Alaskans love choice and have lots to celebrate with the many publicly funded schooling options available for our children. We can choose standard public school or various specialized schools. We can accept state funding to join a homeschool charter program and keep our kids at home.

If we decline public funding, we can choose total independence and educate using only personal resources. What more could we want?

But the school choice mission is not complete until every tax dollar allotted for public education follows every child to where parents want them educated.

School choice is the most democratic way to protect freedom of speech for all families. Yes, school choice is a freedom of speech issue. The right to educate our children the way we choose is one of our most essential freedoms of speech. Unfortunately, this option is not available to all Alaskans.

Using a conservative estimate, Alaska schools spend around $22,000 a year to educate one child.

If you choose to homeschool, state and local programs will provide funding and assistance to parents, but what if you are a low-income single parent who cannot afford to quit work in order to homeschool? These very challenges hit home this year when many parents were forced into homeschooling due to coronavirus restrictions and school closures across the state.

Using a conservative estimate, Alaska schools spend around $22,000 a year to educate one child. The most a homeschooler can ever expect, however, is $4,000 through a publicly funded homeschool programs. In most cases allotments are half that.

Funding is not the only challenge. If a parent doesn’t feel equipped with the knowledge, time or resources to educate at home, homeschooling is simply not happening. Add to this the fact that in many instances homeschool funds are restricted to “reimbursement only.” So, if parents can’t afford to float a bill for a couple of months, they simply can’t access certain resources.

When our primary concern is quality education, we must constantly evaluate whether a particular school is meeting the educational needs of our students.

Back in the 1860s, William Henry Seward tried to broaden school choice options, particularly for lower income Irish Catholic immigrants. At that time, religion was very naturally incorporated into education. But anti-Catholic sentiment prevailed when the Protestant majority accused Seward of ignoring the “wall of separation” between church and state. It’s not that these Protestant parents were worried about kids getting a religious education. In fact, curricula were generally quite religious and decidedly anti-Catholic. The real fear was that Catholics would enjoy the same freedoms as Protestants.

About 15 years later, President Grant suggested school choice restrictions in order to garner Protestant support and help his preferred successor James Blaine win the 1876 presidential election. These “Blaine Amendments” were eventually adopted in 33 states, prohibiting the use of state funds in religious education. Alaska has a Blaine Amendment in our State Constitution.

So, what has become of such outdated and anti-Catholic laws today? Well, in a 2019 court case known as Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that restricting public funds because of religion was decidedly unconstitutional, thereby nullifying Blaine amendments. It is yet unknown what ramifications this will have on school choice in all states, but it is a step in the right direction.

For more than 100 years, religious viewpoints have been muted in our public schools while secular humanism has become the dominate philosophical force in education. It is so commonplace now that many of us don’t realize it.

The school choice movement is not an anti-public school movement. Although public school officials might worry, well performing schools that successfully serve families have nothing to fear from school choice. It simply rewards schools that excel by empowering families – not government – to choose where and how children are educated. Choice gives the vote and the voice back to the families who have the most interest in the success of their children. Schools must become accountable to families. 

Some conservatives argue that accepting any state funds for education means government has leverage and increased control. There may be some truth in that, and those with the means can choose total educational independence by teaching their children entirely from their own personal resources. But as long as government is deeply entrenched in the education business, those who cannot choose total independence should have more possibilities, not less. This would level the playing field for parents of all income brackets.

Just think what we could do to revolutionize Alaska education if our families had access to even half of the $22,000 the state spends each year on a single child? I don’t think we’d rank near the bottom in national educational outcomes. 

There is a difference between supporting education and supporting schools. When our primary concern is quality education, we must constantly evaluate whether a particular school is meeting the educational needs of our students. If they aren’t, it is our right to choose a better option — to vote with our feet and our tax dollars. 


  • Ask your public officials and prospective candidates their positions on school choice and vocally support candidates who do. 
  • Follow Alaskans for Choice in Education where you can follow the school choice movement in Alaska.
  • Support and follow groups like Alaska Policy Forum who advocate for the school choice movement right here in Alaska.

Click here to support the Alaska Watchman.

Who could be against school choice in Alaska?

Leigh Sloan
Leigh Sloan is a podcaster, coach and consultant at "Brave Nation" where she empowers leaders to create significant cultural reform in their spheres of influence.


  • Steve says:

    Think about it. Teacher are so afraid of the School Voucher system. If they really took the time to think about it they might change their minds. A GOOD teacher could rent a building, set it up as a class room, take on 20 students and garner $440K a year. Makes me wonder how smart teachers really are.

  • Herman Nelson says:

    This is a no-brainer to who would be against school choice- the NEA, school districts, leftist teachers.
    School choice would be a loss of revenue for the NEA via union dues, loss of tax money by the school districts, leftist teachers refusing to teach a real education and moving out of the career field.

  • Elizabeth says:

    So well said. Albeit one would hope, even expect, that the ‘powers that be’ truly had actual education and the empowering of families at the forefront. It seems though that for decades, at least, our public school system has been a vehicle for intentional ideological indoctrination, despite great teachers that care about education and families. Curriculum is a driving force as is also a radical left leaning union.