Alaska Students Stage Walkout to Protest Governor’s Education Veto

Source: Mark Sabbatini

In a powerful demonstration of civic engagement, students across Alaska took to the streets on Thursday to protest Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy’s recent veto of an education package. Organised by the executive board of the Alaska Association of Student Governments, the walkout condemned the veto and the Legislature’s failure to overturn it.

The walkout showed the passion and determination of the younger generation to advocate for their right to quality education and to hold elected officials accountable for their decisions.

Alaskan Students Unite in Protest

Students from different schools in Alaska joined together for a big walkout. They marched through the statehouse to show they disagreed with Governor Dunleavy’s decision to cancel the education package.

Source: Wikimedia/Mike McMIllan – DNR

Felix Myer, a student organiser from Sitka, expressed his frustration in a phone interview with Anchorage, stating, “We’ve tried to be heard, we’ve tried to be listened to, and we’ve been ignored, and that’s why we’ve gotten to this point.”

Why Alaska Students are Protesting?

The walkout, organised by student organisers like Felix Myers from Sitka, highlighted the frustration of students who felt ignored in the decision-making process regarding education funding.

Source: Flickr/The Alaska Landmine

Rachel Wood, a student participant in the walkout, emphasized the importance of youth engagement in the legislative process, stating, “This event showed me that young people can play an active part in what happens at the Legislature.”

Lawmakers’ Big Disagreement

Despite widespread support for the education package in the Legislature, efforts to override Governor Dunleavy’s veto fell short by just one vote last month.

Source: Flickr/James Brooks

This prompted students to take to the streets in protest, calling for accountability from their representatives.

The Governor’s Controversial Veto

Governor Dunleavy’s veto of the $175 million increase in education funding was criticized for its potential negative impact on school districts and teacher retention efforts.

Source: Flickr

The Governor argued that the package didn’t include things he wanted, like a three-year plan to give yearly bonuses of up to $15,000 to attract and retain teachers and adjust the charter school application process to support those schools. Students voiced their disappointment with the Governor’s decision.

Lack of Support From Lawmakers

There was a lack of support from lawmakers who did not understand whether the untested teacher plan was effective or cost-feasible

Source: Flickr

They also said that allowing state education boards to approve charters would result in losing control because the Governor appoints them.

Students Call for Lawmakers’ Accountability

During the walkout, students urged lawmakers to prioritize education funding and fulfill their promises of support for students and teachers. They demanded transparency and accountability in the legislative process.

Source: Flickr/KTOO

Meadow Stanley, a student participant in the walkout like Rachel Wood, stressed the significance of youth involvement in shaping policy outcomes.

There Are Concerns Over Charter School Policy

The vetoed education package also included provisions related to charter school regulations, raising concerns about the potential erosion of local control in education.

Source: Flickr

Students expressed their concerns about the impact of these changes on their communities.

Governor Mike Dunleavy’s Response

Governor Dunleavy responded to the protests: “As the conversation around education continues, I will work with every member of the legislature to pass an increase in funding and needed reforms.” 

Source: Flickr

He promised to work with legislators on funding increases but did not specify concrete measures as students continued to push for clear commitments from the Governor.

Schools Struggle to Secure Funding

School officials highlighted the challenges of inflation, energy costs, and teacher shortages, emphasizing the urgency of addressing funding issues.

Source: Pinterest

Students emphasized the need for sustainable, long-term solutions to support education.

Students Urge to Engage in Legislative Process

Students emphasized the importance of their active involvement in the legislative process, demonstrating their capacity to influence policy decisions.

Source: Flickr

They pledged to continue advocating for education funding and meaningful reforms.

Some Legislators Engaged With Protesting Students

Some legislators engaged with protesting students, addressing concerns and expressing their commitment to finding solutions to the funding crisis.

Source: Alaska State Legislature and Ballotpedia

Republican Rep. Julie Coulombe, an Alaska House of Representatives member, addressed student concerns about her vote on the education package. She explained her perspective: “I want to keep working on a plan that would provide extra funding and get Dunleavy’s support. Students welcomed the opportunity to engage directly with elected officials.

Students Carry Hand Made Signs and Chant Slogans Such as “Fund Our Future”

On Thursday, during the walkout, students from Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé, along with supporters – including some legislators – marched about a mile to the state Capitol. They carried homemade signs and chanted slogans like “fund our future.”

Source: Flickr

Their chants echoed throughout the Capitol halls, even reaching the third floor where the governor’s offices are, although Dunleavy wasn’t in Juneau that particular Thursday.

Protest Shows the Importance of Youth Participation

The protest underscored the significance of youth engagement in shaping public discourse and policy outcomes. Students felt empowered by their ability to make their voices heard and effect change.

Source: Flickr

The students were encouraged by Coulombe’s words, who said, “Don’t lose hope; this is a messy process,” and made them optimistic about their ability to influence legislative decisions.

Coulombe Welcomes Student’s Questions

About twenty-four students gathered in the House Finance Committee room, approaching Republican Rep. Julie Coulombe after a meeting on an unrelated issue had ended. Coulombe, who had voted for the education package but against overturning Dunleavy’s veto, welcomed their inquiries.

Source: Pexel

She expressed concern that even if an override were successful, Dunleavy might still cut some additional school funding from the state budget, given his opposition to the package. Coulombe expressed her intention to continue working on a plan to secure extra financing while garnering Dunleavy’s support, urging the students to stay engaged.

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Sally Reed

Written by Sally Reed

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