ANCHORAGE – As the Alaska State Legislature debates whether to amend the state constitution to allow public education funds to be used at private schools, groups are getting ready for a fierce debate.

The Anchorage NAACP is one group weighing in on the issue. President Wanda Laws said Senate Joint Resolution 9 would create segregated schools in the community.

Laws said “school choice” is code for public funding of private schools and believes it will create a system based on class rather than race.

“They’re sucking funds out of the public school sector to pay for these charter schools,” Laws said. “So you already have a public school sector scarce of funds because they’ve been flat-lined for the last three years — and what little money they have you’re going to pay for charter schools, where they may not be able to afford to go.”

Jim Minnery with Alaska Family Action, however, disagrees.

He said it’s about creating a choice for parents and believes increasing funding for certain school districts isn’t improving performance and a different approach needs to be taken.

“All we’re trying to do is level the playing field, so just because you’re either wealthy or because you happen to be raised in a low-income neighborhood you shouldn’t be stuck with that particular school,” Minnery said. “Not to say if you’re in a low-income area that you can’t have a good public school, just to say you should be able to have options.”

Both organizations say they plan to send a representative to Juneau to testify to the Alaska State Legislature.

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