Phil Douglass teaches Mt. Eccles Elementary School students to play harmonica on Aug. 31, 2021. File photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith for The Cordova Times

Cordova School District officials were meeting last week to begin making tough budget choices after legislators failed to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of a bipartisan education bill that boosted the Base Student Allocation (BSA). 

Cordova School Board President Barbara Jewel called the situation a big disappointment.  

“We have looked at not providing food service, not funding activities, decreasing the number of staff that work in the district,” Jewel said in advance of a scheduled meeting Tuesday evening.  

“Their actions will cause significant harm to our district and our students unless the Legislature is able to come up with additional funding for the schools,” she added. 

With what the governor is talking about, the district is facing a $1.5 million deficit, the equivalent of 15 positions.  

“School will be open, but it won’t work. You can’t take that much money out of the district and have it work,” Jewell said. “I need to take a little time to absorb this situation because I’m so angry.” 


Efforts to override the Dunleavy’s veto of Senate Bill 140 failed by a single vote. 

“While the bill itself did not fund education, it provided guidance and expectations for the increased education appropriations through statute,” Lon Garrison, executive director of the Association of Alaska School Boards (AASG) said in a statement issued on Tuesday. “We now return to an all too familiar scenario of hoping for a few scraps outside the BSA. As one person described it to me, we were thrown a life ring only to discover they let go of the line. Some may stay afloat for a while, but the life ring is not big enough nor buoyant enough to sustain us.” 

Garrison emphasized a community-first approach is necessary.  

“It is imperative that we all return to the table and work to do what is right for our students, parents, and communities,” he said. “We have been witnessing the erosion of the Alaskan dream for years through the continual neglect of both our K-12 and postsecondary education systems.” 

Sixteen of 20 senators and 23 of 40 House members voted on Monday to override Dunleavy’s veto of the bill. All the no votes were from Republicans. 

SB 140 included a $175 million increase to formula funding for school districts statewide, plus $13 million extra for homeschooled students and money for a statewide position that would have helped parents through the charter school application process.  

The governor had his own education priorities, however, including a statewide board he would appoint to authorize new charter schools, plus annual teacher bonuses that would cost the state about $180 million over a three-year period. 

In Cordova the education choices are public school or home schooling. There are no charter schools. 

Dunleavy had criticized SB 140 as lacking in new approaches other than enhanced funding to increase educational outcomes.  

“SB 140 lacked sufficient changes in how charter schools are chartered in order to allow more students and families charter school possibilities,” he said in a statement issued on March 14.  

Meanwhile he signaled during the news conference he held that day that he was also ready to veto school formula funding from the state budget.