We don't need no stinkin' edumacation
July 5, 2019 6:05 AM   Subscribe

 
God, how is the line item veto even a thing? Seems like it cripples the ability of the legislature to horse trade and compromise if arbitrary parts of a bill can be thrown out later, rather than accepted or rejected whole.
posted by jcreigh at 6:24 AM on July 5 [5 favorites]


It's a sad, stupid move, of course--not having a functional state university seems like admitting that giving your state statehood status might have been a mistake--but Dunleavy campaigned on giving the people a $3000 oil dividend, no matter what--this, in the face of oil prices that seem unlikely to ever return to the heights of the aughts--and, per Mencken, democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. One of the things that I got from Sarah Palin's participation in the '08 presidential race was finding out more about Alaska than I'd probably learned in the rest of my life, and someone said that Palin's higher education pattern--going to a variety of schools in the Lower 48--wasn't uncommon for Alaskans, a kind of northern rumspringa for them, if you will. Maybe they think that that's what they'll do, for the sake of the equivalent of a slightly higher tax return (the dividend was apparently already $1600).
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 AM on July 5 [11 favorites]


Cut education...hand out oil money
posted by robbyrobs at 6:28 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


A few thoughts from me, someone who researches higher ed and its future:

1. This isn't a 41% budget cut. It's a 41% cut to state appropriations for the University of Alaska system. UA gets around 40% of its funding from the state (unusually high for today's American "public" universities*), the remaining 60% coming from tuition, grants, etc. So they actual budget cut here is around 16%. Which is still awful.

2. As Halloween Jack observes, one of the drivers for this decision is the drop in oil prices, which are key to the state's revenues. Note that Dunleavy cut other state services as well.

3. I don't think this is a one-time cut. It feels more like an effort to redesign Alaskan higher ed.
Here's how the governor speaks of it:
Dunleavy… told reporters he has faith in university leaders but said he doesn’t think the university system “can be all things to all people. And I think that’s, generally speaking, the state of Alaska. We can’t continue to be all things for all people...”
“ I believe that they can turn the university into a smaller, leaner, but still very, very positive and productive university here in the northern hemisphere.”

To me that feels like a strategic shift away from the idea of a university (universal curriculum, research across the board) and towards something narrower, through lopping off functions and departments.

4. A key step here is a declaration of financial exigency. Once declared, this gives university leaders more freedom to cut tenured faculty.

5. When universities cut academics, they often make arrangements for students to finish their courses of study. According to a UA FAQ, that might not work in this case: "The university will make reasonable efforts to ensure completion of programs. However, that may not always be possible."

6. There are some rare teaching and research components within the UA system. For example,
UAF has a world-class program in Alaska Native languages (there are 20), and may be the only uni in the world that teaches many of them. The UAF geophysical institute has studied climate change in the Arctic for 50+ years.

7. For UA students, staff, and faculty, this is a disaster.

*American states across the board have steadily decreased funding to public universities since the mid-1980s, even as they sought to increase the number of residents getting post-secondary education. One excellent source on this is Chris Newfield's The Great Mistake.
posted by doctornemo at 6:54 AM on July 5 [52 favorites]


Dunleavy also cut the budget of the Alaska Supreme Court in retaliation for the court upholding the constitutionality of abortion, in case anyone was thinking this was about fiscal belt-tightening rather than an attack on the Republican Party's perceived enemies.
posted by theodolite at 7:10 AM on July 5 [40 favorites]


For my entire adult life, all political discussion has centered around what we can and cannot afford.

If Capitalism is so awesome, why are we always broke?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:30 AM on July 5 [115 favorites]


I work at UAF. This is totally terrifying, for myself, for my colleagues, and for the future of the state. The cuts come after 5 years of significant cuts—the state allocation in 2015 was $378M, and we were *hoping* for $317M this year.

If students have to go Outside to be able to access college, they’re not likely to come back. The economy in Fairbanks will crash. I’m not likely to be able to sell my house, even if I can find a new job out of state. And the sheer number of folks with good-paying, steady jobs who will have to leave the state if the vetoes stand, will likely send the state into an even deeper recession.

Dunleavy did not run on a platform of destroying the university. He didn’t run on much of a platform at all, except for “full PFD”. He certainly didn’t run on a platform of “choose between a full PFD or a functioning state economy and university” although many are claiming now that that’s what he did.

The rumor I’ve heard is we’re still 6 legislators short. And they only have 5 days to override the veto, starting Monday.

The whole state is on fire, literally and figuratively. It’s terrible.

