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Alaska's high court to hear arguments in school funding case this month


KETCHIKAN, Alaska — Attorneys for both the state of Alaska and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough are preparing to make their cases on education funding before the Alaska Supreme Court this month.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Sept. 16 in Anchorage, according to the Ketchikan Daily News (http://bit.ly/1JMCji0).

A Ketchikan Superior Court judge last November invalidated the state's requirement that local municipalities help pay for education. The judge ruled the contribution is a dedicated fund, which violates the state constitution's provision that no state tax or license will be earmarked for any special purpose.

Supporters of the suit say the system is penalizing boroughs for organizing. The state Legislature provides the majority of funding for public schools in Alaska, but organized municipalities are required to pay into their school districts. Statewide, municipalities pay $220 million annually to local school districts.

Regional education attendance areas in unincorporated Alaska are fully funded by the state.

Opponents of the suit argue that with Alaska's current financial state, the Legislature can't afford the additional burden and losing the municipalities' support could result in a new tax on residents.

Only four of the court's five justices are scheduled to hear the arguments, as Justice Dana Fabe has recused herself from the case. Her husband is an attorney for an Anchorage law firm that filed as an amicus in the state's favor in the lawsuit.

Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com

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