Alaska Legislature

Judge orders state to pay attorney fees in Alaska education funding dispute

JUNEAU — A judge has ordered the state to pay about $96,000 in attorneys’ fees in a school funding dispute.

Superior Court Judge Daniel Schally last week ordered the state pay $31,556.25 in attorneys' fees for the Legislative Council and $64,443.50 in fees for the Coalition for Education Equity, an intervenor in the case.

Maria Bahr, a Department of Law spokeswoman, said Thursday the department is reviewing the decision.

The Legislative Council, composed of House and Senate leaders, last year sued Gov. Mike Dunleavy and members of his administration in a dispute over a practice known as forward funding. The dispute stemmed from Attorney General Kevin Clarkson's interpretation that the practice was improper.

Forward funding refers to funding a year in advance. Lawmakers in 2018 approved school funding for the current fiscal year. The measure wasn't vetoed by Bill Walker, who was governor when it passed.

Clarkson argued the Legislature's action had the effect of improperly binding a future legislature and governor, and violated a constitutional prohibition against dedicating state revenues. Schally ruled the appropriations were valid.

Bahr said the department appealed the underlying decision.

Clarkson previously said an agreement was reached to allow disbursement of school funds while the litigation was underway.