Alaska v. Ketchikan Gateway Borough

Article VII, section 1 of the Alaska Constitution required the state legislature to “establish and maintain a system of public schools” open to all children in the state. To fulfill this mandate, the legislature defined three types of school districts according to where the district is located: city school districts, borough school districts, and regional education attendance areas. “[E]ach organized borough is a borough school district”; a borough must “establish[], maintain[], and operate[] a system of public schools on an areawide basis.” Local school boards managed and controlled these school districts under authority delegated by AS 14.12.020. The statute required local borough and city governments to raise money “from local sources to maintain and operate” their local schools. The superior court held that this required local contribution was an unconstitutional dedication of a “state tax or license.” But the minutes of the constitutional convention and the historical context of those proceedings suggested that the delegates intended that local communities and the State would share responsibility for their local schools. Those proceedings also indicated that the delegates did not intend for state-local cooperative programs like the school funding formula to be included in the term “state tax or license.” These factors distinguished this case from previous cases where the Alaska Supreme Court found that state funding mechanisms violated the dedicated funds clause. The Court therefore held that the existing funding formula did not violate the constitution, and reversed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment holding that the funding formula was unconstitutional. View "Alaska v. Ketchikan Gateway Borough" on Justia Law