An Alaska judge just destroyed correspondence education in Alaska. What else did Judge Adolf Zeman destroy?

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Judge Adolf Zeman

Last week, a judge in Anchorage decided that the State of Alaska cannot pay for classes taken by students in Alaska, unless those classes are provided by public institutions — government schools. No more can the State pay for correspondence courses or private schools.

Judge Adolf Zeman ruled that paying for private education is an unconstitutional use of state funds, thus effectively stripping that funding from some 24,000 students in Alaska who use correspondence programs. The National Education Association won a sweeping ruling for government control of education, dashing the freedom of choice that Alaska families now have.

Alaska Commissioner of Education Deena Bishop summarized the ruling in a letter to school districts:

“Specifically, AS 14.03.300 states that a correspondence study program will each year provide an ‘individual learning plan’ for each student and sets out certain requirements for an individual learning plan. AS 14.03.310 describes a student allotment program through which a parent or guardian of a student in a correspondence study program may be provided with an annual allotment to ‘purchase nonsectarian services and materials from a public, private, or religious organization’ so long as the services and materials are required under the individual learning plan and the textbooks, services, and other curriculum material are approved by the school district, aligned with state standards, and meet other specific requirements,” Bishop wrote.

“The superior court’s decision focused on the ability to use allotments to purchase materials and services from a private or religious organization and whether that violated Article VIl, section 1 of our state Constitution, which prohibits the expenditure of public funds ‘for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.’ The judge chose to strike down these two correspondence study statutes in their entirety,” Bishop explained.

The ruling was so extreme that even the National Education Association, which brought the lawsuit against correspondence learning, panicked and asked the judge for a stay to try to mitigate the damage — which may include massive political damage for Democrats.

Alaska House Democrats put out a press release immediately, saying they’d be fixing the problem, but the judge said in his ruling that it cannot be fixed via statute, only via constitutional changes.

Based on Zeman’s logic, there are other state expenditures that may now be swept into the same constitutional ban. They may include:

  • Schools that bring in private vendors to provide curricula, such as dance, computers, karate, or welding, would not be able to pass through state funding to provide those educational services.
  • The Alaska Performance Scholarship, which helps students pay for the cost of an Alaska postsecondary education, could be limited to only state-run campuses. Alaska Pacific University, Alaska Christian College, Alaska Career College, and NIT are private institutions that would also be prohibited from receiving any state money, under Zeman’s ruling.
  • Private tutoring companies, such as Frontier Tutoring, would be prohibited from getting state funding for services to help students get up to speed.
  • Pick-Click-Give donations that use state dollars to direct charitable contributions to private or religious organizations could also be banned.

The list, at first glance, seems ludicrous, but the ruling is actually that broad. So broad, that it could even be interpreted to mean that public schools cannot buy textbooks from private companies.

While the Dunleavy administration prepares to ask for a judicial stay to avoid irreparable harm to thousands of Alaskans, Democrats in the House and Senate appear to be coordinating with lawyer Kendall, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of the public education union.

The plaintiff side of the case is, in the words of one legislator, “the dog that caught the car.”

The 24,000 students are just the tip of the iceberg. There are tens of thousands of other parents and students who want to use correspondence programs and have not yet been able to organize their lives around this aspiration, but who hope to in the future.

Correspondence education in Alaska is not only widely practiced, it has been in place since at least 1898, when Gold Rush families conducted home schooling in the mining camp of Douglas, which was in the far flung district of Alaska, 14 years before the area was even a territory. In other words, correspondence education is part of the fabric of the entire state’s history, and many leaders in the state’s history got some or all of their education through private correspondence courses.

For example, in 1933, the 11th Alaska Legislature created the Board of Education, removed the public school system from the Territorial Board of Education, and delegated $8,000 for use of newly created “Division of High School Correspondence.”

Judge Zeman’s current term ends in February of 2025. Voters will get to decide this November if he should be retained as a judge past that date.

Read the history of homeschooling and correspondence education in Alaska in this timeline provided to the Alaska Legislature in 2011:

All of the court documents related to this case, to date, are at the following Court of Alaska links:

74 COMMENTS

  1. Do you want to be ruled by these people?

    Had enough yet?

