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Monday, May 18, 2020

Public Education Overview


Editor's Note: Lina Gabata has written the following story about her experience as a 44 year teacher in a 3rd World country. I have found her experience and insights fascinating and look forward to publishing future stories.

(2020©donnliston.com) 

Have you ever had a glimpse of what is life in the 3rd World Economic Country? Can you imagine how poverty envelops most families there?

 

Allow me first to tell you about it and the hope we as Filipino people share in education of our children.

 

A Philippine Folk Song acknowledges that Planting Rice is Never Fun. I say this to stir your imagination on the hardships that farmers undergo to produce the food we serve on the table in our island country:

Planting rice is never fun

Bend from morn ‘till the set of sun

Cannot stand and cannot sit

Cannot rest for a little bit . . .

 

https://filipinofolksongsatbp.blogspot.com/2011/01/filipino-folk-song-rice-planting-lyrics.html

 

For people living in a First World economic country, readers of Mr. Liston’s blog may find it difficult to picture our Third World hardships. Google has reference to this Philippine folk song illustrated in pictures. A visit there will help readers realize the difficulties farmers experience in producing the food we eat. Rice is a staple food in our culture.

 

My point is this: Rice will not grow without our human touch. Farmers must wade in muddy fields, bending to plant through the entire day. After planting, farmers must spend most of their times under the heat of the sun to weed and protect the plants from pests until the grains can go through the growing and ripening process before harvest.

 

My own family members are mostly hands-on farmers. Nobody among us is exempted from working the farm.

 

It was this life of hardship that motivated me as a young woman to pursue higher education. I promised myself that I will make a difference in my life by making a difference in other’s lives. I determined I will go back to the farm not as a laborer--who tools in the muddy fields, plants seeds, and becomes sunburned under the heat of the sun all the days of my life. I aspired to impact future generations!

 

Gaining higher education is not easy for poor Filipinos. It takes cooperation between parents and children. Children must value every cent their parents spend in sending them to school. Children also must be patient, diligent and persevering in walking the sometimes long distances to reach school and return home after a day of learning.

 

As a child during my primary years, I walked a kilometre through tall grasses to reach my school. Learning occurred over a whole day session; I brought my lunch of rice and dried fish. I relied on the fruits I picked from trees along my way for snacks.

 

After my primary years I left my family in the village and went to stay with my grandparents in another town at age 12 to continue my secondary program. There were no public high schools so I enrolled in a private school managed by Catholic nuns. There I had to wake up so early, and walk three kilometres to school and return the same distance in the afternoon. We had no means of transportation; we relied on the strength of our feet to bring us to school and back home. After four years, I successfully graduated from high school, in 1966 at age 16.

 

This was the deciding moment for what career to seek. I wanted to be a pharmacist but poverty hindered my ambition because my parents can only afford to spend for a teaching course. I did not complain because I knew this will liberate me from hardships of a farm life. I never forgot a promise I made to myself that I will make a difference in my life. That I will go home as a professional teacher!

 

Career Choices Determined My Future

 

I enrolled in college at one of the prestigious schools run by the Jesuits in 1966. It was my first time to set my feet in the city. I was so naive of the city life! I had a terrible culture shock in my new environment. I had to cope with any circumstance to fulfill my dreams. I never lost confidence on myself. I stayed firm in meeting the standard.

 

I took up teaching Mathematics because I wanted to be competitive in finding a job after graduation. Mathematics is the doorway to business and technology. After four more years of study, in 1970 I finally graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education (BSE) majoring in Mathematics from Ateneo De Davao University, Davao City, Philippines. I was proud I finally made it! My parents were proud of me, too!

 

Later I gained my Master’s Degree in Education from University of Caloocan City, Manila

 

But that was only the beginning. As a new teacher I had many things yet to learn in my craft. Over the past four decades as a teacher I never stopped learning new things every day. This was not the same as doing the same task over and over in muddy fields. This required preparation, presentation, classroom management, fair assignments and appropriate grades for my students. I wanted to provide lifelong skills for students facing a Third World Economy and strong man government.

 

Being a teacher has made a tremendous difference in my life, which I hope to share with readers of this blog in future columns.

 

My favorite saying is: If you aim high, you will not give failure a chance.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Eaglexit's New Validation

Eaglexit Report Moves The Process Forward

(2020©donnliston.com)

The latest financial study is in. It brings good news to the communities of Chugiak, Birchwood, Eagle River, Eklutna and Hiland Road in the goal to form their own local government. The study, conducted by Northern Economics, shows there is more than adequate tax base for a new city to be born.

 

Old timers saying: “Anchorage is 50 miles from Alaska.”

