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Alaska Parents, Advocates, Educators File School Funding Lawsuit Against the State

On August 9, 2004, a group of parents, along with two school districts, a nonprofit advocacy group, and the statewide teachers' union, filed a lawsuit against the state of Alaska alleging that the state's education funding is inadequate and inequitable. Plaintiffs' Complaint in Moore v. State, asks the court to order the state to determine the cost of providing a constitutionally adequate education, and then fund that education accordingly.

Plaintiffs' Complaint
"We charge that funding for Alaska's children and its schools is unconstitutional," said Kim Langton, superintendent in the Kuspuk School District and chair of the Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska's Children, a nonprofit organization that in 1999 filed Kasayulie v. State of Alaska, which challenged the state's capital funding for school facilities.

Moore vs. State of Alaska charges that the current school finance system violates Alaska's constitution for two reasons:

1) The state does not invest enough money in its schools to provide an adequate education for all students; and

2) The money the state does provide, it distributes unfairly.

More specifically, plaintiffs Complaint claims that inadequate funding results in: high teacher turnover; many schools that are unable to offer high school math and science courses; high percentages of schools without counselors, nurses, social workers and access to psychologists; and many schools lacking textbooks, libraries and teaching supplies. Plaintiffs also assert that the schools educating the most low-income and minority children are the ones with the greatest resource deficits, and that these deficits cause students in these schools to score below minimum standards of achievement.

Moreover, the Moore complaint, like those in other recent school funding cases, asserts that the federal "No Child Left Behind" Act (NCLB) and the state's recent implementation of that new law imposes certain proficiency requirements on schools and districts. Only "42 percent of the schools" and only "13 of the state's 55 school districts" met these requirements, according to the complaint, because "the state has failed and continues to fail to fund the resources needed to achieve these expectations."

Prepared by Melissa Mangino, August 11, 2004