Rep. Stutes Wary of Funding Private School Vouchers

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Jay Barrett/KMXT

Yesterday (Monday) morning in the Alaska State House, a resolution was passed seeking to designate a week in January as “Alaska School Choice Week,” but it turned into a floor debate over public schools and vouchers to use public money to pay for private schools.

The resolution referenced National School Choice Week, which has been connected with a nationwide, corporate-backed, anti-union movement challenging public schools.

Republican Rep. Lynn Gattis, the resolution’s sponsor, said the measure is about empowering parents, but Democratic Rep. Les Gara, saying there are already plenty of choices for education, suggested the intent was to have lawmakers show support for private school vouchers. 

That was also the concern of Republican Rep. Louise Stutes of Kodiak.

“It could obligate public funds for voucher schools. And in the district I represent, I don’t think it’s prudent. If it had been a little more clear I certainly would have supported it. I’m all for education. It’s important. Our kids are our future, and there’s no question about that. But it concerns me if we are going to publicly fund private schools.”

Stutes voted against the resolution, but said that break from voting along party lines should not get her in trouble with House leadership.

“You know, I’ve had conversations with them, and they all understood it and they weren’t sure which way they were going to go. You know I’m going to vote what’s good for my district, first and foremost. That’s kind of what I consider my job to be. is to come down here and vote what’s best for the district.”

The measure passed 21-14, with Stutes the only Republican voting no. Several Democrats who caucus with the Republican majority voted yes.

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