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Alaska Legislature sues governor over validity of school funding law
was written by Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Public Media & KTOO – Juneau , 2019-07-17 02:06:08
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The Alaska Legislature sued Gov. Mike Dunleavy over school funding on Tuesday, a day after the administration didn’t send out the monthly state aid to school districts.
The Legislature and administration filed a joint motion asking a judge to order that the state continue to send the monthly checks for public schools and student transportation either until the case is resolved or until next June, whichever comes first.
Kodiak Republican Rep. Louise Stutes is the vice chair of the Legislative Council, which unanimously voted to approve the lawsuit last month. She said she’s glad both sides asked a judge to keep the payments going.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Stutes said. “This money is owed to those schools. They created budgets based on this. And to withhold it … I have a hard time understanding it.”
The dispute is over a law enacted last year and signed by former Gov. Bill Walker. The law sought to provide school funding for both last school year and the coming year. It also provided additional funding of $20 million last school year and $30 million in the coming year.
Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has written an opinion asserting that the law isn’t constitutional. He said the law doesn’t follow the annual budget process required by the state constitution. And he said that it violates a constitutional prohibition on dedicating funds. The Legislature maintains that it had the authority to appropriate money over multiple years, and it chose not to change the appropriation this year.
Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr said Clarkson believes the Legislature must pass new school funding. But if a judge agrees to the order, that won’t affect school districts in the coming school year.
“Attorney General Clarkson has agreed to seek an expedited briefing schedule to get this issue resolved as quickly as possible,” Bahr said. “And he hopes the court agrees to consider this case quickly so we can come to a resolution on this important constitutional issue.”
The $30 million in additional funding is not included in the joint motion. While previous administrations paid out additional school funding by February of school years, Dunleavy asked the Legislature to reverse the $20 million in funding. The administration later paid out the money in June.
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Glacier Bay National Park. Glacier Bay is situated in southeast Alaska, approximately sixty air miles west of the state capitol of Juneau. The nearest community is Gustavus, Alaska situated 11 miles away. Glacier Bay National Park at present encompasses over 3 million acres, and is often called as one of the Crown Jewels of the National Park system. The Park offers snow-capped mountain ranges rising to in excess of 15,000 feet, seaside shorelines with protected coves, deep fjords, tidewater glaciers, coastal and estuarine waters, and freshwater lakes. Along with stunning scenery, there are abundant wildlife viewing opportunities along with a wide assortment of seabirds, sea and land mammals. Many visitors experience Glacier Bay National Park while on big cruise ships that visit the Park for the day, whereas others remain within the Park at the Glacier Bay Lodge. Although there are no roads to Glacier Bay National Park, you will find convenient air connections to Gustavus through Juneau, Skagway and Haines. Ferry service can also be offered by Juneau. From Gustavus it is about 10 miles by road to Glacier Bay Lodge & Tours situated at Bartlett cove and hosts visitor center and departure point for day boat trips to Glacier Bay National Park. Accommodations inside Glacier Bay National Park are at the Glacier Bay Lodge. The lodge includes 56 rooms along with dining, activities desk, gift shop, and the Park visitor center can be found upstairs. All rooms have private bath and/or shower and can accommodate as many as four guests. Glacier Bay Lodge is open mid-May to mid-September every year.