Breaking: Activist Superior Court judge rules against correspondence schools when it comes to state support

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It’s a blow to school choice and a slap in the face of educational freedom: An Alaska Superior Court judge has made a stunning ruling against the State of Alaska in a case involving how the state financially helps families with funding for correspondence schools.

The lawsuit filed in 2023 sought to ban the use of state allotments for private or religious education. The judge agreed, and ruled that “AS 14.03.300-.310 must be struck down as unconstitutional in their entirety.” The statutes in question authorize all public correspondence school programs in the state.

The State of Alaska will appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court, Must Read Alaska has learned.

The ruling impacts 24,518 students, fully 17.3% of all Alaska enrollment in the 28 districts that have programs. It impacts the $119,559,805 these districts get in state funding.

If this ruling were to stand, there would be no public correspondence school options in Alaska and families currently in correspondence school would be forced to pay for what is otherwise public schooling out of their own pockets.

But the ruling is not in effect yet. Parents and school districts do not have to close down correspondence schools; the State Department of Law will ask for a stay until this is sorted out.

The case was filed last year by a group backed by the National Education Association-Alaska, with liberal activist attorney Scott Kendall (Alaskans for Better Elections fame) as one of the lawyers suing the state.

The plaintiffs were parents of students in public schools who were not using state-approved correspondence programs but offended that others use them and are reimbursed by state funds. The defendant was Acting Education Commissioner Heidi Teshner.

Students enrolled in an approved state correspondence program can use the annual allotment to homeschool or instruction provided by a private school, with allotments running between $2,000 and $4,000. It allows parents to opt their children out of troubled, sometimes violent, and provably low-performing public schools in Alaska.

“This suit challenges AS 14.03.300-.310, which is being used to reimburse parents for thousands of dollars in private educational institution services using public funds thereby indirectly funding private education in violation of Article VII, Section 1 of the Alaska Constitution,” the lawsuit said.

The funding for correspondence programs came from Senate Bill 100 in 2013, sponsored by then-Sen. Mike Dunleavy. In his sponsor statement back then, Dunleavy wrote, “[m]ost [correspondence programs] provide a student allotment to purchase educational services or materials to meet the student’s Individual Learning Plan (ILP). Under SB 100, a parent may purchase services and materials from a private or religious organization with a student’s allotment to meet the student’s ILP.”

SB 100 was introduced as part of a legislative package which included Senate‘ Joint Resolution 9 (“SJR 9”), which contained two proposed amendments to the Alaska State Constitution. The first amendment proposed deleting the final sentence of Article VII, Section I of the Alaska State Constitution which provides, “[n]o money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”  In 2014, successfully sponsored a bill that further enabled parents to be reimbursed for nonpublic education.

Judge Adolf Zeman ruled that there was an acknowledgement back in 2013 and later in 2014 that the change would require a constitutional amendment.

Zeman ruled that it is unconstitutional for the state to pay for educational services from private organization using private funds, because it is in contravention of Article VII, Section 1 of the Alaska Constitution.

The plaintiffs suggested that the matter could be remedied if the state simply strikes the words “private, or religious” from the statute and require people to purchase the educational support from the state. The judge appeared to agree, but he went much further in an example of judicial activism: In a case that only asked for the allotments to be changed, he threw out the entire correspondence program.

Judge Zeman wrote, “If the legislature believes these expenditures are necessary — then it is up to them to craft constitutional legislation to serve that purpose — that is not this Court’s role.”

Alaska Statute 14.03.300(a) provides that under a “correspondence study program” an individual learning plan is developed in collaboration with the student, the parent or guardian of the student, a certified teacher assigned to the student, and other individuals involved in the student’s learning plan. To meet instructional expenses, AS 14.03.310(a) allows a district to provide an annual student allotment to a parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the correspondence study program. A parent or guardian may purchase nonsectarian services and materials from a public, private, or religious organization with a student allotment if they are consistent with the ‘individual learning plan. AS 14.03.310(b).

This story will be updated as more details are known.

90 COMMENTS

  1. One day as California Newsom democrats are heading, these peoples are heading to ruling Homeschooling illegal in their state. This is just moving Alaska toward it

      • Accountable to who? Especially if you do not take money.

        Why do you thirst for the state to be the big daddy? Individuals are more then capable of educating their children. In fact much more so then government schools.

        Also, Kendall is a plague.I pray God moves on him.

