OPINION: I’m voting to overturn Gov. Dunleavy’s education veto, and I hope my colleagues join me

By Alyse Galvin

Updated: 18 minutes ago Published: 18 minutes ago

This is a dark and uncertain time for the future of education in Alaska. The governor made a tragic mistake and the wrong choice in vetoing the historic bipartisan public education bill, SB140. His action has plunged our entire public education system into a political storm with an uncertain outcome, but with huge consequences for Alaska’s children and Alaska’s economic future.

In public education, every year counts. Thousands of Alaska children will be experiencing kindergarten this year, for the only time in their life. Thousands of others will be in third grade reading lessons this one time, ever. Their lives will be set on a course as a result of the quality of education they experience this year. Waiting another election cycle to gain the political resolve to properly fund education is not acceptable.

The governor states that he vetoed SB140 because, “there were no new approaches, other than enhanced funding, to increase educational outcomes.”

There are new approaches being implemented in Alaska’s public schools all the time by educators constantly trying to find new ways to improve how education is delivered in the 21st century. Is the governor misrepresenting what he knows to be the truth, or is he so insulated from reality that he truly has lost connection to what is happening in Alaska’s classrooms and communities throughout the state?

If the governor took the time to talk to school board members, he would hear from a group of folks, elected and answerable to the same constituents that he is, who spend most of their waking hours trying to figure out the best way to deliver knowledge to Alaska’s children. If he spoke with teachers, he would not see them as “a special interest group,” but instead as dedicated professionals who are driven by a personal passion to lift up each Alaska child to his or her full potential. These people are not the enemy, they are the experts who can light the way forward. They are not the cause of the current crisis, they are the heroes who persevere in spite of the austerity imposed upon them by the state.

Our talented Alaska teachers can achieve extraordinary things, even under difficult circumstances. They constantly innovate, adapt, and strive to improve. I am always grateful and in awe. But I know enough to recognize the house of cards they currently occupy. Flat funding and rising costs have forced compromises and now many of them are eyeing the door and wondering if this is the year to cut and run from a crumbling Alaska public education system.

The Legislature needs to override the governor’s short-sighted veto of SB140, and then prepare to override the governor’s predictable line-item veto of the funding that goes along with SB140. We must also pass SB88 and restore a viable retirement system for teachers and other public employees (and override the likely governor veto of that necessary legislation). Only then can our educators return to focus on teaching our children, and not warily contemplating their exit from Alaska. Brighter prospects for Alaska’s education system will draw families back to our state, lighting the way for a growing Alaska economy and leading all of us into a prosperous future.

Rep. Alyse Galvin is a member of the Alaska House of Representatives and a cofounder of Great Alaska Schools, an education advocacy group.

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