Homer High School students participate in a statewide school walkout organized to protest Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding, Thursday, April 4, 2024, in Homer, Alaska. . (Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News)

Homer High School students participate in a statewide school walkout organized to protest Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of an education bill that would have increased school funding, Thursday, April 4, 2024, in Homer, Alaska. . (Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News)

Homer students join statewide student walkout

The event was in response to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto last month of an education bill passed by the Alaska Legislature

About 40 Homer High School students participated in a statewide 40-minute school walkout beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday morning.

Sophomore Ella Gustufson said she first started hearing about the event via social media on Wednesday afternoon, April 3, and began sharing information about it with other Homer students. Gustufson said there is an Instagram page dedicated to the event.

Student Council President Spencer Co, a senior, said he started spreading the word also.

“We really didn’t have very much time to organize because we just heard about it a day ago,” Co said Thursday.

Gustufson said the movement started with a high school in North Pole, but students participated in communities in the Matanuska-Susitna region, Anchorage and Southeast.

“I think a lot of schools participated,” Gustufson said.

Co said the Juneau students visited the legislative buildings in the State Capitol.

In Kenai and Soldotna, no students appeared to be walking out during the 11 a.m. event, according to Peninsula Clarion reporter Jake Dye.

Co said the Homer event was fairly well supported by Homer High School faculty. “We really appreciated that.”

Organized by the Alaska Association of Student Governments, the event was in response to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto last month of an education bill passed by the Alaska Legislature. The bill, among other things, raised by $680 the base student allocation, or the amount of money the state spends per K-12 student. Legislators failed to override by a single vote. Homer Rep. Sarah Vance, who voted in support of the initial bill, later voted to sustain the override.

“The walkout was 40 minutes long to represent the 40 votes needed to override the veto,” Gustufson said. “I believe some schools also did one minute of silence to represent the one vote we didn’t get. S.B. 140 was going to provide a $680 increase the state BSA, which is necessary because it hasn’t been raised since 2017. With inflation, schools can’t keep up with the cost of things so they are shutting down programs, starting with pools and theater.”

She also explained that the walkout plan asked students to wear red because it shows support for education issues, referring to the “red for ed” movement.

Co said he has also been in touch with other student council members across the state and he heard about the event from them. He said that the Alaska Association of Student Government shared information about the walkout. Co said the student council of Career Technical Education School was especially vocal.

“Without social media, we wouldn’t have been able to hear about this here. People just kept reposting the information they saw,” Gustufson said.

Co also mentioned that the Alaska Association of Student Government conference takes place April 18-20 in Utqiagvik and that he expects that school funding will be a major topic of discussion. Homer student delegates attending the state event are Co, Ella Davis and Raquel Goldman.

When asked what else the students were planning to do to support state education funding increases, Co said, “it would be amazing if we could get the students to write letters to the legislators. And, we’re making an effort to do that. Someone at the North Pole is currently collecting photos of students from around the state and is putting together a collage of the students holding signs that say ‘Prioritize my Education’.”

Gustufson said she plans to write a letter and possibly create a formatted letter that other students could use. The students also discussed the possibility of writing a letter that could by signed by multiple students to the legislators.

Katie Bynagle, Homer High School vice principal, emphasized to students the importance of contacting legislators about the issue.

“If you guys really want to make a difference, I would encourage you to reach out the legislators, Sarah Vance being the one from here,” Bynagle told the students at the walkout.

“Explain to her why it is so important that we get education funding. You can also testify over the phone or by mail to Juneau. If you really want your voices to be heard through a broader context, write a letter to Sarah Vance. Then, take the same letter and send it every single day. Write letters to the newspaper. Do the heavy lifting.”

Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News
Homer High School students who joined schools from around the state in a high school walkout pose near the end of the event. Not all students who attended the event are in the image.

Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News Homer High School students who joined schools from around the state in a high school walkout pose near the end of the event. Not all students who attended the event are in the image.

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