        • micah
          Because you obviously have the money to pay for the very expensive curriculum. The rest if us don’t

          • Had the money. We h/s ours already.

            And we had the money because we sacrificed for it. We didn’t see the inside of a restaurant for about a decade, took few and very low budget vacations, drove beater cars/vans and generally went without for most luxuries. Zero regrets.

            Quit whining. Priorities.

      • It doesn’t have to be through a local district but you have to submit learning plans and it is all submitted to your local contact teachers. Its not just the wild wild west as these people are portraying, and its way way cheaper per student to homeschool.

      • Greg – By state statute in Alaska, independent, completely separate from the government, home education is permitted. Paid for entirely by the parent and no money comes from any government sources. If a family is independently homeschooling they do not register with any public school. I will try to find the statute. You can find more info at APHEA.org

            • Right ! And mine is starting her psychology degree this year. Before some of the individuals on this feed start claiming homeschooling to be inadequate, perhaps you should look at how ASD ranks in our country. The violence, the withholding information from parents, and other issues-no thanks.

              • Ha! Mine started in psychology. Then we watched ‘What About Bob’ together and he changed his major to law.

          • > failing to educate your child properly can be child abuse.

            Then it follows that you ought to be railing against parents who send their children to public school.

            • Here! Here! I totally agree Trevor! Our Alaska school system has totally failed to educate our children and they should be charged for child abuse!!!

      • Technically the state requires no oversight of education, one can only prove that a child is being neglected by not receiving an education. At no point is a parent required to check in with the state or prove or have approved any curriculum by the state.
        Although I once received a letter stating all children must be enrolled in school, it was typical lower 48 ignorance. The law says nothing of the sort. Freedom

      • I work for a homeschool program that is through a public school district. We are not allowed to use state funds for any private school courses or even for faith-based curriculum the parents choose to purchase, so I don’t understand why or how we will be impacted by this. We have to keep records of work completed and grades awarded, and parents have to provide evidence of their students’ progress. Then this is all monitored by state auditors.
        Students can be dual enrolled with us and the local brick-and-mortar school, in which case the B&M school gets the funding first, and we get what’s left.
        If a student does not do work with us or the parent does not engage with us in providing evidence of accomplishments, we don’t generally let them re-enroll with us and recommend that a B&M school would be a better fit for their child. we are very closely monitored by the state, so this lawsuit is very disappointing.

    • With judges like this, I expect more hand-wringing from more than Dunleavy. The judicial integrity in our state has been going downhill for decades.

  2. Using public money to fund religious schools is not a reality based education and should not be reimbursed.

    • Actually this ruling is stating that the state will not pay for any education except for public schools. It’s the NEA wanting a monopoly on teaching. Monopoly’s aren’t know to work well for the consumer (students). I’d say it would drop our education outcomes, but you can’t get lower than 50 out of 50 so no worries there… continue on Alaska. Maybe we can pass a few more bonds…

      • Which is exactly why we are using the homeschool option. Not to mention the number of classes students can take, in order to support their desired outcome in life. What a concept: let an individual pursue classes that challenge and interest them, classes that apply to real life. Not classes that teaches to the lowest denominator in the district…let’s not fail to bring up the drug problems in schools, suicide rates of teens, and gang violence in schools. NONE of which I need my students to be exposed to on a daily basis, so if any of these individuals commenting against homeschooling have students in schools- are THEY even paying attention ?!!

    • You seem nice.

      The historical truth is that the scientific method was invented and perfected by the Scholastics, who were Catholics. Your precious atheists could not possibly have invented it, since they were essentially nonexistent.

      Maybe work on your bigotry there, or maybe not.

      • Tamra. Scholastics or Catholics DID NOT invent the scientific method. It is a fundamental way of operating in our world. It works in the animal kingdom too.

    • Dunleavy did not select him from a blank slate. Like all Governors, he gets to pick from the nominees given to him by the Alaska Judicial Council, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Alaska Bar Association. The Bar is not known for their conservative positions or nominees. The courts have decided that Governors cannot decline to name one from the provided list.

  3. Apparently, Judge Adolf Zeman went to a K12 public school because he did not note the difference between “direct” funding and “indirect” funding. The Alaska Constitution does NOT prohibit “indirect” funding of K12 education. If this ruling stands, parents can put the full blame on the NEA-AK. The Alaska teachers union wants a complete monopoly over indoctrinating our children. BTW, why did the NEA-AK president Tom Klaameyer send his kids to Pacific Northern Academy? Guess his public schools weren’t good enough for his kids. Hypocrisy at its finest.

