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Alaska lawmakers are proposing a replacement homeschool law that would maintain the annual allocation


After being inundated with letters, emails and public testimony urging them to defend and protect what many see as a key component to making homeschooling a viable option for thousands of Alaska families, state lawmakers on the House Education Committee on A replacement bill was submitted on May 3. which would allow Alaska to continue to reimburse homeschooling families for educational costs incurred by tutors, classes, courses and workshops from various private providers.

These assignments are currently banned thanks to a sweeping opinion from Anchorage Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman, who ruled last month that the assignment program was unlawful because it allowed parents to use money to help pay for educational offerings at private and religious organizations and institutions . Zeman believes this violates the Alaska Constitution, which prohibits the expenditure of public funds to “directly benefit” private or religious institutions.

Although Zeman has temporarily stayed his ruling to allow the Alaska Supreme Court to rule, it has cast a dark shadow over the state’s fast-growing, publicly funded homeschool community, which now has about 23,000 children, or roughly 18% of the nation’s population. population of Alaska. enrollment in a public school.

In an effort to remedy the problem and create an allocation program that does not conflict with Judge Zeman’s interpretation of the state constitution, Alaska lawmakers initially introduced House Bill 400.

However, this legislation proved highly controversial and was ultimately rejected by the House Education Committee, as it would have greatly limited the way allocation funds are used by specifically limiting spending to tutoring services not offered by a “private or religious educational institution,” and textbooks and curricula that are not considered “religious, partisan, sectarian or denominational.”

The latest homeschool allocation bill is worded in a way that allows the state of Alaska to appeal Judge Zeman’s decision to the Alaska Supreme Court without preemptively codifying new restrictions.

In addition, the original HB 400 would have barred parents from spending allocations on services or materials offered by a private or religious educational institution, even if it studied subjects such as math, foreign languages, vocational skills and various other academic disciplines. Similarly, families would not have been able to pay for passes or family memberships to sports or recreational facilities for physical education or training. They also had not been able to purchase equipment such as basketballs, jump ropes or dumbbells. It also would have banned the purchase of animals, desks, chairs, parking fees or anything considered “entertainment,” and banned payment for testing other than assessments required by the school district. That could include any number of tests to demonstrate proficiency in different subjects.

Finally, the original bill would have prohibited expenditures for taxes on otherwise approved items, while blocking the ability to purchase “permanent items that complement or enhance the value of a non-school facility,” such as blackboards, bookshelves, greenhouses, and the like . any number of items that standard public school students have access to in brick-and-mortar schools.

In rejecting this version of the bill, the House Education Committee has introduced a much shorter and streamlined replacement bill that would simply maintain the homeschool assignment program while giving the State Board of Education the authority to work out the details of how it will be implemented. funds can be used.

Shortly before the committee voted to approve the bill, Alaska Education Commissioner Deena Bishop briefed committee members on what would happen if the new replacement bill passed out of the Legislature and was signed by the governor.

She said the Ministry of Education would issue emergency regulations this summer, which would then go to the Ministry of Law for review. The proposed regulations would then be submitted to the State Board of Education and then made public for comment. After a final review by the Department of Law, the regulations would be voted on again by the Board of Education before being implemented for the upcoming school year. Bishop said the process would likely be completed in August or September.

When asked by Juneau Rep. Andi Story on whether new regulations would specifically prohibit homeschooling families from using allocation funds for services offered by religious or private educational institutions, Bishop said the state needed to figure out the difference between an “educational institution” and an “educational institution.” private organization.” She indicated that services and materials would likely be allowed if they came from “private organizations.” It’s unclear whether that would allow families to pay for non-religious courses and materials from private “organizations” like BYU or other entities that may have a religious basis.

Bishop added that the latest homeschool allocation bill is worded in a way that will allow the state of Alaska to appeal Judge Zeman’s decision to the Alaska Supreme Court without preemptively imposing new restrictions on allocation spending. codify before the appeal procedure has completed all its preparations. steps.

If the state Supreme Court were to uphold Zeman’s decision, Governor Dunleavy has indicated his administration is prepared to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The bill was introduced without objection and now goes to the House of Representatives Finance Committee. If it passes the House of Representatives, it will go to the Senate before going to the governor.

TAKE ACTION

– Click here to read the new allocation law for substitute homeschooling.

— Click here to contact members of the House Finance Committee, where the bill is currently pending. To email all members at once, use this address: [email protected].

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