I’m supposed to be teaching an online class for the first time this fall, which I need to prep in the next month, and ... I don’t know if we’ll be running it. I’m a tenured full professor, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have a job this fall...but I’m not certain. And that’s crazy.

It’s so maddening. We have a world-class university, and Dunleavy wants to destroy it. I can’t send my kid to school for $3000, and i certainly can’t get her a functioning university for $3000. And $3000 isn’t going to help me much if I don’t have a job. It won’t even pay the movers.

Keep in mind, the budget passed by the legislature has a lot of cuts and a lot of compromises. It was a true bipartisan budget. But requiring a 3/4 vote to override these spiteful and irrational cuts...is a huge bar.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:35 AM on July 5 [74 favorites]


“ I believe that they can turn the university into a smaller, leaner, but still very, very positive and productive university here in the northern hemisphere.”
Where does he think the "northern hemisphere" is? Might as well have said "here on the Earth." Politicians are so good at saying nothing at great length, while slipping the blade in.
If Capitalism is so awesome, why are we always broke?
If there is still snow, how can there be global warming? It would be spiffy bumpkins to live in a world without limited resources, but I don't really see that happening, and blaming that on capitalism seems like ... well, I don't know, something really amusing that I'm not clever enough to think of.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:49 AM on July 5 [3 favorites]


@doctornemo Do you know if these measures being taken in Alaska are a part of the ALEC playbook? Might we see them begin to root elsewhere? I think that your comment "A key step here is a declaration of financial exigency. Once declared, this gives university leaders more freedom to cut tenured faculty." illuminates the whole game. This is a tool that ALEC would use, in my opinion.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:14 AM on July 5 [6 favorites]


If Capitalism is so awesome, why are we always broke?

There is no world in which we're not going to be arguing how to apportion limited resources among unlimited wants. Period. Anything else is fantasy—pleasant fantasy, perhaps, but fantasy.

Any political system that hides this essential resource distribution problem from its participants is just punting on the whole issue, and is probably "solving" it in a really craptastic way.

Oddly, this is one of the usual criticisms of market capitalism as a political system: that it's relatively easy for politicians to be lazy, refuse to make the hard decisions in favor of "letting the market decide", and then wash their hands of the totally predictable, wealth-concentrating results.

Constant squabbling between various factions for resources is not, in and of itself, a sign that anything is broken with the system. How those resources are actually being distributed, on the other hand? That sure can be.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:27 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


It would be spiffy bumpkins to live in a world without limited resources, but I don't really see that happening, and blaming that on capitalism seems like .

Why is it called the USS "Nimitz" and not, say, the USS "CenturyLink" ? Why is there always money in the banana stand for dropping freedom bombs on Afghani weddings, but there is never any money to fund school lunches ? Or even schools ?

Maybe - and I'm just spitballing here - the ability of capitalism to allocate scarce resources sucks and it otherwise lacks the inherent superiority to other systems we have long been told it possesses.

I'm just asking questions.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:29 AM on July 5 [42 favorites]


Lots of detail here and surprise! The Kochs are involved.

Although a bipartisan, legislative majority cobbled together a budget that was tolerable by comparison, the governor and his enablers indicated all along that he would veto everything into the sun. Alaskans for Prosperity — the local franchise of the Koch Americans for Prosperity death cult — organized an astroturf campaign in which “concerned citizens” mailed boxes of red markers and form letters to the governor’s office. Arduin herself began showing up at a local bar trivia night with a crew of supplicants who named their team “The Red Pens,” an open “fuck you” to the other patrons that night whose community the governor’s vetoes would eventually threaten. Although hundreds of concerned Alaskans have turned out for public hearings in March to condemn the budget proposals, Gov. Dunleavy has repeatedly insisted — in Trumpian fashion — that he has been hearing nothing but support from hard-working Alaskans who happen not to have the time to show up and offer their testimony on the record. Civic engagement, apparently, is for the lazy.
posted by emjaybee at 8:31 AM on July 5 [13 favorites]


If Capitalism is so awesome, why are we always broke?

Not everyone is broke. Just you and everyone you know in the non billionaire class.
posted by benzenedream at 9:12 AM on July 5 [3 favorites]


So, the Kochs may think they are owning those know-it-all tweedy ivory tower libs, but at my institution, there are twice as many staff as faculty. We're just trying to live our middle class lives answering phones and fixing computers and landscaping the grounds and it's just a constant message from the state that the jobs we perform every day aren't "real" jobs and us being unemployed is somehow a public good.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:14 AM on July 5 [18 favorites]


This sounds a lot like Act 10, which broke the Wisconsin state unions and robbed Wisocnsin schools in a somewhat similar way.
posted by Slinga at 9:20 AM on July 5 [7 favorites]


Maybe they think that [going to college out of state is] what they'll do, for the sake of the equivalent of a slightly higher tax return (the dividend was apparently already $1600).

