Advocating for a veto override, about a dozen Thrivalaska employees and supporters stood at the intersection of Geist Road and University Avenue on Wednesday afternoon carrying signs and wearing matching red shirts.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced, as part of his 182 line-item vetoes to the state budget, a full cut of the $6.8 million allocated for Head Start grants statewide.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of the budget cuts that the governor placed upon Head Start,” said Logan Felli, a Head Start teacher with Thrivalaska. “So he basically cut all of the Head Start funding for Alaska, and what that means for us is we lost an entire classroom.”
Cars went by the intersection as supporters stood by starting at 3 p.m. Some blared their horns in support, while others leaned out their windows and whooped or waved.
Felli stood in the median running through University Avenue with marker-stained hands, holding a sign that reads “Oh the Places They’d Go... if they had funding.” The sign, inspired by the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” has a special meaning to Felli, who spent over two hours creating it. She handed out the book to students leaving her class for kindergarten.
“So we started a ‘Oh the Places You’ll Go’ book and we started that as a memento for all the places they’ve been and all the people that have helped them be there,” she said, “and if they don’t get the funding, they won’t go anywhere.”
Sarah Newton, program director with Thrivalaska, carried a sign reading, “Children are not line items!” She said the goal of the rally was to encourage people in Fairbanks to reach out to representatives and ask them to call a special session.
“Head Start in the state of Alaska is so very important,” she said.
Head Start programs help children under 5 prepare for school, providing education, health services, social services and other resources to families.
“We work with the entire family, so it’s not your average preschool. It’s all wrap-around services they’re provided with: mental health, disabilities, nutrition, Monday through Thursday,” she said.
Kelly Doughty, who was holding an orange sign reading “Veto the Veto,” works with the child care assistance office, as well as the resource and referral office at Thrivalaska. She said her sign was short and able to be seen from the road.
“It’s my understanding that there’s not enough time to go through (the budget) item by item, so the simplest thing would be just for the legislators to veto the entire veto,” Doughty said, between waving at oncoming cars.
Becky McFarland, another teacher with Thrivalaska, just moved to Alaska in October but previously worked for a Head Start program in Arizona. As more car horns sounded driving past her, she said she’d been hearing a lot of honks, so she thinks there is a lot of support for children.
“I have a background of 33 years working with Early Head Start and Head Start programs, and they’re just so important,” she said, “It’s so important to help the families and the children — and they are the families of Alaska.”
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal