Monday, October 31, 2011
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
FAIRBANKS — A recent survey suggests Alaskans approve of the idea of school choice, which would provide state tuition vouchers for families whose students try alternatives to regular public schools.
The survey was called the Alaska K-12 and School Choice Survey, sponsored by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. About 1,000 people were surveyed over the telephone in September to get their views on the state’s education issues.
The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent. Braun Research Incorporated, the survey organization, used a sample frame of registered voters from around the state.
People were quizzed on their knowledge of education in Alaska and asked for their opinion on the current public school system.
People were asked, “If it were your decision and you could select any type of school, what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child?”
Of Alaskans surveyed, 39 percent answered regular public school, 30 percent answered private school, 15 percent answered charter school and 11 percent answered home school. Another option was virtual school.
Currently, about 94 percent of Alaska’s students are in public schools, while about 3.7 percent are in charter schools and 2.5 percent are in private schools, according to information provided in the survey’s results.
The survey’s question number 15 stated, “A school voucher system 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. If this policy were adopted, tax dollars currently allocated to a school district would be allocated to parents in the form of a ‘school voucher”’ to pay partial or full tuition for their child’s school. In general do you favor or oppose a school voucher system?”
Sixty-four percent favored the system and 29 percent opposed it.
Question 17 stated, “A proposal has been made that would amend Alaska’s constitution to allow state and local tax money to be allocated directly to parents, who could then use the money to send their child to the school of their choice, whether that school is public or private, including both religious and non-religious schools. In general, do you favor or oppose this kind of constitutional amendment?”
Fifty-five percent of participants favored the amendment, while 37 percent opposed it.
A House Bill proposed in February this year could have created the “Parental Choice Scholarship Program,” which could have provided public funds to schools that typically don’t receive per-pupil funding.
The National Education Association-Alaska was against the bill because, as President Barb Angaiak wrote in a message in the association’s newsletter, there is an abundance of education diversity available in public schools.
On April 1, with a hearing of House Bill 145 impending, the NEA-Alaska issued a statement that, “NEA-Alaska opposes the use of public funds for private or religious schools. Alaska's constitution is crystal clear on this issue.”