Closely surrounded by elementary school kids full of endless energy, Gov. Bill Walker on Thursday signed a bill that ensures education funding won’t be held hostage until the end of this session.

Walker signed House Bill 287 at Harborview Elementary, which sits about one mile from the Capitol. The bill funds public education. What it means is many Alaska teachers could be avoiding pink slips for the upcoming school year

Districts must have their initial budgets submitted to municipalities by May 1; however, in recent years the Legislature has dragged budget talks well beyond that date.

This year, lawmakers avoided that angst educators have long felt.

Two weeks ago, the House and Senate agreed on a $1.27 billion early funding package providing relief to districts statewide.

On Thursday, Walker put his signature on the bill.

“I’m very, very pleased about the fact that Legislature has worked together to make this happen," Walker said after the signing. “If you look at the people who were here for the signing, it was a bi-partisan group of Alaskan legislators. It was very exciting to see. I applaud them for what they’ve done on education.”

Juneau School District Superintendent Mark Miller said the early funding provides needed relief.

“If we don’t know our funding early, then we have to be conservative when we budget,” he said. “The only way to be conservative when we budget is to give what we call pink slips or layoff notices to our young teachers, our best, brightest, most vulnerable teachers, first- and second-year teachers. Some of whom are making $40,000 to $45,000 a year-- many of whom are trying to support a family.”

More education legislation could be in the works.

Lawmakers are still debating whether to increase per-pupil funding as the session enters its final two weeks.

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