Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students, along with a handful of state legislators and staff members, march from the school to the Alaska State Capitol on Thursday morning to protest lawmakers who earlier this year rejected an increase in the state’s funding formula for public schools. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students, along with a handful of state legislators and staff members, march from the school to the Alaska State Capitol on Thursday morning to protest lawmakers who earlier this year rejected an increase in the state’s funding formula for public schools. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau students take statewide protest for more education funding into the Capitol

Scores of students march from JDHS to the offices of the governor and other lawmakers.

Scores of Juneau students participated in a statewide walkout of schools Thursday morning to protest Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of a bill increasing education funding and legislators who failed to override the veto, including about 75 students from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé who marched to the Alaska State Capitol and continued their protest inside the building.

Chants such as “raise the BSA” and taunts such as “we know you can hear us” were shouted by the students after gathering on the third floor — where the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices are located — and elsewhere in the six-story building as many legislators watched and expressed support. Several legislators, staff members and local officials also took part in the march.

Rep. Alyse Galvin, an Anchorage independent, takes a photo with Meadow Stanley, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Thursday morning before they took part in a protest march from the school to the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Alyse Galvin, an Anchorage independent, takes a photo with Meadow Stanley, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on Thursday morning before they took part in a protest march from the school to the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The pleas to Dunleavy and other state lawmakers are hardly new since education funding has been a dominant statewide issue for years. But students participating in Thursday’s march said they hope to add urgency to current efforts for an increase.

“I think this is just about the students recognizing what we’re being denied, and how much Dunleavy is just pushing us away out of sight and out of mind,” said Meadow Stanley, a JDHS senior who was among the students at the front of the procession taking turns carrying a bullhorn. “And hopefully it’ll have different significance coming from the students whose lives have been changed.”

William Dapcevich, a JDHS freshman participating in the procession, said there are direct impacts he’s concerned about due to lack of funding.

“We’re not even allowed to print things, that’s how bad it’s getting,” he said. “We don’t have any paper we can use to print. It’s really dumb. It’s because of money.”

Students from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé gather outside the Alaska State Capitol during a statewide protest Thursday morning calling for more public school funding. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Students from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé gather outside the Alaska State Capitol during a statewide protest Thursday morning calling for more public school funding. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Students at Thunder Mountain High School and Yaaḵoosgé Daakahídi High School also took part in the statewide walkout beginning at 11 a.m. Felix Myers, a spokesperson for the Alaska Association of Student Governments, stated in a press release the statewide walkout was scheduled to last 40 minutes to represent the 40 votes needed for a veto override of the education bill.

The BSA chant referred to the state’s Base Student Allocation that’s currently set at $5,960 per student for the fiscal year starting July 1, an increase of $30 since 2017. Educators and many lawmakers have stated for years inflation has resulted in a severe loss of real-world funding for districts, and a bill approving a $680 increase in the formula passed the Legislature earlier this year by a 56-3 vote.

However, Dunleavy vetoed the bill, stating he wanted additional legislation such as more support for charter schools as well, and a veto override by the Legislature failed by one vote, 39-20, as 17 Republicans who voted for the bill failed to support an override.

Students climb the stairs at the Alaska State Capital on Thursday morning after marching from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé as part of a statewide protest calling for more public school funding. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Students climb the stairs at the Alaska State Capital on Thursday morning after marching from Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé as part of a statewide protest calling for more public school funding. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The $680 BSA increase has been revived in the House’s proposed budget for next year and is supported by the Republican-led Senate majority, but Dunleavy has the authority to reject some or all of the increase with a line-item veto of the budget. It would take 45 of the Legislature’s 60 members to override a budget item veto.

Several legislators advocating for a BSA increase took part in the walk from JDHS, while many others greeted them outside the Capital and inside the building. Among the adult participants in the procession was Ella Adkison, a Juneau Assembly member as well as a staff member for state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, a Juneau Democrat who is backing the BSA increase.

“I heard that the students were organizing a walkout and we said ‘we better show up, the kids are walking,’” she said. “And I’m so glad that the students are taking agency in this conversation because it affects them the most and it affects their futures. And they’re aware of that and they won’t be left out of the conversation anymore.”

A notice sent by the Juneau School District stated staff were aware of and monitoring events during the day, but not encouraging, discouraging or participating in the walkout.

Juneau students chant outside the governor’s office on the third floor of the Alaska State Capitol during a statewide protest Thursday morning calling for more public education funding. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau students chant outside the governor’s office on the third floor of the Alaska State Capitol during a statewide protest Thursday morning calling for more public education funding. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“The principals at our secondary schools will be communicating with their staff and student leaders regarding this possible walkout,” the statement notes. “Schools are not promoting this activity, and it is important for parents to know that this is not a school-sponsored or school-sanctioned event. The Juneau School District respects students’ First Amendment right to peacefully assemble. We will not discipline students for the act of peaceful protest. As a district, we acknowledge students in their right to advocacy.”

The notice did state classes would continue as scheduled and “absences not excused by a parent will be treated as unexcused, and normal consequences will apply.”

“The best way for us to ensure student safety during the school day is to know where our students are — that’s simply not possible if they leave school grounds,” the notice states.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students, along with a handful of state legislators and staff members, march from the school to the Alaska State Capitol on Thursday morning to protest lawmakers who earlier this year rejected an increase in the state’s funding formula for public schools. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé students, along with a handful of state legislators and staff members, march from the school to the Alaska State Capitol on Thursday morning to protest lawmakers who earlier this year rejected an increase in the state’s funding formula for public schools. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

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