Monday, December 15, 2008

School data indicates migration from rural Alaska about what would be expected in economic crisis

The rise of fuel prices this year has been blamed for a surge of rural Alaskan residents moving to larger cities, but the Anchorage Daily News says those reports have been exaggerated. "Statewide school data don't support the fearful scenario described by Native leaders, elected officials and media reports around the time of [credit] freeze-up: families abandoning once-vibrant villages in Grapes of Wrath numbers and swamping schools and social service agencies in Anchorage and Fairbanks," Tom Kizzia writes for the ADN.

Stories of mass migration from rural villages has dominated much of the public policy talk in Alaska this year. The Alaska Federation of Nations focused on this issue during its annual convention, while Gov. Sarah Palin formed a subcabinet to study the problem. But recent data from school districts indicates that the rate of migration has stayed fairly steady, and was no more than would be expected during an economic crisis. "When the state count of student numbers emerged in the last few weeks, however, they showed some rural areas actually gained students," Kizzia writes. "Others, where population was already ebbing, said they saw no unusual acceleration."

Tara Jollie, director of the state's Division of Community and Regional Affairs, is now working to make sure the state gets accurate numbers: "We want public policy to be based on real facts, not myths." (Read more)

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