Alaska House seeks to allocate public funds for private schools

After a recent court decision impacting Alaska’s education correspondence programs, legislators in the state are proposing a constitutional amendment that could allow public funds to be directed towards private and religious schools.

House Joint Resolution 28, or HJR 28, is set for hearings on Wednesday and Friday next week within the House Judiciary Committee.

If approved by two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, and voters in the upcoming fall election, HJR 28 would modify Article VII, Section 1, which presently prohibits using public funds for private or religious educational institutions.

The court case highlighting this issue was centered around payments to families in correspondence programs, with Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman flagging the specific clause as unconstitutional due to its direct benefit to private schools.

HJR 28 includes changes to Article IX, Section 6, to allow public funds for direct educational benefits to students within the boundaries of the law.

In a released statement, Rep. Sarah Vance emphasized the amendment’s goal of fairness and expanding educational choices for all Alaskans.

Rep. Jamie Allard noted the importance of a public vote on this amendment, ensuring that all citizens have a say in education policy.

Despite concerns from legislators and Governor Mike Dunleavy about the court ruling’s impact, many are waiting for the Alaska Supreme Court’s perspective before taking action.

Members of the supermajority caucus in the Alaska Senate indicated reluctance toward supporting a constitutional amendment that would remove the ban on public funds for private schools.

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