‘WELL INTENTIONED, POORLY EXECUTED’
A legal opinion provided to the Anchorage Superintendent of Schools last month points out a number of flaws in the current self-identified “Education Bill of Rights,” which is in the signature-gathering stage. Proponents hope to get the ballot initiative onto either the Primary or General Election ballot this year.
An opinion from the law offices of Holland & Knight point to a number of problems with the initiative — everything from funding, to actual measurable standards to legal disputes between school boards and the State of Alaska.
Some of the main points of the Holland & Knight legal opinion include:
- “The Initiative seems not to appreciate or understand the current relationship between DEED and local school districts, and in several places, it potentially usurps the control and authority of local school boards.”
- “Without any funding mechanism, the Initiative establishes aspirational goals but is imprecise as to how those goals will be achieved, which entities will be responsible for those goals, and how programs designed to meet these objectives will be funded.”
- “The Initiative contains a number of aspirational statements … the challenge is how to convert these aspirational statements into actual policy, practices, and expenditures, and in determining which entities are responsible for these tasks.”
- “The Initiative proponents describe their proposal as establishing ‘an education standard’ … but a ‘standard’ is typically something that can be measured or defined. It might be more accurate to describe the Initiative as proposing ‘goals’ or ‘aspirations.’”
- “It seems likely that the Initiative, if enacted, could diminish the role of school boards, could create room for conflict between school boards and DEED, and could lead to other unanticipated legal disputes.”
Although the opinion was released to the school district in October, it had not been made public until obtained by and posted this week at the Alaska Policy Forum.
The costs of the initiative are unknown, as described in an opinion from the Office of Management and Budget, which said, “Without additional detail, an accurate cost estimate cannot be developed at this time. Further, the impact of the additional detail required is an unknown variable. The department recommends the Alaska Legislature as the appropriate body to undertake the public process of defining the additional detail and direction required to prepare an accurate cost estimate for this comprehensive ballot initiative.”