Gov. Mike Dunleavy said on Tuesday that he would not, for a second time, veto nearly $9 million for early education.

Last month under House Bill 2001, lawmakers restored more than $300 million of the $444 million in vetoes announced late June. Dunleavy’s vetoes triggered waves of public and legislative push back — as well as a recently launched recall — but he said he does not regret the June 28 vetoes.

“You don’t get to this point unless you veto,” Dunleavy said. “You don’t get the conversations that we had — that we’ve had the last several weeks, actually the last several months — unless you veto.”

The early education funding includes:

  • $6.8 million for Head Start grants
  • $1.2 million for Early Childhood grants
  • $474,000 for Parents and Teachers grants
  • $320,000 for Best Beginnings grants

Dunleavy announced on Monday that he would support the Legislature’s appropriation for the state’s Senior Benefits Payment Program. On Tuesday, he said he hopes next year’s budget will feature early education and the senior benefits.

“My hope is that we wouldn’t go this route in terms of Head Start and senior programs,” he said. “I don’t know what the budget is going to be next year. Oil drops to $30 a barrel and we’re going to have a different conversation.”

While many early learning center staff were happy to hear the news Tuesday, some say the waiting game was stressful.

"We asked those teachers and staff who come from areas that we were targeting for shut down, not come in until we had word," RurAL CAP CEO Patrick Anderson said. 

Anderson says before the governor's announcement, there were classrooms and facilities on the chopping block.

"We can shutdown individual classrooms which we had targeted for a couple of communities where they had two or three classrooms," Anderson said. "But to close down an entire center is difficult. We have criteria to do that. We had the centers selected and we did not have staff coming in but we're going to reverse that now, as soon as the bill is signed and start bringing people in and preparing."

He said they hope to have the programs running on time.

Trevor Storrs, president and CEO of the Alaska Children's Trust, says it will take time for all those involved to heal.

"Hopefully people haven't lost staff, but most importantly we are hoping people recover," Storrs said. "This experience has been very traumatic. Not knowing if they have a job or a placement for their kids. All of that, there is a lot of healing and mending that needs to happen."

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