Alaska Rural School Facilities Receiving Attention by Policymakers

Last Updated: February 25, 2010

This article appeared in the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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Lawmakers in Alaska could be nearing a resolution of a ten-year old facility funding case. Earlier this month, state legislators toured remote districts serving primarily Alaska Native children where crumbling schools are at double their capacity. And, Governor Sean Parnell has suggested using some of a projected 2010 budget surplus toward building and repairing rural schools.

The state’s facilities funding lawsuit, Kasayulie vs. State of Alaska, was filed in 1997, and in 1999 the Alaska Supreme Court said that the state’s facility funding scheme violated the Education Cause because it failed to “adequately maintain schools in rural areas and that facilities are an “integral part of education . . . inseparable from the State’s obligation to maintain a public education system.”

The decision also found that the funding scheme discriminated against Alaska’s rural districts, which do not have the same abilities to secure facility bond funding that urban districts have.

The case has not yet concluded, pending a valuation of lands the state was to hold in trust for education funding. Any legislative agreement on funding for these rural schools’ needs must include resolution to the outstanding issues in the case.

Governor Parnell has promised a plan for securing funding by the end of the legislative session.

Read more:

Local coverage of the rural tour here:

Read about rural students’ trip to the capital to discuss facility needs:

Read more from the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters.