Cutting 20 million from Alaska’s education budget is not good for Rural Alaska

The proposed $20M cut from Alaska’s education budget, I feel, is a bad idea! As an Alaska resident who has supported the education of our children in our communities, I am speaking up to be opposed to this.

I am a resident and tribal member of Kwigillingok, I also work at our local school, I am a mother and grandmother as I raised four children and a grandson who graduated from our school and now have 5 grandchildren attending school.

I have seen the school grow from the first day it opened back in 1976. Back then it was one classroom with limited educational material. By 1980, a new school was constructed and just recently about 3-4 years now, our school was again renovated to add more classrooms and a full size gym from a half court gym.

My education history started in Kwigillingok in the old Bureau of Indian Affair days. Everything was taught in English, and I did not comprehend whatever was taught from my earliest entry to school until later in the school years. I am lucky I was never whipped for speaking my language back in the day, although I heard some stories that our elders were.

Today, with the dual language that is integrated in the entry of students in our school, they are learning both English and Yugtun, and they are very fortunate.

After I finished my elementary education in Kwigillingok before there was any high school built in our community, I overheard my parents discussing where they would send me, as they had sent my three older siblings to boarding schools. One was sent out of state, and two others were sent to a northern school up in Unalakleet with other local students.

In the end, I ended up going to Bethel Regional High School. I stayed at the dorm the first year.

The experience for me the first year was good, but my parents were never really involved with my schooling, and my dorm parents were never really involved with my schooling and even when my grades were failing, no one ever came to me to address them so I felt like I got away with school even when I was failing my classes.

The second year, again my parents sent me to Bethel, but this time I stayed with my aunt and uncle. It was a home away from home for me, because they were involved as my parents were which was very encouraging. Like my parents they counseled, encouraged and disciplined me while I was there.

By my Junior year in the fall of 1976, the local high school opened in an old building that once was a community hall. It was a one big room building with limited classroom material. I enrolled in it, but eventually dropped out because it was so poorly supplied with educational material compared to the school I went to in Bethel.

Anyhow, I applied for a job and got a job, which allowed me to pursue my GED. I can say, my secondary education was very different from my older siblings, and I am sure it is different for all those who had to start their secondary education from scratch during those early years.

Through the years, there have been numerous students who have completed their secondary education in Kwigillingok, and there are also parents who chose to send their children to attend high school outside of Kwigillingok. They are now leading productive lives where they are today.

The reason I am so against the proposed cut by the present State of Alaska Governor is because the state has invested into education for rural communities and have made advances so much since the schools were first built in rural Alaska.

The students do not have to leave their community to attend secondary education. They stay connected to their community, their language, their way of life, their culture, their tradition, their family unit and extended families, and most important their parents are involved and supporting them throughout their education.

Yes, I understand that they can pursue higher education as they have done in the past, but when they leave they are mature enough so that they can adjust to their environment and to face the challenges as they go.

I strongly believe that any education facility in the State of Alaska whether they are in rural, hub, or urban communities should have equal education funding, because what we have today in these facilities are future leaders, governors, law makers, representatives, teachers, social workers, receptionists, carpenters, plumbers, pilots, corporate leaders and so many more who will be workforce representatives of the people from various parts of Alaska.

Our school in Kwigillingok, like any rural community school, has limited academic course offerings throughout the school seasons, because some subject areas for classes are not available in a school year. This leaves some students to wait until the next school year to finish up the requirements for graduation.

With technology advances today, some students take online classes to graduate on time. I feel with the budget cuts, these will not be available for some of our students who have fallen behind.

The budget cuts could also affect the staffing and support the students receive during their school year. It could also affect their extra curricular activities that have been boosters to make students succeed.

The education cut will have great impacts in rural Alaska, which the State has invested in over the years in our small schools. We have had positive impacts and positive results. Making an enormous amount of cut to the education system will take away from our future leaders, representatives who will be the support and voice for rural Alaska. Please do no make any cuts Governor Dunleavy!!

I am sure I sound like I am rambling on and on and may not make sense, but I just want to put in my two cents, and oh by golly!! We have federal and state test standards to meet academically, which will also be impacted!!

Quyana for hearing me out.

Lillian Kiunya
Kwigillingok, AK

Please provide back pay for federal workers as soon as possible

Dear Acting Director Weichert

January 28, 2019: Now that the longest ever government shutdown is finally over, we are writing to urge you to provide back pay for federal workers as soon as possible. More than 800,000 federal workers have gone without pay because the government shutdown locked them out of their jobs or required them to work without pay. These workers need to know now when they will finally receive their missed paychecks.

On Friday, January 25th, as President Trump finally announced that he would end this government shutdown, many federal workers missed their second full paycheck. These federal workers have seen bills pile up during the government shutdown, and many of them are currently paying high interest on credit cards or even payday loans to afford basic needs. We have heard from civil servants who will not be able to make their February rent or mortgage payment without their back pay.

We supported the recently enacted Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, which ensured that all federal workers would receive back pay. That law mandates that the federal government shall provide back pay, “at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.” We are pleased to see your recent OPM guidance reaffirming this requirement in the law. And we note that when President Trump announced he would agree to reopen the government, he said, “I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly, or as soon as possible. It will happen fast.”

This government shutdown made it clearer than ever just how dedicated civil servants are to their jobs, and how vital those jobs are to the nation. We ask that you publicize when exactly these civil servants can expect to receive their back pay, and we hope it will arrive very soon.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.

United States Senators: Lisa Murkowski, Benjamin L. Cardin, Chris Van Hollen, Susan M. Collins, Mark R. Warner, Tim Kaine, Ron Wyden, Christopher A. Coons, Dianne Feinstein, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie K. Hirono, Doug Jones, Elizabeth Warren, Bernard Sanders, Brian Schatz, Richard J. Durbin, Sherrod Brown, Jack Reed, Thomas R. Carper, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Kamala D. Harris, Richard Blumenthal, Catherine Cortez Mast, Michael F. Bennet, Tammy Duckworth, Patrick Leahy, Tom Udall, Debbie Stabenow, Angus S. King Jr.

Example: 9075434113

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