Students’ Bill of Rights: “Well-Intentioned but Poorly-Executed”

Proponents of the Alaska Students’ Educational Bill of Rights ballot initiative have begun collecting signatures, but according to a preliminary legal opinion from the law firm Holland & Knight:

“The Initiative is a well-intentioned but poorly-executed effort to address perceived problems with Alaska’s public education system.”

 

The ballot initiative, if enacted, would establish “An Act Requiring the State of Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, the State Board of Education and Early Development, and the University of Alaska to Act and Make Recommendations to Ensure that All Students in the State of Alaska Receive a Quality Education” and can be read here.

The preliminary legal opinion identifies many potential flaws with the wording of the initiative, including:

  • “The Initiative seems not to appreciate or understand the current relationship between DEED and local school districts, and in several places, it potentially usurps the control and authority of local school boards.”
  • “Without any funding mechanism, the Initiative establishes aspirational goals but is imprecise as to how those goals will be achieved, which entities will be responsible for those goals, and how programs designed to meet these objectives will be funded.”
  • “The Initiative contains a number of aspirational statements … the challenge is how to convert these aspirational statements into actual policy, practices, and expenditures, and in determining which entities are responsible for these tasks.”
  • “The Initiative proponents describe their proposal as establishing ‘an education standard’ … but a ‘standard’ is typically something that can be measured or defined. It might be more accurate to describe the Initiative as proposing ‘goals’ or ‘aspirations.'”
  • “It seems likely that the Initiative, if enacted, could diminish the role of school boards, could create room for conflict between school boards and DEED, and could lead to other unanticipated legal disputes.”

Read the full opinion below or click here to open the PDF in a new browser tab.