    “The real question is whether the ‘brighter future’ is always so distant. What if it has been here for a long time already – and only our own blindness and weakness have prevented us from seeing it around us and within us, and kept us from developing it.”
    ~Vaclav Havel, ‘The Power of the Powerless’ (Czech and Soviet dissident)

  2. Ralph Kramdem (Honeymooners) might say “To the moon, to the moon and the supreme court!!”

  3. So much jockeying for state dollars that it shows that kids education is not important but the money is.
    It is clear that the administrators are only interested in their money and paycheck.

    • Exactly. Like the Anchorage Baptist Temple private school–whatever they call themselves now, Mountain City Christian School or something–automatically enrolling every student in the program. Totally inline with the State Constitution. It’s only the money the administrators care about.

      • Sir, your comment is NOT correct. There is no automatic enrolling. Unless you have a child enrolled in MCCA, you don’t know what you are talking about.

        • Don, I sincerely appreciate you using “Sir”–thank you. But it has been widely reported in other local news outlets, including the following quote:

          “Mountain City Christian Academy used the public correspondence school set up by the Denali Borough to automatically direct state payments to families of the church-run school. Families were required to take action on their own if they wanted to reject the state payments.

          “MCCA partners with Denali Peak Correspondence School. As a PEAK Partner, MCCA students are automatically enrolled at Denali Peak, simplifying the enrollment, grade, and receipt submission process. This collaboration provides families with a reimbursement check of up to $3,000 per student to help cover their child’s academic expenses. Families may opt out of this partnership,” the private schools says.

          • Get the heck outta here with those pesky facts, Bill. You’re wrong, and I don’t want to hear another peep.

  4. Too bad Scott Kendall didn’t choose good over Evil! And use His Law Degree for the betterment of Alaska & it’s citizens

  5. How do you expect to flaunt your rainbow flag in your classroom if the children aren’t bused to the indoctrination furnace…….

  6. The nomination of judicial candid ates is, for all practical purposes, controlled by the hard left Alaska Bar Association. It would likely take a constitutional amendment to fix that, but until it is fixed, we will have all leftist judges like this guy.

  7. Some good will come of this. First is his ruling will be overturned. Second, they might just get rid of that section in the constitution. We all k ow that a bunch if socialist wrote it in the first place.

  8. If you want a private golf course you pay for it. If you want a private social club, you pay for it. If you want private medical insurance, you pay for it.

    And so as far as using public funds to pay for private religious schools, if this is what you want, you should pony up the cash. Religious institutions already are tax exempt, and as far as I’m concerned even this level of subsidy is too much. No public funds to support religious schools, churches, or institutions, sorry!

    • Then if it I as a citizen want to pay for my children’s education privately I should be able to opt out of the portion of my property taxes that support the public school I’m not utilizing.

      • Well hell Simon: my wife and I have no children and I think it is personally fair that I don’t pay for the overbreeding of others. If parents have a third or fourth child, they should PAY for the costly addition, not be given a tax break. Giveaways encourage a thing. Taxes tend to reduce a thing and gawd knows we need fewer people on earth.

        • Wish those tax breaks actually did cover the cost of raising a child…

          No way someone has another child for the tax break unless the public education system namely elementary mathematics failed them. The $166.67 month doesn’t raise or care for a child’s needs. Popping out another kid to get a higher welfare check is more of an issue than an actual productive taxpayer’s decision to have a medium or “large” family as you insinuated with more than two children.

          But since you don’t have children it might be hard for you to understand the joy and privilege it is to raise a child and watch them learn and succeed in their passions and interests.

        • And the Malthusian hits just keep on coming. We don’t need fewer people on earth. We need fewer people who think like you do on earth. I’ll bet you morally masturbate by reading Paul Ehrlich. Since you don’t have the pre-reqs to pay off the Club of Rome to survive your own misguided (and incorrect) scarcity conclusions, I suggest you man up, put your actions where your mouth is, and start the depopulation dance you repeatedly advocate others follow with yourself. We’ll see if any of your other like-minded Malthusians join in.

        • Rest assured California’s democrats are busy trying to get rid of excess children.
          They have tried once and regrouping to pass their euthanization bill which allows for the legal termination of an infant within 7-30 days after the hour of birth for those that change their mind.
          Perfect place for you to escape paying for the overbreeding of others except the state of California will require you to pay for the abortion and euthanization clinics.
          Like you said “gawd knows we need fewer people on earth”.

