Dear Neighbor,

Yesterday, the legislature convened in a joint session and voted 39-20 in favor of overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of a bipartisan education package that included modern broadband speeds for rural Alaska, a BSA increase, expanded support for charter schools, additional funds for homeschooling, and funding for implementation of the Reads Act. An override of this veto required 40 votes, so by a single vote, House Republicans killed a widely supported education package.


I was shocked that Thomas Baker (R-Kotzebue) was one of the “no” votes, meaning that a rural member was one of the legislators to cast a deciding vote denying much-needed broadband improvements for rural schools. Baker was appointed by Gov. Dunleavy following Rep Josiah Patkotak’s resignation, and it was tragic to see Baker sell out rural Alaska and side with the Governor’s indefensible veto of SB 140.


Tom McKay (R-South Anchorage) also voted “no” on SB 140, even though he has more IGNITE students in his district than any other in Anchorage, and even though killing this bill means cutting immersion staffing, including at Sand Lake Elementary.


Republicans opposing education concocted many creative arguments during debate, including the novel theory that they originally voted for the bill so it might “go to the Governor and be vetoed more quickly.” Unlike a car or a rocket whose speed can be proportional to fuel and engine size, legislation does not “move” more quickly based on the number of people who vote for it beyond the majority threshold.

In pressuring Republicans to flip-flop and oppose a bill they previously supported, Dunleavy threatened to campaign and spend $70,000 per race against any Republicans who voted to override the veto. I admire the courage of the four House Republican majority members who dared to stand up to this shameless, unethical bullying. Ironically, Dunleavy and his allies’ jihad against education will probably prove self-defeating: They have effectively turned the 2024 election into a referendum on who supports public education. A statewide poll taken Friday indicates half of Republicans, 70% of Independents, and nearly all Democrats supported override of the veto. I have already heard from teachers and school board members who have concluded they need to run for office if their district doesn’t already have a champion for education. 


This is not the end of the fight for education funding. I will keep fighting to raise the BSA and to appropriate additional funds for education despite Dunleavy’s erratic, terroristic behavior and the decision of some House Republicans to vote with him even when his policy decisions are indefensible. 


In closing, thank you to all the teachers and parents who are loyal to Alaska and work hard every day for students even when public schools are under fire from Outside special interest and their allies.

See you around the neighborhood,


Zack

Representative Zack Fields - House District 17

Serving Downtown, South Addition, Forest Park, North Star, and Fairview