The state Department of Education & Early Development and an education group has announced a settlement of a legal battle in which the Alaska Legislature was found to have provided inadequate education to the state’s children.
Alaska is unusual in that the state government — not local school districts — is responsible under the Alaska Constitution for ensuring children get an adequate education.
State Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, a former member of the Anchorage School Board, said he hoped the settlement of what is termed the “Moore case” would include some proven educational strategies such as pre-kindergarten programs to make sure all students arrive in school ready to learn.
That’s the kind of scientifically proven program, along with experienced teachers, the state’s school districts will need to succeed, he said.
“Up until this point we’ve been looking for a stop-gap fix, not looking at fixing the long-term problems,” Tuck said.
The case began in 2004, when a group called Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children (CEAAC) sued the state. Moore was a nominal defendant in that case.
In 2007 Judge Sharon Gleason found Alaska was in compliance with three of four tests of providing an adequate education.
Where the state failed, the judge said, was in the controversial area of oversight of local delivery of education, especially in several failing districts.
The court found the long-standing poor performance of some districts meant the state was failing in its oversight responsibilities.
The Department of Education and Early Development disputed that, and the legal wrangling has been ongoing.
Now, Education Commissioner Mike Hanley says there is a settlement to the case.
Hanley and Charles Wolforth, executive director of CEAAC will appear at a press conference today to announce the settlement.
CEAAC includes mostly rural school districts, including Hoonah and Kake in Southeast, and was recently joined by the Anchorage School District as well.
While the court case hinged on state oversight of school districts it funds, some school districts think the state is already too controlling.
Two rural legislators, Reps. Alan Dick, R-Stony River, and Bob Herron, D-Bethel, have introduced legislation to repeal the Department of Education’s authority to intervene in local school districts.
Herron said it seems because the department has been given a “hammer” among the tools in its toolbox, that’s the only tool it uses to deal with the districts.
He said he’d prefer if the state provided assistance to districts, not take them over.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.