A bill that allows Alaskans to donate portions of their permanent fund dividend toward public education is gaining momentum.

It’s an idea proposed by Sen. Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks) with Senate Bill 78.

It not only allows Alaskans to donate a portion of their dividend to public education, it also creates an education endowment and an annual raffle for those who donate.

The bill works this way:

If an Alaskan donates $100 from a dividend, $50 goes directly to funding public education. Another $25 gets diverted to an endowment fund. The remaining $25 goes to a pool for an annual raffle drawing.

“This bill will go a long ways towards putting money directly in the classroom every year to help promote education, give the teachers and the kids and the administrators the tools necessary to have the best-educated students that we can possibly have,” Bishop said. “Our children are our most valuable asset.”

Some lawmakers, however, remain concerned the bill could create competition for the state’s Pick.Click.Give. program that directs dividend donations to non-profits.

“I think if we have competing interests through the same application process,” said Rep. Jason Grenn (I-Anchorage), “I fear that a program that’s been innovative and raised tens of millions of dollars for hundreds of non-profits across our state, we’ll start to see the deterioration even further. So, I worry that something as widespread and popular as Pick.Click.Give. is going to just see this as a competitor.”

One quiet scene in Bishop’s office speaks to his bill: a photo of two his granddaughters standing in front of a chalkboard that reads: Fight for Education. The photo was taken several years ago, but Bishop calls it a constant reminder of finding new paths toward addressing the state’s years-long fiscal crisis.

“Is it going to help today? Somewhat,” he said. “Twenty years from now I hope people look back on this as, 'Wow, that was a good idea. That bill passed the Senate, 19-1. There’s a lot of merit in that and it had 10 co-sponsors. Who cannot support education? It’s for the children.'”

The bill moved out of the House Finance Committee, 9-2, but a few who favored moving the bill said they didn’t commit to voting for the bill should it be put on the floor.

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