you want.

The office of Senator Click Bishop, the Fairbanks lawmaker who sponsored the bill, estimates that if just half of us cough up the $100 for the raffle, it would generate almost $25 million in revenue.

Half of that would go to fund education. A quarter of the money would go toward creating an education endowment, and some lucky Alaskan would win more than $600,000.

So as Dirty Harry would say, ‘you feel lucky?’

I’m paraphrasing.

Bishop says that 60 percent of Alaskans believe education needs more or continued levels of state funding.

Unfortunately, 100 percent of those in the Senate Majority believe the opposite. And that includes the good senator from Fairbanks.

So what better way to show your commitment to education than a game of chance?

Here’s your Reality Check.

Even if half of us gambled away $100 of our PFD– which is a big if– the money raised for education would not even cover one-fifth of what the Senate Majority is proposing to cut from the education budget.

And, just who do you think is most likely to gamble with their PFD? My guess is the same Alaskans who spend millions of dollars a year on pull tabs. In other words, those most likely to need their dividend.

This education raffle will also compete with the Pick, Click, Give program. For many, it will come down to a choice of donating part of their dividend to charity, versus a chance to win big in the raffle.

The NEA of Alaska is endorsing the raffle idea, but what choice do they have? They’re not going to turn down funding, but they know it’s not a real answer to the budget problem.

The numbers they are looking at are another $69 million in additional cuts to K-12 education funding, along with another $22 million reduction to the university system this year.

That’s not going to be filled by a raffle, a bake sale or a car wash.

If we want to fund education, let’s fund education.

If Alaskans want a lottery, let’s have a lottery.

But to mix the two and pretend you’re solving a problem isn’t being serious about the budget– it’s just more fun and games.

John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.

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