Legislature(2009 - 2010)SENATE FINANCE 532

02/27/2009 09:00 AM Senate FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 57                                                                                                            
     "An Act relating to charter school funding."                                                                               
9:17:10 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman indicated that  there has been interest in a                                                                   
potential amendment for the legislation.                                                                                        
SENATOR JOE  THOMAS, SPONSOR, explained that  the legislation                                                                   
would  support school  choice and  do away  with the  charter                                                                   
school  penalty.  Under  the  existing  school  funding  law,                                                                   
charter schools  that enroll fewer than 150  students receive                                                                   
30  to 45  percent  less  state  funding than  similar  sized                                                                   
neighborhood schools.                                                                                                           
Senator  Thomas pointed  to two  handouts, "The  Role of  the                                                                   
'Adjusted  Student Count'  in  School Funding"  and  "Example                                                                   
Adjusted Student  Count Calculations"  (Copies on  File) that                                                                   
help  break down  the complex  formula. There  is a  dramatic                                                                   
decrease  in funding,  around  $500,000 to  $700,000, when  a                                                                   
charter  school's enrollment  drops  even  one student  below                                                                   
150.  The  count period  is  the  majority  of the  month  of                                                                   
October; even if a school surpasses  the 150 limit by the end                                                                   
of the  count period,  the count  used is  the average  taken                                                                   
over the count period.                                                                                                          
Senator Thomas reported  that the root of the  problem is the                                                                   
way the foundation  formula calculates the  "adjusted student                                                                   
count"  for  charter  schools  versus  neighborhood  schools.                                                                   
Almost  all regular  schools have  their enrollment  adjusted                                                                   
upward  by  a  formula;  a  different  formula  that  adjusts                                                                   
downward  is  used  by charter  schools.  The  multiplier  is                                                                   
explained  on the  handout  "Example Adjusted  Student  Count                                                                   
Calculations."  The process  provides  too  little money  for                                                                   
charter schools to survive.                                                                                                     
Senator  Thomas explained  that SB 57  funds charter  schools                                                                   
with fewer than 150 students at  the same per student rate as                                                                   
a  neighborhood school  with  400 students.  Charter  schools                                                                   
have to be  significantly more efficient than  other schools,                                                                   
but  the funding  level  is  manageable.  He added  that  the                                                                   
legislation contains  a one-year hold harmless  provision for                                                                   
charter  schools  that are  either  in  their first  year  of                                                                   
operation or  had more  than 150 students  one year  and then                                                                   
subsequently  dropped   below  that  number.   The  provision                                                                   
reduces  the   financial  harm  to  the  district   from  the                                                                   
unexpected decrease  in their  student count adjustment.  The                                                                   
bill  is  supported  by  the  Alaska  Association  of  School                                                                   
Boards.  Many superintendents  have testified  in support  of                                                                   
the  legislation. He  listed other  sponsors  and noted  wide                                                                   
support by legislators.                                                                                                         
9:21:38 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman  asked for more  information about  the 1.18                                                                   
multiplier.  Senator  Thomas  replied  that  there  had  been                                                                   
discussions  previously  considering  a  range from  1.08  to                                                                   
1.27. The  number selected  is a  compromise between  the two                                                                   
Senator Huggins asked the number  of charter schools that are                                                                   
affected. He pointed  out that some schools are  not going to                                                                   
get bigger  than 150 students.  Senator Thomas  answered that                                                                   
there are four schools in the  state at the borderline count;                                                                   
those   schools'  numbers   were  not   expected  to   change                                                                   
Senator Elton  acknowledged Senator Huggins' role  in solving                                                                   
the funding issue on an annual basis in the past.                                                                               
9:24:20 AM                                                                                                                    
EDDY JEANS, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL FINANCE  AND FACILITIES SECTION,                                                                   
