Legislature(2009 - 2010)BUTROVICH 205

01/29/2009 09:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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09:04:03 AM Start
09:08:11 AM SB57
10:24:05 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
                  SB 57-CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING                                                                              
CHAIR ELTON announced consideration of SB 57 Version E.                                                                         
9:08:11 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR THOMAS remarked that the sponsor statement may be longer                                                                
than is necessary for the committee members, but he felt some                                                                   
explanation was needed for the general public because there                                                                     
seems to be some confusion about why and how the [funding]                                                                      
calculations are made.                                                                                                          
SB 57 corrects a flaw in the school funding laws for charter                                                                    
schools with fewer than 150 students. It fixes what he calls the                                                                
Charter School penalty.                                                                                                         
     Current law results in charter schools with under 150                                                                      
     students receiving 30 to 45 percent less state funding                                                                     
     than neighborhood schools of their same size. SB 57                                                                        
     funds these charter schools at a per-child rate closer                                                                     
     to that of average, urban elementary schools.                                                                              
     Charter schools are public schools that provide                                                                            
     valuable education options to Alaskan families. They                                                                       
     increase learning opportunities and encourage parent                                                                       
     and community involvement in our schools. Charter                                                                          
     schools are designed and managed by parent-elected                                                                         
     boards, under contract with their local school                                                                             
     districts to create a school choice with the public                                                                        
     school system. The very process of choosing engages                                                                        
     parents and gives them a feeling of ownership, which                                                                       
     in and of itself encourages student achievement. The                                                                       
     legislature passed Alaska's initial charter school law                                                                     
     in 1995. It authorized local school districts to                                                                           
     approve charter schools in their communities subject                                                                       
     to final approval by the State Board of Education.                                                                         
     However the funding system has limited communities'                                                                        
     ability to use the law to create and sustain these                                                                         
     innovative programs.                                                                                                       
     SB 57 solves the funding problems in an equitable,                                                                         
     fiscally responsible manner. It will support our                                                                           
     schools and districts as they carry out the                                                                                
     legislature's intent in creating the charter schools.                                                                      
SENATOR THOMAS brought the committee's attention to a bar-chart                                                                 
that illustrates the count adjustment per student based on                                                                      
school enrollment for neighborhood schools, for charter schools                                                                 
under the current funding calculation and for charter schools                                                                   
under the proposed funding calculation.                                                                                         
9:11:29 AM                                                                                                                    
CATHERINE REARDON, Aid to Senator Joe Thomas, presented a                                                                       
sectional analysis.                                                                                                             
The root of the problem is the way the foundation formula                                                                       
calculates the adjusted student count for charter schools versus                                                                
neighborhood schools. The adjusted student count is the basis of                                                                
state funding for all schools in Alaska. The funding a school                                                                   
district receives is calculated by multiplying this adjusted                                                                    
student count by the district cost factor, the special needs                                                                    
factor and other factors and finally by the dollar amount in the                                                                
base student allocation. The adjusted student count is                                                                          
determined by the school size formula in AS 14.17.450.                                                                          
The formula in the law recognizes that economies of scale make                                                                  
it less expensive to operate a large  school than a small school,                                                               
therefore the enrollment of small schools is increased by a                                                                     
factor much higher than the adjustment for large schools. For                                                                   
example, the enrollment of a school of 75 students is adjusted                                                                  
to 123, a school with 400 students is adjusted to 472, and a                                                                    
school with 1000 students is adjusted to 1004. Charter schools                                                                  
with enrollment of less than 150 students are not treated as                                                                    
separate schools for purposes of the adjusted student count                                                                     
calculation. Instead, the Department of Education adds the                                                                      
charter school students to the students attending the largest                                                                   