Are parents of school-age kids a trivial constituency in Alaska? Out-of-state education means out-of-state tuition, which amounts to a lot more than an measly extra $1400 dividend (here are the current figures for resident and nonresident tuition at U of A Anchorage). I mean, that dividend might be enough to pay for travel costs to an out-of-state school. Is this added expense for parents part of the conversation at all?

And it always gets me how something like a factory closing is a major political haymaker where a politician will be presented as a hero for diverting funds to convince the employer to keep the factory open, while eliminating a similar or larger number of jobs for federal workers or teachers or associated staff is treated as totally laudable fat-cutting about which only elitists complain.
posted by trig at 9:20 AM on July 5 [9 favorites]


So, the Kochs may think they are owning those know-it-all tweedy ivory tower libs, but at my institution, there are twice as many staff as faculty. We're just trying to live our middle class lives answering phones and fixing computers and landscaping the grounds and it's just a constant message from the state that the jobs we perform every day aren't "real" jobs and us being unemployed is somehow a public good.
I mean, the Kochs have even more contempt for us than they do for the profs. The Kochs are not salt-of-the-earth anti-intellectuals who want to stick it to the elite on behalf of the common man. The Kochs think that state universities are superfluous, because anyone worth anything goes to/ teaches at MIT or Harvard. The Kochs don't care about anyone who answers phones or fixes computers, because they care about the people they meet at fancy fundraisers for the Manhattan arts institutions that enjoy their patronage.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:36 AM on July 5 [16 favorites]


in case anyone was thinking this was about fiscal belt-tightening rather than an attack on the Republican Party's perceived enemies

Does anyone still think anything they do is for the former rather than the latter?
posted by Reyturner at 9:47 AM on July 5 [3 favorites]


I mentioned Chris Newfield up above. Here's his post on Alaska, with a key role for Donna Arduin.

zerobyproxy, I think ALEC is doing this. I'll look into it for confirmation.

Financial exigency predates ALEC, though. It's a general "break glass in case of impending doom" sign right over the ax.

Short of financial exigency, there are other options for cutting faculty and staff. For years I've been observing "queen sacrifices." The metaphor's from chess, describing a desperate move to give up the most powerful piece in the pursuit of victory. I applied it to American colleges and universities, where tenured faculty are (nominally) the most important piece on the board, having tenure, some level of faculty governance, a central cultural role, etc. So I track when campuses get rid of tenured and tenure-track professors. The most popular way of making the sacrifice short of declaring financial exigency is to weaken or delete academic programs. For example, a small college could determine it doesn't need a classical studies unit any more, and thereby shows the one or two classicists the door. Typically schools argue for this based on enrollment (pick on the majors w/fewest students) or after an academic prioritization exercise.
posted by doctornemo at 10:30 AM on July 5 [11 favorites]


I live in a rural region where, except for a couple of smallish cities buoyed up by colleges, population has been in decline for decades. Young people leave to seek education and job opportunities, and they don't come back. It's been devastating to the economy and the communities of the region. In our case, this was mostly imposed by external forces of globalization, which closed factories, drove companies out of business, and decimated (and continues to decimate) the farm economy.

It is baffling and distressing to watch Alaska make this choice, knowing full well that it may kick off this same downward spiral. I'd have a hard time thinking of a more targeted way to eliminate jobs and drive young people away. It's especially depressing to realize that, once folks have lost hope in their community being able to provide a good future for their kids, they become easy marks for Trumpist populism.
posted by ourobouros at 10:59 AM on July 5 [6 favorites]


If Capitalism is so awesome, why are we always broke?
The purpose of a system is what it does (posiwid).
posted by j_curiouser at 11:00 AM on July 5 [4 favorites]


OK, it's time to lock up the Kochs and all their Republican bootlickers. Let them have all the water they can afford, but no food. Let them figure out how to become smaller, leaner, but still very, very positive and productive citizens. I'm sure they can do it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:06 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Are parents of school-age kids a trivial constituency in Alaska?

Probably, yes, as far as the governor is concerned.

Alaska voting age population: ~525,000
* Below poverty level: ~44,000
* Over $100,000 income: ~84,000
* Families with children in 2016: 90,198 families with 182,952 children
* Children living in single-parent families: ~56,000
* Poverty rate for children in 2017: 15.2%, or ~28,000

Less than half the voters have children. Possibly a lot less, depending on how many are single-parent families. (The stats page says how many children have one parent, not how many families that is.) Parents living in poverty are less likely to vote at all - less likely to have the time and resources on election day.

