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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

"Expect to continue to rely on our team to support you as we continue partnering in the education of your child," Johnson wrote to parents.

'Use of public funds'

Jenn Griffis, a parent of three children enrolled in IDEA, said she has questions about the ruling's impact on correspondence programs "beyond just the allotment."

Griffis' children's allotments go to purchasing things like math curricula, writing courses, literature courses, piano lessons and field trips, she said. All the curricula her children use are on a list approved by IDEA.

"The idea of utilizing these funds to pay for private school tuition did not even cross my mind," said Griffis. "I always viewed this as a use of public funds."

She said she was not considering sending her children to a brick-and-mortar public school as an alternative. "But I have a strong sense that there are families that are definitely looking at weighing those options," she said.


Dean O'Dell, Director of IDEA, said by email that around 2.9% of IDEA's students take one or more private school classes, "all of which meet the criteria of being fully non-sectarian in both materials and instruction."

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a Soldotna Republican who co-chairs the House Education Committee, is one of many lawmakers who have enrolled their children in correspondence programs.

His two kids currently attend a private Christian school in Kenai. They are also enrolled in a correspondence program. Ruffridge said he does not use the allotment to cover tuition costs, but he uses it to pay for his son's music lessons and his daughter's dance lessons.

Rep. Will Stapp, a Fairbanks Republican, also said he uses an allotment through IDEA to cover the cost of dance lessons for his 6-year-old daughter. Rep. Sarah Vance, a Homer Republican, said she also has used correspondence allotments to cover the cost of dance and music lessons for her children — three of whom are currently enrolled in correspondence programs.


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