school in their district and calculates the adjusted student                                                                    
count for the combined enrollment. This system makes the                                                                        
adjusted student count of the charter school lower than their                                                                   
actual enrollment while almost all other schools are adjusted                                                                   
upwards. (See "The Role of the "Adjusted Student Count" in                                                                      
School Funding".)                                                                                                               
The statute contains brackets of  student enrollment figures; for                                                               
each bracket there is a base number of adjusted students                                                                        
granted, and then there is a multiplier for the students above                                                                  
the number at the bottom of the bracket range. The base number                                                                  
plus the multiplier, times the number of students in the school                                                                 
in excess of the base results in the adjusted student count.                                                                    
Using a school with 100 students as an example, the base figure                                                                 
is 122.85. That is added to the product of the multiplier                                                                       
(1.27) and the difference between the number of students                                                                        
enrolled and the lowest number in  the bracket range, which is 75                                                               
in this case; so 122.85 + (1.27 x (100-75)) = 154.6.                                                                            
Charter schools are the exception to this calculation rule.                                                                     
There is no base because they are  lumped into the largest school                                                               
in their district. For charter schools in Anchorage, Fairbanks,                                                                 
Juneau and MatSu, the multiplier  for the largest school in their                                                               
district is .84, so using that same calculation for a charter                                                                   
school with an enrollment of 100  students results in an adjusted                                                               
student count of 84. An adjusted student count for a                                                                            
neighborhood school of 100 students  in that area would be 154.6.                                                               
That is the root of the funding problem for these schools.                                                                      
9:16:15 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS said he understands the penalty of lumping                                                                      
[charter school enrollment] into  the larger schools but asked if                                                               
she had looked at the differential  of the penalty in different                                                                 
MS. REARDON directed Senator Huggins's  attention to the second                                                                 
page of the "Alaska Public Charter Schools Directory," which has                                                                
a listing of charter schools by district and pointed out that                                                                   
Fairbanks, Homer, Juneau and Nome all have charter schools with                                                                 
enrollment of under 150 students.                                                                                               
9:17:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON interjected for those attending the meeting online,                                                                 
that much of the testimony is based upon charts and graphs that                                                                 
are difficult to follow. He said he would try to get the                                                                        
information to the [Legislative Information Offices] LIO and                                                                    
that he assumes attendees can also get the materials by calling                                                                 
Senator Thomas's office.                                                                                                        
MS. REARDON continued to answer Senator Huggins's question. She                                                                 
said that Nome has Anvil City Science Academy, which has 44                                                                     
students. Nome's largest school  is in the bracket that results                                                                 
in a .97 multiplier. Homer has a charter school with                                                                            
approximately 77 students and Homer's largest school has a                                                                      
multiplier of .92. All of the other charter schools below 150                                                                   
fall into the category of a .84 multiplier. Bethel's charter                                                                    
school did drop below 150 two years ago and was in the .92                                                                      
9:19:14 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON asked Senator Thomas  if there is a provision for                                                                 
schools that can't grow any more because of facility                                                                            
SENATOR THOMAS said no, they will remain as they are.                                                                           
9:19:59 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. REARDON clarified that SB 57  says Charter Schools that are                                                                 
consistently below 150 would increase  to a rate of 1.18, which                                                                 
is the per-student rate of adjustment of a school of 400. So the                                                                
Nome charter school would go to 1.18. The second part of the                                                                    
bill says that charter schools in their first year of operation                                                                 
or that had 150 or more students the year before will have a one                                                                
year hold harmless period, during which they will receive 95                                                                    
percent of the adjustment given to schools of 150. After that                                                                   
year, if enrollment does not go up to 150 or above, the                                                                         
adjustment will go to 1.18. Some schools will always be under                                                                   
150 students, but some schools that  are generally over 150 may                                                                 
drop unexpectedly and perhaps temporarily.                                                                                      
9:21:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. REARDON added that Charter Schools that are within the one                                                                  
year hold harmless period must submit to their local school                                                                     