DEPARTMENT  OF   EDUCATION  AND  EARLY  DEVELOPMENT   (DEED),                                                                   
reported  that  the legislation  would  affect  four  charter                                                                   
Mr. Jeans  said the  formula number  1.18 was  arrived  at by                                                                   
running a school  of 400 through the formula  and dividing it                                                                   
by the  adjusted daily membership  (ADM). He referred  to the                                                                   
fiscal note  for $714,300 to  cover the charter  schools that                                                                   
need stable funding.                                                                                                            
Co-Chair Stedman  asked for  the names  of the four  schools.                                                                   
Mr. Jeans listed the schools:                                                                                                   
   · Effie Kokrine Charter School, Fairbanks                                                                                    
   · Juneau Community Charter School                                                                                            
   · Fireweed Academy, Home                                                                                                     
   · Anvil City Science Academy, Nome                                                                                           
Co-Chair Stedman queried the position of       on         the                                                                   
legislation.  Mr. Jeans  answered that  DEED was neutral.  He                                                                   
stated that  from his point of  view as Finance  Director, it                                                                   
made good sense.                                                                                                                
9:27:04 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Huggins  told the committee  that losing  one student                                                                   
could  cost  a  charter  school   hundreds  of  thousands  of                                                                   
dollars.  He  called  the  previous   measure  draconian.  He                                                                   
thought the proposed legislation was a prudent approach.                                                                        
Co-Chair Stedman opened public testimony.                                                                                       
SAMUEL  SHIELDS,  BOARD MEMBER,  AYAPRUN  ELITNAURVIK  SCHOOL                                                                   
BOARD,   AND   VICE-CHAIR,  BETHEL   SCHOOL   BOARD,   BETHEL                                                                   
(testified  via  teleconference),  spoke  in support  of  the                                                                   
legislation. He reported  that the Bethel school  at one time                                                                   
had  dipped   to  a  149   student  count,  resulting   in  a                                                                   
substantial decrease  in funding. He witnessed  the affect of                                                                   
the decrease on  the school. The school was  able to recover;                                                                   
current enrollment  is approximately  180 students.  However,                                                                   
there are only 6,000 people in Bethel.                                                                                          
9:30:20 AM                                                                                                                    
MIKE FISHER,  CHIEF FINANCIAL  OFFICER, FAIRBANKS  NORTH STAR                                                                   
SCHOOL  DISTRICT  (testified via  teleconference),  spoke  in                                                                   
support of the  legislation. The district is  keenly aware of                                                                   
how  the bill  will help  charter  schools provide  important                                                                   
educational  choices for  families.  Fairbanks currently  has                                                                   
three charter  schools, with  a new  one starting next  year.                                                                   
Two of the operating  schools and the new school  have target                                                                   
enrollments  of about  155  students. This  year  one of  the                                                                   
schools  just missed the  average daily  membership over  the                                                                   
count  period,  even  though   over  150  students  ended  up                                                                   
enrolling, which cost the district  around $680,000 out of an                                                                   
expected $1.4  million budget.  He said  the bill would  help                                                                   
address the catastrophic  impact of a school  failing to meet                                                                   
the count  threshold. He thought  the funding  compromise was                                                                   
fair and  provided incentive for  schools to get  to targeted                                                                   
JANET STOKESBURY,  CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER,  ANCHORAGE SCHOOL                                                                   
DISTRICT (testified via teleconference),  spoke in support of                                                                   
the  legislation. The  district  views the  bill as  ensuring                                                                   
stability for  charter schools. They also supported  the one-                                                                   
year held harmless provision.                                                                                                   
9:33:13 AM                                                                                                                    
SHANNA   MALL,   PRINCIPAL,   WINTERBERRY   CHARTER   SCHOOL,                                                                   
ANCHORAGE  (testified via teleconference),  spoke in  support                                                                   
of  the bill.  She relayed  the difficult  experience of  the                                                                   
school falling below the cutoff  number. People worked 90-day                                                                   
weeks without  pay and  the community  took risks to  support                                                                   
