Alaska Supreme Court overturns lower court and allows correspondence school law to stand | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Alaska Supreme Court overturns lower court and allows correspondence school law to stand

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that said two statutes violated the state constitution by sending public funds to private schools.

The case centers on provisions of a state law passed a decade ago that allowed families with kids in correspondence school programs to receive reimbursements for instruction-related costs. The unanimous ruling Friday was a win for Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who backed the program.

More than 22,000 students are enrolled in correspondence schools, a type of homeschooling supported by local school districts. It's used by families living in remote regions of Alaska, but some urban families have opted for correspondence programs instead of neighborhood schools.

At issue were provisions that said districts with correspondence programs must provide individual learning plans for correspondent students. Parents can use the funds to buy services and materials from a public, private or religious organization.

The lower court found those provisions violated the Alaska Constitution, which prohibits the use of public funds "for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

“I think it’s really great news,” Institute for Justice attorney Kirby Thomas West, who represented a group of families who use their correspondence school allotments on private school classes, told Alaska Public Media. “This ruling means that the program is preserved, and families, the 22,000 families who are relying on it, can continue to do so for the coming school year.”

The state Supreme Court did not say whether using allotments at private schools is constitutional.

The court said because school districts approve vendors to be paid with allotment funds, the state was the wrong party to sue. The justices sent the case to the lower court to decide that point.

Attorney Scott Kendall, representing a group of public school parents who challenged the correspondence school statutes, said he’s optimistic.

“There’s zero indication from the court that they remotely think spending correspondence funds at a private school is allowable,” Kendall told Alaska Public Media. “While this will cause some delay in the ultimate outcome, we remain very, very confident that that will be the outcome.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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