    • The judge looked at the objective of the funding and found a loop hole.
      It’s a public vs private situation which public money was at stake.

    • I always enjoyed a good gangster movie, especially the money laundering schemes.

      To launder money the crooks need to know money is not ethically or legally theirs, PLACE the money in a legitimate entity, then LAYER the money dispersing accountability, then INTEGRATE into the crooks system as legitimate money.

      Apparently our religious schools discovered how to launder ALASKA STATE REVENUE, to negate the law of the STATE.

      Reguire students to enroll in a State Sanctioned Correspondence school (PLACEMENT)

      Send $3000 to the parents for (LAYERING) or disbursement of accountability.

      Then have the parents turn over the $3000 for tuition (INTEGRATION)

      So State Revenue is clean from prying eyes of the regulators of Constitutional Intent.

      Brilliant, the religious schools really are MARLON BRANDO in the Godfather.

      Dunleavy is the Godfather

    • Some of the dumbest attorneys end up in black robes. Can you imagine Lisa Murkowski wanting an appointment to the Supreme Court?
      LOL.

      • Dunleavy is trying to bypass local school boards in favor of the board he selects at the state level. This has been one od hang ups in the back and forth in the house.

    • I’d rather not knock good judges. We need to keep the few good ones we have and ditch the idiots. That would require some reporting on the differences.

    • I always enjoyed a good gangster movie, especially the money laundering schemes.

      To launder money the crooks need to know money is not ethically or legally theirs, PLACE the money in a legitimate entity, then LAYER the money dispersing accountability, then INTEGRATE into the crooks system as legitimate money.

      Apparently our religious schools discovered how to launder ALASKA STATE REVENUE, to negate the law of the STATE.

      Reguire students to enroll in a State Sanctioned Correspondence school (PLACEMENT)

      Send $3000 to the parents for (LAYERING) or disbursement of accountability.

      Then have the parents turn over the $3000 for tuition (INTEGRATION)

      So State Revenue is clean from prying eyes of the regulators of Constitutional Intent.

      Brilliant, the religious schools really are MARLON BRANDO in the Godfather.

      Dunleavy is the Godfather

  4. First, Alaska does not have judges, only activists. There is no rule of law in this state.
    Second, the education cartel thinks that this will force students back to public schools. But they are deceiving themselves.
    As the great sort continues in this country, the families who create value in a society are moving to where their values are upheld. Many states are passing full education equality whereby the tax money paid by the value creators to begin with are being allocated to whatever educational choice they deem best. This will leave the public education sector in Alaska even more hollowed out and with even less money.
    Those who are not yet ready to relocate, will simply continue their homeschool or charter school without the aid of the tax money that they paid in to the system. Correspondence schoolers have been preparing for this for years and this will only perpetuate the disillusion and full decoupling from the tyrannical public school system. It is immoral to feed Leviathan.

  5. This is a real opportunity. The State should appeal this ruling to the State Supremes. When they opine in support of the NEA, take the whole mess to federal court and use the SCOTUS 2020 Espinoza v Montana Department of Revenue to invalidate Article VII, Section 1 of the Alaska Constitution.

    The NEA is being greedy here and in doing so, are on the verge of getting their entire mealcart overturned in Alaska. We will see if Dunleavy is up to the task and if the AK Supremes is smart enough to allow the NEA to lose this battle so they can maintain the fiction a little while longer. Cheers –

  6. Suzanne ,

    Thank you for reporting on the most important subject of our era . Perhaps any era . Every thing good or bad starts with education. ( not just schools)
    Every thing Americans strove for will turn to dust unless we free and improve education.

    Our nation is being brainwashed in our public schools. The childrens ethics and ability to think clearly are being degraded.
    Public schools are rarely a safe place for children.
    Children in public school come into contact with sex abuse , brain washing, critical thought reduction, mob violence, bullies , over sexualization and mental illness.
    That is A minor section of what children in “school” deal with on a day to day basis.
    Currently the results from being publicly “educated” are horrid .

    Long live the right of parents to improve their childrens life situation through education.
    Alaskans should change the laws to more clearly support school choices.
    Freedom of mind starts with freedom of education.

