Alaska Federation of Natives Endorses School Choice

At their recent meeting in Anchorage, AFN passed a resolution supporting school choice.

Anchorage, Alaska – Alaska’s grassroots movement for parental choice in education received a significant boost the other day with the endorsement by delegates to the 2011 Annual Convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives, according to Jeremy Thompson, executive director of the Alaska Policy Forum.

“This resolution from AFN could not have come at a better time,” said Thompson. “Lawmakers are preparing to return to Juneau in January for a new session and will have before them proposals to establish a parental choice scholarship program in Alaska.  The AFN endorsement is a loud message that the people of the state want them to act.”

The resolution submitted by the AFN Board of Directors, after being sent in by the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, states that delegates endorse parental choice because it “allows Native parents flexibility to start new schools, or select other schools or methods designed to best respond to their children’s need.”

House Bill 145 and its companion Senate Bill 106 authorize public funding to be used to pay for the cost of K-12 education at a public or private school selected by a child’s parent.  The school of choice, according to the legislation, would receive the amount of funding the school district in which the student resides would have received.

According to Jonathon Ross, President of Tsiltan Management Group, the legislation will create opportunities to meet the educational, cultural and social needs of Native children.

“Alaska Native peoples have distinct cultures, languages, traditional knowledge, and a rich history that are a valuable resource to all Alaskans, and should be part of a child’s education in Alaska,” Ross said.  “For years the tide has been going out under the current educational systems, but in the Dena’ina language of Southcentral Alaska there is a word, naqantughedu\, which means the tide has turned around and it is coming back in, and with it a resurgence of our cultures, languages, traditions, and values that have sustained Alaska Native peoples for thousands of years. That time is here now, and it is time to make significant changes to how education happens for all Alaskans.”

Earlier this year during its first session the Legislature held a number of hearings on the educational choice proposals. “When lawmakers start work again in early 2012, we want them to pass these bills and send them to the governor for his signature,” Ross said.  “Our children deserve the opportunity to attend the schools that best meet their educational needs. This legislation will go a long way to help accomplish that.”

According to Jeremy Thompson, legislators need to hear support from other state organizations and individual Alaskans.  “We believe that parental choice in education is the best contribution we can make for the future of our kids.”

To read the full AFN resolution, visit: http://www.alaskapolicyforum.org/wp-content/uploads/AFN-Convention-Resolution-11-05.pdf