Alaska Legislature sues governor over education funding dispute

July 16, 2019 | KTUU | Sean Maguire


ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – The Alaska Legislature has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Michael Dunleavy over a K-12 education funding dispute.

The lawsuit filed in Juneau Superior Court Tuesday centers on a battle between lawmakers and the governor over how education is funded in fiscal year 2020.

The Legislature omitted an appropriation item in the FY2020 operating budget for education saying a forward funding measure passed in 2018 already funded schools.

The Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson released a formal opinion in May arguing that it was unconstitutional to omit a specific education appropriation item from the budget.

Clarkson wrote that the decision by the Legislature to rely on forward funding, “contravenes the annual budgeting process required by the Alaska Constitution and it is an improper dedication of funds.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Dunleavy administration failed to disburse funds for schools, breaching an article of the Alaska Constitution that requires public schools to be adequately funded.

The lawsuit, filed by the Legislative Council on behalf of the Legislature, seeks a declaratory judgement that members of the Dunleavy administration violated the constitution.

An order is also sought from the courts, calling for the funds to be disbursed on time. Included with the suit is a motion for school funds to be released on the 15th of each month during FY2020 as scheduled.

In June, Johnson sent a letter to superintendents across the state saying that funds would be disbursed on time while the legal battle over education funding continues.

The first disbursement of funds, scheduled for July 15, was set to be delayed 7-10 days by the education department to trigger the lawsuit from the Legislature.

The lawsuit also names Dr. Michael Johnson, the Commissioner for the Department of Education and Early Development, and Kelly Tshibaka, the Commissioner for the Department of Administration.

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