  7. Trust me comrade! This about forcing more children into State ”education” centers.

  8. This is about indoctrination. Plain and simple. The left murders their unborn and seeks to brainwash/recruit our children. The NEA doesn’t care about children and never has. It’s about power, money, control and indoctrination of their Marxist agenda. The Leninist useful idiots of our day.

    • Deport. “The NEA doesn’t care about children and never has. ” You just proved where you fall on the intelligence scale.

      • Actually, the NEA is for the teachers, not the children. Who stood on the forefront to close classrooms during COVID? Who rallied the students into the statehouse to disrupt the legislature? It’s about power, money, control and indoctrination of their Marxist agenda. And the students lose, and therefore our society loses with an uneducated populace. Useful idiots. I suggest that you read Yuri Bezmenov: “[T]he useful idiots, the leftists who are idealistically believing in the beauty of the Soviet socialist or Communist or whatever system,….they think that they will come to power. That will never happen, of course. They will be lined up against the wall and shot.”

  9. State needs to appeal. Take it all the way to the Supremes. A couple SCOTUS rulings have upheld public $ going to private and religious education in last few years. Don’t know that the Blaine amendment (in many state constitutions across the country including Alaska) was specifically struck down as unconstitutional in those cases but this may be the case that does the trick. Doesn’t help though that legislature is reducing funding for statehood defense cases at Dept of Law – which, btw, yours truly has put on record that I oppose.

  10. Let me get this straight. So long as a parent is entirely onboard with their daughters becoming their sons, providing porn to kids, and making their kids (not) learn math using logic instead of gobbledegook, they can have their “education” funded by taxpayers even if over half the those taxpayers disagree with that method of teaching, but let one, just one, parent, decided that he or she does NOT want his or her kid dipped in filth, and they will not have access to public funding for educating their kid.

    Looks very much like State-Sponsored “humanism” (its own religion) to me. As I recall, there is a perfectly viable Right in the US Constitution preventing that. Silly me for noticing.

  11. Activist judges are unconstitutional. There is nothing unconstituional about public funds being used through corespondance.

    You can only use the funds for educational purposes. “Religious” material is not on the approved list.

    There was no NEA and federal public funded schools when the Constitution was created.

    To say that funds can only go to federally funded public schools is unconstitutional literally makes no sense and has zero reasoning.

    This judge is not a judge, but a criminal hiding behind the robe to break the law.

    But we have known these domestic enemies have cochroached their way to cause lawfare and legal tyranny.

  12. No doubt most of you feel compelled to bitch! And as we know, Alaskans are prone to wait for somebody else to solve all their perceived social problems as if they need to only wait for divine intervention–having been “saved,” never miracle enough!

    You need to do more than roll your fat ass off the sofa to make a grub run! Work for a constitutional amendment. If not, I’d rather hear my neighbor’s chihuahuas yip and yap than listen to a chorus cry.

    • There are only two ways to amend the state constitution. The first, and limited, is by a 2/3 vote by both houses of the legislature (Art. XIII, sec.1) and second is by constitutional convention. There is legal debate about the degree the Legislature can propose an amendment. It stems from the definition of “amend” versus “revise”. The Legislature does not possess unilateral authority to propose amendments, but are limited to “revisiions” which are more limited in scope. The only authority that has no limit, in scope, are constitutuonal conventions. Art. XIII secs. 2 &3 dictate the manner in which con cons can be called. So, rolling someone’s “fat ass off the couch” is good, it won’t accomplish what you propose. Potentially possible, but highly unlikely.

      • “Potentially possible, but highly unlikely.” Nicely stated, Big Bear. We know that if the people rely upon the honest politicians in Juneau to “fix” things, nothing will get done! Alaskans have eight years to go before the next statewide referendum is presented to them as to whether or not to convene a constitutional convention. Time’s a wastin’! The question is this, will the people organize or prefer to go muddin’?

        • Well, repeal RCV folks tried convincing the Alaska electorate to vote Yes on the 2022 CONCON and it got less than 30% and I don’t think the question has ever exceeded 40% since statehood.

  13. The NEA is always spouting off about how “it’s all about the children” when in reality, it is all about their pocketbook!

  14. I think the judge is right in one respect. This ultimately needs to be resolved via the legislative process.

  15. Question: If a parent uses his/her and a student’s PFD to pay for private education, is that unconstitutional? It is public funds being spent on non-public schools.

  16. 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.

