- Associated Press - Monday, February 17, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow public money to be used for private and religious schools rallied in front of the state Capitol Monday.

The “Save Our Schools” rally was focused on public education. Many of those gathered held signs with slogans like “Kids Not Cuts” and “Axe Vouchers.”

Several Democratic lawmakers joined the crowd, including Rep. Harriet Drummond of Anchorage. She led chants of “BSA! BSA!” - a reference to the base-student allocation, the per-pupil funding formula that many Democrats want to see increased over what Gov. Sean Parnell proposed.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said he attended as an observer. He said he considered the conversation about education to be healthy and was still collecting and processing information and trying to understand Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s vision for how any constitutional change would function. Micciche said he needed more information before he would be ready to vote one way or the other.

Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, sponsored SJR9, the version of the proposed amendment pending on the Senate side. Dunleavy has said repeatedly that he is strong supporter of public education but also believes there’s no one-size-fits-all for educating Alaska kids.

SJR9 has advanced from the Senate Finance Committee, but it has not been scheduled for a floor vote. It faces a high bar for passage, with a two-thirds vote needed in the House and Senate to qualify for the ballot. A similar proposal is being considered on the House side.

Supporters of the proposed amendment say it would lead to more choices in education, while opponents fear it would take money from public schools.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott attended but did not speak as scheduled. His campaign cited concerns with mixing the campaign and an event promoted by some legislative offices.