It is not easy to be in charge of your own destiny; many people seemingly float through life and let natural events determine where they end up. Persons born into poverty may find the forces of a cruel world unbearable, put still they continue to produce offspring who must endure the same circumstances in their lives. By contrast, persons born into wealth may easily take their bounty for granted.

This is the fourth attempt by the people of Assembly District 2 (AD2) to form a local government. They say the recently released first part of a study considering economic possibilities for doing that are encouraging.

 They also say smaller governments are more efficient.

 This report says there is a good foundation for establishing a local city; enough taxes available to provide for our community government needs, but not necessarily creating more taxes, explained Eaglexit spokesman, Dan Kendall. There are three parts to the first financial study and this is the first part.

 Dan can be contacted at: kendall.eaglexit@gmail.com

 https://www.eaglexit.com/

Please read on for more information covering our communities latest efforts to become free.

Statehood advocates, who created the Alaska Constitution in Fairbanks during the winter of 1955-56, wanted to take charge of our state’s destiny as had the founders of the United States of America during the 1770s. As a result, our state constitution has a number of enlightened provisions, including:


Section 1. Inherent Rights

 

This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry; that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State.

 

Section 2. Source of Government

 

All political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole.

 

These are core principles of our Alaska government. These are not empty promises. Inherent in them is the responsibility of every one of us to monitor and participate in promoting representative government at the local level.

Another core principle of our constitution is simplicity in governmental structure. The borough was thought of as a progressive, flexible variation of the traditional county by the founders, according to Gordon Harrison, who wrote the Legislative Affairs Agency book Alaska’s Constitution; a citizen’s guide.

We have only two forms of local government under the constitution, borough and city.

Harrison explained: (The delegates) realized that the vast differences across Alaska—differences in population distribution, concentration of taxable wealth, tradition and experience with local self-government, and so on—would require variations of the city and borough government. Thus Article X leaves to the legislature the task of giving specific content to the basic (if not to say abstract) constitutional scheme of borough and city government.1


Section 1. Purpose and Construction

The purpose of this article is to provide for maximum local self-government with a minimum of local government units, and to prevent duplication of tax-levying jurisdictions. A liberal construction shall be given to the powers of local government units.

This section provides a strong presumption in favor of local government in Alaska. When oil companies sued on numerous grounds to block formation of the North Slope Borough, the Alaska Supreme Court was bound by the constitution to uphold the formation of new boroughs whenever the requirements for incorporation have been minimally met (Mobil Oil Corporation v. Local Boundary Commission, 518 P.2d 92, 1974).

The Alaska Constitution encourages formation of new boroughs. Arguments offered against detachment of AD2 usually circulate around the cost of replicating what is being done by the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA), not over whether it is a good idea to have government closer to the people being governed.

Eaglexit’s new Milestone

A year ago I wrote for Must Read Alaska about the prospect of Eagle River and neighborhoods north within the Municipality of Anchorage detaching from the over-extended MOA: Is Eagle River Ready for a Divorce?, https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2019/05/is-eagle-river-ready-for-divorce.html

As a resident of Eagle River who has lived many years in one or another part of Anchorage, I found this idea novel.

 Kind of like a thinking about a divorce while you can still talk to each other,” I wrote.

 In that story and another in November, Eaglexit Overview https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2019/09/eaglexitoverview-whatis-eaglexit-all.html I detailed the fiasco when Eagle River previously pulled out of the MOA, and what has happened since as the local government has become ever larger and unresponsive to the kind of neighborhoods from JBER north, compared to those in the Anchorage bowl. In 2007 the Muni had commissioned a study that determined that the MOA would experience little to no significant economic hardship as a result of detachment and that there may even be a reduction in costs for the Muni from shedding this portion.

I wrote then: This is because some budget categories for 300,000 people will likely not be shared with a municipality of 50,000.

Michael Tavoliero, expanded in that interview on the nature of AD2, with that population of about 50,000 people generating an estimated $57.5 million in annual property taxes.

With the benefit of hindsight since unification, many community leaders say the deal hasn’t been what it was cracked up to be and residents will be better served by forming a new local government for the this area. The recently released Phase 1 analysis study conducted by Northern Economics, Inc. provides support for the idea of independence by evaluating income expectations. General government revenues include taxes on real property, personal property, motor vehicle registration, fuel products, motor vehicle rentals, hotels and motels, tobacco, and marijuana as well as non-tax sources such as charges for services, grants, and other entitlements. Annual revenues derived from Assembly District 2 (AD2) could range from $62.2 million to $66.4 million, representing between 11.8 and 12.6 percent of total current MOA general government revenues.

 AD2 Portion of Overall Muni Reveues

 General government and school district revenues are detailed with 2019 data from the MOA’s 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) combined with individual 2018 tax summary reports. 

