My Turn: Should public school funds be used for education?

  • By DAVID NEES
  • Sunday, September 20, 2015 1:09am
  • Opinion

Should public school funds be used for education?

Sometimes the simplest question has the most interesting answer.

This past week, the state school board met in Sitka. They got the usual tour of Mt. Edgecumbe High School, the only facility it operates as a board, then they got down to regulatory business.

The board had a number of big-interest items before it, the 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.

But buried in the meeting agenda was one item that answers that part of that first question. And it reccommends ending a prohibition against spending school funds on specific non-education items: Item 6A.

It is the response the commissioner of education and his department have 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 districts do not spend money on election flyers promoting bonds, etc. They have to use proxy groups funded by construction companies and parent-teacher associations.

This is because under the current regulation:

“(A) 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 for or holders of public office.

(B) the restriction in (A) of this section is not intended to interfere with the exercise of the right to free speech by school district board members or school personnel.”

The commissioner has recommended repealing this language. The language is a response to the 1991 Anchorage School District board expending the equivalent of 200 students worth of base student allocation funds to unsuccessfully defend the board from recall.

The change, if adopted, means 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 board should reject the commissioner’s recommendation. It does not put more money into classrooms but most assuredly will put more money into elections.

• David Nees is a retired math teacher who taught for 28 years and is now a member of the Sustainable Education Task Force.

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