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Alaska parents and legislators scramble for answers after judge rules homeschool allotments are unconstitutional

Iris Samuels and Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska on

Published in News & Features

"It is unconventional for prevailing parties to seek a stay of ruling in which they prevailed," wrote attorney Scott Kendall, representing the plaintiffs, in a court filing. "However, plaintiffs do not wish to cause any undue hardship or disruption resulting from the timing of the order."

The plaintiffs said they would oppose an attempt to delay the implementation of the decision beyond the end of the current fiscal year, which could be requested by the state or by a group of parents who intervened in the case.

"Now that these statutes are known to be defective, allowing additional unconstitutional spending to occur under them beyond June 30, 2024 would compound those violations and continue unlawful expenditures of public funds in amounts in the millions," Kendall wrote in the filing.

Education Commissioner Deena Bishop wrote in a letter to district superintendents on Monday that the department intends "to take every action possible to protect this public school option for all correspondence students currently enrolled in the state."

Under existing state law, districts are allotted 90% of the Base Student Allocation, or around $5,360, for every student enrolled in a correspondence program. A certain percentage of that determined by the program — typically 50% or more — is then allotted for students directly to spend on educational expenses as they see fit. The remainder is used to cover the operational costs of the program, including paying teachers and staff.

Families immediately wondered not only whether they could continue to spend their cash allotments, but whether their programs could continue to operate as they had known them. The statutes struck down by the court also included a framework known as Individual Learning Plans, or ILPs, used by every correspondence program to define a student's course of study.


Bishop said the state would seek to maintain the status quo "until the Alaska Supreme Court has had a full opportunity to review this case." If the case is appealed to the Supreme Court, the court could issue an expedited decision within weeks. But a full decision timeline could take months or longer.

"It is possible the Superior Court order could become effective before the Alaska Supreme Court fully reviews the case," Bishop wrote to superintendents, adding that districts should consult with their attorneys.

In the Matansuka-Susitna Borough School District, where about 18% of students are enrolled in correspondence programs, Assistant Superintendent Katherine Gardner said the district is working with an attorney and the state to learn how the decision impacts its operations.

Jason Johnson, superintendent of the Galena City School District, which houses IDEA, a correspondence program with more than 7,000 students statewide, said in a letter on Monday to the families of students that "IDEA remains confident in Alaska's support for the homeschooling model."


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