Sen. Murkowski gets commitments to help Bush Alaska

Posted: Friday, August 01, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said that three Cabinet secretaries have committed themselves to a new initiative to improve education and social services in the Bush.

The program, called the Alaska Project, arose from a conversation she had with Education Secretary Rod Paige after he visited rural Alaska with her in May, the senator said.

Murkowski said they both recognize that education is affected by issues outside of the classroom.

''You can't talk about quality teachers unless you have a place for them to live, (and) you can't really hope to educate students if their lives are complicated as a result of FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) and Fetal Alcohol Effect,'' she said, referring to the harm that can be caused by mothers who drink while pregnant.

Murkowski said she met with Paige, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez and an aide to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson on Wednesday to see what they might be able to do in the near future to improve life in Alaska's rural villages.

''Getting the commitment from the secretary (of education), getting the commitment from the administration to do something, a willingness to just explore some ideas, opportunities, is a good step in the right direction,'' she said.

Murkowski, with Sen. Ted Stevens' help, added $10 million to a pending appropriations bill for rural teacher housing, which she said is important to retaining good educators.

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