    • Kind of like the PFD that they didn’t pay out via the constitutional formula ? How about looking at the students and education differently ? Maybe you don’t have students in ASD. But last I checked ASD and the illustrious education system in our state ranks in position number 50. How about looking at how these terrible parents choosing to homeschool are educating their students and learn from it !

    • Hey Stumpy, how about those kids who failed to get a decent education in government K12 schools get a refund as well for their future being stolen?

      • Hey David, Alissa Pili, a Dimond High grad, was selected in the first round of the WNBA draft today.

        How about a round of applause for the young lady, instead of always tearing things down ?

        ASD must be doing something right

        • HAHAHA!! Oh yes, who could forget the hallmark of intelligence that the WNBA is… Athletics in high schools and in universities are well-known to prop-up star athletes in order to get them to advance by faking grades. Try again. Athletics has nothing to do with this.

      • Right ! Some parents can’t get their school to follow an IEP, and often times I hear that they can’t even get adequate involvement from the district to have enough support for students with an IEP.

        There are many students who need extra assistance, and it should not be crowned on that parents care enough to stay home and educate them.

        This is ALL about MONEY. Id say certain individuals saw that if they couldn’t get additional funding given per student, he’d be able to force students out of homeschool and into class seats…and voila ! Extra Fed Funding.

        It’s not about the student, and certainly more money is not going to remove rank 49 from the state of Alaska.

        I homeschool mine. It’s allowed personal growth, and optimum choices for career paths. ASD sucks.

        I see it differently:
        THEY can abuse our children by creating secrets. “It’s okay little Johnny, you can go by Julie here at school…we won’t tell your parents you’re a they”

        But parents: How dare you want to teach anything on your own, especially anything religious.

        You know what ASD ?
        I’ll still teach mine at home, and you can still kiss my ass…. I’ll never let you turn mine into useless drones.

  17. It used to be white robes against black people, now it is all too frequently black robes against most people. We have in Alaska our own swamp to drain and it’s a smelly one.

  18. Until the Alaska constitution is altered, students of parents who want their children to receive a quality education, will be second-class residents of this state. If you can’t afford a private or religious school, your only option is one of the worst public education systems in America.

  19. If only we had the option of designating what our property taxes paid for. I would definitely opt out of supporting our local brainwashing centers.

  20. Interesting that one of the named plaintiffs of this lawsuit, Carey Carpenter, was the campaign manager for Kelly Lessens…
    ‘https://www.facebook.com/Kelly4AnchorageKids/videos/careys-hello/3136443649815976/
    School board votes matter

  21. How else can the government and the NEA keep putting “Just Another Brick in The Wall”. (Pink Floyd)

  22. Liberals hate children and free choice.

    Your children MUST attend a government indoctrination center!!!

  23. This situation is a prime example of one bad actor ruining it for everyone else.

    I’d bet that most of the people in Alaska are fine with paying out an allotment to people who home school their child and/or are enrolled in a correspondence school.

    But I’d bet most Alaskans are not OK with what ABT/MCT/ACS has been accused of. And that is for their students who are enrolled in their actual brick and mortar school being automatically enrolled in a correspondence school so that the parents get the allotment and in turn pay that money to the religious school as tuition.

    As another commenter noted above, that has all the hallmarks of laundering money and circumventing our state constitution.

    • Zero of the dollars from these programs can pay for religious themed classes. Any dollars that get paid towards a private school are broken into classes-not tuition. Also, students are not auto enrolled in homeschool programs.

      • “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”

        That is directly from MCCA’s financial assistance informational PowerPoint. It is on the parents to explicitly opt out of this partnership, otherwise, the religious school automatically opts them in. No other private school automatically enrolls their students, only MCCA.

        Also, it says nothing about these funds being used only for nonreligious classes, just that the funds may be used to help cover academic expenses

        Again, this is one bad actor ruining it for everyone else.

        Even if those funds were not used to pay for religious themed classes, paying any of their allotment is in violation of the state constitution’s language that no public funds shall be either directly or indirectly sent to private or religious institutions. Don’t believe me, just look at Article IX Section 6 from the state constitution.

        For the record, MCCA is Mountain City Christian Academy, formerly ACS or Anchorage Christian School

  24. So, this decision will actually cost taxpayers more money, as the cost of public school is substantially higher than that of home schooling programs. Assuming that homeschooling parents decide to send their kids to these inferior programming centers, which I doubt. Most, if not all will continue to homeschool by making financial sacrifices for a superior education.

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