Letters to the Editor

Posted: Monday, June 03, 2002

ARG's philosophy has nothing to do with responsible government

Let's take Rep. Vic Kohring's "Alaskans for Responsible Government" (ARG) one point at a time.

1. ARG is comprised of Kohring (Wasilla-R) and 20 state business leaders, not 20 House and Senate leaders in the Legislature. Kohring has only one vote out of 40 in the House. Question: How is ARG going to protect Alaskans from any lawmaking activity in the Legislature, good or bad?

2. ARG's stated mission is to be a watchdog and activist group to protect the permanent fund, require a vote of the people before any new tax is enacted and unseat incumbent legislators who don't agree with ARG!? Well, let's see, two years ago, 83 percent of Alaska voters told all the legislators to keep their hands off their permanent fund dividend. It's the job of the Legislature to enact all new state laws including tax laws; and it's the voters who can unseat (not re-elect) incumbent legislators. Kohring has only one vote out of 40 in the Legislature and only one in 100,000-plus in Alaska; ARG has just 21 votes. The implications of Kohring's words in ARG's mission statement are downright scary!

3. "Alaska spends over 10 times what it did prior to Big Oil and ... ." Kohring doesn't give the reader much of a time frame of reference; he might have meant when Alaska became a state (that's prior to "Big Oil"); nevertheless, it's understandable that Alaska would take advantage of its oil royalties to help pay for the development of its infrastructure. This development would have been much slower and less extensive without "Big Oil" monies. In the dogmatic quote above, Kohring also does not account for federal matching funding programs with Alaska ("Uncle Ted") or inflation in the years between "prior to Big Oil" and 2002.

I would say we are where we are and ask where are we going from here, considering Alaska is faced with an $800-million to $900-plus-million dollar budget shortfall in the next year or so. Neither U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski nor Sen. Jerry Ward nor Kohring have suggested any details on how to resolve that budget shortfall with their proposed cuts of government operations nor have they listed any detailed impacts on Alaskans as a consequence of their proposals. Their proposals to date have been totally rhetorical and dogmatic! They sound good and are simply intended to elicit support from uninformed voters. ARG!

4. "We (ARG) want the state to fully fund constitutional requirements, i.e.,, roads, schools, troopers and the courts ... with the outright abolition of other, more frivolous programs. ..." What a plan! The implication here is that everything else, other than transportation, education and law enforcement, is frivolous. Statements like these really make me wonder if Kohring could pass the high school exit exam? In ARG's world, how does Alaska interface with the federal government in terms of EPA, OSHA, FAA, Coast Guard and other federal armed services, interstate and international airlines, the Congress, and deal with federal laws imposed on all states of the union, etc.? Alaska IS part of the United States of America. In ARG's world, how does Alaska deal with unemployment compensation, social services for the poor, interfaces with its municipalities and cruise ship lines, its ferry system, intrastate airlines, fish and game regulation, and other activities required by state law to administer government? This is the 21st century and most of us live in a mostly modern society. Naw, Kohring can't be that uninformed, but, don't forget, he is a politician and I believe this (ARG) is his idea to get re-elected, even though he just moved his new family to Oregon.

5. ARG promises freedom, harmony and prosperity if Alaskans join ARG's "glorious battle" and the inheritance of a Third World society if they don't. I'm surprised 70 virgins and $25,000 in cash weren't promised, too. To be candid, ARG is the noise I make when I gag and that's what I did when I read Mr. Kohring's article. As I have said several times before, Alaska's legislators will do anything to get re-elected and do hardly anything in the public interest or for the common good after they are elected, and Kohring seemingly is no exception. ARG!

Finally, this thought for the voter who might be taken in by Mr Kohring's rhetoric and by others of his ilk. Ask for specific details of what will be provided in state services and what will not in his plan. If you don't and you vote for him, you may be very unpleasantly surprised! ARG!

Postscript: It is very difficult to believe the recent TV commercials blaming Tony Knowles and Fran Ulmer for Alaska's fiscal crisis. Everyone who reads this should know that ONLY the Legislature can appropriate money for the State's administration to spend for government operations and services. And the people who dominate the Legislature and dictate the enactment of all state budget laws do not belong to the political party of Knowles/Ulmer.

'Nuff sed!

Richard Hahn


Increased funding for education ignores some important issues

In light of the current war to increase school funding, I thought I might address some of the "left-out" issues concerning education. As a recent graduate, I can certainly say that increased funding isn't the system's only remaining lifeline.

While it is true that the borough's grossly mismanaged budget has left schools with fewer teachers and resources than it can reasonably function with, I think the school district is too quick to lay its dying remains before the Legislature and give up on making the best of it. What am I saying?

Well, first off, standards for education are at a ridiculous low. Whatever happened to the long-lost and sensible requirement of having a college degree in the subject one teaches for a high school class? What about rescheduling the school day to fit three or four classes only, as some schools have done? And I can testify that schools are not "teaching to the average student," which I'll address shortly.

While there are numerous teachers I can whole-heartedly commend, the half-hearted jobs of the rest are a disgrace. There have been countless times when a teacher, providing study material, has not been able to account for half the stuff on it. I remember a good half my classes being "free time," and yet they are still offering study halls!

I can't remember the last textbook we half-way finished, and if I could summarize the high school curricula I used, it would be called "Review 101 for Incoming High Schoolers." Frankly, I don't know why some teachers aren't embarrassed by their lack of knowledge. Without a degree in the subject, what would be the difference if a student taught himself? Or any mere graduate, for that matter?

Seward's proposal to cut their four-class day to a three-class day, and Nikiski's trend of following suit testify to the district's "hands-off" approach. Do these schools think that by stretching out a 45-minute class to a third of the school day, that students are going to miraculously learn what they didn't before? The problem with students is not a lack of review; it's a lack of information! It is so much easier to allot more time to a class, under the justification that "some students aren't getting it," than to move along with the majority who are. Grade inflation and unfocused "free time" in class discredit any claims to that idea.

Teaching to the lower end of the student population? No. Schools need to face the fact that some students just will not put out the effort, and the ones who do can get help out of class. It is an embarrassment to graduate from a school that is stooping so low as to use the inevitable low achievers in any society as an excuse to hold back everyone else. The system has a responsibility to its average and high-end students as well.

The exit exam is the problem? No, "teaching to the test" is just another ploy education is using to elude standards and to "demonstrate" failure and need for increased funds, etc.

Take any average parent. Can they impart the information to their kids? I have found such to be the case, and so certainly someone with a degree in education, if anything, would be able to do so.

Jenny Miller


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