Education Funding Alert: FY20 Operating Budget and Forward Funding

Important note: this is the current status. The situation is extremely fluid and subject to change at any moment. We will keep you posted.

The Legislature is still working to reach consensus needed to pass the FY20 operating budget. The conference committee has reached agreement on the DEED budget, which includes all of our priorities (it's important to note that all of these are in the budget because of our advocacy), although we should prepare for Governor vetoes on all or some of this:

  • 98% funding of school bond debt reimbursement and 100% funding of REAA school construction fund;

  • 100% funding of all pre-K programs (this includes the $ that go to previously Moore grant funded schools);

  • Retained $457,600 for three DEED curriculum positions (this is important per our DEED Capacity legal opinion);

  • Joint statement of intent that DEED immediately release the FY 19 $20 million in one-time funding.

The conference committee budget also includes forward funding for education for FY 21. What it doesn’t include is FY 20 education funding (BSA and pupil transportation), as it is the Legislature's position that this was forward funded last year and does not need to be re-appropriated. As you are likely aware, the Governor and his AG have asserted that forward funding of education is unconstitutional. If you haven't already seen it, I've attached the AG's May 8 legal opinion on this issue.

Governor Dunleavy proposed special session legislation through HB 1001 to fund education in FY 20, which would force it into current budget conversations, bypassing the forward funding passed last year. House Finance heard the bill last week, took two votes to pass the bill out of committee, with the vote failing to pass in both instances. The bill will not be heard again in the House and will not be taken up in the Senate.

We anticipate a legal showdown over this. The Legislature is holding firm that they have the right to forward fund education, while the Governor is asserting that there is no FY 20 education funding in the budget – a legal fight will ensue. By also forward funding education in FY 21, the Legislature is doubling down that they have the right to forward fund, so the legal fight will be extremely consequential in our efforts to establish timely and predictable education funding.

The Coalition for Education Equity has been working to get prepared for this. Our attorneys have drafted a legal opinion, and we are working with our executive committee to hone our legal strategy. We will be prepared to support the Legislature if they pursue legal action against the Governor, and are also determining our best options for making a legal challenge to fight for our schools if necessary.

$20 million FY19 education funding 

In addition, we have a lawsuit in process regarding the $20 million in current year education funding. Today, we are determining actions to expedite this lawsuit, as the Governor appears to be steadfast in holding the funding until June 30, despite the Legislature's clear intent to not repeal these funds.

Public pressure at this point would be extremely helpful (calls to the Governor’s office and letters to the editor asking for the funds to be released immediately; contacts by community members especially helpful). See below for what you and members of your community can do.

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Please forward to members of your community and encourage them to also take these actions (thank you to Great Alaska Schools for their handy reference compilation).

Quick Actions:

Write and call Governor Dunleavy to say stop obstructing the work of our representatives. Please release current year education funding and drop plans to block FY20 funding.

Write and Call your representatives to say thank you for the work last year and hold strong for supporting Public Education no matter what Governor Dunleavy does!

Ask Governor Dunleavy to drop this destructive fight and make government work for the people of Alaska by writing letters to your local paper addressing the Governor.

Call into the Governor’s office:

ANCHORAGE OFFICE (907)269-7450

FAIRBANKS OFFICE (907) 451-2920

JUNEAU (907) 465-3500

MAT-SU OFFICE (907) 761-5690

Write and call legislators. You can find the contact information here:

http://w3.legis.state.ak.us/docs/pdf/whoswho.pdf
https://www.adn.com/politics/alaska-legislature/2019/05/22/governor-vows-no-school-funding-after-july-1-escalating-fight-with-alaska-legislature/