For $1 a signature, seasonal work for petition pushers is in full swing at the one location in Anchorage, where the autograph hunting is good between now and Christmas — and especially so this weekend in front of REI during the company’s “garage sale” storewide event.
Shoppers heading for the Midtown Mall, where REI is now the anchor store, were approached and asked to sign the “Alaska Students’ Educational Bill of Rights” petition, which demands that the State of Alaska ensure every student receives a “quality education.” They were also implored to sign a “Better Elections” petition being held out by a woman from the state of Maine, where “ranked voting” (also called “instant run-off voting”) has been pioneered. More on ranked voting
The signature contractor for the education petition at REI was aggressive, and he was certainly at ground zero for picking up hundreds of dollars for several hours worth of work. Saturday was a busy day of to-ing and fro-ing for Alaskans in the mood for fleece clothing.
The contractor with the petition didn’t appreciate a photographer documenting the petition process for Must Read Alaska, and attempted to chase him off.
WHAT EDUCATION PETITION?
The education petition is a grammarian’s nightmare with education goals that include paying teachers more money and what looks like over a billion dollars more of spending for education of everyone from babies to octogenarians. It would mandate that the state provide all students, regardless of age or ambition, a “quality education.”
However, the language is vague and subject to wide interpretation.
One thing is clear: The mandate for state education starts at birth and the “quality education” goes through an entire lifetime, including post-graduate and doctoral work — at no cost to those who cannot afford college.
The Education Bill of Rights petition calls upon the State Department of Education and Early development, the State Board of Education, and the University of Alaska to do not much more than “make recommendations to ensure that all students in the State of Alaska receive a quality education.”
Nearly the entire list of demands refers to the clause that says “recommendations.”
The ballot initiative calls upon the agencies above to make recommendations so “students of all ages have access to a continuous system of high-quality education.”
It further calls for recommendations for investments to be made in voluntary pre-elementary programs that “reflect the best available data on outcomes for students throughout their academic careers.
It calls for recommendations for how public schools may be safe, accessible, and modern.
It calls for recommendations for how schools can receive “the tools, including salaries and benefits, to attract and retain highly-qualified (sic) professionals in a manner that is competitive with other jurisdictions.”
It calls for recommendations for “class-size” (sic), caseloads, and educator workload, that is conducive to frequent one-on-one interactions with educators.”
It calls for recommendations for how public schools can offer “comprehensive education that includes career and technical education; engineering; world languages; language arts; mathematics; physical education; science; social studies; technology; visual and performing arts; consistent with the provisions of AS 14.35.010-030; and other electives offering enrichment.
It calls for recommendations for voluntary pre-elementary programs and after-school extracurricular activities.
It calls for recommendations for how public schools may “provide culturally sensitive curricula, including programs, experiences, and teaching methods that speak to and preserve Alaska Native identity and history, and reflect the needs and cultures of diverse student populations.”
It calls for recommendations for “where practicable, voluntary pre-elementary programs and kindergarten through twelfth-grade public education are available at or near each student’s place of residence.”
And finally, it calls for recommendations that enhance social and emotional needs of students.
The recommendation section is backed up by a change in statute to add regulations that would actually implement the recommendations.
In other words, suddenly, it’s no longer about “recommendations,” but actually ensuring such things as the university system being “affordable and accessible to Alaskans of all economic means…” (Essentially, a free university to those who qualify.)
And it mandates regulations to override the authority of the Board of Education and the Board of Regents, not to mention local school boards. It’s a takeover of the schools via a badly written ballot initiative.
But petition signers are not being told that. They are not being shown the cost of implementing their lofty goals that, curiously, make no mention of parents. They are being told by incentivized signature gatherers that it’s a voter initiative to “Support Our Public Schools.”
And the hapless fleece shoppers are signing the petition because, perhaps they were dozing off in Civics 101, or perhaps they are just favoring every petition that is put in front of them as a “resist” statement. And who, after all, could be against education?