Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/13/2003 11:05 AM House EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 165-COMMUNITY SCHOOLS                                                                                                      
Number 2050                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  announced that the  next order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 165, "An  Act relating to community  schools; and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
Number 2113                                                                                                                     
KATHLEEN  FLEMIN,   Community  Schools  Monitor   for  Talkeetna,                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna School  District, testified  via teleconference                                                               
in opposition to  HB 165.  She told the  committee that Talkeetna                                                               
has  about 350  residents, with  an  additional 500  on the  road                                                               
system.     The   town  has   very  dedicated   community  school                                                               
participants.     She  told  the   committee  she   keeps  yearly                                                               
statistics for both the fall  and spring semesters.  These number                                                               
may reflect  people who  participate more than  once.   Last year                                                               
community  schools had  44 volunteers  who  gave a  total of  890                                                               
hours to  the program, and  43 activities were offered,  with 432                                                               
people, both kids  and adults, enrolled.  She  told the committee                                                               
that  all that  was  accomplished  and she  is  just a  half-time                                                               
employee.  She  told the members they were getting  a lot of bang                                                               
for the buck for Talkeetna  community schools.  Talkeetna is only                                                               
one of two  schools in the Matanuska-Susitna area  with a monitor                                                               
and an active community schools  program.  Matanuska-Susitna used                                                               
to  have eight  community schools  programs, and  the program  is                                                               
already at  a bare-bones level.   A lot of people  feel that they                                                               
are paying for the schools  with property taxes, although many do                                                               
not have  children in the schools,  but by being able  to use the                                                               
facilities they develop a much  more positive sense of their role                                                               
in education.                                                                                                                   
MS. FLEMIN said the school in  a small town becomes the center of                                                               
the  community.   It has  the  town's only  gym, classrooms,  and                                                               
meeting space.   It  is a  safe, wholesome  place to  learn, have                                                               
fun, network with  other families, and make new friends.   If the                                                               
committee  needs  proof  of   Talkeetna's  support  of  community                                                               
schools, she could get 50  letters of support to members' offices                                                               
within a week, she said.                                                                                                        
Number 2239                                                                                                                     
MS. FLEMIN  gave a brief summary  of the programs offered.   They                                                               
are  after-school programs  for  kids, including  roller-skating,                                                               
art, and  singing, which are  provided by  all-volunteer leaders.                                                               
Other programs  include many  health and  safety classes  such as                                                               
babysitting,    first    aid,   cardiopulmonary    resuscitation,                                                               
nutrition, and cooking.  Some  classes are taught by local health                                                               
professionals.  Ms. Flemin said  with the long winters the crafts                                                               
and gym activities  help people to have fun  with their neighbors                                                               
and  expand  their  circle  of  friends,  and  even  develop  new                                                               
moneymaking  skills.    Community  schools  offer  do-it-yourself                                                               
classes such as  woodworking and auto maintenance.   Tapping some                                                               
of  the very  well-educated local  folks, she  said she  has been                                                               
able  to work  with  the  University of  Alaska  system to  offer                                                               
classes with  optional college credit,  since the  nearest campus                                                               
is 75  miles away.  The  computer classes have been  very popular                                                               
with the  school's wonderful computer  lab, and the  school staff                                                               
agrees this resource should be made available to the public.                                                                    
MS. FLEMIN  said local individuals  and businesses  have directly                                                               
benefited  by  these  low-cost  local  classes.    The  theme  of                                                               
lifelong  learning is  alive and  well, thanks  to the  community                                                               
schools  program.     With  a   small,  extra   expenditure,  the                                                               
legislature makes  it possible  for kids and  adults to  have the                                                               
opportunities to utilize the buildings  after the K-12 program is                                                               
over.  She said it provides  a very good message to students that                                                               
adults are coming into their  school to take classes voluntarily.                                                               
This is a win-win situation.                                                                                                    
Number 2304                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  asked if Talkeetna  community school is part  of the                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna School District.   He told Ms.  Flemin that the                                                               
funding for Matanuska-Susitna community  schools would be reduced                                                               
25 percent,  and while it  does not eliminate  community schools,                                                               
it does  reduce the  funding.  Representative  Gatto told  her he                                                               
believes that  Matanuska-Susitna will  be able to  keep community                                                               
schools but  must find  funds to  make up  the difference  in the                                                               
reduction.   He commented  that in  some areas  of the  state the                                                               
funds were  reduced 100 percent,  because the state  was handling                                                               
100 percent of the community schools' costs.                                                                                    
MS. FLEMIN  asked if Chair  Gatto believed that  school districts                                                               
would  increase their  budgets to  cover community  schools, when                                                               
everyone seems to be cutting budgets.                                                                                           
CHAIR  GATTO  responded  that  is  why  there  are  school  board                                                               
meetings.  It is certainly something that she could ask for.                                                                    
MS. FLEMIN said that she fears the program will be lost.                                                                        
Number 2363                                                                                                                     
DEE   HUBBARD,   a   resident    of   Sterling,   testified   via                                                               
teleconference on  HB 165.   She asked  the committee not  to cut                                                               
funding  to community  schools programming.   She  said when  she                                                               
lived in  Anchorage her entire  family participated  in community                                                               
schools,  and   she  even  taught   classes.     Previous  years'                                                               
discussions  have highlighted  that  this small  amount of  money                                                               
affects so  many people.  A  lot of people cannot  afford to take                                                               
classes if  the fees go  up.  She said  she sees this  as another                                                               
