Concerns raised over potential conflict of interest in Alaska’s review of private education reimbursement
By Lisa Phu
Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor could have a conflict of interest as the state Department of Law that he oversees looks into the legality of using public funds for private education through the state’s correspondence school, or homeschool, allotment program.
His wife is a major proponent of the concept and wrote publicly about her plan to seek up to $8,000 in reimbursement from public funding for their two kids attending an Anchorage private school.
The issue raises concerns for the head of a nonprofit that advocates for accountability in government.
“That seems hugely concerning for state spending, for government oversight and for transparency and accountability for how state programs are being promoted,” said Veri di Suvero, executive director for the Alaska Public Interest Research Group, noting the organization doesn’t have expertise when it comes to education policy. “I would be really curious to know whether the attorney general plans to recuse himself from this review, or has reported it as a conflict on his public filings to APOC.”
On the question of whether it is legal for families enrolled in a state-funded correspondence program to use their allotment to pay for private school classes, both the Department of Education and Early Development and the Department of Law say the issue is currently being reviewed by Law. Meanwhile, at least one correspondence school in Alaska is already allowing families to be reimbursed for secular private school classes and at least one more plans to start the practice this coming school year.
Taylor’s wife, Jodi Taylor, is board president of the Alaska Policy Forum. In an op-ed last month that was published on various news websites and blogs, Taylor offers instructions for how families can use state-funded correspondence school allotment for classes at private schools. She wrote that their two youngest children attend an Anchorage private school and are also enrolled in a public correspondence school that offers an allotment of $4,000 per student. She plans to request the allotment as reimbursement for private school classes.
The Department of Law did not return requests for comments on a potential conflict or whether Attorney General Taylor is involved in the review.
The Department of Law is part of the executive branch of Alaska state government and operates under the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, which says, “A public officer may not take or withhold official action in order to affect a matter in which the public officer has a personal or financial interest.”