Alaska education group prepares to sue state over school funding

A woman in a striped shirt stands in front of snow and trees.
Coalition for Education Equity Executive Director Caroline Storm on March 20, 2024 (Tim Rockey/Alaska Public Media)

An Alaska nonprofit is preparing to sue the state for inadequately funding public schools after the Legislature failed to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of the bipartisan education bill

Among other provisions, the bill included a $680 increase to the Base Student Allocation, part of the formula that determines state funding for schools. It would have been the first significant increase to the state’s school funding formula since 2016.

Caroline Storm is the executive director of the Coalition for Education Equity of Alaska. She said that even if the Legislature does pass an increase to the funding formula, it’s still likely that the nonprofit will file a lawsuit.

“We are obviously at the point where the Legislature is not meeting its constitutional obligation to maintain an adequate system of public education,” Storm said.

Alaska courts have previously found that the state has a constitutional obligation to adequately fund schools.

The Coalition for Education Equity has sued the state before over funding issues. It settled with the state in 2011 over the state’s discriminatory school construction practices. The nonprofit challenged whether Alaska’s public education system gave enough support to underperforming schools, and settled again in 2012.

Storm said schools are feeling the pressure of inadequate state funding. In urban areas, it has led to higher class sizes. In more rural areas, the impacts include overdue maintenance to school buildings like the Jack Egnaty Sr. School in Sleetmute on the Kuskokwim River, where students currently attend classes in a condemned building.

Storm said in addition to an increase to the Base Student Allocation, the nonprofit hopes to see the state education department’s budget amended and adjusted for inflation each year, similar to other state departments.

“We have to inflation proof the BSA and advocacy has not worked. So we are up against a wall, I suppose,” Storm said. “If the only thing that people will listen to is the court system, then that’s what we’re left with.”

Storm said the nonprofits board voted last November to prepare for a lawsuit, and they are determining the best time to file.

Tim Rockey is the producer of Alaska News Nightly and covers education for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at or 907-550-8487. Read more about Tim here

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