Sen. Murkowski eNewsletter 11/07/08

Senator Murkowski to hold Senate field hearing in Anchorage on high school graduation rates

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, I will chair a field hearing in Anchorage  next Saturday, (Nov. 15) to explore what the federal government can do to help improve high school graduation rates and postsecondary success in Alaska and nationwide.

Alaska has one of the worst high school graduation rates in the nation. Compounding this problem, too many students—whether they’ve graduated from high school or not—do not complete college or job training.  Getting and keeping a good job depends on having a solid preparation—a high school diploma followed by career training or a college degree.  High dropout rates hurt our youth, limit Alaska’s ability to develop its economy and limit our nation’s ability to compete on the world stage.

The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. at the Anchorage School District Education Center, School Board Meeting Room (first floor), 5530 East Northern Lights Boulevard.

Senator Murkowski participates in AFN week events

Participation in the annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention is a highlight of my year. In addition to my annual AFN Convention speech, I participated in a statewide summit on rural energy issues, visited with finalists in the Alaska Marketplace competition, cheered our Native veterans on at the opening ceremony and shopped at the Arts and Crafts Fair. The sudden and unprecedented rise in energy costs last summer, and its implications for the future of our villages, was the key issue at this year’s convention. It was also the focus of my address to the AFN Convention.  In Washington I’ve been working on varied solutions to reduce energy costs in the short term and the long term. These include boosting funding for LIHEAP, providing federal support for energy development on Native lands and working to bring alternative and renewable energy to rural Alaska. Under Julie Kitka’s leadership the AFN has been developing new ideas to improve the village economies for the past several years. The Alaska Marketplace competition stimulates entrepreneurship in rural Alaska by providing seed capital to turn Alaska’s best ideas into viable businesses. Thirteen Alaskans, selected from 41 finalists, received awards ranging from $1,000 to $46,000 to develop their ideas at this year’s AFN Convention. You can read more about the winners at www.alaskamarketplace.org.

Senator Murkowski with Dacho Alexander, Fort Yukon. Alexander received a $30,000 grant to develop Porcupine River Timber, an enterprise which uses local timber to build and heat energy efficient homes in the Gwich’in Interior Alaska villages.

Senator Murkowski with Barbara Ramos, Bethel. Barbara received the top award for “A Cut Above Quilting” which uses computer technology to help traditional quilters increase their output. Quilting is a popular home based business in Bethel and an important source of cash in the area.

Senator Murkowski congratulates education and labor staffer Karen McCarthy

I wanted to recognize and congratulate Karen McCarthy, my education and labor staffer, who has been honored by two Alaska education groups.

The Alaska Association of Secondary School Principals recently presented its “Distinguished Service Award” to Karen and in February, the Alaska Head Start Association will recognize Karen’s efforts with its “Community Advocate of the Year” award.  Both awards recognize Karen’s efforts to keep Alaska's educators aware of and involved in important federal issues, funding opportunities and research. I am proud to have such a dedicated Alaskan on my staff. 

Senator Murkowski travels Alaska highway system and visits with students

During the October recess, I traveled from Valdez to Fairbanks along the Richardson, Glenn and Parks Highways.  I took the opportunity to stop in and visit with students at Valdez H.S., Kenny Lake School, Copper Center School, Glennallen School, Cantwell School, Tri-Valley School in Healy and Anderson School.

Alaska's educators are doing a great job, often under challenging conditions. I look forward to continuing my work on education legislation as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee next year. Specifically, I look forward to incorporating provisions of a bill I will reintroduce, the School Accountability Improvements Act, into NCLB. I will also continue to defend Alaska Native Educational Equity and other programs that benefit Alaska students, advocate for Alaska's Head Start programs and work with the state to ensure that students have the necessary skills to be competitive in the 21st Century.

Senator Murkowski and students from Copper Center School.

Students at Kenny Lake School teach Senator Murkowski sign language.

Senator Murkowski speaks to Denali Borough Superintendent Kim Langton about challenges facing Alaska’s small schools.

Travels Continued…

My recent road trip through Alaska included a stop in Nenana, where I had the opportunity to meet with community leaders to discuss their local issues.  City Council members, veterans, school officials and Native leaders talked about flood relief, energy prices, development of the gas field, schools and youth and Veteran services. 

Continuing on to Fairbanks I was delighted to join with six generations of Hannah Solomon’s family as they wished her a Happy 100th Birthday at a potlatch in her honor, and I also visited with students at Randy Smith Middle School and welcomed international students at a reception at UAF.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Assistant Professor Lilly Dong,  Jia Wu and other students and faculty from China and Taiwan at a UAF reception sponsored by the Chinese Student and Scholar Association.

I talked with Nenana School Superintendant Eric Gebhart and many community leaders about their concerns during a town hall meeting in Nenana.

I realized it really is a small world when I met Nina Minano at the town hall meeting in Nenana.  She is the mother of my son’s former teacher.

I was impressed by the creative fund raiser put on by the music students of Randy Smith Middle School.  They were really rocking at their “Rock A thon” to raise money for their music department.

Further Travels…

While in Kenai, I attended a check presentation to Frontier Community Services of Soldotna from USDA Rural Development for construction of a new Frontier Community Services administration building.  Frontier focuses on the health and well-being of residents of the Kenai Peninsula.

I also presented an award to David Kingsland, Principal of the William H. Seward Elementary School, on the recent recognition of Seward as a National Blue Ribbon School, one of only two such recognized schools in Alaska.

I also got to read to children at the Kenai Library during their weekly story-time.

A visit to Ketchikan

This next photo is one of my favorites. I attended the Kayhi Senior Carnival, and I’m seen here tossing a rubber chicken in a pot at the “Chef’s Chicken Chucker.” For the record, I got a chicken in the pot on my third try.

Hall Anderson/Ketchikan Daily News photo

IRS seeks to return more than $1 million in undeliverable refunds and economic stimulus payments to Alaska taxpayers

The Internal Revenue Service says it is looking for Alaska taxpayers who are missing 977 economic stimulus checks totaling more than $600,000 and 411 regular refund checks totaling more than $400,000 that were returned by the U.S. Postal Service due to mailing address errors. The IRS says all a taxpayer has to do is update his or her address once, and the IRS will then send out all checks due. The IRS says that taxpayers who may be due a stimulus check need to update their addresses with the agency by Nov. 28,2008. By law, economic stimulus checks must be sent out by Dec. 31. The undeliverable economic stimulus checks for Alaska taxpayers average $622.

The “Where’s My Stimulus Payment?" tool on IRS.gov is the quickest and easiest way for a taxpayer to check the status of a stimulus check and receive instructions on how to update his or her address. Taxpayers without internet access should call 1-866-234-2942.