Education department will disburse school funds monthly pending lawsuit outcome
Superintendents in Alaska’s school districts were advised today by the State Department of Education and Early Development that, although the funding for their next school year is hung up in a court challenge, they’ll start receiving monthly payments.
A letter from Commissioner Michael Johnson outlined the plan. He said that with the constitutional question of “forward appropriating” going for judicial review, he will disburse FY 2020 monthly payments on or before the 15th of each month, except the initial July 2019 disbursement.
Holding back the July funds will likely trigger the lawsuit from the Legislature’s leadership, which disagrees with the governor on the constitutional question.
The Department will work to transfer funds as quickly as possible after the Legislature files its lawsuit against the governor, which is expected before July 15, Johnson wrote.
The reason for the expected lawsuit is that the Dunleavy Administration believes it is unconstitutional for the Legislature to appropriate funds a year in advance, when there are no funds to actually dedicate.
The “forward funding” that the Legislature has been doing with the Education budget is unconstitutional because, for the first time, there have been no funds actually set aside for the specific future purpose; it was more of a promise, and that action binds the hands of future legislators and the Executive Branch.
Dunleavy and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson say that the Legislature has not actually funded the coming fiscal year for Education, but the letter from the Education commissioner indicates the Administration is looking for a way to ensure schools have some certainty.
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.