So yeah, it's likely that he realized the people most hurt by this, parents of kids soon to be considering college, aren't a solid enough demographic to throw him out of office.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:40 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


Followup thought: If his goal is to get "Gen Z" kids out of the state so the Boomers can retain their lock on the government, this is a great way to do it. It even nicely targets the smart, ambitious kids, and encourages them to go elsewhere to establish their adult lives and adult political activity.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:46 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


ourobouros:
it may kick off this same downward spiral. I'd have a hard time thinking of a more targeted way to eliminate jobs and drive young people away.

ErisLordFreedom:
If his goal is to get "Gen Z" kids out of the state so the Boomers can retain their lock on the government, this is a great way to do it. It even nicely targets the smart, ambitious kids, and encourages them to go elsewhere to establish their adult lives and adult political activity.

Definitely a pattern.
posted by doctornemo at 2:08 PM on July 5


Republicans would be happy with 26 states, each containing a nothing but a few old racists, a governor, two senators, and a majority of electoral votes.
posted by benzenedream at 2:34 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


For all the Republican talk about self-reliance, Alaska is one of the country's biggest federal welfare states. 20% of Alaska's annual spending is money from the federal government. It amounts to a transfer of $7000 for each person in Alaska - man, woman and child - from taxpayers in states like New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
posted by JackFlash at 3:55 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I know nothing about Alaska except what I know through the lens of plant pathology, but here's what I know: climate change is allowing beetles that normally die from cold to successfully overwinter in Alaska, and the Alaskan forests are dying at an alarming rate. At the same time, warmer temperatures are allowing new high-value crops to grow in Alaska. One of them is peonies. The way I heard it, Martha Stewart caused brides in Japan to want peonies in their bridal bouquets, and the only place where peonies are in bloom in Japanese-wedding-season is Alaska, where the distance to fly the cut flowers to Japan is not prohibitively far. Peonies are very hardy, so Alaskans can grow them and sell them for a couple of dollars per stem. A lot of retirees are sinking their nest egg into a few acres of peonies. Peonies have pests, though, so these new farmers are desperate for information on how to control diseases. Both of these things: risks to forestry and agriculture, would best be remedied by having a functional University.
posted by acrasis at 4:48 PM on July 5 [12 favorites]


This is also a warning to those in favor of universal basic income (previously). The Alaska Permanent Fund is a universal basic income program. UBI funding has to come from somewhere, and in this case the proposal is to take it from public higher education (among other social goods). While UBI funding obviously wouldn't have to come from higher education, it's an essential reminder that UBI is not a panacea, and is subject to all the usual political maneuverings.
posted by cushie at 5:19 PM on July 5 [6 favorites]


The UA cuts are awful and rightfully getting a lot of attention, but there's a lot of other shitty cuts as well - head start, legal aid, medicaid, village public safety officers, arts (including the program authenticating Alaska Native artwork), etc. And the $300k cut to the court system in explicit retaliation for the Alaska Supreme Court's recent decision upholding access to abortion is just... I can't even. Almost parody.

Incidentally, Vic Fischer, the last surviving delegate to the AK Constitutional Convention and now 95 years old, was out protesting with others in Anchorage earlier this week. He authored an op-ed criticizing Dunleavy's then-proposed budget in April and discussing how the cuts were out of line with what the delegates intended when they wrote the state constitution.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 5:47 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Holy shit, Donna Arduin is involved? Good luck, Alaskans. She's not responsible for everything wrong with Illinois--that started long before Rauner was elected--and she didn't do much damage because Rauner didn't have a pet legislature to pass his supply-side bullshit, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:08 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


At the same time, warmer temperatures are allowing new high-value crops to grow in Alaska. One of them is peonies.

Yep. And the peony farmers are in jeopardy from these cuts, especially since there is a bunch of work from my colleagues on best ways to grow peonies, and also the plant pathology side.

And Dunleavy vetoed the trial industrial hemp program, too. Because of course he did.

And with my concern about the university, I don't mean to suggest that his cuts to the arts (Alaska would be the only state without any state funding for the arts), public radio, preK and head start, senior benefits, medicare, K-12 funding, school bond debt reimbursement (where the state told municipalities it would reimburse them if they floated bonds to build schools, oh, whoops, sorry, we changed our mind, too bad you have to increase property taxes) are not horrific either...basically, if there was something that the state supported that helped a vulnerable population, or that supported the quality of life for the residents of the state, Dunleavy vetoed it.

