Legislature(2005 - 2006)

03/01/2005 05:32 PM EDU

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB  16-SCHOOL FUNDS RELATED TO BOARDING SCHOOLS                                                                               
CHAIR NEUMAN announced that the first order of business would be                                                                
HOUSE  BILL  NO.  16  "An  Act relating  to  funding  for  school                                                               
districts  operating secondary  school boarding  programs and  to                                                               
funding for  school districts from which  boarding students come;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
5:33:35 PM                                                                                                                    
RYNNIEVA  MOSS,  Staff  to Representative  John  Coghill,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature, presented  the sponsor statement for  HB 16 on                                                               
behalf of Representative Coghill.   She explained that HB 16 puts                                                               
into  practice  what the  U.S.  Department  of Education,  (DOE),                                                               
currently performs in  terms of stipends, and expands it.   As of                                                               
now, she said, the students that  do not have access to grades 9-                                                               
12  qualify for  the stipend.   She  pointed out  that this  bill                                                               
would expand [the  benefit of the stipend]  to other communities.                                                               
She related  that there is a  "hold-harmless" so that if  a child                                                               
leaves  a   community,  and  the  student   enrollment  [of  that                                                               
community]  decreases below  10, they  wouldn't lose  their basic                                                               
education  package.   She  summarized  that [HB  16]  is a  pilot                                                               
project, "sunsets"  in 5  years, and is  limited to  schools that                                                               
are operating with boarding schools on Jan 1, 2004.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked  if  Bethel was  included  in  this                                                               
MS.  MOSS explained  that [HB  16] includes  Bethel, Galena,  and                                                               
5:35:24 PM                                                                                                                    
EDDY  JEANS, Director,  School Finance,  Department of  Education                                                               
and  Early  Development,  explained   that  the  State  Board  Of                                                               
Education  passed Resolution  01.2005 in  support of  funding for                                                               
residential programs in: Galena, lower  Kuskokwim and Nenana.  He                                                               
related that  the state  board recognizes  that these  areas have                                                               
difficulty  in  operating   residential  programs  without  state                                                               
funding.   He reminded  the committee that  this bill  passed the                                                               
House of  Representatives last  year.   He said that  HB 16  is a                                                               
five year  pilot program,  and it would  affect the  three school                                                               
districts  previously  mentioned:    Galena,  Nenana,  and  Lower                                                               
Kuskokwim, the program in Bethel.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked Mr. Jeans  to explain how the Average                                                               
Daily Membership,  (ADM), is calculated  and how the  schools get                                                               
their funding.                                                                                                                  
MR. JEANS said  that the child is counted  for foundation funding                                                               
purposes,  in the  district and  school that  they are  receiving                                                               
educational services.  He related that  HB 16  provides the three                                                               
communities  mentioned  with   additional  support  covering  the                                                               
residential  component  of  that  program,  including  one,  free                                                               
round-trip airfare for children in the program.                                                                                 
5:37:47 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  inquired as to the  children being counted                                                               
in the  district where they came  from in addition to  where they                                                               
are receiving education.                                                                                                        
MR. JEANS explained,  "that under Section 2 [of HB  16], there is                                                               
a  "hold  harmless"  provision,  that  if,  for  some  reason,  a                                                               
community has 10  children, and one of them goes  to one of these                                                               
three boarding  schools, that community would  be "held-harmless"                                                               
and be funded as if they had 10 children."                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO restated, "the  school gets funded a blanket                                                               
number  of dollars  for the  school of  10; it  isn't like  we're                                                               
counting that  kid as adding  to the  amount of money  the school                                                               
recieves, correct?"                                                                                                             
MR. JEANS said that Representative Gatto was correct.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  refered to page 2,  line 9 [of HB  16], and                                                               
inquired as to the definition of a full school year.                                                                            
MR. JEANS  stated that section of  the bill refers to  the school                                                               
year, as defined by statute, which is 180 days.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO inquired as to  the development of a revised                                                               
school year  that would promote  a longer summer for  boarders to                                                               
spend with their families.                                                                                                      
MR. JEANS  responded that  discussions related  to this  idea did                                                               
not progress last year.                                                                                                         
5:41:28 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  attempted to clarify the  reasoning behind                                                               
the "hold-harmless" provision.                                                                                                  
MR. JEANS  stated that, "the  "hold-harmless" says that  you will                                                               
be funded as if you had 10 kids."                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON   inquired  as  to  the   "hold  harmless"                                                               