districts a plan for the following year, which includes a                                                                       
statement about whether they will continue to operate if                                                                        
enrollment does not increase to 150 students. The plan must                                                                     
detail transfer plans for the students, staff and materials if                                                                  
they intend to close. If they intend to continue operations, it                                                                 
must contain a projection of anticipated funding, a budget and a                                                                
description of anticipated changes in the program, staff and                                                                    
9:23:03 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS asked how much it costs a school under the                                                                      
current statute if enrollment falls from 150 to 149 students.                                                                   
MS. REARDON answered that they lose about half a million                                                                        
9:23:44 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS moved to make SB 57, Version E the working                                                                        
document of the committee. There being no objections it was so                                                                  
SENATOR THOMAS wrapped up with his hope that the committee will                                                                 
consider the bill and make suggestions to improve it.                                                                           
9:24:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON said he anticipates there may be questions from the                                                                 
administration about a fiscal note. He asked Senator Thomas if                                                                  
he had any comments about that.                                                                                                 
SENATOR THOMAS said the explanation of the fiscal note is almost                                                                
as complex as the formulas and suggested that Eddy Jeans could                                                                  
explain it more clearly.                                                                                                        
9:25:50 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR OLSON asked who Senator Thomas expects to oppose this                                                                   
SENATOR THOMAS answered that he is not aware of anyone who will                                                                 
do so.                                                                                                                          
SENATOR OLSON said he is surprised that he has seen so little                                                                   
feedback from school districts as to whether or not they are in                                                                 
favor of the bill.                                                                                                              
SENATOR THOMAS said he hopes they  will hear some comment from                                                                  
them, perhaps today.                                                                                                            
9:27:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS opined that this formula is so complicated and                                                                  
hard to follow, that he thinks they should look at a number of                                                                  
possible solutions. For example,  they could simply change the                                                                  
overall count factor, which would drive up the fiscal note. He                                                                  
admitted that it really is a problem and said he would be                                                                       
interested to hear what others, including Mr. Jeans, have to say                                                                
about how to fix it.                                                                                                            
9:28:21 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON said he has begun getting a lot of email from                                                                       
parents and charter schools, as well as one from the                                                                            
superintendant of schools in Anchorage. Her board has not taken                                                                 
a position, but she notes that they are very interested in                                                                      
maintaining charter schools and are aware of the draconian                                                                      
situation. He anticipates that there will be much more interest                                                                 
after this hearing.                                                                                                             
9:29:52 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DAVIS commented that she appreciates all of the                                                                         
information Senator Thomas and his staff prepared for the                                                                       
9:30:16 AM                                                                                                                    
EDDY JEANS, Director of School Finance for the Alaska Department                                                                
of Education and Early Development, said the current charter                                                                    
school legislation allows up to 60 charter schools in state;                                                                    
only 22 are operating at this time. Of those 22, 18 meet the 150                                                                
student threshold to count as a separate site. He admitted that                                                                 
the change in funding from 150 students to 149 is pretty                                                                        
draconian, but sees this bill as  a way to address it. This is                                                                  
clearly a legislative call, and  he stated that the department                                                                  
will support the legislature in their decision.                                                                                 
He reiterated that funding for those charter schools that never                                                                 
intend to reach 150 students will be set at 1.18; those that are                                                                
above the threshold and fall below  150 will have a transition                                                                  
year during which they will be funded at 1.38. Within that                                                                      
component, he said, another piece  provides that a new charter                                                                  
school with 120-150 students will  be funded at that same rate                                                                  
during their first year of operation.                                                                                           
The department prepared a fiscal  note to illustrate the impacts                                                                
of the legislation, which shows that it will cost the state an                                                                  
additional $174,000. He pointed out however, that the figure                                                                    
