by David Nees
Sometimes the simplest question has the most revealing answer.
The State School Board met in Sitka from Sept 16-19. It had the usual tour of Mt. Edgecumbe School, the only one it operates as a Board. Then it got down to the usual regulatory business.
The Board had a number of big interest items, the new standard Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) test results near the top, as well as a number of regulatory changes recommended by the State Department of Education and Early Development.
Most importantly, buried in the meeting agenda was one item that answers part of my question. It recommends ending the prohibition against spending school funds on specific non-education items (Item 6A).
This recommendation is the response the Education Commissioner and his Department had to the question asked by the board in May of this year. The Board asked for clarification of the use of school funds in elections.
You might have noticed that school districts do not spend money on election flyers promoting bonds etc. They have to use proxy groups funded by construction companies, architectural firms, and PTOs.
This is because under the current regulation:
“ A SCHOOL DISTRICT MAY NOT APPROPRIATE OR SPEND SCHOOL DISTRICT MONEY FOR THE PURPOSE OF INFLUENCING THE RESULT OF A PUBLIC VOTE ON AN ELECTION, REFERENDUM, INITIATIVE, RECALL, OR OTHER ELECTION INVOLVING CANDIDATES OR HOLDERS OF PUBLIC OFFICE.
The commissioner has recommended repealing this language. The language is a direct response to the 1991 ASD School Board expending the equivalent of 200 student’s worth of State (BSA) funds to unsuccessfully defend the Board from recall.
The change, if adopted, means school districts MAY spend state school dollars on all the previously prohibited activities.
I would rather the districts spend state school dollars on educating students, not on promoting political agendas, or defending incompetent school boards from recall.
The State School Board should reject the commissioner’s recommendation. It does not put more money into classrooms where it belongs. But most assuredly, it will take money out of the classrooms and put that money into elections.
We cannot afford ever to fund recalls, elections or initiatives and shortchange our students. Never.
David Nees taught Anchorage students mathematics for 28 years, mainly at the middle school level.
Here is a list of contributors from the ASD 2014 school bond election (click on to enlarge):