SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Arbitrary Unfunded State Mandates Concerning Education Under Review by KGB


March 10, 2012

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Over Eight months ago, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly commissioned a thorough review of public policy concerns over education funding. The Assembly’s action stemmed from disappointment and frustration that none of the three branches of Alaska’s state government has taken steps to resolve long-standing and critical public policy concerns over education funding. Volume I, of the review, the ‘Statement of the Problem is currently available for download.

Quoting a press release, unfunded mandates arbitrarily imposed on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and 33 other municipal governments in Alaska that are compelled to carry out the State’s constitutional duties for public education exceed one-quarter of a billion dollars annually. The prospect is dim for abatement of evergrowing unfunded State mandates absent direct action by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and other affected municipal governments in Alaska.

Alaska attorney Bob Hicks was chosen by the Ketchikan Borough to undertake the review. Hicks experience and qualification indicates he is eminently qualified for the task. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Hicks served as an Alaska Supreme Court law clerk, first to Justice John Dimond and then to Justice Robert Boochever. He was later appointed the first Executive Director of the Alaska Judicial Council in 1973, conducting many studies of bush justice in Alaska until 1975 when he entered the private practice of law in Anchorage.

During his four decades in private practice of law in Alaska, Hicks specialized in municipal law, education law, and local boundary law. At various times, he served as the city attorney for Nome, Bethel, Dillingham, Unalaska, Seldovia, Emmonak and Kotlik, as special counsel to the North Slope Borough Assembly, and as legal counsel to the Nome City School District, the Delta-Greely REAA, the Alaska Gateway REAA and the Craig City School District. Mr. Hicks was retained by the Alaska Local Boundary Commission in 1987-88 to perform a comprehensive rewrite of its regulations. On numerous occasions, the Local Boundary Commission has invited him to conduct seminars for newly appointed commissioners. He also served as a commissioner and as vice-chair of the Local Boundary Commission.

When complete, Hicks’ work for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough will comprise three volumes: Volume I, the ‘Statement of the Problem; Volume II, a ‘Review of the Law;’ and Volume III, an evaluation of ‘Alternative Courses of Action.’

Volume I, a 61-page detailed analysis accompanied by eight appendices, is completed. The following are among the conclusions reached by Hicks in Volume I:

1. 36% of Alaska’s school districts are exempt from the requirement to fund a significant portion of basic need “regardless of socio-economic or geographic characteristics.”

2. The “huge, diverse and variegated statutory remnant called the ‘single unorganized borough’ . . . is an unconstitutional entity.”

3. Alaska’s unorganized borough “includes some of the most prosperous regions of the State of Alaska.”

4. Many municipal school districts are “economically distressed” but are forced to pay a significant portion of their basic need for education.

5. The classifications of regional educational attendance areas (“REAAs”) vs. municipal school districts are replete with erroneous stereotypes.

6. “REAAs share nothing in common among themselves but the fact that they are in the ‘single unorganized borough.’ ”

7. “Municipal school districts share nothing in common but the fact that they incorporated a local or regional government at some time in the past – many unwillingly, as a result of mandatory state legislation carrying the broken promise that they would not be penalized later.”

8. “Whether or not the formulae and classifications for state funding of local education were ever rational and relevant to meaningful school-district characteristics, they clearly are irrational and obsolete today.”

9. Grouping all REAAs for an exemption and all municipal school districts for a local assessment creates overly broad classifications founded in erroneous stereotypes that bear no fair and substantial relationship to the underlying purpose of funding statewide education.

Volume I (with the appendices) is available for review at the Office of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Manager. It is also available online. (Click here to download the 65 page report.)

Volume II, a ‘Review of the Law’ is nearing completion. Volume II will present detailed arguments, pro and con, for the likelihood of success of any future attempt to litigate variations on the issues raised in the Alaska Supreme Court case of Matanuska-Susitna School District et al. v. State of Alaska. It will also address many new legal issues never litigated in that case. The work in Volume II is attorney-client privileged, and will not be publicly available unless the Borough waives that privilege.

Volume III, will discuss the relative merits of pursuing various alternative courses of action that might bring a long-overdue change in the present system.


On the Web:

Download Volume I, the ‘Statement of the Problem


Source of News: 

Ketchikan Gateway Borough


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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