    • You…don’t understand the intent behind School Choice do you? The tax dollars from each person should come back to the taxpayer and freely given to the institution of their choice.

      • You… don’t understand how AK government is funded do you? We don’t pay REMOTELY the cost of our government, a vast majority of Alaskans have been paid more in PFD’s than they’ve paid in State taxes. So the whole “money goes back to” is just plain ignorant.

      • This is important because a basic understanding of supply and demand will tell you that when you reduce the cost of something, in this case government services, you will increase demand for that thing.

        If we want to see budget cuts (and/or full PFDs) we need a broad based tax, otherwise people will keep holding out their hands for more free services. Have a gander at this piece from Cato: ‘https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/policy-report/2004/3/cpr-26n2-2.pdf

    • First, this isn’t about golf, though thanks for trying misdirection.

      OTOH, SCOTUS already answered the question in 2022 Espinoza v Montana Bureau of Revenue, where it tossed a Montana constitutional prohibition against public funds for religious schools identical to ours. Question asked. Question answered despite the best efforts of Kendall, the NEA and the AK judiciary. They are dead man walking.

      As an aside, has any other lawyer here in AK been on the anti-public side of the argument any more often than Scott Kendall? Cheers –

    • Hans, no one is required by law to play golf, join a social club or buy medical insurance. They ARE required to prove that their children are being educated. No funding for religious institutions would mean that parents who couldn’t afford to pay would have one single option: sending their kids to government run leftist indoctrination camps. Also, if private/religious schools received no public funding, it would only be fair that government would have absolutely NO say in the education of kids at those schools – absolutely NONE of their business.

    • Oh child. Oh you sweet, sweet summer child.

      In the pantheon of unintentional stupidity, this is the Mount Everest of stupid.

      In fact, it’s so breathtakingly stupid I’m just gonna let it stand on its own without further comment.

      A mind is a terrible thing to waste son. I’m so sorry you’ve chosen to do so.

  9. Be interesting to see if another judge felt that way.

    Last time someone named Adolph decided to be king, it didn’t work out well.

      • I stand corrected. This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever posted.

        Go play in traffic child. You’re embarrassing yourself in ways you flatly can’t understand.

          • At least TMA has the common sense, the decency and the right to remain anonymous in order to more fully express his opinions, and not condemn others for foolishly sharing their personal identities online.

          • And you know this how? How do you know this isn’t my actual name?

            Pro tip: this little game has been tried repeatedly and guess what? It never, ever gets headway.

            But it is a standard rule of thumb the people who trot it out as some sort of cogent argument inevitably get their intellectual heads handed to them so often the don’t last.

          • How do you know the person handled as “Hans Litten” here is not a pseudonym?

            Perhaps whomever is writing under that name is using the name of the German attorney Hans Litten who represented workers’ rights during the Weimar Republic. The historical Hans Litten was considered a progressive and leftist at the time, which is obviously the political view of the “Hans Litten” commenting here. So, perhaps it is someone using the historical Hans Litten as a pseudonym.

  10. We had found a way around the Alaska Constitution, how dare Judge Zeman actually read the document. We will fight this as it is our god given right to make sure our children don’t need to be subject to “those” students. We like the separate but unequal schools this allowed us to enroll our children in.

    • Correspondence education for kids in the bush that have no access to a public school is definitely “unequal” but not in the way you are insinuating.

    • I assume the (sarc) button is on. That said: Do you think that the public education complex wants to create more people to oppose the education funding handout? I am betting “no” on that question and it explains the urgency of the Legislative Democrats to “fix” the problem before it becomes even more political.

  11. So now everyone is getting screwed? I’m actually ok with that.
    I think this judge unknowingly stepped into a bear trap. He thought he was just hurting the religious groups but ended up potentially screwing the alphabet mafia too. Oh the irony.

  12. Adolf destroyed his integrity and honor to the people in favor of communist teacher’s unions. Judicial sell-out.

    • I bet that you are a strict constructionist. You probably loath judges that interpret the law. You undoubtedly want judges who apply the law based on the clear meaning of the text. The Alaska State Constitution reads that state funds cannot be paid “for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

      In 2013 then senator Mike Dunleavy proposed Senate Bill 100 legislation, that reads in part:
      Sec. 14.03.320. Student allotments. (a) The department or a district that 14 provides a correspondence study program may provide a student allotment to a parent 15 or guardian of a student enrolled in a correspondence study program for the purpose of 16 meeting instructional expenses for the student enrolled in the program. Expenditures 17 from a student allotment shall be for the student’s instructional needs. 18 (b) A parent or guardian may purchase services and materials from a private 19 or religious organization with a student allotment provided under (a) of this section if 20 the materials and services meet instructional needs of the student and support a public 21 purpose.

