By AlaskaWatchman.com

Homeschoolers across Alaska, who use the state-funded correspondence program to access goods and services provided at private and religious schools, can continue doing so after the Alaska Supreme Court rejected a challenge to this practice.

On June 28, just one day after hearing arguments for and against the homeschool allotment program, the high court issued its decision, which preserves the status quo and gives homeschool families and schools a level of stability heading into the upcoming academic year.

The battle, however, is not over.

In issuing their decision, the justices rejected Anchorage Superior Court Judge Adolf Zeman’s opinion that the entire homeschool allotment program should be discarded because some families use the allotments to provide their children with educational opportunities provided by private and religious schools.

Zeman’s decision was based on the idea that it was unconstitutional to spend public funds at private or religious educational intuitions or organizations, since the Alaska Constitution forbids the use of public funds to “directly benefit” these entities.

Attorney Kirby West, arguing on behalf of homeschool families, made the case that the allotments only “indirectly” benefited private and religious schools, since the money is given to the parents, who could have spent the funds in myriad ways. The fact that some money was spent on private schools only provides an indirect benefit to these institutions, she maintained. She compared it to parents who might choose to spend some of their permanent fund dividend dollars this way.

While the Supreme Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of using the allotments in this manner, it did declare that the lower court was wrong to strike down the allotment program in its entirety based on the belief that some applications might be unconstitutional.

In essence, the Supreme Court noted that a law cannot be deemed “facially unconstitutional” if it has constitutional applications, which it clearly does.

“The parties all seem to agree that school districts can approve the use of allotment funds by students enrolled in correspondence study to purchase books, computers, and art supplies from private businesses,” the court stated. “And the parties seem to agree that allotment funds can be spent on martial arts classes at a private gym and pottery lessons at an artist’s studio.”

The court declined, however, to rule on the more fundamental question of whether the Alaska Constitution permits spending allotment funds at private or religious educational institutions – a question both homeschool families and the plaintiffs wanted resolved.

In refusing to settle this dispute, which was the basis of the entire lawsuit, the justices said there are many issues that still need to be fully argued before the court. This includes how much time a student might spend at a private school, what circumstances could justify this, and whether the current homeschool allotment program does, in fact, specifically allow for funds to be spent in this manner.

“Moreover, we must interpret the statute before we can decide whether it is constitutional as applied to a given set of facts,” the justices stated. “But the statutory question has not been presented for our decision.”

Finally, the court declined to rule that the correspondence program was being applied unconstitutionally, because school districts, which are the responsible entities that approve individual expenses and reimbursements, were not even named as defendants by the plaintiffs.

In short, the court said it cannot rule against a party that is not even involved in the lawsuit.

The court remanded the case back to the superior court, saying that the question of whether school districts can approve allotment reimbursement funds for money spent at private or religious schools must be argued in the lower court.

The end result of the Supreme Court’s ruling is that the homeschool program remains intact and unchanged at this point, but the legal battle is far from over, and the high court will likely be asked to weigh in again in the near future.

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Alaska Supreme Court upholds homeschool allotment program, for now

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.


4 Comments

  • Steve says:

    And why do we pay these judges? Like John Roberts… they’re afraid to make a ruling on a hot potato issue.

  • Proud Alaskan says:

    (money spent at private or religious schools)
    See it not only religious schools, it’s the private schools too. These far left people, they want control of our children.
    Good on you judges doing the right thing.
    Yes, it will come back to the Alaska Supreme courts and we will win again, against these woke,
    I’m coming for your kids.

    • cybro says:

      Apply the same reasoning to property taxes… If all sides really wanted to be fair no one should be forced to pay for any of this “education” in either direction… Let’s see all that revenue get discarded in a single decision ???

  • Frozen says:

    The government contributes funds to plenty of religious-affiliated organizations (Beans Cafe for example), homeshoolers attending a private or religious-affiliated school should not be an issue. It’s not direct government support or endorsement of a particular religion. Teachers’ unions, and the political left at large, want to maintain their control over developing minds.

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