These are admittedly good times numbers and the study team at Northern Economics states in this report that growth potential for our region of the MOA is ahead of other areas. Revenues are expected to be flat or slightly down due to overall state economic conditions at this time and the loss of Alaskan jobs causing out-migration. However, the study speculates both revenues and costs may be expected to increase in years ahead.

These estimates were all made prior to the economically debilitating Cronavirus pandemic, but MOA 2018 Revenues are detailed in this chart. 

The report details where these revenues come from with individual charts listing dollar amounts by category documenting both taxable values and past Revenue provided. It also reveals that Anchorage drivers have paid $13,707,460.50 for motor fuel (gasoline or diesel) during the 12-month period from March 2018 (when the tax went into effect) through February, 2019.

Additionally, while the 2019 Anchorage School District property tax rate for both real and personal property was 7.16 mills across all tax districts, the estimated maximum rate AD2 would be allowed to levy is 5.91 mills; a savings for local property owners having to support fewer area schools.

 18 schools draw student populations exclusively from AD2. The following chart estimates Average Daily Membership (ADM) for those as well as three additional East Anchorage schools having overlapping boundaries. The resulting school budget, inclusive of local, state and federal formula funds, are estimated to be between $71.8 to $95.8 million.

The report documents a range of possibilities for additional income. As local community activists examine the pros and cons of detaching from the MOA, the goal is more efficient and representative local government. Some believe this report reinforces the possibilities they have long known to exist.

 References:

 

1Alaska’s Constitution; a Citizen’s Guide, 5th Edition, p 165.

http://akleg.gov/docs/pdf/citizens_guide.pdf


Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Before China Virus, We Were Doing Better...


Who Can Afford to Live in Alaska?
(2020©donnliston.com)

This large book was given to every Alaska Legislator during the 30th
Session in 2018 by Gov. Bill Walker, who personally inscribed a
message of hope through partnering with Communist China for
resource development. 
Alaska has always had a tenuous economy, buffeted by winds of boom and bust. Most economic winds are generated by capacity for natural resource extraction. And, for more than 40 years, income from any other industry has been a bonus.

This fragile economic reality means government sector employees have security while private sector companies pay for government. By the end of 2019 the Alaska economy had continued to slide--after hitting a patch of black ice--when the AFL-CIO and Alaska Dispatch News in 2014 convinced enough voters to elect Bill Walker as governor.1  Trends toward another bust were obvious then--even given our $66 Billion Permanent Fund--before the Chinese virus which has now paralyzed the world in early 2020.

The Chinese, who Gov. Walker wanted to partner with to build an Alaska gas line, have put all Americans into a fine kettle of fish.

Some State workers at the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development (AKLWD) have traditionally performed a valuable service monitoring essential population and economic data for publication in a monthly Trends magazine, out of Juneau. I have been to the workplace cubicles--in a building dubbed the Plywood Palace--where state employees collect data under the guidance of professional economists, and predict the future of Alaska based on past trends using computer modeling projections.

In January they established we weren’t doing so hot, nor was the Alaska economy projected to do much better in the coming year.

Alaska added about 1,600 jobs in 2019 after losing more than 11,000 during the recession of the prior three years, reported state employee Karinne Wiebold in the January Trends. We forecast that trend will continue this year, but at a slower rate of 0.3 percent, or about 1,100 new jobs.

Wiebold continued: While most industries’ growth will be tepid, record anticipated numbers of cruise ship visitors and the first wave of new military personnel at Eielson Air Force Base in the interior will be bright spots in 2020.

Outside economic forces were the hope for 2020.

Wiebold continued: Growth is the economic default. Without significant counter-pressure, growth is the default economic setting. Absent a major shock, Alaska will keep adding jobs in 2020, but a few conditions will keep recovery sluggish.2

At this writing it in May and we know there has been a “major shock.”

Here is where we were economically at conclusion of our 60th year as a state:


Private employment over Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s first year had inched up by 1,600 employees to 329,300. Numbers of local, state and federal government workers had been reduced by about 400, to 80,100 total.

Those people who were here to get rich--in the now 43 year oil boom--have mostly gone home; those of us who will continue to remain through winter after winter are again maximizing our production during long summer days in preparation for a glorious future. We know the politicians we elect in districts around the state go to backwater Juneau and work for the special interests, but that’s the price we have accepted for low population and the considerable personal freedoms we enjoy.

So, if Alaskans deserve better we must know the facts about our economic potential.

In February the AKLWD team of Sara Whitney and Liz Brooks reported on Alaska Population Trends: Alaska’s population decreased 0.4 percent from July 2018 to July 2019, our new estimates show. The biggest drivers were a decline in the number of people moving to Alaska and fewer births.

