Gov. Mike Dunleavy agreed on Tuesday to fully restore funds to early learning in the state.
The restoration totals about $9 million and includes $6.8 million to Head Start and $1.2 million to early childhood grants.
Dunleavy said at a press conference that the reversal of his line-item vetoes was a result of advocacy from Alaskans.
“What became pretty clear, I think to everybody, is that Alaskans value our elders, our seniors, and we value our children, our youngest. And that’s our future,” Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy said the state has a large deficit to overcome and maintains that his vetoes were a way to initiate a conversation about what Alaskans value. He said he doesn’t anticipate vetoing early learning funding in the future.
“My hope is that we wouldn’t go this route in terms of Head Start and our senior programs. I don’t know what the budget is going to be next year,” Dunleavy said. “If oil drops to $30 a barrel, we’re going to all have a different conversation, but I want to — no pun intended — I want to get a head start on the budget this year in the fall with the legislators.”
Patrick Anderson is CEO of RurAL CAP, a nonprofit that operates Head Start programs throughout the state. He said he’s happy the governor reversed his veto, but uncertainty around funding has already caused employees to leave.
“Words have impact. We need to have the conversations beforehand so that we don’t experience these kinds of changes,” Anderson said. “Our staff, we have regular turnover. I’m not sure how much of (employees leaving) is regular turnover, but the expression was that the uncertainty was a little bit much for them.”
Head Start’s reach extends from Anchorage out to many rural communities such as Chevak, Napaskiak and Hooper Bay.