Thunder Mountain High School student Kaylani Topou speaks to a crowd at the Fund Our Future rally at the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School student Kaylani Topou speaks to a crowd at the Fund Our Future rally at the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Students take to Capitol steps in rally for school funding

Hundreds turn out to oppose governor’s proposed cuts

Katie McKenna stood on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol and spoke forcefully into the microphone. She wanted to make sure Gov. Mike Dunleavy heard her.

“Your budget plan abandons us,” the Juneau-Douglas High School junior said, pausing as a crowd of more than 400 people applauded. “My generation wants to know, do you have children? Are you OK with how you’re valuing young people across Alaska? We students feel you view us as a writeoff cost.”

McKenna was one of nearly a dozen speakers who stood in the Saturday sunlight and urged those in the Capitol to prioritize education. The rally, called Fund Our Future, brought together hundreds of students, educators, advocates, lawmakers and community members in opposition to hefty cuts to education in Dunleavy’s budget proposal.

Thunder Mountain High School student Kaylani Topou speaks to a crowd at the Fund Our Future rally at the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School student Kaylani Topou speaks to a crowd at the Fund Our Future rally at the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

The event leaned heavily on student speakers, including McKenna. Fellow Crimson Bear Arias Hoyle, a senior, also spoke, as did Thunder Mountain High School student Kaylani Topou. As the high school students stood on the steps, younger students surrounded them and held up signs. Topout pointed to another sign, one that hung on two of the columns at the Capitol that depicted hands reaching upward.

“This is exactly what we’re doing,” Topou said. “We’re reaching for the governor, we’re reaching for everyone to give us the education that we need, and all we’re asking is that you take our hand and that we can walk to the future together.”

[‘Fund our future’: Students protest proposed cuts to university]

Dunleavy’s budget proposal calls for a reduction in funding of $300 million from school districts across the state, according to the Department of Education and Early Development. That includes a cut of $10 million to the Juneau School District. The House of Representatives’ budget proposal, passed this week, does not propose those deep cuts and even seeks to guarantee funding for the next fiscal year as well.

Speakers at Saturday’s rally — including education advocate and former U.S. Congressional candidate Alyse Galvin — were passionate as they spoke to the crowd, but none spoke with quite the energy of Rep. Grier Hopkins, D-Fairbanks. Hopkins was vehement about the importance of education in his life, going as far to name off the elementary school teachers he had to prove how he still thinks of them.

The rally was organized by Great Alaska Schools, thread Alaska, the Southeast Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children, National Education Association (NEA) Alaska, and the Juneau Education Association.

Multiple speakers, including Dzantik’i Heeni teacher Amy Lloyd, brought up Dunleavy’s propensity to carry a red pen. The pen is meant to symbolize his veto power, which he said he would use if the Legislature passes a budget that he doesn’t agree with. Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, said no teacher or former teacher like herself is afraid of a red pen.

Lloyd spoke along the same lines, saying teachers wield a red pen when they’re correcting papers and providing feedback.

“When we pick up a red pen,” Lloyd said, “it is to grow Alaska, support our students and brighten our future.”

Juneau-Douglas High School senior Arias Hoyle speaks at the Fund Our Future rally on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School senior Arias Hoyle speaks at the Fund Our Future rally on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


Flanked by younger students holding signs, Juneau-Douglas High School junior Katie McKenna speaks at the Fund Our Future rally on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Flanked by younger students holding signs, Juneau-Douglas High School junior Katie McKenna speaks at the Fund Our Future rally on the steps of the Alaska State Capitol on Saturday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department
3 charged after Kenai beach assault

Video evidence of the incident and multiple calls from concerned citizens led to the arrests.

A sign announcing the closure of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools at K-Beach Elementary can be seen on March 26, 2020, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
School board to vote on 1st day for students

Smart Start plan for KPBSD will be sent to Department of Education by the end of this month

Shawn Dick of Talkneetna carries a fresh catch out of the water while dipnetting on the Kenai Beach on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting opens in Kenai

Dipnetters see quiet 1st day, with moderate catch

COVID-19. (Image courtesy the CDC)
49 new COVID-19 cases reported

Seven of the new resident cases reported Thursday were identified on the Kenai Peninsula.

Skylar Giordano cuts Ryan Huerta’s hair at RD’s Barber Shop in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, July 9, 2020. RD’s is one of the 186 local businesses and nonprofits in Kenai that already received financial assistance through the City of Kenai’s Grant Program. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai boosts local economy with grants

The city has distributed $1.9 million in grants to 186 businesses and nonprofits.

Hospital adds new COVID-19 rooms

The hospital has made several changes or modifications to its facilities.

Salmon Run Series returns

Running races now feature masks, pods and elbow taps

A Homer Volunteer Fire Department emergency medical technician, left, assists a person who was involved in a boat capsizing, center, as they walk up the load-launch ramp on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, at the Homer Harbor in Homer, Alaska. The crew of the F/V Captain Cook helped rescue the person. The crew of the F/V Casino rescued the other two people who were aboard the 14-foot skiff when it capsized near the entrance of China Poot Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
1 dead, 2 rescued after boat capsizes near China Poot Bay

A 14-foot skiff carrying three people overturned near Gull Island in the mouth of China Poot Bay.

Most Read