JUNEAU -

The state Senate’s Joint Resolution 9 would allow public funds to be used for private educational instruction.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla) says the move would benefit correspondence school students who may need to take classes through private vendors in order to meet requirements in their learning plan.

Critics call it a voucher bill that would deprive an already cash-strapped school system of scarce education dollars.

"I think most of us here want to make sure that public funds go toward public education, we've heard a lot of outcry from parents and students regarding this issue," said House Minority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).

In order for the constitutional amendment to reach the House, it must pass by a two-thirds supermajority -- 14 yes votes in the 20-seat Senate, not the usual majority of 11.

There are currently 13 Republicans and seven Democrats in the Senate, but two of those Democrats normally caucus with the Republican majority.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole) says he normally wouldn't allow a bill to appear on the floor if its chances for passage were slim.

"We'll certainly know if the votes are there or not there when folks push the button, and we'll certainly know where folks in Alaska are on the consitutional amendment if they're given the opportunity to push the button," added Dunleavy.

Should the measure pass the Senate, it would also need 27 of 40 votes in the House to appear on August’s primary ballot.