School choice issues took center stage in Juneau today with the first hearing on HB 145, designed to provide funding for student enrollment in charter, alternative and private schools statewide.
Introduced by Wasilla Rep. Wes Keller, the measure would establish a “parental choice scholarship program” allowing parents to use state education funds outside of traditional public schools.
“The parental choice scholarship program is established for the purpose of providing public funding of the cost of attending grades kindergarten through 12 at a public or private school selected by the student’s parent or legal guardian,” reads the bill language.
The measure includes specific requirements for eligible schools, including health and security standards, nondiscrimination and selection procedures and financial accountability mandates.
The proposed legislation is now being heard by the House Education Committee, where members focused primarily on a provision of the bill allowing districts to provide transportation to private and charter schools involved in the scholarship program.
“It is my intent and my understanding that the school district will be able to choose whether or not to provide transportation to children based on where the children need to go,” Keller said.
However, Rep. Peggy Wilson remained concerned the bill would open up the state to charges of inequality, questioning whether districts would be able to provide transportation to every school covered by the scholarship program and how the public would perceive any discrepancies.
“I’m concerned because if the district has that option, I don’t want some parent suing the district saying it’s not fair, because they’re paying for the transportation here but they’re not paying for the transportation over here,” Wilson said. “I know what human nature is, and I know that parents will push the button as far as they can.”
A second hearing on the infant bill is scheduled for Friday.