Both of Kodiak’s state legislative delegation spoke at last week’s Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference economic summit in Anchorage. KDLG’s Mike Mason was there and filed this report.
Tomorrow morning, Kodiak’s Gary Stevens, the Senate Education Committee chairman, will be holding the first hearing on doing away with the Alaska high school qualifying exam. That’s a test students must pass to be given a diploma, no matter their grades:
“It doesn’t really prove too much; it hasn’t worked too well. We’ve had three days, and sometimes six days in a full year to do that testing. And all it really does in the end is to tell a child and a parent if they’ve reached a certain level so they can go out in the world, and really that level’s not very high. And what many high school students do is once they pass that exit exam they pretty much think they’re through with school, and that can happen quite early in your high school career.”
Stevens said that with a new standardized testing system expected in 2015, it only makes sense to eliminate the current exam.
“It’s a test that really no longer accomplishes what it should, and what we wanted it to accomplish when it passed I think in about 98 or so. So it’s time to look at it. And we’ll hear testimony from everyone that is interested and that there are better tests out there to really tell us what a child needs before they graduate, how we can help our kids be ready to go into the world with a job or college.”
The exit exam bill is one of two Stevens has introduced this session. His other, SB 107, will encourage early reading efforts by establishing a reading program for kindergarten through third grade students. Continue reading
The Alaska State Legislature kicks off the new session next week, and Kodiak’s delegation of Senator Gary Stevens and Representative Alan Austerman are busy packing up for the trip to Juneau.
KMXT spoke with both earlier this week.
Stevens indicated money will be tight because of the lower revenue projections coming out of the governor’s office.
“It’s way too early to say what’s going to be in the capital project budget, but we’re going to fight hard, Rep. Austerman and myself to make sure Kodiak gets its fair share, and so we’re looking at that carefully and well as for our other communities. A lot of things to consider, but in the end the capital budget will be smaller than it has been in the past only because revenues are down so low. But the governor has left us room in the budget to add local projects, and that’s the way it should be.”
Austerman, however, wasn’t sure there was a lot of room for local capital budgets.
“He has left what he considers to be headroom for legislators to add more money to the current budget that he has placed out there. That again is part of the discussion that we’ll have to have how much we increase the budget, because every time we increase the budget it has to come out of savings accounts. We’re going to have to have that kind of conversation about whether we like the current governor’s budget or whether it’s too big or two small, or whether we want to continue to spend down our savings, and at what rate.” Continue reading
The petition to allow Alaskan voters a voice in the debate on oil taxes was turned in last Saturday with far more signatures than required. If certified, it would ask Alaskans to vote in 2014 on repealing the billion-dollar-a-year tax break pushed by Governor Sean Parnell and passed by the legislature this year.
It took several years to get through the State Senate, because of the largely-Democratic majority coalition led by Kodiak Republican Senator Gary Stevens, which opposed the tax giveaway.
After election redistricting, which some decried as Gerrymandering, Stevens lost his position as Senate President late last year. The new Republican-dominated majority easily passed the governor’s tax bill, even though Stevens continued to fight against it.
“I gave two speeches on the floor in opposition of the governor’s tax giveaway,” he said. “I’m very supportive of the petition to put it to a vote of the public. I signed the petition in Kodiak several weeks ago when it first started.”
Stevens says the ballot question will allow all Alaskans to debate and learn about the issue. Continue reading
The Alaska Redistricting Board released Sunday what it hopes will be the last re-drawn map produced as part of the state’s reapportionment process. Last year’s elections were conducted under a temporary map that produced significant changes to the legislative district boundaries. The new map – at least for Kodiak Island voters – will look more like the one used for most of the 2000s.
“It’s sort of ‘Back to the Future,’ and that’s fine with me, said Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens, who was reached Monday in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“I think we’re going to wind up with a Senate District that can work very well together and will mostly be, well, all coastal, mostly fishing communities,” he said. “The three largest communities will be Kodiak, Cordova and Homer, so a lot of commonality there, a lot of common interest. So it goes back to where we were a few years ago, and that’s just fine. I’m very happy with that.”
Stevens, who as Senate President three years ago, appointed Kodiak’s Bob Brodie to the Redistricting Board, says he’s been closely following the developments. Continue reading
Senator Gary Stevens joins Governor Parnell and family members of Jim Andie and Robin Starrett for signing of SB31.
Wednesday, Governor Sean Parnell signed Senate Bill 31, which renames Akhiok’s runway the “Jim Andie and Robin Starrett Memorial Runway,” and renames Kodiak’s airport the “Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport.”
Senator Gary Stevens sponsored the legislation at the request of the residents of Akhiok, who wanted to honor the memory of two pilots who were well known in the community. Representative Alan Austerman later introduced an amendment for the “Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport.”
According to Akhiok’s mayor, a gold-lettered sign will be built next to the runway and friends and family will be invited for a ceremony this summer to mark the dedication of the airstrip.
Robin Starrett followed a distinguished career in the U.S. Army with service in the Coast Guard before retiring in 2004 with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. His later years were spent as a bush pilot in the Kodiak area. In 2008, Starrett was killed in one of Kodiak’s worst air disasters in recent memory. He died along with five others when the baggage door of his plane popped open shortly after take-off.
Jim Andie grew up in California and working many jobs in the Western United States until finally realizing his dream by becoming an Alaskan bush pilot. Andie died after his aircraft struck a tree near Heitman Lake. Two passengers survived the crash.
Benny Benson is the designer of Alaska’s flag, and spent most of his adult life in Kodiak and worked for Kodiak Airways. This year will mark the centenary of his birth in Chignik in 1913.