High Court Asked For Fast Ruling in Ed Case

Alaska Beacon
    The administration of Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy asked Friday for the state Supreme Court to plan to rule quickly on whether a judge’s ruling will go into effect in July that held two provisions of the state correspondence education program to be unconstitutional.
    The administration filed two documents with the court on Friday: one notifying the court that the state would appeal six points of Anchorage Superior Court Adolf Zeman’s ruling, and another that asked the court to set a hearing schedule that would allow the court to rule whether the hold Zeman put on the ruling ends on June 30, or whether it will be extended.
    The filings came a day after Zeman issued the hold, known as a stay, and his final judgment in the case, which bars public money being spent on private schools through the correspondence allotment program.
    The state said Zeman’s ruling has created uncertainty for correspondence families and districts and that “Alaska’s public educational system will remain in limbo until this Court rules.
    “Only this Court can resolve the uncertainty that this case creates for Alaska’s educational system and everyone touched by it, so the Court should do so as quickly as possible,” wrote Margaret Paton-Walsh, a Department of Law attorney representing Deena Bishop, the state superintendent of education and early development.
    The state filing added that while the state is seeking the court’s decision by June 30 on whether to extend the stay or not, if the court doesn’t extend the stay, the state wants to know the reasons why.
    “To that end, the State respectfully requests an expedited briefing schedule that will allow for the Court to issue a full opinion—including sufficient explanation to allow the legislature to make any statutory changes that may be necessary—before the superior court’s order takes effect,” Paton-Walsh wrote.
    If the court decides to extend the stay, the state is asking for a full opinion before the legislative session beginning in January 2025, according to the filing.
    Alaska has had a correspondence program since before statehood. But legislation introduced by Dunleavy that passed in 2014 — when he was a state senator — added the two provisions that Zeman ruled against. One placed into law the allotment program, which reimburses correspondence expenses, and the other required school districts to provide correspondence students with learning plans while also limiting what the state can require of these students.
    How the allotments were used came into question in 2022, when Jodi Taylor — the wife of Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor — published a step-by-step description of how families can use the allotments for classes at private schools.
    Families, supported by the NEA-Alaska school union, filed a lawsuit challenging the use of allotments for private schools in January 2023, saying it violated the state constitution.
    The entire section of the Alaska Constitution on public education is three sentences, the last of which is: “No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”
    The administration maintains that the use of the allotments is constitutional.
    In a news release on Friday announcing the appeal plan, Attorney General Taylor said a longer stay is the best solution in the near term.
    “I would caution putting into place anything permanent, but rather keeping the current statutes as they are (because the Alaska Supreme Court could uphold them, requiring no changes to our program),” Taylor said. “Any potential solution should be tailored to the interim only and cause the least disruption to existing programs, while recognizing the judge’s decision. This is why a stay remains the best option for stability.”

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July 2004
Photo caption: Junior League All Stars will compete in a tournament in Wrangell. From left are Bryn Calhoun, Chris Scott, Sean O’Neill, Ross Venneberg, Caleb McGraw, Richard Carlos, Jacob Houston, Coby McCarty, Bryan Lovett and Daniel Erickson.


July 1974

Photo caption: Volunteers leave the Yaw Building Library with loads of books being transferred to the new Orin and Betty Stratton Library on the Sheldon Jackson campus. SJC librarian Evelyn Bonner expressed appreciation to the community for the help.


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