cut in educational programming.                                                                                                 
CHAIR GATTO commented that the  state and school districts supply                                                               
the building,  heat, lights,  and snow removal.   He  pointed out                                                               
that there  is a fairly  large investment from the  districts and                                                               
the  state  already.   He  said  the  state is  asking  community                                                               
schools  to pick  up a  little more  in the  cost of  running the                                                               
program.   He  suggested going  to school  board meetings  to see                                                               
what else  could be done  to help keep community  school programs                                                               
Number 2466                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  moved to  report HB  165 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER objected.   She said that  she has already                                                               
commented on her objection at previous meetings.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said he  believes it  is poor  public policy                                                               
and   sloppy  educational   policy  to   take  away   educational                                                               
opportunities on  the grounds that  it is an  efficiency measure,                                                               
and then put  nothing in its place.  The  efficiencies need to be                                                               
thoughtful.  Representative  Gara said there is  no analysis from                                                               
the administration  on what  impact this  will have  on community                                                               
schools.  The committee does  not know how many community schools                                                               
will close  as a result  of this bill.   He noted that  the chart                                                               
the Department  of Education and  Early Development  provided the                                                               
committee shows  that 15 to  20 schools rely completely  on grant                                                               
funding received from  the state.  Eradicating  this program will                                                               
have a big  impact.  He pointed out that  in some communities the                                                               
only  programs  for at  risk-kids  and  GED [general  equivalency                                                               
diploma] programs are run by community schools.                                                                                 
Number 2582                                                                                                                     
EDDY  JEANS,  Manager,  School  Finance  and  Facilities  Section                                                               
Education  Support Services,  Department of  Education and  Early                                                               
Development, testified on  HB 165.  Mr. Jeans  told the committee                                                               
that the schedule  provided to the committee  shows the community                                                               
schools  grant allocations  and  what has  been  reported in  the                                                               
school  districts'   financial  statement.    He   said  that  as                                                               
Representative Gara pointed  out, the committee may  note that in                                                               
some  districts  there  is  100  percent in  a  number  of  these                                                               
districts, but  what that represents  is that the  districts have                                                               
to account for that in a  special revenue fund outside the school                                                               
operating fund.  In many  of these cases, districts are providing                                                               
funding for  community schools  after hours  that exceed  what is                                                               
reflected.   The district  just is  not showing  that expenditure                                                               
over in the community schools grant  side.  It is just showing up                                                               
in  its operating  budget to  keep the  school open,  heated, and                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA pointed  out  that this  does  not show  the                                                               
expenses of  the school that  is there, and therefore  the amount                                                               
of money allocated and provided  for community schools.  He said,                                                               
for example, if 100 percent  of Alaska Gateway Schools comes from                                                               
the state grant program, then that  means that 100 percent of the                                                               
staffing comes  from the state grant  program.  He asked  if that                                                               
is correct.                                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS  responded that what he  is saying is that  a number of                                                               
the  communities  have  head  teachers  who  live  right  in  the                                                               
community and go  over and open up  the gym to have  the gym open                                                               
for   after-hours   basketball   under   the   community   school                                                               
allocation.   It is simply a  function of that person's  job that                                                               
is showing up in the school's operating budget.                                                                                 
CHAIR GATTO said  the issue is pretty clear as  to whether or not                                                               
the  committee  wants to  vote  to  eliminate the  $500,000  from                                                               
community schools.   He  said this debate  can be  very extended,                                                               
with  the same  issues being  revisited.   Chair Gatto  commented                                                               
that he knows  Representative Gara wants to spend  the money some                                                               
other way  and the governor wants  to save the money.   The issue                                                               
is  not that  complicated.   Chair  Gatto told  the committee  he                                                               
would entertain new questions.                                                                                                  
Number 2733                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  how  many community  schools will  be                                                               
closed  because the  state is  withdrawing the  grant money.   He                                                               
told the  committee that the grant  money is used to  go out into                                                               
the community and  find more grant money.  He  asked Mr. Jeans if                                                               
he knows  how great a ripple  effect this will have  on community                                                               
schools.   How  much will  community schools  lose in  leveraging                                                               
these funds to obtain more funds?                                                                                               
CHAIR GATTO responded that he does  not believe Mr. Jeans will be                                                               
able to  answer how many  community schools will close  until the                                                               
event occurs and  does not believe it is a  fair question.  Chair                                                               
Gatto said the  question about a ripple  effect through community                                                               
schools  on leveraging  funds is  questionable,  since the  state                                                               
does not even know if there is a  ripple effect or a savings.  He                                                               
told Representative Gara that no  one there is equipped to answer                                                               
these questions because they are theoretical questions.                                                                         
Number 2854                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  told the  committee that  if the  members do                                                               
not know  the answers  to these questions,  this bill  should not                                                               
pass out  of the committee because  he believes it is  bad public                                                               
A  roll call  vote  was taken.    Representatives Gatto,  Seaton,                                                               
Coghill,  Wilson, and  Wolf voted  in favor  of reporting  HB 165                                                               
from committee.   Representatives Gara and  Kapsner voted against                                                               
it.   Therefore, HB  165 was  reported out  of the  House Special                                                               
Committee on Education by a vote of 5-2.                                                                                        

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