The Coalition for Education Equity of Alaska claims that Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of half of the funding used to build and maintain school facilities violates a summary judgment order and a final consent decree in Kasayulie v. State into which the state entered with the Coalition and a group of rural parents almost a decade ago.
Plaintiffs had alleged in that case that the state’s financing formula for school construction discriminated against rural students, many of whom were Alaska Natives, in violation of the Alaska Constitution and Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the state’s public-school land trust. The core problem was that many rural districts lacked the legal authority or the ability to pass local bond issues for capital construction and thereby to gain access to state funding for debt reimbursement that was available to many urban districts.
The settlement led to a state law that said the state will fund rural school construction based on the amount of bonds that cities and boroughs have sold to build schools. The governor’s vetoes cut in half the amount the state pays for both reimbursing municipalities for their school bond debt, and for building rural schools. Coalition lawyer Howard Trickey stated that although it may sound like the cut treated both rural and municipal schools equally, the municipal school districts can offset school costs with local taxes, but rural schools cannot.