the school. Staff was severely  cut and a deficit of $180,000                                                                   
was  carried  over   to  the  next  year.  The   program  and                                                                   
children's safety were compromised.                                                                                             
9:35:44 AM                                                                                                                    
BRENDA TAYLOR,  PARENT, AND  PRESIDENT, ACCREDITATION  POLICY                                                                   
COUNCIL, JUNEAU  COMMUNITY CHARTER SCHOOL,  JUNEAU, testified                                                                   
in support  of the legislation.  She thought the  bill solves                                                                   
many of the concerns of charter  schools. She stated that the                                                                   
Juneau  school  district supports  the  bill  and the  Juneau                                                                   
charter school, but does not want  the charter school to have                                                                   
enrollment  over  150 because  of  negative  impact on  other                                                                   
schools. The Juneau  charter school will not  survive without                                                                   
additional  funds.  They  are   unable  to  make  the  school                                                                   
accessible   to   more   families   due   to   transportation                                                                   
Co-Chair  Stedman acknowledged  the presence  of 15  students                                                                   
observing online in Homer.                                                                                                      
9:38:29 AM                                                                                                                    
KIKI ABRAHAMSON,  TEACHER, FIREWEED  ACADEMY, AND  PRESIDENT,                                                                   
ALASKA  CHARTER  SCHOOL  ASSOCIATION,  HOMER  (testified  via                                                                   
teleconference), spoke in support  of the bill and introduced                                                                   
her students, who gave a cheer for the finance committee.                                                                       
Ms.  Abrahamson  expressed  concerns of  the  charter  school                                                                   
association about  public perception of SB 57  in the current                                                                   
economic  climate.  She stressed  that  the  bill was  not  a                                                                   
request for  add-on funding, but  a request to fix  a statute                                                                   
that  has handicapped  the development  of innovative  public                                                                   
charter  schools  in  Alaska and  has  discriminated  against                                                                   
schools of  choice in small  and rural communities.  In 1992,                                                                   
the first  charter school opened  in St. Paul,  Minnesota; 16                                                                   
years later there  are over 4500 schools serving  1.3 million                                                                   
students in 40 states.                                                                                                          
9:41:05 AM                                                                                                                    
TODD HINDMAN, LEAD TEACHER, ANVIL  CITY SCIENCE ACADEMY, NOME                                                                   
(testified  via  teleconference),  spoke  in support  of  the                                                                   
legislation  on behalf  of the Academic  Policy Committee  of                                                                   
Anvil City Science Academy (ACSA)  and the Nome Public School                                                                   
Board of  Education. He stated  that a larger  charter school                                                                   
could have  an adverse  affect on other  public schools.   He                                                                   
felt  the  small  size  of ACSA  is  one  of  its  strengths.                                                                   
Students  have a more  flexible learning  experience  and are                                                                   
more closely connected with the community.                                                                                      
Co-Chair Stedman closed public testimony.                                                                                       
Senator Huggins noted that the  challenge the legislation was                                                                   
addressing was not just financial.  The ripple effect through                                                                   
a school  district when  the count goes  below the  cutoff is                                                                   
dramatic. He  pointed out that  alternative schools  have the                                                                   
same challenge.                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Stedman referred to an amendment being formed.                                                                         
SB  57   was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  Committee   for  further                                                                   
9:45:06 AM                                                                                                                    

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Dewey Duvall Graphic.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 25
Adjusted Student Count.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
per-student rate comparison.xls SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
sb 57 sectional analysis.dot SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
SB 57 sponsor statement.dot SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
school size factor statutes.doc SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
SB 24_ Petersburg Resolution.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 24
SB 24_Fiscal Note.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 24
SB 24_Louis Miller Bridge Photo.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 24
SB 24_Sponsor Statement.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 24
Res_Duvall Terminal.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 25
Senate Bill 25_Fiscal Note.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 25
Sponsor Statement_SB 25.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 25
support letters.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57
Tongass School Support.pdf SFIN 2/27/2009 9:00:00 AM
SB 57