On January 26, 2012, the State agreed to settle the eight-year Moore v. State of Alaska case. Pending the Legislature’s approval, the settlement provides a one-time appropriation of $18 million to be distributed to forty of Alaska’s lowest-performing school districts. Districts must apply to be granted funding.
$12 million will go towards teacher retention and remedial efforts to help students pass the high school exit exam. At least $6 million will go towards two-year kindergarten and literacy programs for pre-k aged children. The funding is intended to last for a minimum of three years.
If approved, this money will be distributed by the Department of Education and the “Moore Committee”—a six-member committee appointed by the Department of Education and the Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children (CEAAC). A seventh, non-voting member would chair the committee. The recipients of funding must adhere to established “best practices” and accountability measures and set improvement benchmarks.
The CEAAC filed the original lawsuit and represents plaintiffs from 22 mostly rural school districts in central and western Alaska. The CEAAC has agreed to drop the lawsuit if the settlement is approved. However, the Executive Director of CEAAC, Charles Wohlforth, notes that this $18 million is not enough to provide all students from Alaska’s lowest-performing schools the resources for an adequate education. The 40 schools targeted in the settlement serve approximately 4,500 students, 3.5% of the state’s k-12 students. The $18 million is one-tenth of a percent of the state’s education budget for next year.
Filed in 2004, plaintiffs in the Moore case claimed that the state failed to meet its constitutional obligation to provide an adequate level of education to all Alaskan schoolchildren, especially those in the lowest-achieving schools. In 2007, then Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the state failed to intervene in poorly performing public schools and, therefore, could not require students to pass a state exit exam to graduate from high school. Later, Gleason concluded that the Department of Education wasn’t providing proper oversight and help to schools in under-performing districts.