listed under Nome is $21,796; the  charter school would actually                                                                
benefit more than that under this provision, but because the                                                                    
Nome school district is under the hold harmless provision that                                                                  
was passed last year in SB 278,  the overall increase in revenue                                                                
to the district is only $21,796. The actual increase to the                                                                     
charter school under this legislation would be approximately                                                                    
9:34:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS asked if the department had discussed using a                                                                   
step-down technique so the funding would be reduced less                                                                        
dramatically for one, two, perhaps up to ten students, and the                                                                  
draconian measures would kick in at ten.                                                                                        
MR. JEANS said the hold harmless  method is a reasonable approach                                                               
for dealing with those situations. The question is how much                                                                     
money is the state willing to provide to small charter schools                                                                  
that are operating in larger urban  areas. The current mechanism                                                                
is probably not appropriate, but  the actual number is up to the                                                                
legislature. He reminded the committee  that he had provided them                                                               
with a schedule during the previous  session that had funding for                                                               
small charter schools at 1.08. He  believes they also considered                                                                
1.17 and 1.27 at different times.                                                                                               
9:37:17 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON asked if Mr. Jeans would  be available later, as they                                                               
need to take public testimony.                                                                                                  
SENATOR HUGGINS asked Mr. Jeans to recap for the committee the                                                                  
hold harmless provision that passed  during the last legislative                                                                
MR. JEANS explained that if the district's overall adjusted                                                                     
[average daily membership] ADM for  school size decreases by five                                                               
percent from the prior year, the  state will provide a step-down                                                                
from their existing funding to 75 percent of the difference in                                                                  
funding, then 50 percent, then 25  percent until they get to the                                                                
new funding level. This is a good  approach that was incorporated                                                               
in the old funding formula, but  it was left out when the formula                                                               
was re-written in 1998.                                                                                                         
9:38:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELTON asked Mr. Jeans to stay at the table for other                                                                      
9:39:09 AM                                                                                                                    
RICK LUTHI, Superintendant of Schools, Nome Public Schools,                                                                     
Nome, AK, expressed the school board's thanks to the committee                                                                  
for considering this bill. He commented  that Anvil City Science                                                                
Academy in Nome has been in operation  for over 10 years now and                                                                
serves 44 students. He invited all of them to visit their                                                                       
charter school if they are ever in Nome; it is a wonderful                                                                      
culture and environment and is doing great things for kids. Very                                                                
simply, this is a proposal that  will help them keep going. They                                                                
feel it is reasonable and will not only help their charter                                                                      
school but the whole district as  they educate the students they                                                                
are charged to take care of. They appreciate the committee                                                                      
looking at this and very much hope they will give it strong                                                                     
SENATOR OLSON asked Mr. Luthi if  the factor of 1.18 is going to                                                                
be enough to meet the financial needs of their school.                                                                          
MR. LUTHI said there are constant challenges; they worry about                                                                  
facilities and space constantly but think this increase is going                                                                
to help and is a step in the right  direction. They have a group                                                                
of dedicated staff and parents and will make it work with                                                                       
whatever resources the legislature is able to provide them.                                                                     
CHAIR ELTON released Mr. Jeans,  thanking him for his testimony.                                                                
He said that there are quite a few people who want to testify,                                                                  
so instead of limiting public testimony  to a particular length,                                                                
he would ask that people do not repeat testimony. If their                                                                      
comment has been made, he asked that they just express                                                                          
9:43:37 AM                                                                                                                    
KIKI ABRAHAMSON, President, Charter School Association, Fireweed                                                                
Academy, Homer, AK, said their charter school program is based                                                                  
on a theme immersion model and uses a lot of constructive                                                                       
principles. She had her sixth grade class of 20 students with                                                                   
her and they all expressed strong support for this bill with a                                                                  
rousing ovation.                                                                                                                
Fireweed Academy has been very fortunate in being allowed to                                                                    
