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Alaska governor says he will veto education package unless lawmakers adopt his priorities

Iris Samuels and Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska on

Published in News & Features

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Tuesday that he would veto an education funding package approved by the Alaska Legislature unless lawmakers adopt his top education priorities by the middle of March.

"It's half a coin. It's a three-legged horse, meaning it's not going to run very far," Dunleavy said. "We can fix that."

Dunleavy's comments set up what is likely to be two tense weeks in the Capitol. Lawmakers had already gone through tough negotiations to agree on the funding bill they had adopted, and some indicated soon after Dunleavy's news conference that further negotiations were not guaranteed to yield the result that the governor sought.

The governor's priorities include a provision to pay Alaska teachers annual bonuses of between $5,000 for urban schools and $15,000 for rural schools — at a cost of around $59 million per year — as well as a provision that would allow additional charter schools to be approved by a state board of education made up of the governor's appointees.

The provisions were kept out of a bill that lawmakers adopted to add roughly $175 million annually to the state's education budget. The amount was less than half of what education advocates said was needed to account for more than six years without a permanent increase to the formula used to calculate per-student funding.

The package, approved overwhelmingly by lawmakers after days of back-and-forth, also includes around $10 million annually for assisting kids in kindergarten through third grade in learning to read; $14.5 million for home-schooled students; $7.5 million for student transportation; a provision to increase internet speeds for schools; and a charter school coordinator position.

 

During an hourlong news conference held in Anchorage on Tuesday, Dunleavy said he wanted lawmakers to pass his priorities to earn support for what they had agreed on so far. Under state law, the governor has until March 14 to either sign or veto the bill.

"I think we get both things across the finish line, but if for some reason we don't, then that'll be it for reform in Alaska, I think, for years," Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy repeatedly cited an Anchorage Daily News editorial published earlier in the month that he said backed his calls for teacher bonuses, the expansion of charter schools and a modest boost to the per-student funding formula with an emphasis on putting money into classrooms. The ADN editorial board operates independently from the newsroom.

Alaska's threshold for overriding a governor's veto — two-thirds of lawmakers — is one of the highest in the nation. In a vote last month, lawmakers failed to override Dunleavy's veto of more than $87 million in one-time funding from the current education budget.

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(c)2024 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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