Fewer than 10,000 Alaska babies were born last year.
  
Further: While this was the third straight year of overall population loss, the declines have been small. Over those three years, Alaska’s population fell by a total of 1.2 percent. The state’s 2019 population of 731,007 is about 8,600 below the peak of 739,649 people in 2016 (coincidentally the middle of Bill Walker’s single term as governor3)

How does that stack up with our historic population trends?

 While 2019’s population decline was mainly a continuation of longer-term trends such as ongoing migration losses and population aging, the sharp drop in births was a notable change. The number of births in Alaska has fallen 15 percent over the last three years.


Population decline has happened on two previous occasions since statehood.



According to the same February Trends publication:  Alaska’s population decreased, as more people left Alaska than moved in for a seventh straight year. Net migration — in-movers minus out-movers — was -8,300 in 2019, similar to the prior years’ losses.

As of 2019, the state has lost more people to net migration over this seven-year stretch than during the deep recession and housing collapse of the 1980s, although that loss was shorter and steeper. Alaska lost 44,081 people to net migration over four years during the ‘80s, and the current streak’s net loss is 45,828.

Speculation that more people were leaving the state was common in recent years, but while it might seem counter-intuitive, the opposite is true. Fewer people left Alaska last year than we’ve seen since 2011 — but drastically fewer moved to the state than is typical.

Perhaps staying home and watching Alaska reality television is better than coming here when you know Alaska's economy is in decline.

In March the DOLWD Trends publication ran a story declaring Total Wages up 4.7% in third quarter.

Growth is from same quarter in 2018; average wages are also up

By DAN ROBINSON

Alaska employers paid $4.9 billion in wages during the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 4.7 percent from the same quarter the year before. Private sector wages grew 5.4 percent over the year and government wages increased 2.5 percent.

In Alaska’s seasonal economy, wages and job levels are at their highest levels in the third quarter of each year, making third quarter data especially relevant to assessing the state’s economic direction.

Oil, seafood processing lead wage growth

Oil and gas wages rose from $309.3 million to $335.5 million, an increase of 8.5 percent. Seafood processing wages grew from $199.3 million to nearly $228 million, a jump of 14.4 percent.

Alaska’s large leisure and hospitality sector, which includes many tourism-related companies, paid out 4.7 percent more in third quarter wages in 2019, totaling $302.6 million. Health care wages continued a long stretch of growth as well, increasing 4.8 percent to $594.7 million.  

This chart shows where we were headed:




Given what you are trained to do, and where you live in Alaska, this chart tells whether you can afford to live here.

In April everything changed. The DOLWD Research and Analysis Staff generated a Trends publication speculating on economic possibilities with short-, medium- and long-term impact horizons. This is new black ice: Normally, Alaska employers would pay out more than $1 billion in private sector wages in April and even more in May. There’s little doubt that wages will fall by hundreds of millions of dollars over the short-term period due to virus-related shutdowns and efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Service industries have been hit hard and Alaska residents who lived paycheck-to-paycheck are trapped. State and local government workers are not losing their jobs but they can see the tsunami wave has headed out leaving ocean bottom exposed and know it will be coming back with a vengeance.

From the Trends report: State and federal legislation has already been passed to help fill gaps in the economy and household budgets caused by lost wages. The objective is to quickly get money to those who have had to absorb the biggest initial losses and to help shore up the economy during the next few months.

State legislation has extended eligibility for unemployment benefits to people who had to stop working due to COVID-19. It also removed the requirement that people actively seek work to receive benefits, raised the additional dependent allowance from $24 a week per dependent to $75 a week, and removed the limit on the number of dependents for which a claimant can receive the allowance. Normally, the maximum is three.

The state legislation, which will be in effect until April of 2021, also waives the normal waiting period for benefits and applies to all claims filed after March 1.

The result has been increased claims for unemployment

Our economy has returned to where it was before statehood; Alaska is rich but Alaskans are reduced to doing each other’s laundry with an expectation our elected legislators will not only refuse to abide by the law to provide statutory Permanent Fund Dividend payments, but also will find a way to tax producers if politically possible. The Permanent Fund is now in decline and Alaskans are invited to apply for unemployment benefits while they are forced to shelter in place.

For those who are able, it’s time to make babies.


References:

1It’s official: Walker-Mallott will take on Parnell-Sullivan in bid for Alaska governor, Alaska Dispatch News, September 2, 2014

2Alaska Department of Labor: Alaska Economic Trends, January 2020

3Group gathers in downtown Anchorage to begin efforts at recalling Alaska Gov. Walker over slashed PFD, Alaska Dispatch News, July 12, 2016

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