Governor’s Response to Lawsuit over FY 2019 Education Funding

As many of you know, Coalition for Education Equity filed a lawsuit against the Governor regarding his administration’s decision to withhold $20 million in FY 2019 education funding from Alaska school districts. Prior to filing the suit, CEE attorneys sent a letter to the Governor on April 8, informing him of their legal position that this withholding amounted to an illegal impounding of appropriated funds, asking him to release the funds immediately, and alerting him of their intention to take legal action if the funds were not released by April 30, 2019. They received no response to the letter. On April 24, CEE attorneys sent a follow-up letter with a draft legal complaint, which would be filed on May 1 if the funds were not released by April 30. They received no response to this letter. On May 1, CEE attorneys filed suit against the Governor in the Alaska Superior Court seeking immediate release of these impounded funds. The Governor’s office response to the lawsuit in the press was that the funding would only be released if lawmakers failed to take up the Governor’s proposed legislation to cancel the $20 million appropriation.

Coalition for Education Equity attorneys received a response from the Governor to their April 8 letter on May 6. In the letter, dated May 2, the Governor similarly asserts that the funding is not being disbursed as he awaits legislative action on his proposed legislation to repeal the $20 million FY 2019 appropriation. He states that if the Legislature does not repeal the appropriation, the funding “will be dispensed as appropriated.” If this type of action is allowed to stand, it sets a precedent that a governor may withhold any appropriated funds intended for expenditure during a fiscal year, in the hopes that a future legislature will repeal them, however likely or unlikely that possibility might be.

These funds were appropriated and signed into law for the 2019 fiscal year. School districts budgeted and planned expenditures in good faith based on this appropriation. The Legislature has made it clear that it will not take up the legislation to repeal this funding and the Governor appears to understand that he is legally obliged to disburse these funds. There is no legitimate basis for the Governor to further delay his constitutional obligation to faithfully execute the law. 

Coalition for Education Equity and the undersigned organizations ask Governor Dunleavy to stop harming our schools and our children and release these funds immediately.

Signed:

Coalition for Education Equity

Alaska Council of School Administrators

Association of Alaska School Boards

NEA-Alaska