Gov. Michael Dunleavy announced today that he’ll be restoring grants for pre-kindergarten and Head Start programs when he signs the Operating Budget later this week.
He made the announcement at RurAL Cap, a statewide nonprofit organization that works on behalf of low-income Alaskans.
Alaska Head Start serves some 3,000 young children ages birth to age five in 100 Alaskan communities.
Programs that Dunleavy will not veto include:
- $6.8 million to Head Start Grants
- $1.2 million to Early Childhood Grants
- $474,000 to Parents as Teachers Grants
- $320,000 to Best Beginning Grants
Although the governor had originally vetoed or reduced some of these expenditures, the Legislature put funding for them into a new Operating Budget appropriation bill, HB 2001, which effectively reversed nearly all of the governor’s vetoes.
The funds to be restored include $2 million already in the budget for pre-kindergarten grants and $4.2 million in unspent grants left over from the last fiscal year. The Department of Education has has provided pre-k funds to districts since 2009. The pre-K grants are not considered statutory core services of the Department of Education.
Additional background provided by the Governor’s Office on these programs:
Head Start programs provide free and comprehensive early childhood programs for children meeting federal poverty guidelines between the ages of 0-5. DEED has been providing State funds for grantees that may be used towards their 20 percent match since 2001. 80 percent of funds are provided by the federal government. The remaining 20 percent match can be met through a variety of fund sources and a waiver option is available. In FY19, funding was disbursed to 17 organizations, including RurAL CAP Head Start, Kawerak Head Start, Chugiak Children’s Services, and Kids Corps. Inc.
Parents as Teachers is a collaboration with Department of Health & Social Services Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting program that provides support for early learners from 0-5 by empowering caregivers through personal and group visits.
Best Beginnings is a public-private partnership that mobilizes people and resources to ensure all Alaska children begin school ready to succeed.
“I want to thank you for all the work that you do,” he told the child care workers at RurAL Cap. “You can continue to do the good work you are doing.”
A reporter for the Anchorage Daily News asked Dunleavy why he “created all this chaos.”
Dunleavy responded, “We were hoping this would take place in April. This pushed into August and that was unfortunate.”
Why make cuts in the first place? the reporter asked.
Alaska has a $1.6 billion deficit, Dunleavy responded. “We have to talk about what we value. Our approach, as you know, was to try to reduce the budget, but to get feedback from folks about what they really value.”
He said, “The majority of Alaskans voiced their opinion the kids and seniors were important, and those funds. But there will be several programs that are cut when does sign the budget later this week.”
“You don’t get to this point unless you veto, you don’t get the conversations we’ve had unless you veto.In the past we’ve been saved by price and production. Most people realize we cannot continue to spend from our savings,” Dunleavy said.