Education suit ruling expected

Posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Anchorage Superior Court judge is expected to rule soon in a landmark lawsuit over the adequacy of state funding for schools.

Judge Sharon Gleason has until June 19 to render a decision in the suit, Moore vs. State of Alaska, in which a group of parents and educators challenged the constitutionality of the state’s K-12 funding program on the grounds that the state does not invest enough money in schools to provide an adequate education for all students.

The suit was filed Aug. 9, 2004. A trial was held last fall and ended in early November 2006.

Although the Alaska Constitution requires the state to provide and maintain schools, the suit argues that the state has repeatedly failed to live up to that obligation.

In a press release Monday, the National Education Association-Alaska, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said that over the past two decades while lawmakers had “systematically reduced” investment in K-12 schools, inflation had cut the worth of each dollar received almost in half.

NEA acknowledged funding progress in the past four years, but most of that money has gone to pay for energy, insurance and retirement costs, not classroom expenses, they said.

Arguing that Moore vs. State of Alaska is “a natural extension” of Brown vs. Board of Education that struck down segregation, NEA said benchmark tests and exit exams that define what an education is, are being failed by large numbers of children.

The Moore plaintiffs consist of parents, school districts, the NEA-Alaska Inc. and others. In their suit, they argue that as a result of the inadequate funding, schools have seen high teacher turnover, been forced to curtail certain courses of study, and at some locations, been unable to cover the cost of much-needed positions, libraries, textbooks and supplies.

The plaintiffs have asked the court to order the state to conduct a cost analysis for providing a constitutionally adequate education and then order the state to provide that funding, NEA-Alaska said.

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