Governor Urged to Drop Threat of Lawsuit Challenging Forward Funding of Education
JUNEAU – Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee met to discuss Governor Dunleavy’s proposed Senate Bill 1001. In the 2018 legislative session, bipartisan and bicameral legislation was passed to fully fund education for fiscal year 2020. SB 1001 would repeal last year’s forward funding of education and appropriate the same amount as provided by a statutory formula to fund education for FY20. The governor claims SB 1001 is needed to fund education this year, based on a legal opinion by his attorney general. If SB 1001 passed, the education funding could be vulnerable to the governor’s veto.
Late yesterday, administration officials publicly revealed Governor Dunleavy’s plan to disregard the legislature’s forward funding action and stop payments to local school districts beginning July 15. The governor would refuse to provide even temporary funding relief to schools while the issue was pending in the courts, which could take many months to resolve.
“The Senate Democrats fundamentally disagree with the governor and his attorney general’s opinion. The legislature has forward funded education at least ten times through four governors and seven attorney generals who never raised any concerns with that approach. Education for our children is both mandated and protected under the Alaska Constitution, and it’s our legal obligation to provide full funding. These funds are not for a special interest; they serve a public interest—our children’s futures. The governor needs to drop this legal threat and do the right thing and agree to release the funds,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage), a member of the Finance Committee.
“The legislature validly appropriated the FY20 education funding, and the governor is doing a disservice by circumventing the Alaska Constitution. No one has ever challenged education forward funding. Forward funding is practical, provides stability in the classroom, and prevents unnecessary pink slips. We owe this security to our students, our teachers, and to Alaskan families,” said Senator Donald Olson (D-Golovin), also a member of the Finance Committee. “I call on Governor Dunleavy to stop causing chaos to our communities and start serving the interests of Alaskans.”
“The legislature simply wants to see education adequately funded and early enough so our schools can rely on it in August. A lawsuit by the governor to block the appropriation could result in school districts going months without funding,” said Sen. Wielechowski. “SB 1001 is receiving little support in the legislature. We feel we’ve properly appropriated the funds.”