Alaska School Students Walkout to Protest Governor’s Education Veto

Protesting Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy’s most recent education veto and the Legislature’s inability to overcome it, students in Alaska staged a walkout and peacefully marched through the statehouse.

As part of a more significant demonstration, the Alaska Association of Student Governments executive board planned 40-minute school walkouts throughout the state. Last month, lawmakers tried to overrule the decision, but they were unsuccessful by one vote. The walkout’s intended start time was about 11 a.m. to minimize interruptions and maximize participation.

Dunleavy followed his promise to reject a legislatively passed, massive package that would have increased district assistance by $175 million under a new school financing system. In particular, he voiced dissatisfaction with the measure’s failure to include his proposed charter school application process reforms and a three-year incentive scheme for educators that would have allowed them to earn yearly incentives of up to $15,000.

Legislators were divided on the teacher retention plan and other issues. Many worried that giving the state education board direct approval of charters would strip municipalities of their autonomy.

Following his veto, Dunleavy pledged to collaborate with all lawmakers to get a necessary financial boost and overhauls. Despite calls for an additional $360 million in funding, school administrators and supporters praised the legislative package as a start in the right direction. Inflation, high energy and insurance prices, and teacher shortages are some of the challenges they face, and some of these issues have led to multimillion-dollar deficits. Even that veto was not overridden because lawmakers could not gather enough votes.

Most people will be monitoring the school financing problem closely for the rest of this session. Protesters, including students and supporters from Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé, carried homemade placards into the Capitol hallways, marching and shouting slogans such as “fund our future.”