provision  acting as  a safeguard  against the  closing of  small                                                               
MR. JEANS stated that is correct.                                                                                               
JIM  SMITH, Superintendent,  Galena  School District,  introduced                                                               
himself and stated that he was available to answer questions.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  inquired  as  to  the  current  number  of                                                               
students in boarding schools.                                                                                                   
MR. SMITH  explained that  the Galena School  District is  in its                                                               
eighth  year running  a  residential school  program  and has  85                                                               
students.  He  said that the program is  strongly directed toward                                                               
vocational education and provides  an opportunity for students in                                                               
the Interior to experience vocational  education training that is                                                               
difficult for smaller  schools to offer.  He  explained that with                                                               
40  Galena  High School  students  and  85 residential  students,                                                               
there is a  population base that allows for  an aggressive search                                                               
of support and funding for these kinds of programs.                                                                             
5:45:10 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  inquired as  to how the  successful passage                                                               
of HB 16 would affect students.                                                                                                 
MR. SMITH stated  that the operational costs  associated with the                                                               
boarding school  programs vary.   In Nenana, he  explained, there                                                               
is one school facility, and the  boarding students come and go to                                                               
the main [combined] school, requiring only  one set of staff.  In                                                               
the  Galena  district,  the  boarding school  is  on  the  Galena                                                               
airbase facilities and  there is a separate  high school program.                                                               
He  related  that  shuttle  buses   transport  students  to  both                                                               
facilities so that vocational education  classes are available to                                                               
all students.   He  emphasized that  the passage  of HB  16 would                                                               
insure  support for  the [boarding  school]  program for  another                                                               
year.  He  stated that the teaching staff costs  $1,200,000 for 7                                                               
teachers, an administrator, counselors, and  the dorm staff:  the                                                               
13 dorm staff  members, and a full-time  counselor cost $650,000;                                                               
the meal  program, feeding  85 students and  the adults  that run                                                               
the dorm costs  $550,000.  He said that he  can fund the teaching                                                               
staff  through the  student's ADM  but the  meal program  and the                                                               
dormitory staff are funded by securing money in different ways.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO asked  about the expected ADM  added to this                                                               
5:48:31 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. SMITH said  that HB 16 would bring an  additional $599,300 on                                                               
top of the current ADM.                                                                                                         
5:49:22 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  questioned how many of  the 85 [mentioned]                                                               
students are in the boarding school.                                                                                            
MR.  SMITH  said that  there  are  85 [residential]  high  school                                                               
students and 120 students in the "village school".                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked how  many  more  students could  be                                                               
MR.  SMITH  said  that  there  is not  enough  funding  to  serve                                                               
additional  students.   He  added  that  if Galena  develops  the                                                               
nuclear power plant  that is in exploration now,  the power costs                                                               
for  the  school  will  decrease   and  if  the  airbase  becomes                                                               
available, 500  students could enroll  without having to  build a                                                               
new school  to house  them.   The issue of  classroom space  is a                                                               
challenge, he said.   The other dorms on the  base are being used                                                               
by maintenance people and the airforce.   He opined that there is                                                               
some  value  to  continue  involvement in  this  process  because                                                               
serving students  on a "voluntary  boarding school  profile" will                                                               
expand in the future, and Galena is a good site.                                                                                
5:52:18 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON stated  that there  are many  schools that                                                               
need  more funding.    She said  that  it is  a  shame that  [the                                                               
legislature] can't fund schools equally.                                                                                        
CHAIR  NEUMAN inquired  as to  summer programs  and the  usage of                                                               
[Galena]  school  facilites  year-round.    He  asked  about  the                                                               
percentage  of students  being served  that are  "at-risk" or  in                                                               
need of a "safe haven."                                                                                                         
MR. SMITH  said that Galena has  served as an "Answer  Camp" site                                                               
for  many years.   He  explained that  this past  summer, through                                                               
grants, "health  practices" workshops were offered  to interested                                                               
high school age  children.  He opined that Galena  could serve as                                                               
a regional learning center.  He continued:                                                                                      
     I think  we have that  potential and believe  that when                                                                    
     you  have  dorm  facilities   and  meal  programs,  you                                                                    