share facilities through the Kenai School District, but they are                                                                
struggling. They don't want to get  to 150 students but have had                                                                
to try to do that in order to keep their doors open. They                                                                       
haven't been able to do it because there aren't any facilities                                                                  
for growth. It is very hard for them to know that their                                                                         
students, who walk through the north  door of the school, get 25                                                                
percent less funding than the students of West Homer Elementary                                                                 
who walk through the main door.                                                                                                 
MS. ABRAHAMSON said that during a two-day summit of the Charter                                                                 
School Association, the words she heard most often were                                                                         
"innovation" and "equity." She worked on the facilities and                                                                     
funding strand, and that group came to consensus on recommending                                                                
two action items: to pursue equitable funding and to explore                                                                    
equitable access to facilities. She stressed that, as Mr. Jeans                                                                 
pointed out, for over 12 years the existing charter school                                                                      
legislation has handicapped the current charter schools and has                                                                 
provided disincentives for creating new ones. She closed by                                                                     
saying that they are very appreciative that the committee is                                                                    
supporting change to the legislation to promote innovation and                                                                  
equity for all Alaska students.                                                                                                 
9:46:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGGINS asked Ms. Abrahamson if they get the local                                                                      
MS. ABRAHAMSON said they get the minimum only.                                                                                  
SENATOR HUGGINS pointed out that is another disparity in funding                                                                
for charter schools, and the fact that they get only part of the                                                                
local contribution is a distortion he has never understood.                                                                     
9:47:33 AM                                                                                                                    
LAURIE   SCANDLING,   Assistant  Superintendent,   Juneau   School                                                              
District,  said their  board has  adopted  a position  as part  of                                                              
their  legislative priority  package  on rectifying  the  built-in                                                              
inequity in funding  for charter schools. For a total  of 11 years                                                              
she managed  alternative  schools in the  Juneau school  district,                                                              
serving  students  who  were  not successful  in  what  some  call                                                              
mainstream education,  and she has no doubt that  alternatives are                                                              
necessary.  One size  does  not fit  all. She  said  she will  not                                                              
speak specifically  about the Juneau charter school,  although she                                                              
noted  that they  do  face a  viability issue  over  the next  two                                                              
years  if the  funding  formula  does not  change.  She wanted  to                                                              
speak to the stability, predictability and equity of funding.                                                                   
MS.  SCANDLING  said that  in  the  past  two years,  two  charter                                                              
schools, one  in Anchorage  and one in  Fairbanks, have  faced the                                                              
position of  having to close  due to a  sudden drop  in enrollment                                                              
below  150. Both  of those  schools have  issues that  need to  be                                                              
rectified if  the state  does indeed  care about providing  viable                                                              
options for  students across the state.  It is more than  a Juneau                                                              
issue; it is an  issue that affects many communities  and an issue                                                              
of equity  for many students who  are seeking an  alternative. She                                                              
understands  that this legislation  would  provide funding  at the                                                              
400 student school  size. She said they are not  looking to create                                                              
a plethora  of tiny schools; she  understands that the  economy of                                                              
scale  cannot afford  that. She  said the  Juneau School  District                                                              
appreciates  their  supporting  this legislation  and  offered  to                                                              
answer any questions.                                                                                                           
9:51:28 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVE JONES, Assistant Superintendent, Kenai Peninsula School                                                                    
District, Kenai, AK, went on record as saying their district has                                                                
four charter schools. They support them because of the                                                                          
alternatives they offer the students and because of their                                                                       
history of high academic achievement. This bill directly                                                                        
addresses the situation of Fireweed Academy in Homer. They                                                                      
usually operate with about 70 students and would like to                                                                        
continue to do so; this bill would help them do that. Fireweed                                                                  
is unique in that it shares a building with one of their                                                                        
traditional neighborhood schools. He attended a Parent Advisory                                                                 
Committee Meeting there and was asked why the charter school                                                                    
students receive less funding than the students attending the                                                                   
neighborhood school. His only response was that the statute says                                                                
that's how it is. He stressed that he is here today to support                                                                  
