UPDATE: Education group sues governor, state over education funding

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) — Updated 12:30 p.m. May 1, 2019:
The Coalition for Education Equity filed a lawsuit against the governor and education commissioner Wednesday for failing to release $20 million in one-time education spending.

The suit alleges that the governor acted unconstitutionally in proposing a supplemental budget that withheld the funds that were signed into law in 2018.

According to the complaint filed by the CEE, the governor has no power to veto a statute signed into law by a previous governor.

The Dunleavy administration argues that the supplemental budget is simply a proposal and that the Legislature can choose to ignore it.

According to Matt Shuckerow, the governor’s press secretary, if that provision in the supplemental budget doesn’t pass, the $20 million would then be released.

The suit was filed in Alaska Superior Court in Anchorage.

Original Story posted April 30, 2019:
An Alaska nonprofit is preparing to file a lawsuit against the governor for proposing to not pay $20 million in forward funding for schools already appropriated, but the administration argues that the Legislature can simply ignore the governor's proposal.

The Coalition for Education Equity is set to file a lawsuit in Anchorage Superior Court Wednesday against the governor and the Commissioner for Education and Early Development for not paying out $20 million in forward funding for education.

Lawmakers approved the one-time, $20 million spending measure for K-12 education in 2018 that was signed into law by then-Gov. Bill Walker. But in his supplemental budget released on Jan. 28, Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed withholding the money.

At the time, Donna Arduin, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the administration was looking for funds that had not yet been allocated in the FY2019 budget to fill a $1.6 billion deficit.

"It is my contention that school districts and other entities seeking money or expecting money from the state should not be anticipating spending money that has not been allocated to them,” she said.

The CEE sent a letter to the administration on April 24 arguing that withholding the appropriated funds would be unconstitutional, writing in a draft complaint that “the Governor has no authority to veto a statute enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by the prior governor.”

The nonprofit gave the administration until April 30 to release the funds, promising to file a lawsuit the next day if that wasn’t done. Sarah Sledge, the executive director of CEE, said that school districts across the state have already budgeted for those funds.

The administration argues that the supplemental budget from the governor was a recommendation, and that the Legislature can simply choose to ignore the legislation that would withhold the $20 million.

“Based on the desire to align expenditures and revenues, Governor Dunleavy has recommended and introduced legislation to cancel the $20 million FY19 supplemental appropriation for K-12 education,” read a statement from the governor’s press secretary Matt Shuckerow. “Should the Legislature choose not to act on the legislation, the appropriation will be distributed according to the law.”

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