     attract a  lot of training  and we have those  kinds of                                                                    
     things  going on,  like  airport  maintenance, we  have                                                                    
     dispatcher training  and aviation  ... the  facility is                                                                    
     ... ideal for  summer kinds of ventures  and we're open                                                                    
     to all of those.  In  answer to your second question, I                                                                    
     guess that's what keeps us  in the business ... I would                                                                    
     venture  a  guess  that  half   of  our  kids  in  that                                                                    
     residential school  program are  kids that  are seeking                                                                    
     safe  harbor  in some  capacity  or  another.   They're                                                                    
     coming from tough situations ...  ours is not an intent                                                                    
     to  close   down  rural  schools,  I   am  particularly                                                                    
     sensitive to  rural schools  and have  been 33  years a                                                                    
     teacher  and  administrator  in small  communities  and                                                                    
     schools  and  I know  about  consolidation  and I  know                                                                    
     about school closure and that  is not something that we                                                                    
     want to be  a part of ... our  community embraces these                                                                    
     additional children as family ...  but if we can't come                                                                    
     to some  consistent funding source,  it won't  be there                                                                    
     much longer  because we  have had our  hand out  ... to                                                                    
     places like  federal delegation and  ... the  state has                                                                    
     to come to  a plan at some point how  they are going to                                                                    
     support  these things,  and if  the  attributes of  Mt.                                                                    
     Edgecumbe are  good, then the attributes  of Nenana and                                                                    
     Galena should be good as well.                                                                                             
5:56:55 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR NEUMAN inquired as to  the percentage of Galena High School                                                               
students pursuing higher education.                                                                                             
MR.  SMITH  stated  that  the programs  that  Galena  offers  are                                                               
products   of  the   accelerated  efforts   in  terms   of  staff                                                               
development. He said that all  of the programs have [test] scores                                                               
that are  above the adequate  yearly progress, (AYP),  cut lines,                                                               
including the residential school program.   He said that students                                                               
that come to Galena High School will get a solid education.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA stated that he supports  HB 16.  He said that                                                               
he voiced his concerns about HB 20,  and that he supports it.  He                                                               
excused himself as he had to leave the meeting.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  inquired as to where  the additional $6,000                                                               
will be spent [if HB 16 passes].                                                                                                
MR.  SMITH  stated  that  the cost  per  residential  student  is                                                               
$20,000.   He said that  Galena High School receives  $11,000 per                                                               
student in  the "brick  and mortar" and  that [combined  with the                                                               
additional $6,000] would raise the  amount to $17,000 per student                                                               
toward  teaching, lodging  and feeding.   He  explained that  any                                                               
additional funds will have to be secured through grants.                                                                        
MR.  SMITH  explained  that  there   are  many  labor  challenges                                                               
associated  with  creating  alternate calendars  for  the  school                                                               
year.  He opined that if  it could work, a shorter, more intense,                                                               
residential school program could be very beneficial to students.                                                                
6:01:32 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS  inquired as to what  parents contribute to                                                               
the costs associated with this  schooling.  He asked how students                                                               
are selected for this program.                                                                                                  
6:01:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. SMITH stated  that there is an open enrollment,  and the only                                                               
screening  involves "citizenship"  issues.   He explained  that a                                                               
dormitory environment  requires a certain level  of "citizenship"                                                               
and if there are applicants  with behavior and discipline issues,                                                               
they would  not be  favorable applicants.   He said  that, except                                                               
for  "citizenship"  issues,  applicants  are enrolled  up  to  85                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMAS  opined  that residential  programs  erode                                                               
small community schools.                                                                                                        
MR. SMITH stated that the  Galena School District is sensitive to                                                               
that issue, and  has had students leave to  attend Mt. Edgecumbe.                                                               
He  said  that the  Galena  School  District  has always  been  a                                                               
proponent  of creating  selection  for parents  and students  and                                                               
giving them an opportunity.  In  reality, he said, "if that child                                                               
needs  or has  a  desire to  attend somewhere  else  or look  for                                                               
services somewhere  else ... what  we do  have ... appears  to be                                                               
safe harbor for some of them."                                                                                                  
6:06:38 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON inquired as to  how HB 16 will affect other                                                               
schools and their ability to enroll additional students.                                                                        
