Rural School Litigation is Settled

Parents of students in rural Alaska schools have settled their litigation with the state over the level of state support  required by the state constitution.

The “Moore versus State” case, filed in 2004, challenged the state’s use of funding and standards in dealing with the lowest-achieving schools.  The state lost the original case as Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the state had failed in meeting its responsibilities to those schools.

Today’s settlement sets up a method for the Department of Education and local school districts to work together to focus resources on the state’s forty lowest-performing schools.  Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said negotiations in recent months have been based on the idea that neither the state nor the plaintiffs should be seen as winners or losers.

The Moore settlement stated that it will need an $18-million one-time appropriation.   The design has been that it will provide funding for several years and would provide a foundation that we could look to and a model that we could look to in the future for a successful program for successful pedagogical strategies that would make a difference for our kids.

The group Citizens for Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children (CEAAC)  took the lead on the case by coordinating the schools, the plaintiffs and the attorneys who carried it.   Executive Director Charles Wohlforth,  who signed the settlement documents in the Attorney General’s office this afternoon,  said they continued to push the state for what they thought would erase what he called a “waste of human potential”  when children are not given a chance.

So, have we solved all the problems with rural education in some of our schools in Alaska?  Well, I think the answer would be No.   $18-million is clearly not going to be enough to solve this broad span of problems.   But I think what we’re going to do – and the commissioner alluded to it – we’re going to demonstrate some programs, we’re going to work on them collaboratively, and we’re going to see that they work.  We’re going to prove that this is the right way to go – and there’s new hope for kids in rural schools across Alaska.

The settlement specifically sets up a committee appointed by CEAAC and the Department to determine how resources should be shared to meet the outlines in the court’s decision.

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ddonaldson (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.586.6948 | About Dave

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