this bill because he would like to go back to the parent                                                                        
advisory board and tell them equity has been addressed. He is                                                                   
also in favor of the hold harmless provision.                                                                                   
9:54:30 AM                                                                                                                    
BRENDA TAYLOR, President, Academic Policy Committee, Juneau                                                                     
Community Charter School, thinks  this bill is the best proposal                                                                
to solve the current problem and  to promote charter schools for                                                                
the future. When the charter school  bill passed 12 years ago it                                                                
was seen as a way to broaden the educational options for                                                                        
students across Alaska. That has not been able to happen in all                                                                 
communities yet; this bill would make that possible.                                                                            
MS. TAYLOR wanted to explain why charter schools can't always be                                                                
over 150 students. Some charter schools are targeting a small                                                                   
population that will never be 150; perhaps it is a group of at-                                                                 
risk middle school students. In Fairbanks they have cobbled                                                                     
together a couple of different school programs into one school                                                                  
with over 150 students in order to meet the needs of discreet                                                                   
populations in that way. Some communities cannot support a                                                                      
school larger than 150, either because the community is small                                                                   
or, as in Juneau, because neighborhood schools might be                                                                         
adversely affected. And last, small is a very important                                                                         
educational tool. A small school can provide a better                                                                           
environment for some students, particularly students with                                                                       
special social/emotional or other  needs. Small schools also have                                                               
the flexibility to do special things with the curriculum that                                                                   
cannot be done in a larger school, like bringing students to                                                                    
this meeting.                                                                                                                   
9:58:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MARGIE HAMBURGER, Site Manager,  Juneau Community Charter School,                                                               
expressed how important these schools  are and how fortunate she                                                                
is to be able to send her four children  to the Juneau Community                                                                
Charter School. If she didn't work there... if she didn't live                                                                  
downtown... she probably couldn't enroll her children there                                                                     
because the school does not have sufficient funding to provide                                                                  
bus service, a rally program for after school care, a school                                                                    
counselor or other things that regular public schools can                                                                       
BRENDA TAYLOR introduced the four charter school students who                                                                   
attended this meeting with her:  Anouk Otsea, Ava Tompkins, Ryan                                                                
Moritz and Nick Tragis.                                                                                                         
10:01:20 AM                                                                                                                   
LINDA EVANS, Principal, Effie Kokrine  Charter School, Fairbanks,                                                               
AK, supports this bill. She feels  charter schools are important                                                                
to assist students who do not fit into the mainstream system.                                                                   
Their charter school has been having  great difficulty getting to                                                               
and staying at 150 students. They  have 93 percent Alaskan native                                                               
students, although enrollment is open to all. Their mission is                                                                  
to provide different educational  options to help their students                                                                
succeed. They use the "learning style concept" and integrate                                                                    
Alaska native culture into the western educational system. An                                                                   
emphasis at Effie Kokrine is a strong connection between what                                                                   
students experience in school and in their communities. They                                                                    
provide many cultural opportunities  and opportunities for their                                                                
students to get out into the community.  She thinks there must be                                                               
an equitable way in statute to assure every student a good                                                                      
public education. They are not asking for anything excessive,                                                                   
and provide a service to those students  who would otherwise drop                                                               
out. They also offer an early college  grant program that allows                                                                
students from 7 to 12 grade to earn credits with the                                                                            
University of Alaska and dual credit on their high school                                                                       
transcripts; 86 of their 150 students  are taking college credit                                                                
classes. She supports this legislation  as a way to bring equity                                                                
to their students.                                                                                                              
10:05:49 AM                                                                                                                   
BRAD FAULKER, Homer, AK, said his son graduated from Fireweed                                                                   
Academy two years ago, and he could never understand why the                                                                    
charter school students received less funding. Although he                                                                      
doesn't see 1.18 as entirely equitable, it goes a long way                                                                      