6:07:18 PM                                                                                                                    
EDDY JEANS said  that both the Galena School  District and Nenana                                                               
School  District  could support  more  students,  but would  need                                                               
additional funding  to do so.   He also explained that  these are                                                               
voluntary  programs  where  families  are making  the  choice  to                                                               
attend because of the expanded programs that are offered there.                                                                 
6:08:54 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMAS  expressed  his dissatisfaction  with  the                                                               
mentioning  of "expanded  school programs."   He  said that  this                                                               
gives  some students  opportunities  that  other students  aren't                                                               
able to take advantage of.                                                                                                      
CHAIR NEUMAN  mentioned that residential programs  provide a home                                                               
for kids  24 hours a day.   He said that  providing this requires                                                               
additional funding.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO inquired  as to  how the  Galena School  is                                                               
funded  and if  the funding  continues during  the summer  months                                                               
when the students are not attending.                                                                                            
6:10:31 PM                                                                                                                    
EDDY JEANS stated that the  monthly stipend would be pro-rated to                                                               
a  daily rate  to reimburse  districts.   He  explained that  the                                                               
intent is to provide funding  for the residential component for a                                                               
180 day school year.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  asked if a  short course of  students could                                                               
be  added [to  Galena High  School] over  the summer  and if  the                                                               
school could be used instead of sitting empty.                                                                                  
MR.  SMITH stated  that he  believes  that this  is possible  but                                                               
there are labor challenges with teachers.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  said that she  supports HB 16 and  that it                                                               
will make  a real difference  for kids  from all over  the state.                                                               
She commented  that all schools are  in need of funding  and that                                                               
it is a shame that more money isn't allocated to all of them.                                                                   
6:13:24 PM                                                                                                                    
SANDY   EGELSTEN,  counselor,   Nenana  Student   Living  Center,                                                               
introduced two students  that wanted to testify in  support of HB
DAN SORENSON, Alexander  Creek, stated his support of HB  16.  He                                                               
explained that there  aren't schools where his family  lives.  He                                                               
said that  his mother home  schooled he  and his siblings  but as                                                               
they got older, she wasn't equipped  to teach them.  He expressed                                                               
his appreciation for the Nenana Student Living Center.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON inquired  as to  why he  chose the  Nenana                                                               
Student Living Center, as opposed to high schools in Anchorage.                                                                 
MR. SORENSON explained  that his entire family would  have had to                                                               
move in order for him to go to school somewhere else.                                                                           
6:15:26 PM                                                                                                                    
SOPHIA JOHN,  Copper Center, stated  that she was not  doing well                                                               
in the  high school that she  was attending.  She  explained that                                                               
after attending  the Nenana Student  Living Center, she  is doing                                                               
SANDY EGELSTEN  stated that other  students, as well as  the Dean                                                               
and  Superintendent [of  the Nenana  School District],  wanted to                                                               
testify on HB 16 but could  not meet the at the rescheduled time.                                                               
She  also explained  that the  Nenana School  District is  asking                                                               
families  to pay  $1000  per  year to  help  out  with the  costs                                                               
associated with residential schooling.   She emphasized that [for                                                               
the Nenana  Student Living Center]  consistent funding  is needed                                                               
more than anything.                                                                                                             
6:18:23 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO inquired  as to the number  of students that                                                               
are enrolled  in Nenana School,  what the attrition rate  is, and                                                               
the number of  families that actually contribute  $1000 for their                                                               
children's school year.                                                                                                         
MS. EGELSTEN  stated that there  are 61 students  enrolled, there                                                               
is about a 10 percent attrition  rate, and that a good percentage                                                               
of families have made the monetary contribution.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  stated  that sometimes  federal  money  is                                                               
available to native students.  He  asked if the Nenana School has                                                               
looked into this possible contribution source.                                                                                  
MS. EGELSTEN  stated that she  would redirect those  questions to                                                               
the Dean and the Superintendent of the Nenana School District.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE SALMON  thanked her for  her and the  students for                                                               
their testimony.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SALMON moved  to report  HB 16  out of  committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.  There  being no objection, HB 16 was  reported out of the                                                               
House Special Committee on Education.                                                                                           

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