Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/01/2003 03:02 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 171-REPEAL CHARTER SCHOOL GRANTS                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 2053                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR WILSON announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 171, "An  Act repealing the charter  school grant                                                               
program; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 2061                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
KEVIN  SWEENEY, Special  Assistant, Office  of the  Commissioner,                                                               
Department of  Education and Early  Development, testified  on HB                                                               
171 and responded  to questions from the committee.   Mr. Sweeney                                                               
explained that  this bill eliminates the  state-funded grants for                                                               
charter  school startup.   He  explained that  the Department  of                                                               
Education and  Early Development has  been working with  the U.S.                                                               
Department  of  Education  to secure  funds  that  will  actually                                                               
increase  the level  of startup  grants provided  by the  federal                                                               
government.   He  said the  money that  will be  coming from  the                                                               
federal government  exceeds the  amount provided  in the  past by                                                               
state and  federal money  combined.  The  new federal  money that                                                               
will be allocated to a new  school, in the amount of $150,000 for                                                               
the  first  three   years  and  $45,000  for   the  fourth  year,                                                               
eliminates the need for the state's supplemental grant.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 2105                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR WILSON  asked Mr. Sweeney  if he is  sure no funds  will be                                                               
lost to new charter schools if this bill is passed.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY replied this is correct.   He explained that what has                                                               
happened in  the past is  that a new  charter school was  given a                                                               
federal grant  and then the  state supplemented that grant  for a                                                               
total grant for  startup purposes.  For the  charter schools that                                                               
have come  on board, the  total amount  of funding for  a charter                                                               
school  has ranged  anywhere from  $164,000 to  $478,000 for  the                                                               
state  and  federal  combined  funds.    In  comparison,  charter                                                               
schools coming on  board in 2003 will get $450,000  for the first                                                               
three  years and  $45,000 for  the fourth  year, for  a total  of                                                               
$495,000,  so, in  fact,  the  funds would  be  increased to  new                                                               
charter schools.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 2146                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY  asked the  committee to  note that  this legislation                                                               
does  not take  effect  until next  July.   He  said the  delayed                                                               
effective date  in the bill  is so the state  can live up  to its                                                               
commitment to  two charter schools  that will be  receiving funds                                                               
from the  department in  their final  year of  funding.   He also                                                               
added the department believes that  the delay will allow them the                                                               
time to  make certain the  funding will  come in and  the state's                                                               
application will  be approved hopefully  by June or July  of this                                                               
year.   Mr.  Sweeney  said  the state  is  saving  money and  the                                                               
charter schools are getting more money than in the past.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 2170                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked if any  charter schools will be caught                                                               
in the  middle, for example, too  late for state funding  and too                                                               
early for federal funding.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY said  no schools will be caught in  the middle.  Only                                                               
two schools  are currently  owed one more  year in  funding under                                                               
the  old  regulations  whereby  they will  get  their  state  and                                                               
federal funding combined.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked the name of the two schools.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY said the schools  are Soldotna Montessori and Chinook                                                               
Montessori.    He  commented  that  four  new  schools  that  are                                                               
proposed to start are Frontier,  Highland Technical, Horizon, and                                                               
Tongass,  and their  grants  will  fall under  the  new level  of                                                               
funding.   The  department  expects  that there  will  be 17  new                                                               
schools  in the  near future,  based on  what the  department has                                                               
heard from school  districts.  That is the number  of schools the                                                               
state  has applied  for  under  the new  funding  by the  federal                                                               
government and for which the  department expects to hear approval                                                               
by this July.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO commented  that  he had  heard Horizon  was                                                               
trying to start up  over a year ago.  The  school board told them                                                               
they were a  little premature; normally it takes a  year, and now                                                               
the  year is  over.   He  asked Mr.  Sweeney if  this means  that                                                               
Horizon will now have to wait another year.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY responded that he  is not certain, but thinks Horizon                                                               
will be starting in 2003.   He explained that the way the process                                                               
works  is that  a charter  school goes  through the  local school                                                               
district, and  then the  application comes  to the  Department of                                                               
Education and Early  Development for approval.   The local school                                                               
district is  where a lot of  the investigation and review  of the                                                               
charter  school's plan  is done.    By the  time the  application                                                               
comes to the  state, the local district has  already approved it.                                                               
He commented  that Horizon  may have had  some challenges  at the                                                               
local district that he would be unaware of.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 2228                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO responded  that Mr.  Sweeney had  mentioned                                                               
Horizon as  one of the four  schools that would be  covered under                                                               
the new federal money.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY replied  that is correct.  He  believes Horizon opens                                                               
next fall;  however, he is not  sure when it opens,  but he knows                                                               
that Horizon is  identified as one of the new  schools.  In fact,                                                               
he believes  Horizon was  just approved at  the last  state board                                                               
meeting,  so it  will get  the  new funding  through the  federal                                                               
government.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR WILSON asked  in what school districts  the charter schools                                                               
are located.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY responded that he does not know.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  asked Mr. Sweeney  if the state  can expect                                                               
many more  charter schools,  to the  point where  charter schools                                                               
would  take a  significant  number of  students from  traditional                                                               
public schools.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY replied  that in the past, federal  grant funding for                                                               
15  charter  schools was  $2.5  million,  and  now the  state  is                                                               
looking at  getting $10.5 million  for upcoming  charter schools.                                                               
It is something the U.S.  Department of Education is pushing, and                                                               
the state  anticipates that there  will be a lot  of applications                                                               
statewide.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  asked if  he  knows  the failure  rate  of                                                               
charter schools.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY responded that he does not know.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 2325                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to  report HB  171 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.   There being no objection,  HB 171 was reported  from the                                                               
House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                

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