Alaska News Nightly: August 9, 2007

Senator Stevens talks with us about new ethics rules and his plans for next year’s election. Plus, more of Alaska’s schools achieved Adequate Yearly Progress this year under the No Child Left Behind Act. But a third still aren’t meeting the federal standard. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Stevens back in Alaska, focused on issues and looking ahead to campaign
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Senator Ted Stevens is on his first trip back to Alaska since FBI agents searched his Girdwood home last week. The senator isn’t responding to questions about the renovation of his home and the ongoing federal investigation. But he came to the APRN studios yesterday to talk about a range of other issues. Stevens says his campaign for re-election next year is going well. He says he has more money raised than in his last election cycle, but he says the cost of running an election has risen dramatically over the years. Stevens says his first run for the Senate cost him $38,000, but next year he anticipates it will be $5 million.

State-funded elections initiative approved for signature collection
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Supporters can begin gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would pay for state political campaigns with state money. The Lieutenant Governor today certified the initiative that will be on the 2008 ballot — if sponsors are able to get at least 23,831 people to sign petitions for it. Vic Fischer is one of the sponsors. He says the initiative will provide fair and open elections — without any outside influence.

Ocean Rangers program getting off to a slow start
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The state is having a hard time finding a company to hire and oversee Ocean Rangers. The cruise ship environmental monitoring program was approved by voters last year.

Alaska’s schools gaining on No Child Left Behind performance goals
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Alaska’s schools this year have shown continued improvements in their Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) scores. Primarily the results of annual language and math tests given to most students between grades 3 and 12, the ratings are the targets established by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The state Department of Education released school-by-school results today. Education Commissioner Roger Sampson says he has reservations about the testing and scoring system — particularly in schools with small student populations. But despite those differences, he says Alaska’s schools did well. Complete reports, from the Department of Education, are linked below:

Teachers learning art skills and ways to integrate arts into regular instruction
Kristin Garot, KTOO – Juneau
Some teachers travel during summer vacation. Others have second or third jobs. Some, however, can’t seem to get enough of school. For two weeks last month, 44 teachers from across Alaska gathered in Juneau to work on their skills incorporating arts and technology into their classrooms.

State to hear formal concerns over oil spill response plans near Copper River
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The State has agreed to consider oil spill response concerns raised by an environmental group. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) spokeswoman Linda Giguerre says the DEC has granted Cascadia International a hearing regarding Alyeska Pipeline’s spill contingency plan for the Copper River area.

Southeast pink salmon runs expanding late in the season
Ike Sriskandarajah, KFSK – Petersburg
The pink salmon catch has been picking up in some parts of southeast Alaska. On Sunday the region’s seiners had their first extended, four-day opening.

Ground broken for Juneau’s new Church of the Holy Trinity
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Seventeen months after arson destroyed Juneau’s historic Church of the Holy Trinity, ground was broken Saturday for a new church building and social hall.