A long-running lawsuit over rural education has been settled and will provide $18-million for Alaska’s poorest-performing schools.
Filed in 2004, Moore vs. State of Alaska claimed the state failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide quality education and adequate funding.
The state lost the original case in Superior Court. The settlement, announced Thursday, sets up a method for the Department of Education and local school districts to work together to focus resources on the state’s 40 lowest-performing schools. Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said negotiations have been based on the idea that neither the state nor the plaintiffs should be seen as winners or losers.
“The Moore settlement stated that it will need an $18-million one-time appropriation,” Hanley said. “The design has been that it will provide funding for several years and would lay a foundation that we could look to and a model that we could look to in the future for successful pedagogical strategies that would make a difference for our kids.”
The group Citizens for Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children took the lead on the case by coordinating the schools, plaintiffs and attorneys. Executive Director Charles Wohlforth signed the settlement documents in the Attorney General’s office Thursday. He said the group continued to push the state for a settlement that would work to erase what he called a “waste of human potential” when children are not given a chance.
“So, have we solved all the problems with rural education in some of our schools in Alaska? Well, I think the answer would be no. Eighteen-million is clearly not going to be enough to solve this broad span of problems,” Wohlforth said. “But I think what we’ll do – and the commissioner alluded to it – we’re going to demonstrate some programs, we’re going to work on them collaboratively, and we’re going to see that they work. We’re going to prove that this is the right way to go – and there’s new hope for kids in rural schools across Alaska.”
The settlement specifically sets up a committee appointed by the citizens group and the Education Department to determine how resources should be shared to meet the court’s decision.
- So far, the Juneau School District has enrolled about 230 more students than it expected. If the higher enrollment remains true in October, the district could get enough additional state funding to cover a near $200,000 deficit.
- Juneau-based nonprofit, Southeast Alaska Land Trust, was denied its property tax exemption earlier this year. Now the Assembly will take another look.
- "A lot of ice experts, including myself, thought we were headed for a record year minimum," said Hajo Eicken, a professor at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.