United States

Alaska Students Rally For Education Funding, Statewide Walkouts Send A Strong Message

The protests, organized by students and the Alaska Association of Student Government Executive Board, emphasized the need for increased funding in public schools.

AP
Students and supporters walk from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé to the state Capitol, Thursday, April 4, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. Photo: AP
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Hundreds of high school students from across Alaska took to the streets on Thursday in a coordinated walkout to protest the recent failure of the Legislature to override Governor Mike Dunleavy's veto of an education bill. The bill, which aimed to provide a historic increase in funding for the state's schools, was met with disappointment by students who see education as the cornerstone of their future.

Student-led protests sweep across the state

From Eagle River to Utqiaġvik, Alaska's youth made their voices heard as they rallied for educational equity and investment. Outside schools and on busy intersections, students clad in red and brandishing signs passionately called for action to safeguard the quality of their education. In Anchorage, more than 100 students gathered outside Eagle River High School, enduring blustering snow and cold winds to chant slogans like "Fund our education!" and "Save our arts, save our sports!"

Similar demonstrations unfolded in communities spanning the vast expanse of Alaska, organized by students themselves with support from the Alaska Association of Student Government Executive Board. The sheer scale and determination of these protests underscored the deep concern among young Alaskans regarding the future of their education system.

Students marched to the Capitol as part of a student walkout to protest Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavys veto of an education package last month and the Legislatures failure to override that veto.
Students marched to the Capitol as part of a student walkout to protest Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy's veto of an education package last month and the Legislature's failure to override that veto. Photo: AP
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The call for increased funding

Felix Myers, a senior at Sitka High School and one of the organizers of the walkout, highlighted the urgent need for increased funding in Alaska's public schools. The veto of Senate Bill 140, which promised the largest boost to public school funding in state history, served as a rallying cry for students who feel the impact of stagnant funding levels firsthand. The Base Student Allocation, a critical funding formula, has remained largely unchanged since 2017, prompting fears of deteriorating educational quality and diminishing opportunities for students.

Students like Caitlin Corbett and Madison Arreola voiced concerns about the tangible effects of flat funding, including larger class sizes and potential cuts to vital programs like sports and fine arts. Their impassioned pleas for action resonated with peers and policymakers alike, as they called for a renewed commitment to investing in Alaska's educational future.

Meadow Stanley, far left, and Rachel Wood, second from left, are among the students speaking, Thursday, April 4, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska, with state Rep. Julie Coulombe about why she did not vote to override the governors veto of an education package last month.
Meadow Stanley, far left, and Rachel Wood, second from left, are among the students speaking, Thursday, April 4, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska, with state Rep. Julie Coulombe about why she did not vote to override the governor's veto of an education package last month. Photo: AP
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A unified front for change

Across the state, students demonstrated  unity and determination as they marched, chanted, and engaged with lawmakers to demand meaningful change. In Juneau, students from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé made their presence felt at the state Capitol, advocating for a raise in the Base Student Allocation and amplifying their voices in the legislative process.

Despite facing chilly temperatures and logistical challenges, students remained undeterred, recognizing the significance of their role in shaping the future of education in Alaska. Dorothy Armstrong, a senior at East Anchorage High School, expressed her determination to advocate for her younger siblings and ensure that future generations receive the quality education they deserve.

Students who walked out of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé to protest Gov. Mike Dunleavys veto of an education package enter the state Capitol.
Students who walked out of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé to protest Gov. Mike Dunleavy's veto of an education package enter the state Capitol. Photo: AP
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As the echoes of student protests reverberated through Alaska's communities, policymakers were reminded of the pressing need to prioritize education funding and listen to the voices of the youth. The protests served as a powerful reminder of the vital role students play in shaping the trajectory of education policy and underscored the importance of inclusive, student-led advocacy in driving meaningful change.

With students leading the charge for educational equity and investment, Alaska stands at a critical juncture where the decisions made today will shape the opportunities and outcomes of generations to come. As the state grapples with complex challenges and competing priorities, the unwavering commitment of its youth to securing a brighter future for all serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration.

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