Category Archives: education

Democratic challenger Mallott reacts to Parnell’s State of the State

byron mallottBelow is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott’s press release reacting to Gov. Sean Parnell’s State of the State on Wednesday. Mallott, like Parnell, wants more jobs, greater diversification, safer communities, and a robust investment climate.

The two areas of disagreement are on education and expanding Medicaid.

Late last year, Parnell rejected federal money to expand Medicaid, a joint federal/state insurance program for poor Alaskans. “Governor Parnell’s refusal to accept the Federal Medicaid Waiver must be reversed so that 40,000 vulnerable Alaskans can receive the health care they urgently require,” Mallott wrote.

In his State of the State, Parnell called for reform of the state’s educational system, including allowing the public to vote on whether or not public money should go to private and educational institutions.

“Public dollars must go to public schools,” Mallott wrote.

Here’s Mallott’s press release in full:

Alaska is a state of great promise and our future as Alaskans can be bright. But we need leadership to match the challenges and opportunities of today. Alaskans are faced right now with a public education funding crisis that demands immediate legislative action. Governor Parnell wants to divert public dollars to private education when every public education dollar must go to making Alaska’s education system the very best. Public dollars must go to public schools.

Alaskans together must address the challenge of a $2 billion budget revenue deficit that is expected to grow in future years. This session of the Alaska Legislature must focus diligently on reshaping spending to meet the urgent needs faced by every Alaskan, their families, and communities. Governor Parnell’s refusal to accept the Federal Medicaid Waiver must be reversed so that 40,000 vulnerable Alaskans can receive the health care they urgently require. Public safety and a justice system that is responsive to the need of every Alaskan must be strengthened. Job creation and economic diversification is crucial. Reducing the cost of energy for electricity, heating and transportation in Alaska must be a priority. A gas pipeline project that meets Alaska’s need for in-state energy, stable long-term export revenue, and jobs for Alaskans must be a priority that all Alaskans can understand and embrace. A stable, durable oil tax that is needed both for vital oil industry investment and robust public revenue must be agreed to by all Alaskans.

Governor Parnell’s agreement with Alaska democratic legislative leaders’ call for funding Alaska’s pension retirement gap is a step in the right direction to meet both responsible budgeting and a constitutional obligation. I urge the Legislature and Governor in these critical times to reach out to all Alaskans so that together in open, transparent, and responsible dialogue and decision making we can make the best choices for Alaska’s future.

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Parnell offers deal on education: More money in exchange for school choice option

In one of the boldest moves of his time in office, Gov. Sean Parnell said in the annual State of the State address on Wednesday night that he would increase funding for education if the Legislature passed his education reform agenda, which includes a bill that would open up the option of using public money for religious and private schools.

“Real change comes only with real reform. If you are willing to join me in passing real education reform, I will work with you to authorize an increase in the base student allocation (BSA),” Parnell said.

The offer comes at a particularly tense time. School teachers across the state are being cut because of what they say is the lack of funding, or increases in the base student allocation.

In his speech, Parnell also spoke about the natural gas pipeline, about the budget and other state financials, all of which he said were paving the way for “the great Alaska comeback.” Specifically, he called on legislators to put $3 billion of savings into the state retirement account, and an initial investment of between $70 to $90 million on the natural gas pipeline.

But to the extent that Parnell is passionate in any of his speeches, it was on education in this one. He called for those on both sides of the aisle, including himself, to climb out of their various trenches and to declare that 2014 be “the education session.”

In addition to the school choice issue, Parnell also proposed expanding boarding schools, reforming laws governing charter schools, increased funding for career technical training and digital teaching.

But the choice issue is the most controversial. Currently, the Alaska state Constitution prohibits public dollars to go to religious institutions. To amend the Constitution would require a vote of two-thirds of the House and the Senate. Then it would go to a vote of the public, hence the refrain heard around the halls of the Capitol building on Wednesday night: “Let the people vote.”

Many Democrats will fight hard against the proposal. In the Democratic response to the speech tonight, Senate Minority Leader Hollis French said he was “disappointed he’s going in this direction.”

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