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Lawmakers to vote on Gov. Dunleavy's veto of $200 million education bill

Mar. 18—Alaska lawmakers are set to convene in a joint session at 2:15 p.m. Monday to vote on overriding the governor's veto of a $200 million education funding package.

Last Thursday, Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed a bipartisan funding package that included some Republican priorities alongside a $175 million increase to the state's per-student funding formula. Dunleavy said he would veto the bill because lawmakers had left out his priorities. Those include a provision to allow a board appointed by the governor to create new charter schools, and a three-year plan to pay teachers annual bonuses at a cost of roughly $60 million per year.

The education bill, which was largely seen as a compromise between progressive and conservative lawmakers, passed last month in a combined 56-3 vote, with 18 Senate members and 38 House members voting in favor.

It would take 40 out of 60 lawmakers to override a governor's veto. The threshold has rarely been reached.

Most of the 17 members of the bipartisan Senate majority have indicated they plan to vote to override the veto, citing their concerns about Dunleavy's education priorities and lack of progress through closed-door negotiations. The 16-member House minority, predominantly made up of Democrats, has also indicated it plans to vote in favor of the override. Three non-Republican House majority members representing rural districts are strongly in favor of preserving the education funding boost.

That means it would take a handful of GOP House majority members — who are broadly seen as aligned with the governor — breaking away to vote in favor of the override for the vote to pass.

At least one House Republican has indicated he will do so. Rep. Will Stapp, a Fairbanks Republican, announced in a weekend column in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he planned to override the veto.

"I think it's a good bill. I think it does things that are impactful," said Stapp, citing two of the provisions requested by Republican lawmakers that were included in the bill: a $13-million increase in funding for homeschooled students, and a new state-funded charter school coordinator to help parents navigate the charter process.

Lawmakers reported facing significant pressure over the weekend from school advocates asking to override the veto, and Republican groups seeking to sustain the veto. Some reported receiving over 100 calls and hundreds of emails.

Rep. Stanley Wright, an Anchorage Republican, declined to say how he would vote Monday afternoon.

"I don't know what I'm going to do, to be honest with you," Wright said less than two hours before the joint session was set to convene. "It's a tough decision to make."

The joint session will be live-streamed on Gavel Alaska and at adn.com.

This is a developing story and will be updated.