- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A proposal to amend Alaska’s constitution to allow for public money to go to private or religious schools has been placed on the Senate calendar for Monday.

The sponsor of SJR9, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, would not say Friday evening whether he had the votes for the measure to pass. “I have a pretty good sense, I’ll leave it at that,” the Wasilla Republican said.

Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of each chamber. That means at least 14 of the 20 senators would have to vote in support.

At least seven have signed on to SJR9 as co-sponsors.

A similar measure is pending in the House.

A Senate majority spokeswoman said that although the measure is on the calendar for Monday, she expected amendments and debate would happen on Wednesday.

The issue has sparked strong reaction on both sides and was the subject of a recent rally by opponents in front of the state Capitol.

Critics of the measure fear it will take money away from public schools. But supporters say it would allow parents more choices in how they educate their children.

Gov. Sean Parnell, in his State of the State speech, called on lawmakers to debate the measure and send it to voters, to let them decide.

If approved, legislation spelling out how the change would be implemented would still have to be passed.

Dunleavy has an extensive background in education, including as a public-school teacher and a school board member. While he has said repeatedly that he supports public education, he also says children have different needs. He has said a goal with SJR9 is to clarify that funds used for learning plans for students attending correspondence schools can be used for classes or tutoring through private or religious schools.

He said this is an important issue and it’s time to get the measure to the floor for a vote. He said he was hopeful and optimistic the votes would be there once the debate happens.

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Online:

SJR9: https://bit.ly/NIcU3S

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