Judge Denies Stay In State Education Lawsuit

A superior court ruling that invalidates the State of Alaska’s longheld practice of requiring municipal governments to contribute a specific amount toward public education remains in place for now.

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Superior Court Judge William Carey on Friday denied a motion for a stay of his January decision that the required local contribution is a dedicated tax, and therefore is unconstitutional.

State attorneys filed for the stay after filing an appeal with the Alaska Supreme Court. They argue that the stay is needed so that the Legislature will know what to do about education funding this year. The Supreme Court is unlikely to rule on the appeal before the legislative session ends in mid-April.

In his Friday denial of the stay, Judge Carey writes that the state did not meet the requirements of a stay. Attorneys had argued that the state would be irreparably harmed if a stay were denied, and that the borough would not be harmed if a stay were approved. The state also argued that it was likely to succeed in its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Carey agreed that there was some irreparable harm to the state if his ruling is not delayed pending appeal. However, he writes that the borough clearly would be harmed by a stay, because it would have to pay a large amount of money with no hope of getting that money back.

Carey also writes that the state hasn’t shown how it has a likelihood of success on appeal. Carey based his January decision on prior Alaska Supreme Court ruling, and he writes that while it’s possible that the high court will reverse itself, it’s not highly probable.

The state also filed a motion for a stay with the Alaska Supreme Court, and that court announced it would wait to see how Carey ruled on the stay. So, state attorneys have another opportunity to argue the merits of delaying Carey’s January ruling.