Legislature(2005 - 2006)

04/04/2005 02:55 PM FIN


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.                                                                          

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