The Alaska Superior Court has issued a final judgment ruling that the Legislature was, in fact, in the right by upholding forward funding K-12 education last session.
The final ruling issued Tuesday rejected Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s claim that forward funding violated the state constitution and requiring the governor’s office to distribute the rest of the funding in accordance with the law.
The ruling specifically stated that the forward funding constituted a “valid and constitutional exercise of the Legislature’s appropriation power ... (and) the Legislature’s authority and responsibility to fund public education.”
The lawsuit sparking the ruling was filed in July by the Legislative Council on behalf of the Legislature. A cross motion expressing similar views was then filed by the Coalition for Education Equity, a state nonprofit founded in 1996 to advocate for K-12 funding and other issues pertaining to public education. A summary judgment was issued last month, but the final ruling contained the order to release the funds.
Since the filing, a number of Alaska lawmakers concerned over the issue filed an amicus brief with the courts on the side of the Legislative council. Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Grier Hopkins was one of them.
“I was really happy to see the decision by the courts and strongly agree with it,” Hopkins said. “Just because it was passed in the prior year before this governor had the chance to veto it doesn’t mean it’s illegal. I was very happy to see the constitutional separation of powers upheld. It really is critical for teachers and schools to know how much money they’re going to have so they’re not in limbo at the end of every year.”
The governor’s office did not provide a comment on the matter. A spokesman for the governor referred to a statement from the attorney general released after the summary judgment in November.
“This decision upends the appropriations process as we know it and could lead to one Legislature and governor setting the budget five, six or more years in advance,” Clarkson said.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.