As just an hour ticked down before Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s annual State of the State speech, dozens of Juneau educators, students and supporters gathered Monday evening in the dark at the rainy steps of the Alaska State Capitol to advocate for increased funding for education via raising the base student allocation.
The hundreds of attendees expressed dismay at the state’s current BSA, the amount per student that school districts receive in state funding, which has not seen a sizable increase since 2017 and has largely failed to keep pace with inflation during the past decade, a trend that would continue under Dunleavy’s proposed budget.
Over the hour-long rally a handful of speeches — and a song — were offered to the crowd. They included words from all three of Juneau’s state legislators, Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss and Board member Brian Holst, Juneau Education Association President Chris Heidemann and multiple teachers and students, who all advocated for a statewide increase in funding for education.
“The teachers in this school district and frankly across the state are hurting, and particularly here in Juneau we are tired,” Heidemann said. “I assure you that the BSA is the main reason that we are unable to come to a reasonable settlement with the Juneau school district right now and we need a substantially increased BSA and we need it now.”
Though Dunleavy did not attend the protest or speak about the protest during his speech, Rep. Andi Story, a Juneau Democrat who has previously introduced legislation to raise the BSA, said she believes there can be movement toward an increase during this legislative session.
“We have been working really hard to get an increase in the base student allocation and many of you know I have carried a bill to do exactly that for the last four years,” Story said. “Please don’t get tired, I feel really strongly that there is a lot of support in this building to do things for our children this year.”