But we're still giving away $$$ to the oil companies, so that's ok then. 😩
posted by leahwrenn at 6:26 PM on July 5 [4 favorites]


Re Donna Arduin - when Dunleavy took his budget road show to Nome, one of the local leaders (Melanie Bahnke) had strong words for her:

“This comment is for you, Donna. While you were allowed to speak for a little bit you used the word ‘our.’ And with all due respect, you may have a job for eight years but our descendants – and I’m not just talking about the Alaska Native community here, because we have several non-Native families who have ties in this region that go back over a hundred years and who intend to live here too – we are going to be here for another 10,000 years. So please, don’t use the word ‘our’ when referring to our state’s people or our issues.”
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 6:45 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


From Midnight Sun AK: The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner dedicated its entire front page today to calling on the Alaska Legislature to override the vetoes handed down by Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy with an editorial under a banner reading “OVERRIDE.”... The full-front page editorial is unprecedented in his 25 years at the paper, News-Miner Managing Editor Rod Boyce told us this morning. Typically editorials are confined to the opinion page, but papers have sometimes used their front pages to send a message.
posted by leahwrenn at 1:06 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


If Capitalism is so awesome, why are we always broke?

Latte profligacy.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:27 PM on July 8


Did the "Dunleavy wanted the special session of the AK legislature to meet in Wasilla so they could be surrounded by conservative gun-wielding folks in the Mat-Su Valley who want their PFDs, but most legislators wanted to meet in Juneau" thing already come up in this thread? I guess they made quorum in Juneau and are going to consider the vetoes on Wednesday. But I don't think the math is there yet. :/
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 10:39 PM on July 8


Alaskan here. I have lived here for about 15 years. I love this state with a passion. But I live in Southeast Alaska, a pretty Democratic and progressive heavy region. We have suffered a lot from Dunleavey's cuts. Just look at what he wants to do to the ferry system. He has purposely cut hard in Dem regions while bolstering Wasilla, where his base lives. That is the reason this split is doing on. The Wasilla contingent has been trying to move the capital for ever to consolidate power. They like to say it's because more people would have access to government, but we all know the real reason.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 10:40 PM on July 9


Lots of activity this week (including pulling millions in scholarships and grants from students - separate issue from veto), but no override. Big rally in Anchorage last Tuesday, including another speech by Vic Fischer:
The biggest applause of the night, though, was reserved for 95-year-old constitutional delegate Vic Fischer, who called on the crowd to contact their legislators and override the vetoes. He said the collection of Alaskans before him was the most exciting assembly of Alaskans since statehood.
...
“This a Democracy, and we will not be cowed, we will not go away. You and I and all the people around you will be here in the next election and we’ll clean House and Senate both.”
Protesters took over the pseudo-session in Wasilla on Wednesday. Quotes from both Republican and Democratic legislators in Juneau in favor of override prior to Wednesday's futile vote (e.g. Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage: “I cannot fathom why the governor is purposely throwing Alaska into a severe economic recession.”). Comments from former governors (though no Palin) lamenting situation. UA likely to declare financial exigency on Monday (UA website with FAQs).

Dunleavy at 31% approval rating. People are starting to gather signatures for a gubernatorial recall effort.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 4:39 PM on July 12


Example of Medicaid dental cuts impact - man had all of his teeth pulled in anticipation of dentures, was looking forward to being able to eat hamburgers again, and now he can't afford to get new teeth. "I cried. I still cry. I wake up and I cry at night."

Here's a story about an Alaska Native medical student in the WWAMI program at UW, who turned down cheaper med schools because she wants to train and practice in rural Alaska, and who's now worried about a high debt load that the program was supposed to cover.

Nome Youth Facility is being closed. Youth being relocated to Anchorage, Fairbanks, or Bethel. Melanie Bahnke:
"This means the chance to embrace and rehabilitate our youth from the 28 communities surrounding Nome and Kotzebue in a culturally appropriate setting will be ripped out from under us. Alaska Native culture is a protective factor for our at-risk youth. We cannot see these young people sent out of our region; here they have the best chance of developing into productive community members.”
Library impacts - broadband access program already shut down. “Without the internet, people aren’t gonna have it out here. A majority of the community doesn’t have internet at home." Concerns about the statewide unified library catalog (borrowing books between communities across the largest state) being threatened, since the university manages the infrastructure.

Here's a heartbreaking tweet showing an image of the Alaska state flag with a broken golden heart in place of the North Star.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 1:58 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


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