Tag Archives: school choice alaska

More on the Dittman annual legislative poll: School choice has support

Last night, I wrote about Dittman Research’s annual poll commissioned by the Alaska state House Majority. The sample was 800 Alaskan residents from all over the state, and across party lines. It showed that marijuana legalization has the support of 52 percent of the public, with 44 percent opposing it. Raising minimum wage, another initiative on the upcoming ballot, has the support of 69 percent of the people. Gov. Sean Parnell has good job performance ratings at 54 percent, but not nearly as good as last year’s numbers.

What I left out, because I didn’t have the poll then, was what the public felt about education. Now I do. Despite what you might think and have heard, allowing for the use of public funds to go to private schools appears to have wide support across the state.

Here’s the intro paragraph into one set of questions, for which the polling sample was split:

A school choice program allows parents the option of sending their child to the school of their choice, whether that school is public or private, including both religious and non-religious schools. The goal is to improve overall performance by creating healthy competition among the schools. If this program is adopted, a portion of state funds that are currently allocated to a student’s school district would instead follow the student to the school of their parents’ choosing.

Based on that intro, here’s one question:

Would you support or oppose amending Alaska’s constitution to allow a school choice program in Alaska? …and is that strongly or somewhat support/oppose?

  • Strongly support: 32%
  • Somewhat support: 22%
  • Somewhat oppose: 9%
  • Strongly oppose: 33%
  • Unsure: 4%

Here’s the other question which was asked to the other half of the sample:

Please tell me which of the following two statements comes closest to your view:

  • Allowing public funds to be used for private schools will lead to an erosion of Alaska’s public school system: 31%


  • Allowing parents to choose where to send their child to school, and allowing a portion of the public funds to follow the child, will create a healthy competition and improve the overall performance of Alaska’s schools: 61%
  • Neither/Other: 5%
  • Unsure: 3%

The 61 percent who said that public funds going to private schools would increase performance were asked the following:

Would you support or oppose amending Alaska’s constitution to allow a school choice program in


  • Support: 74%
  • Oppose: 13%
  • Unsure: 13%

Notice that the word “voucher” wasn’t used in the poll. Even so, it appears that support is wide and deep. However, it’s still unlikely that a resolution that would put a state constitutional amendment up for vote of the people will pass the Senate this session. Sen. Mike Dunleavy, who is sponsoring the resolution, hasn’t been able to muster the votes. The resolution is in Senate Rules.

A few other issues: Only 13 percent know that oil funds 90 percent of state government. A whopping 16 percent think that it funds anywhere from 1 to 25 percent. This begs the question: why can’t the state and the oil companies do a better job of informing the citizens?

And 31 percent of Alaskans think that making deep budget cuts, at the expense of state services, is the best way to make up for budget deficits. That said, the public always wants budget cuts, until it’s a program that effects their lives.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Another nail in the school-choice coffin

From an editorial in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, not known as a hotbed of progressivism:

When rigid ideology and party allegiance drive our legislative process, honest debate and the public interest are too often the casualties. Such could have been the case with a misguided proposal being pushed in Juneau this legislative session that could have opened the door to public education funds being channeled to private schools. Hatched by Outside ideologues who have no concern for what’s best for Alaska, the idea was being pushed here under the feel-good misnomer school choice.

As the paper notes, the bill is in Senate Rules, where it will likely stay for the session. The paper is “thrilled.” I’m not so sure. Legislators, many of whom tout support for school choice to their constituents, should be on record, say nothing of the public.

Continue reading for its take-down of Valley President Charlie Huggins and Sen. Mike Dunleavy, both of whom support choice. Neither of whom, last I checked, were “Outside ideologues.”
Continue reading


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.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com