Legislature(2005 - 2006)
04/04/2005 02:55 PM FIN
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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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 student's come; and providing for an effective date. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN COGHILL, SPONSOR, stated that HB 16 would put into statute the Department of Education & Early Development current practices. The legislation does not create new programs; it only supports existing programs that are successful. The change is a student would not have to pass the current standard for qualification. The standard is that the student would be able to have high school available while leaving their school district. The bill provides students a choice regarding whether they go to a larger boarding school that has more offerings than what is available at their local schools. Representative Coghill pointed out that the legislation, by statute, reimburses to full school year, secondary boarding schools for the costs incurred by the district operating the program. At this time, there are three boarding schools, which would qualify for reimbursement for a per-pupil stipend plus one round trip between the student's community of residence and the school during the school year. The legislation limits the program to boarding schools already operating since January 1, 2004, and those schools would participate in a five-year pilot project that the Department of Education & Early Development could evaluate for the Legislature. He added that the hold harmless section of the bill allows the student's district of residence to count a student for the Average Daily Membership (ADM) count even though the student is attending a secondary boarding school. It avoids the possibility of paying twice, the base student allocation for the same student. 4:34:10 PM Representative Hawker commented on the fiscal impact of the legislation and questioned how those funds could be offset. Representative Coghill acknowledged that he had been concerned about that. He noted that he was committed to balancing the budget, while finding legitimate ways to fund government. He indicated that he did not know a place from which to transfer the funds, reiterating that the need for boarding schools is great. Representative Hawker suggested that a participatory investment from people living in the Rural Education Attendance Areas (REAA). Representative Coghill responded that was a capital approach and that he would not want to attach the bill to that. He added that HB 16 is a structural process, looking at how boarding schools do in Alaska. Representative Coghill acknowledged the need for downward pressure on State government growth. 4:37:06 PM Representative Hawker interjected that he was referring to Senator Bundy's REAA head-tax. Representative Coghill misunderstood. 4:37:18 PM Vice-Chair Stoltze referenced Section 2 and was confused about community pressure. He worried about a school losing their standing. He thought that the legislation might be restricting options. Representative Coghill stated that there are reasons why in some communities, the schools should no longer exist. He did not want to see that a student leaves because they could not get what they needed. He struggled with that, but understood that there would be no effect on schools with between 10 & 20 students, as the funding level would remain the same between that level. Only when there are less than 10 students, is there a potential question. He wanted to find a way to hold the school district harmless if that were the case. Vice-Chair Stoltze worried about pressure in small schools on the child that needed or wanted to board out. He referenced the Nenana Boarding School commenting on what a successful system that is. 4:40:55 PM Representative Weyhrauch inquired who goes to a boarding school. Representative Coghill pointed out that many students go to a boarding school. In many cases, the parents pay into the school fund. The stipend does not cover the entire costs of the boarding costs. In Nenana, they divide the cost between the school and the parent. The stipend would cover between ½ and a 1/3 of the costs. There could be some savings. The students come from a wide range of communities in the State including Anchorage. The reasons that they are there range from social problems, parents wanting to raise the level of education or specific voc-tech options. The Nenanna students seem to be in a good college prep situation. He reiterated that there is a wide range of issues. REPRESENTATIVE MARK NEUMAN testified in support of HB 16. He claimed that regional learning center concepts were important to future education statewide. It provides a safe haven for many students. The graduation rate from the boarding schools is tremendous and many of these students have gone to college. In the boarding school system and regional learning centers, the student learns in a college type atmosphere and end up doing well in college. Representative Neuman pointed out that there are many schools that have marginal attendance. The proposed legislation offers a way to bring some of those students into the regional learning centers, thus making the statewide system better. He added that the hold harmless clause does protect some of the smaller statewide schools. Many students would love to get into those schools and that most of the students are from rural Alaska. 4:47:47 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOODIE SALMON testified in support of the bill. He noted that he was a result of a boarding school education program. He commented that boarding schools provide a wonderful choice for village students. He acknowledged the sacrifices that parents make in order for their children to leave the villages and attend boarding schools. He noted opportunities that offer vocational advantages. Representative Salmon indicated that this is not a Native problem but rather a State problem and that Alaska needs to be proactive in educating our children. 4:51:42 PM RALPH LINDQUIST, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), NENANA SCHOOL DISTRICT, testified in support of the legislation. He noted that Nenana district offers a product, which is very popular with the kids. He gave examples of children in the program that have succeeded and pointed out that no kids opted to leave the school for Christmas break this year. The bill would provide funding for five years. He addressed college prep preparation and begged for support for these kids and the programs. JIM SMITH, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), GALENA SCHOOL DISTRICT, GALENA, spoke in support of the legislation. He stressed the success of their program. He offered to answer questions of the Committee. KEN EGGLESTON, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, NENANA, spoke in support of the legislation. He recounted successes at the Nenana and Galena boarding schools. He observed that the Nenana and Galena boarding schools assist each other and emphasized their need to offer vocational and other popular programs to these students. Mr. Eggleston pointed out that the Nenana School District is working with the Rasmussen Foundation. He assured the Committee that the programs are attempting to find ways to fund that does not encumber more money from the State. He urged passage of the legislation. HB 16 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.