      At the time Dunleavy knew his bill violated the Alaska Constitution. As a result, he also proposed an amendment to the Alaska Constitution to remove limitations on the use of public funds for religious or private education institutions. That amendment was never adopted by the Legislature or placed before voters. As a result, when Dunleavy’s bill became law, he knew it was unconstitutional, and Judge Adolph Zeman ruled appropriately. Judge Zeman was not acting as a liberal or a twit. Contrary to what you claim, he was acting with integrity and honor, as he was upholding the clear and unequivocal meaning of state’s constitution.

      In this specific forum, Agimarc said that SCOTUS has already ruled on this in 2022 Espinoza v Montana Bureau of Revenue. Therefore, according to Agimarc, Judge Zeman’s ruling is inappropriate. I believe that is incorrect ton two levels. Chief Justice Roberts, in his majority ruling stated, “A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” I do not believe that the SCOTUS decision applies in this case. Secondly, Judge Zeman is required to apply Alaskan law to cases before him. If Alaskan lax, including its constitution is unconstitutional, that is a matter for SCOTUS to determine. Then it would be up to Alaska legislators and voters to amend the Alaska State Constitution to conform to the SCOTUS ruling.

      Until then, all Alaska state judges must follow the Alaska Constitution. As a strict constructionist, don’t you agree?

      • I agree with Tom. I hope this is upheld and all this money goes away, but not for the reason most think however. I want this to get painful so that the uninformed non caring voter will want to change this in the Alaska Constitution. It is going to take pain to see how the public education and the NEA is destroying this state. If it gets changed, then a voucher system can be put in. The money needs to be for the kids and not the NEA power house. Currently, the system is one that has just enough “choice” available for the non caring mobs to leave it alone and allow 80% of students to be indoctrinated by the NEA’s precious monopoly on education. The more pain the better. We need a drastic picture of good vs evil.

      • Tom,
        Go read the preamble to the Alaska State Constitution. In it you will see the words, “God….succeeding generations ….religious liberty.”. Then go read Article 1, Section 1,
        “Inherent Rights.”
        You talk about strict construction versus interpretation. If you read clearly, I think you can still interpret the original intent of the framers.
        Activists judges are nothing new. They develop a sense of power from their interpretation of the law in accordance with political views that they hold, or by the organizations that they intend to protect.
        This judge is a nothing more than a political hack who appeases the so-called progressive left wing. That is pretty clear to most people.
        An example of how the left thinks could be shown here: Alaska statute clearly mandates a rigid formula as to how much the PFD payout will be in each year. That law is easy to interpret because of the plain language and meaning of the statute. But somehow the interpretation of that statue got mangled…….all for politics.
        All children in Alaska deserve the same opportunities to receive an education. Today’s political climate has carved a deep divide in what constitutes an education. If the public schools are hell bent on creating a deeper political divide, then private schools and charter schools offer the best alternative. And the state should be responsible for allowing that child access to an education regardless of the politics or religious beliefs of the parent or the operators of the school.

        • Here, here, Marla. Well stated. But don’t expect any change without a fight. These judges are just as indoctrinated by the extreme left wing as are the children they purport to protect under the Preamble and Section 1. This woke judge won’t step out of line with his political idealism, or his masters. He only wants to go up the woke ladder.

  13. Remote schooling worked well for decades before Senator Dunleavy got an Unconstitutional Change to our Education funding. Simply go back to what worked well before 2014

    • Mongo. You are the best player on the team that advances intelligence! You are the example we smart people can point to that explains the result of irrational thought, a diminished ability to think critically and (probably) an adherence to the stifling nonsense of religion.

      If you ever get slammed and injured by a drunk driver, will you hire a lawyer?

  14. The Left/Legislative Democrats may be trying to “fix” the problem before it lands in the lap of the most-exalted Alaska Supreme Court on appeal. You can bet that the panel selected to hear the case on appeal wants to put as much distance/time as possible between it and the next retention election.

