Lawsuit Settlement Allocates $18 Million to Rural Schools
Lawsuit from eight years ago could help underserved schools
For thousands of Alaska students who attend school in rural parts of the state, getting an education can be challenging.
“Some of them come in for a while, then they go back to the village. So there's a lot of mobility with their schooling, and so I think it's interrupted,” said Carol Comeau, superintendent for the Anchorage School District.
There’s also the struggle to find and keep teachers.
“At the end of the year, when they've been through an Alaska winter, lots of them leave,” said Howard Diamond, superintendent for the Yupiit School District. “It affects us, but it affects the kids as well.”
The non-profit Citizens for the Educational Advancement of Alaska’s Children (CEAAC) says rural villages are in a different playing field than urban schools.
The group filed a lawsuit eight years ago against the state, claiming low performing schools were not being properly funded.
“It’s really too bad that it took litigation to help folks in Juneau to recognize the real distinct differences in teaching children in Bush Alaska,” said Dr. Kim Langton, assistant superintendent for the Yupiit School District.
The state settled for $18 million, and now the money will be distributed over the next three years to 40 of the lowest performing schools, based on their test scores.
“We hope that the settlement will provide some much needed funding to remediate some of those concerns that a lot of rural districts have,” said Diamond.
Each school will be eligible for up to $3,000 for each qualifying student based on school costs.
As part of the settlement, a committee will be created to focus on four areas, which include:
- Two-Year Kindergarten and Related Pre-Literacy Programs
The legislature still needs to approve the funding, before any of the schools can apply for the money through grants.