toward equity, and he sees it as an excellent compromise. He                                                                    
thanked the committee for having this hearing.                                                                                  
10:07:00 AM                                                                                                                   
ANJI GALANOS, Juneau Community Charter School parent agrees.                                                                    
10:07:17 AM                                                                                                                   
JOHN ALCANTRA, Government Relations  Director, National Education                                                               
Association (NEA), Anchorage, AK,  supports SB 57. He is going to                                                               
the 53 annual NEA Alaska Delegate Assembly where there will be                                                                  
about 400 members, including Todd Hindman from Nome Education                                                                   
Association, who is in charge of  the charter school there. NEA's                                                               
members have been active as educators  and as parents in creating                                                               
a lot of the charter schools, so they definitely support SB 57.                                                                 
They have 217 legislative items on the books, and he is pleased                                                                 
to be down to 216. He thanked the committee for bringing this                                                                   
10:08:47 AM                                                                                                                   
MIKE FISHER, Chief Financial Officer,  Fairbanks School District,                                                               
Fairbanks, AK, agreed with the previous testimony and read the                                                                  
final paragraph of his written testimony.                                                                                       
     If you believe in schools of choice for students and                                                                       
     parents and that local school boards and the State                                                                         
     Board of Education have done their jobs when they have                                                                     
     reviewed and approved charter applications, then it is                                                                     
     probably appropriate to correct a rather faulty                                                                            
     funding mechanism that has such a catastrophic impact                                                                      
     on charter schools for what turns out to be very small                                                                     
     variations in enrollment.                                                                                                  
10:09:45 AM                                                                                                                   
SHANNA MALL, Principal, Winterberry Charter School, Anchorage,                                                                  
AK, thanked the committee for the opportunity to testify. She                                                                   
echoed previous testimony that charter schools do provide                                                                       
innovation, a chance for groups of people to come together and                                                                  
form a community for connection and collaboration. It is much                                                                   
needed in a world that is often too big for some children and                                                                   
families. She stressed the importance of equitable funding and                                                                  
facilities. Their school began in  summer 2005. They thought they                                                               
had facilities in a church, but  found out in June that it wasn't                                                               
going to work. They had to find another building and convinced                                                                  
the owner to make $700,000 in changes to the building with a                                                                    
promise to pay later. Construction  didn't begin until August, so                                                               
they had to struggle through weeks of moving from place to                                                                      
place, teaching school outdoors for one week, spending another                                                                  
week in one church and five weeks in another, doing their own                                                                   
custodial work in addition to teaching. It was October 18 when                                                                  
they finally got into their building.                                                                                           
MS. Mall said they had started the year with 180 students, but                                                                  
had an enrollment in October of only 144, which meant they lost                                                                 
about $680,000. They had to let two teachers go, let their                                                                      
administrative and office staffs go, eliminate all of the arts                                                                  
instructors and ask the remaining staff to fill all of the                                                                      
positions. Throughout that first  year, safety was a huge concern                                                               
because they didn't even know who was coming in and out of the                                                                  
building. They had made so many  promises to everyone... parents,                                                               
students, the building owner...  and at the end of that year they                                                               
still owed $178,000. They were able to pay that out of the                                                                      
second year budget, but that limited  the programs they were able                                                               
to offer.                                                                                                                       
By their second year in operation  Winterberry Charter School had                                                               
155 students; the third year they had 165; and this year they                                                                   
reached 180 students. They are doing well now, but could not                                                                    
have persevered if they had not had the complete commitment and                                                                 
support of the school district.                                                                                                 
10:14:31 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGGINS asked if Ms. Mall agreed that the biggest                                                                       
challenge for charter schools, among many, is facilities.                                                                       
MS. MALL said it was a chicken and egg question, but that was                                                                   
certainly a big problem for them.                                                                                               
SENATOR HUGGINS said the legislature may have a once-in-a-                                                                      
