Today Governor Dunleavy unveiled his proposed amended budget, SB 20 which calls for $1.6 billion in cuts from the FY 2020 budget. Public education received a proposed cut of over $330 million, or a little over 24% of the education budget. This equals about 3,100 teacher positions. Included in these cuts is a $269 million reduction in the foundation formula and the elimination of the $30 million in FY 20 one-time education funding that was agreed to last year.
Coalition for Education Equity executive director, Sarah Sledge traveled to Fairbanks August 10 to join Governor Bill Walker as he signed several key education bills into law. CEE supported all of these bills, and specifically worked to get HB 212 introduced and passed. This bill will provide an additional avenue for our rural and small schools to obtain funding for major maintenance projects, helping us save money on future construction costs and ensuring our children have safe spaces in which to learn.
We have received the end-of-session report from our government relations consultants. The report provides a detailed look at revenue, funding, and specific education legislation we were following or actively working on for passage. We worked with many other education organizations and activists to secure advance and increased funding for education. I am particularly proud of our years of committed work to sustain funding and expand pre-elementary programs statewide, and our continued and successful advocacy for school construction and major maintenance.
The House and Senate are working on closing out the FY 19 department budget subcommittee reports. The House is taking public testimony on the FY 19 budgets this week. From there the FY 19 budgets will go to the House floor for a vote. The Senate is scheduling final close out of the department budgets for next week with public testimony on the proposed FY 19 budget not yet scheduled.
Coalition for Education Equity Executive Director, Sarah Sledge, provided testimony yesterday for House Bill 212's first hearing in the House Education Committee. Coalition for Education Equity worked last year to get this bill introduced, which would allow the REAA/Small Schools construction fund to also be used for major maintenance. Read the full text of Sarah's testimony here:
In the first several weeks of session the Legislature has been busy with budget overviews, revenue projections, and subcommittee finance hearings overviewing individual department budgets. In a second session, all of the bills from the first session that have not passed are still in play, so the pace is fast from the beginning. Last week, the House Finance Operating Budget Subcommittees held 21 meetings to examine department budgets.
Our long-time government relations director, Tom Begich, was sworn in yesterday as a newly elected State Senator and while we're sorry to lose his expertise on our team, we are happy to have another ally for public education in the State Senate. To fill this role moving forward, we are pleased to announce that we have contracted with J and H Consulting (Reggie Joule and Christine Hess) to carry on our legislative program this session.
While we are still waiting for all of the details, we wanted to inform you right away what we know about the Governor’s vetoes
In late night action, after weeks of negotiations, the BSA funding and all early childhood funding for Pre K, Best Beginnings, and Parents as Teachers has been restored, as has some funding for the University of Alaska.
As the Session wound down to its last day...it just kept going. The House and Senate remain at an impasse on budget and revenue issues, but there is not a lot of acrimony.
Both Executive Director Sarah Sledge and Government Affairs Director Tom Begich were in Juneau for the first week in April for meetings with key Legislators and the Governor on a number of issues.
The Session has been difficult and a bit grim for education, but there remain some glimmers of hope.
Last week was a rough week in Juneau for education, made no easier by the loss of strong education advocate Representative Max Gruenberg (D- Anchorage) who passed away February 14.
Our Government Relations Director, Tom Begich, has made his first visit to Juneau. Please see below for his thoughts on the landscape and our priorities for this session.