Legislature(1993 - 1994)
04/06/1993 07:35 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
The Senate Community & Regional Affairs Committee was called to order by Chairman Randy Phillips at 7:35 p.m. He informed the witnesses waiting to testify via the legislative teleconference network on SB 62 that committee members would have to return to the Senate floor where the operating budget was being debated, but that staff would be recording the meeting and taking notes on the participants' testimony. Number 055 JERRY BURNETT, staff to Senator Randy Phillips, took over as moderator for the meeting. GEORGE HOLCOMB, President of the Anchorage Council Education, one of the nine bargaining groups that represent employees working for the Anchorage School District, testified from Anchorage. He stated his support for the draft committee substitute, saying they appreciate the removal of the unequitable and unfair Alaska School Price Index proposal that was contained in the original bill. He said the Anchorage School District provides an education to 38 percent of the students in the state and they do it with only 30 percent of the foundation funding. He also expressed the district's appreciation for the removal of the change in the weighing factor for gifted and talented students. Under the original bill, over $750,000 would have been reduced from their gifted and talented program. Mr. Holcomb encouraged the committee to provide equitable funding for the students of Anchorage and to support the revised version of the bill. Number 100 JOE BECKFORD, Superintendent of the Unalaska City School District, testifying from Unalaska, said that Unalaska's assessed evaluation has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, but that hasn't been without a price. While the assessed evaluation of Unalaska is very high, the infrastructure to support that has not been put in place yet. He requested that as the legislature looks at things such as assessed evaluation and funding provisions that address that assessed evaluation, to also look at the infrastructure and the demands that are being put against that assessed evaluation. He also suggested that the legislature should look at the decentralization of districts such as Anchorage and not the consolidation of small school districts. Number 150 BRUCE STANTON, Vice President of the Ketchikan Education Association, testifying from Ketchikan, voiced support for the Alaska School Price Index, saying it may be flawed, but that it is an improvement over the current area cost differential. Ketchikan has been at the cap for six years, and they cannot spend any more money locally. Their area cost differential is rated the same as Anchorage. He said he agreed with the point that in some cases the Alaska School Price Index does award those districts which have not have been using their resources wisely, but he believes it is an improvement. Mr. Stanton also spoke to moving the cap, saying it's time to move in some other direction instead of just asking the state for more dollars every year. Number 240 SHERILY BRASPEMINCKY, an employee of the Anchorage School District and Vice President of the Anchorage Council of Education, stated her support for the revised Alaska School Price Index formula in a way that is more equitable for Anchorage. Under the changes, Anchorage would receive an increase of $5.9 million as opposed to the original bill where they would have received $392,230. She also supports the deletion from the committee substitute of the changes to the funding formula for the gifted and talented program as proposed in the original version of SB 62. Number 255 SHARON NORTON, President, Ketchikan Education Association, testifying from Ketchikan, said Ketchikan has been at the cap for local funding for six years, and they have no where to go. She said they need more education dollars just to keep even. She stated her support for the original SB 62 because it would go a long way for providing equity in public school funding in the state. Number 272 KATHI GILLESPIE, representing the Alaska PTA and testifying from Anchorage, expressed appreciation for full and early funding of the foundation formula this year. She outlined several funding issues that were adopted as part their legislative program at the Alaska PTA 1992 convention, such as public education as the primary responsibility of both the state and local government units; the state funding formula for education should be reformed to minimize disparities created by local contribution and federal funds among poor and wealthy districts; the state should provide funding for districts adequate to enable them to provide both basic educational programs and special programs mandated by the state; their support for the concept of the Alaska School Price Index; and consolidation of small school districts and setting a minimum size for a school district. Number 334 KAREN BITZER, representing the Anchorage Council of PTAs, testifying from Anchorage, said Anchorage has long felt the effects of inequitable treatment by the legislature with regard to education funding. She stated the Council's support for CSSB 62(CRA). They support the formula for special needs and gifted students. The Anchorage School District receives a high percentage of students with special needs from various parts of the state. She said the Anchorage Council of PTAs urges their representatives in the legislature to work aggressively to bring home more fair and equitable educational funding. Number 365 JOHN HOLST, Superintendent, Craig City Schools, testifying in Juneau, said consistently, small school districts across the state have very low administrative costs. They do not have large bureaucracies, they have administrators who teach and do all kinds of other duties, so they are much more efficient than a lot of other larger districts. He does not support the committee substitute, saying it is flawed legislation, and is an attempt to move a major portion of funding from rural Alaska into the metropolitan areas. He believes that when the Alaska School Price Index is in final form, it will take care of the single site and other equities in the current funding formula. He requested that the original Alaska School Price Index be placed back into the bill. There being no other witnesses wishing to testify on SB 62, the public hearing was closed and adjourned at 8:00 p.m.