lifetime opportunity with the federal stimulus package to look                                                                  
at charter school facilities as a component to receive some of                                                                  
that money and encouraged her to get together with Kiki                                                                         
Abrahamson to discuss that.                                                                                                     
10:15:48 AM                                                                                                                   
ANNIE KEEP-BARNES, Program Director, Head Teacher, North Pole                                                                   
Campus, Star of the North Secondary School, Fairbanks, AK, said                                                                 
their charter school has two campuses with over 207 students.                                                                   
They were chartered to positively intervene for students who                                                                    
don't fit into the traditional school  model. She is very much in                                                               
favor of this bill and excited about the opportunity it                                                                         
presents. The first year hold harmless provision is brilliant;                                                                  
there are so many unexpected difficulties  during that year. She                                                                
was encouraged that they are looking at the small schools as                                                                    
well; innovation in education should  not be limited to larger                                                                  
communities or institutions.                                                                                                    
Facilities are a huge problem. She  commented that the Fairbanks                                                                
School District has been tremendously  supportive and has helped                                                                
them every step of the way. When  a school falls below 150 it is                                                                
an impossible situation for the  district; they are either forced                                                               
to consider closing a school that opened with a lot of popular                                                                  
support or to fund it at the expense of their other needed                                                                      
programs. The district really has their hands tied, because,                                                                    
under charter school law, the district owns the charter school                                                                  
teachers' contracts, so if they have a charter school that                                                                      
doesn't make the enrollment they  are still responsible for those                                                               
teachers' contracts. It places a terrible burden on the                                                                         
10:20:07 AM                                                                                                                   
RHONDA LOUGHMAN, Treasurer, Tongass  School of Arts and Sciences,                                                               
Tongass School District, Ketchikan,  AK, said she would like them                                                               
to consider appropriate class size,  its educational relevance                                                                  
and how the funding formula impacts  that. Their school is a K                                                                  
through six school in its sixth  year. They would like to keep                                                                  
their class size at 20, but with  seven teachers, that would put                                                                
them below 150 students, and they  could not function financially                                                               
at that level. With their current  classroom size maximums, they                                                                
are full at 165 kids. They have  managed to stay over 150 each                                                                  
year but this year are at 152.4,  which is too close for comfort.                                                               
She fully supports SB 57 and hopes  they will continue to look at                                                               
CHAIR ELTON asked for other testimony  but said they have only                                                                  
about eight minutes remaining.                                                                                                  
10:22:14 AM                                                                                                                   
BETH RIVEST, parent of two students at the Juneau Community                                                                     
Charter School, Juneau, AK, wanted the committee to know how                                                                    
hard it is to raise money to overcome  shortfalls in the budget.                                                                
Their parent body works very hard to raise the money they need                                                                  
to keep going. She emphasized that charter schools teach to                                                                     
families; they make families better,  and she really appreciates                                                                
the legislature's support.                                                                                                      
CHAIR ELTON reiterated that they  will not move the bill after                                                                  
one hearing; he believes it will come back before their                                                                         
committee fairly quickly. It does have another committee of                                                                     
referral and Finance will take a much closer look at the fiscal                                                                 
note. He assured the audience that this will not be a new issue                                                                 
for Finance as they spent a lot of time last session talking                                                                    
about the needs of charter schools.                                                                                             
SB 57 was held in committee.                                                                                                    
10:24:05 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Chair Elton adjourned the meeting at 10:24:05 a.m.                                                                              

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Charter School Directory.pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Adjusted Student Count table.pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
SB 57 sponsor statement.dot SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
sb 57 sectional analysis.dot SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
per-student rate comparison.xls SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Charter School Statutes.doc SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
school size factor statutes.doc SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Letters of support.pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
SB057-EED-ESS-1-22-09 (2).pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Comeau lttr re SB 57.pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Lttrs of support 2.pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Johansen lttr of support.pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Scolamiero lttr of support.pdf SEDC 1/29/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57