Ballot initiative touts student 'Bill of Rights,' but questions still remain
A ballot petition touting 'Alaska Students' Educational Bill of Rights' is about halfway to its signature goal to potentially get on the ballot next fall.
A group of Alaskan educators submitted a ballot measure application in August - allowed to move on to the signature gathering phase - and would provide new standards for direction and educational benchmarks in Alaskan schools. Supporters believe it would "improve outcomes and increase opportunities and accessibility to an excellent education for every Alaska student," according to a press release shared upon applying for the ballot measure.
Included in a draft of the proposal are statutory changes regarding culturally sensitive criteria, limited class sizes, modernity of schools and educator workload, among others. Some, however, are concerned about how all of that might be funded.
As for the status of the ballot petition, the group behind it, Alaskans for Public Education, said Monday it is about halfway to the signature amount required for consideration to be on next year's ballot.
Gail Fenumiai, of the State of Alaska Division of Elections, explained part of the process behind getting to this phase: The application is filed with the lieutenant governor's office, and then the DOE does a review of the sponsors.
"If it is approved for certification, the division prints the booklets," she said. "We give the books to the sponsors and they have to gather thousands and thousands of signatures."
The DOE does not keep track of how many signatures a petition has gathered until they are submitted for review.
Channel 2 reached out to multiple people with Alaskans for Excellent Publication, but were declined a recorded interview. The group did, however, say it's garnered about 18,000 signatures thus far. At least 28,501 signatures are needed from registered Alaskan voters in order for the proposal to have a chance at getting on the ballot.
In the meantime, some say more information needs to be considered before a side - as a proponent or opponent - is even taken.
"This has great aspirations for class sizes, teacher salaries, that sort of thing," said Anchorage School Board President Starr Marsett. "It's a wonderful concept. I just worry about the impact it could have to the school district if it becomes law."
Valid registered voter signatures must be brought to the DOE before the Alaska Legislature gavels in on January 21. From there, the next steps of the certification process can begin.
If determined to have been properly filed, the ballot title and proposition can appear on the ballot of the first statewide election.