Key takeaways from Gov. Dunleavy’s proposed fiscal 2024 budget

New budget could build Alaska’s future, but questions remain about the state’s crisis-ridden education system
Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 9:33 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A Permanent Fund dividend of nearly $4,000 might be landing in the pockets of Alaskans next year, according to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget announcement today in Juneau.

The administration hopes to use funds to address an array of Alaska’s pressing challenges to bring the state motto — and theme of Dunleavy’s swearing-in last week — to life.

The governor presented an overview of funding plans for public safety, education, Alaska’s State Defense Force, the PFD, transportation, fisheries research, and more. The governor highlighted carbon sequestration as an exciting new venture for the state as well as several initiatives directed at family health, from daycare to postpartum support for new mothers.

A statutory Permanent Fund dividend is also provided for within the new budget.

Regarding the state of Alaska’s education system, Dunleavy said today that he knows Alaska “can do better”, as low test scores, school closures and teacher retention plague Alaska’s schools. Attracting and retaining talented educators and support staff has been historically tricky even for the largest district in the state – the Anchorage School District — which struggled to even hire enough bus drivers this fall.

Dunleavy said he knows the budget process is a negotiation with state lawmakers, and he’s ready to work with them on these crucial spending decisions to work toward an outcomes-based solution.

State legislator Zack Fields suggests Alaskans should interrogate Dunleavy’s statement that the budget “fully funds” education.

“Raising and stabilizing education funding has to be our number one priority,” Fields said. “We have an absolute education crisis right now. A lot of teaching positions are unfilled. We’re not able to retain teachers, we have huge unmet capital needs, and we can’t even hire for basic support positions like bus drivers — and the governor’s budget does not include funding to address all those things,” Fields said.

In a statement emailed from the district, ASD Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt expressed disappointment that no additional funds were earmarked for elementary education.

“While we are disappointed to learn there is no additional public education funding in the Governor’s proposed budget, we are very encouraged to learn he recognizes the inflationary pressure on our District, our families, and our communities and wants to work with us on sensible school funding solutions,” the statement read. “We look forward to working with him and the Legislature.”