US NewsAlaska Education Funding Veto Holds: Lawmakers a Vote Short of Overriding Governor

Alaska Education Funding Veto Holds: Lawmakers a Vote Short of Overriding Governor

Michael Dunleavy, governor of Alaska, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Launched in 1974, the Conservative Political Action Conference is the largest gathering of conservatives in the world. Photographer: Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Michael Dunleavy, governor of Alaska, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. Launched in 1974, the Conservative Political Action Conference is the largest gathering of conservatives in the world. Photographer: Tristan Wheelock/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Images source: © GETTY | Bloomberg
1:26 PM EDT, March 19, 2024

In a dramatic turn at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, state lawmakers were a mere vote away from overriding Governor Mike Dunleavy’s contentious veto of a $200 million education funding package. The vetoed bill, which sought to inject much-needed resources into Alaska's public schools, showcased a deep divide within the state’s political landscape, emphasizing the challenges of balancing educational needs with fiscal conservatism.

The governor's veto came after the legislation received substantial support in both legislative chambers, indicating a consensus among lawmakers for increasing education funding. However, Dunleavy's decision to strike the bill underscored his push for alternative educational reforms, including incentive programs for teachers and a simplified process for establishing charter schools—proposals that have met resistance within the legislature.

The bill, passed by a 56-4 margin, was a compromise effort that included a significant boost to the state's education funding formula, additional support for charter schools, and measures to improve internet speeds in rural areas. Despite the governor's veto, the legislation had garnered support from many stakeholders, highlighting the pressing need for educational improvements across the state.

The failed override vote, with a 39-20 outcome in a joint session, fell just short of the threshold required, illustrating the razor-thin margins by which such critical decisions are made. The decision not to overturn the governor's veto has sparked concerns about the immediate future of education in Alaska, particularly for remote and rural communities that have long faced challenges in attracting and retaining qualified teachers.

Advocates for education, donning red to symbolize their support, filled the Capitol's hallways, chanting for an override. This vivid display of the public's engagement and concern over the state's educational trajectory was a vivid display of the veto's sustenance, which has raised alarms about potential layoffs, school closures, and the broader impact on Alaska's children. The NEA-Alaska president expressed disappointment and apprehension about the deepening crisis.

Related content