Senator Berta Gardner

January 31, 2014

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Serving Midtown, Spenard, and UMed

State Capitol Bldg. Rm 417
Juneau, AK 99801
Call Me: 1-800-331-4930

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A Look at What I’m Working On

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Sen. Gardner quote and photo

          We begin this session of exciting and important work on issues about which you’ve voiced concerns. We face plenty of challenges but I promise you I am ready to take them on with the strength you’ve provided through your voice and support. Here are some of the matters before us now:

•   Repeal the Exit Exam (SB111):  
Recognizing that the High School Graduation Qualify Exam, commonly called the Exit Exam, did not ever achieve the goal of demonstrating mastery of basic high school skills and information, and that it is for many a disincentive or impediment to actual graduation, I join with Sen. Gary Stevens, Kodiak (R), to eliminate a costly, outdated,  and ineffective requirement.

•   Deny pay increases to the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and other high ranking public officials (SB 117) – We believe pay raises to be inappropriate in this time of budget tightening, particularly when we are expecting schools and children to do more with less.

•   Rescind the $20 million funding for the Anchorage U-Med District Northern Access project (SB 130) – Not only is the project wildly unpopular in the surrounding neighborhoods as evidenced by multiple community council resolutions, but indications are that the allocation is inadequate to do that job right.   I believe we should finish what’s already started (Engineering buildings, anyone?) before beginning such costly and unpopular projects as this road.

•   Updating human rights legislation to include prohibiting housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  (SB131) Discrimination threatens the rights and privileges of everyone.

•   We are embarked on an effort to both strengthen and protect public education across Alaska.  As a start, I am proposing to update and inflation-proofing school operating funds, called the Base Student Allocation, (SB147) There are those who say, quite rightly, that throwing money at something does not fix problems.  Our response is that we must provide resources needed to do the job we require of schools.  At the same time, we are reviewing a host of policy changes with an eye to improving efficiencies and providing more paths for student success. 

•   Lastly, but perhaps most importantly to me, we are working to defeat SJR9, the effort to amend the constitution to allow using public funds for private schools.  Recognizing that in every debate, both sides have some truth, I rarely decide to be implacable about an issue.  On this matter, however, I believe public education, a cornerstone of democracy, is under threat, and I will do everything I can to defeat the effort.

           These are a few of the issues we are working on right now.  Thank you for your continued interest.  

          I’m Berta and I’m still listening,

signed: Berta

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