Anchorage Students Rally Against Education Funding Cuts

Student protesters asking  the legislature to increase education funding. Hillman/KSKA
Student protesters asking the legislature to increase education funding. Hillman/KSKA

More than 150 high school students walked out of class Thursday afternoon to attend an impromptu rally at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office. They are protesting the legislature’s proposed $47.5 million cut to education.

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West High Junior Charlie Lowell led the crowd, sending a message to Alaska’s state legislature.

“They’ve been encouraged to even cut education further,” he shouted into his bullhorn.

“Boo!!” responded the sign-toting crowd.

“So we’re here today to let them know they can’t cut away our future! They can’t take our education away from us! Save our schools!”

Lowell helped organize the protest through word of mouth and didn’t let parents or teachers know until the last minute.

Students at the protest say their teachers had mixed reactions — many supported the idea but others were skeptical that any students would actually show up.

Tenth graders Sonja Barnard, Salem Collins, and Tessa Meeno protest education budget cuts. Hillman/KSKA
Tenth graders Sonja Barnard, Salem Collins, and Tessa Meeno protest education budget cuts. Hillman/KSKA

“I think in general teenagers get a bad rap for being rebellious and like idiots,” said West High sophomore Tessa Meeno. “And we truly do know what’s going on, and we’re not oblivious to what’s happening.”

West High tenth grader Joseph Mazeck said they need to speak up to protect what they love. “I love going to school, and I love participating in school events. You know, I play baseball for West and I don’t want to see that go away because of money.”

The legislature needs to send their final budget to the governor by the end of session on Sunday.

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After being told innumerable times that maybe she asked too many questions, Anne Hillman decided to pursue a career in journalism. Her first radio job was at KDLG in Dillingham in 2007, and then she moved to KUCB in Unalaska where she worked for three years in both news and programming. For two years, until May 2014, she alternated between freelancing with APRN and other Alaskan media and working as a community radio journalism trainer in rural South Sudan. Her current position at Alaska Public Media is as the organization’s urban affairs reporter as part of the community affairs desk. ahillman (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8447  |  About Anne