An Anchorage state senator has moved to constitutionally enshrine a funding schedule for Alaska’s education system, which is facing widespread cuts under Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget.

Republican Mia Costello’s Senate Joint Resolution 9 would require an appropriations bill to fund K-12 education from the governor each year, submitted alongside the state’s operating budget. The Legislature would then have until the 45th day of its session to approve the bill for the upcoming fiscal year.

Costello’s resolution targets a longstanding issue for school districts statewide, many of which face a local May 1 deadline to submit their budgets. Because legislative budget battles can extend beyond that date, however, districts sometimes have to submit budgets based on estimates of their state funding – which forces them to lay off, then rehire teachers based on the actual amounts.

Last May, then-Gov. Bill Walker signed a $1.27 billion early funding package aimed at eliminating that uncertainty, which Costello hopes to make a thing of the past.

“Education is one of the state’s core constitutional responsibilities,” Costello said in a statement. “This amendment will provide stability to Alaska’s education community by requiring legislators to act early. For too long, Alaska’s teachers and school administrators have been forced to operate under a cloud of uncertain funding when they should be free to focus on providing for a quality education for our students. It’s time we put our kids first.”

The funding resolution, however, faces the same path to becoming part of the Alaska Constitution as Dunleavy’s plans to enshrine Permanent Fund dividend funding. Two-thirds of the state House and Senate must approve it, with a majority of voters also doing so during the state’s next general election.

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