Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/15/2003 08:45 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     HOUSE BILL NO. 171 am                                                                                                      
     "An Act repealing the charter school grant program; and                                                                    
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair Wilken stated  that this bill, sponsored by the House Rules                                                            
Committee, at  the request of the Governor, "eliminates  the charter                                                            
school grant start-up program  of $500 per student beginning in July                                                            
first  of 2004.  HB 171  takes  effect only  if the  State  receives                                                            
federal funding  for charter  school start-up  costs that equals  or                                                            
exceeds the State funding available in FY 03."                                                                                  
EDDY  JEANS,  Manager,   School  Finance  and  Facilities   Section,                                                            
Education  Support  Services,  Department  of  Education  and  Early                                                            
Development,  outlined a  spreadsheet titled,  "Breakdown of  Alaska                                                            
Charter   School  Federal   and  State  Grants"   provided   by  the                                                            
Department.  He pointed  out  the information  showing  the  charter                                                            
schools that  received federal  grants in  addition to State  grants                                                            
and the total  amount of start-up funding received.  He exampled the                                                            
Soldotna and Chinook charter  schools that also received federal and                                                            
State grants.                                                                                                                   
Mr. Jeans pointed  out the effective date delay of  one year in this                                                            
bill is  to accommodate  "the State's  commitment"  to fund  charter                                                            
schools with appropriations  included in the Governor's  proposed FY                                                            
04 operating budget.                                                                                                            
Mr. Jeans  explained  this legislation  proposing  to eliminate  the                                                            
State grant  program is a  result of a State  application to  the US                                                            
Department of Education  to increase the amount of federal grants to                                                            
$495,000  over a  four-year  period.  He described  the application                                                             
process  and the  proposal  to appropriate  $150,000  each year  for                                                            
three  years and  $45,000 in  the fourth  year.  He emphasized  this                                                            
amount  is larger than  the any  of the combined  State and  federal                                                            
grants received  by any other Alaskan charter schools.  He indicated                                                            
the Department  would  reapply for  federal grant  funds after  five                                                            
years. He noted that the  State Board of Education recently approved                                                            
four charter schools listed on the aforementioned handout.                                                                      
Senator  Hoffman asked  the  communities in  which  the new  charter                                                            
schools are located that  would receive the new federal grant funds.                                                            
Mr. Jeans listed  Ketchikan and Mat-Su, and stated  he would provide                                                            
the location of the two other charter schools.                                                                                  
Senator Hoffman asked if Fairbanks was included.                                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken understood it was not.                                                                                          
Mr. Jeans indicated he would provide detailed information.                                                                      
Senator Olson asked about alternatives to charter schools.                                                                      
Mr. Jeans  replied  students have  the option  of attending  regular                                                            
public  schools or  one of the  statewide  correspondence  programs.                                                            
Larger communities,  he noted, also  have alternative high  schools.                                                            
Senator  Olson  asked  the cost  per  student  compared  to  regular                                                            
Mr.  Jeans  responded that  the  amount  depends  on the  number  of                                                            
students enrolled  in a charter school and explained  that under the                                                            
current foundation  formula funding  statute, at least 150  students                                                            
must be  enrolled to  qualify as  a separate  school. Otherwise,  he                                                            
said, the charter  school is funded in conjunction  with the largest                                                            
school within  the same school district. He noted  the Department is                                                            
in the process of evaluating  whether the education is comparable to                                                            
that of regular public schools.                                                                                                 
ROGER SHANNON  testified  via teleconference  from Kenai to  request                                                            
that charter  schools  be allowed  to continue.  He opined that  the                                                            
National  Education Association  (NEA)  has become  involved in  how                                                            
children  are educated, which  has subsequently  resulted in  higher                                                            
costs. He emphasized  he was speaking to the Committee  "from street                                                            
level" as a layperson on the subject.                                                                                           
Senator Taylor  offered a motion to report HB 171  am from Committee                                                            
with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note.                                                                   
There was no objection  and HB 171am MOVED from Committee  with zero                                                            
fiscal  note  #1   from  the  Department  of  Education   and  Early                                                            
AT EASE 9:43 AM / 9:43 AM                                                                                                       

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