Constitutional Delegate Wary of Education Funding Amendment

Vic Fischer testifies before House education committee (credit: Gavel Alaska)
Vic Fischer testifies before House education committee (credit: Gavel Alaska)

One of the drafters of the state Constitution has weighed in on a proposed amendment to that document.

Vic Fischer appeared before the House education committee on Friday to oppose a resolution that could allow for public funding of religious schools through vouchers. He cautioned legislators against taking a casual attitude when considering constitutional changes.

“To me the basic question is, ‘Are we solving a non-existing problem at this point?’ And the burden is on those who say we should amend the Constitution,” Fischer said.

Fischer, who also served as a state senator and in the territorial legislature, also explained that the amendment prohibiting funding of religious and private schools was not seen as controversial by the delegates to the constitutional convention. He said that the language — known as a Blaine Amendment — passed unanimously.

“So it’s not as if some kind of an amendment – Blaine Amendment — had horns on it and was something awful,” Fischer said.

In addition to hearing from Fischer, the education committee took testimony on the resolution from residents across the state. Opinion was mixed: Some argued that state funding of religious schools could create more options for parents, and others said it would weaken the separation of church and state and that it could drain money from public schools.

For an amendment to the Constitution to be made, it has to pass both chambers of the legislature with a two-thirds vote. After that, Alaskans have to approve the change by a majority vote.

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