In an effort to mitigate the harmful financial impact his ruling would have on thousands of Alaska homeschooling families that rely on the state’s correspondence allotment program to educate their children, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman issued a limited stay on his April 12 opinion, effectively delaying its effective date until the end of the current fiscal year, June 30.

The stay, issued on May 2, permits school districts to operate under the status quo to finish out the current academic year, thereby allowing them to reimburse families for expenses accrued for lessons, classes and instruction from private and religious organizations and educational institutions.

Ultimately, however, Judge Zeman ruling has sent shockwaves through Alaska’s homeschool and private educational communities by asserting that the state’s practice of reimbursing parents for these expenses is a violation of the Alaska Constitution, which states, “No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.”

Dunleavy signaled he would veto pending bills in the State Legislature until the case is settled in court.

The state adamantly disagrees with Zeman’s interpretation of the homeschool laws, and plans to appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court, and perhaps to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

In a rare move, the plaintiffs joined the state in asking Judge Zeman to approve a stay on his ruling, which impacts roughly 24,000 students who have left standard government-run schools.

The state had asked for a longer stay, which would have given the Alaska Supreme Court a chance to have the final word before the correspondence allotment programs are upended and the education of thousands of Alaska students are irreparably disrupted.

Zeman rejected this request and dismissed the state’s contention that if his ruling is implemented before the high court weighs in, correspondence programs will suddenly evaporate, and thousands of students will have to change their plans for the upcoming academic year. Additionally, the judge dismissed the state’s concern that “wrongfully removing that educational option – even temporarily – irreparably harms both the State’s education system and the children within it.”

Zeman’s May 2 ruling contends that correspondence education can continue, as it was a decade ago, before Alaska began allowing families to use their annual allotments for expenses accrued from private and religious institutions.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor disagree. Last month, Dunleavy said Zeman’s ruling draws into question all educational spending for any goods, services or instruction from private or religious sources, including textbook companies, private contractors, food vendors and more.

Zeman maintains the state has “mischaracterized” his ruling, which he says should only be interpreted as abolishing the financial allotment program, not state correspondence education in general.

Dunleavy said he wants to wait for the Alaska Supreme Court to issue a final ruling on the matter before he decides how to respond, which could include appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as issuing “educational dividends” that families could use next year to help offset the cost of homeschooling and private educational options.

Additionally, Dunleavy signaled he would veto pending bills in the State Legislature until the case is settled in court. Currently, lawmakers are considering legislation that attempts to satisfy Judge Zeman’s legal opinion, but these legislative solutions severely limit how parents can use homeschool allotments, and would forbid the carrying over unspent allotment funds to the following year.

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Judge grants ‘limited stay’ on ruling that upends Alaska homeschool allotment program

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • SA says:

    Dunleavy’s threat to veto any legislation that would solidify constitutional guardrails in support of correspondence school programs demonstrates that he is not really serious about solving the problem. Instead, he just wants to throw another tantrum to get his way.

    • AK Mom says:

      Can you clarify this statement? I have listened to all of Dunleavy’s press conferences on this issue and he’s repeatedly said this ruling as written requires a Constitutional fix, not a regulatory legislative fix. A legislative fix is a nonstarter because this judge determined the correspondence programs unconstitutional. He said he’s look at any legislation that gets passed— didn’t say he’d absolutely veto— but that he doesn’t see any path forward legislatively if the ruling stands. It will require constitutional change. But the legislature cannot make that change; the people of AK would have to approve that change in a vote.

      • Friend of Humanity says:

        A Constitutional Convention is needed and we Alaskans who love humanity would be making some changes to the Constitution (or, rather undo what has been done in the past 70 or so years) to save humanity!

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    Good luck with that! We just tried it with RCV