    As for Judge Zeman, I expect the political action committee to oppose his retention has already been formed.

  15. Is there still an Office of Faith Based & Community Initiatives in the Department of Health and Social Services?

  16. If our schools were any good there would not be 24,000 home school/correspondent kids. Add those on waiting lists and there are probably an additional 10,000. What would happen if all those kids had to go to brick and mortar indoctrination stations? There would not be enough room or enough teachers. The NEA is the most powerful corrupt group trying to take control of the future of our country. idiot attorneys and judges just add fuel to their fire. If the schools were turing our students capable of getting a job or continuing in college without remedial classes there would be little need for home schools. Recently someone asked on Facebook which schools in the Valley were best as they were planning to move here. Several replies were “none” or home school. Fix this problem now.

  17. A pure clown…What a disgrace that a judge would pose in his robe like this at work. Ego overload, I bet his fellow judges appreciate his disrespect to the office modeling this behavior at work.

    A complete clown and being lavishly paid to be one.

    Lord help the State of Alaska with these guys making decisions.

  18. A pure clown…What a disgrace that a judge would pose in his robe like this at work. Ego overload, I bet his fellow judges appreciate his disrespect to the office modeling this behavior at work.

    A complete clown and being lavishly paid to be one.

    Lord help the State of Alaska with these guys making decisions.

  19. Yea we are.. talk about how Dunleavy went past the states constitution to let money grubbing parents use our tax dollars to send their kids to private theater and dance classes while voting to slash public budgets for the common people. Hell, some of them were sending them out of state to the tune of 300k/yr on OUR TAX DOLLARS!!!

  20. Meanwhile, the ‘brilliant’ public schools in Alaska turn out kids who rank around 49th of the 50 states. Where is the outrage? Where is the push to improve these terrible results- while we pay a staggering $19,300.00 per kid, per year?

    Crickets.

  21. I am just so angry I can’t use State money anymore to teach my kids the Earth is 6000 yrs old and Jesus rode a T. rex. Plus that White Christian Nationalist Correspondence program is quite spendy, how will I teach my kids intolerance and hate like Jesus intended now?

  22. To Governor Dunleavy and Commissioner Bishop: Alaska’s Constitution does not grant one state judge authority to destroy correspondence education provided to 24,000 students.
    .
    Absent emergency legislative intervention, may we suggest nullification through noncompliance until the question of authority is resolved in federal court, with invitations to other state attorneys general to file amicus briefs.

  23. So Scott Kendall strikes again. He will not rest until Dunleavy’s term is done. Then, if he hasn’t made a democrat governor, it will start all over again. Kendall is nothing but a democrat warrior who wants nothing fixed in Alaska. The idea of Alaskan kids that are too distant to actually be able to attend a public school does not interest him. Almost 20 years in the arctic showed the real situation to Dunleavy, but too many in the legislature either don’t care or are too afraid of losing votes to take the proper action to remedy the situation for good. The authors of the state constitution were far too trusting of human nature. It might well take constitutional additions to correct the situation. The sooner this starts the better.

    • Maybe. But he can’t seem to get his own brother re-seated in politics. Hopkins is a big wig with the teacher’s unions now, organizing kiddie demonstrations, and hoping he will become mayor up in Fairbanks. Opposition groups are taking notice that he is related to this Kendall twirp.

  24. Maybe now is the time to Amend the Constitution to allow full state funding to follow the child in ANY educational choice they decide upon. Want to be a pilot, use state funds. Want to homeschool, charter school, Christian school, music school, welding, plumbing, electrical, etc…. USE THE STATE FUNDS that were appropriated by the liberal education system for captive audience indoctrination.

  25. Kendall and his judge buddy should be rode out if state on a rail. All they want to do is destroy our state and its people. Get them both out of our state or put them in jail, one.

  26. Judge Zeman’s opinion is sound. There is supposed to be a separation between church and state and public education money is not supposed to be spent by parents purchasing a private, religious education for their children. Additionally, our state is in an education crisis and allowing funds to be spent by parents who are enriching private, religious schools to the detriment of public schools is not going to help.

    • Last I checked that money came from the taxpayers. Can you blame parents for not wanting to send their kids to public schools full of liberal indoctrination?

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