Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/03/2000 09:01 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                          MINUTES                                                                                             
                 SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                     
                       March 3, 2000                                                                                          
                          9:01 AM                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
TAPES                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SFC-00 # 45, Side A & B                                                                                                         
SFC-00 # 46, Side A                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair   John   Torgerson    convened   the   meeting   at                                                                    
approximately 9:01 AM                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
PRESENT  Co-Chair  John  Torgerson, Co-Chair  Sean  Parnell,                                                                
Senator  Pete Kelly,  Senator  Loren  Leman, Senator  Randy,                                                                    
Senator Green  Phillips,                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Also  Attending: EDDY  JEANS,  Manager,  School Finance  and                                                                  
Facilities  Section,  Department   of  Education  and  Early                                                                    
Development; CARL  ROSE, Executive Director,  Association of                                                                    
Alaska School  Boards; VERNON MARSHALL,  Executive Director,                                                                    
NEA   Alaska;  RICK   CROSS,  Commissioner,   Department  of                                                                    
Education and Early Development.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Attending  via  Teleconference:  From  Eagle  River:  DEBBIE                                                                  
OSSIANDER, Anchorage School Board;  NANCY DAVIS, Eagle River                                                                    
PTA;  From  Greely:  DAN  BECK,  Greely  School  Board;  ART                                                                    
GRISWOLD, Borough Incorporation  Committee; From Nome: KAREN                                                                    
LIGON; From Fairbanks: DEBBIE  COOK, Chinook Charter School;                                                                    
MIKA MACH, Chinook Charter  School; ROYCE CHAPMAN, Fairbanks                                                                    
School  Board; CYNTHIA  HENRY,  President, Fairbanks  School                                                                    
Board;  CARTER CRAWFORD;  From Homer:  SCOTT WHEAT  and RICK                                                                    
HARNESS; From Kenai: PATRICK  HICKEY, Kenai School District;                                                                    
CATHERINE  DELACEE,  President,  Soldotna  Elementary  Sight                                                                    
Council;  From   Petersburg:  ELIZABETH   BACOM,  President,                                                                    
Petersburg  School  Board;  From  Seward:  MALCOLM  FLEMING,                                                                    
Principal, Seward High School.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SUMMARY INFORMATION                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SB  95-SCHOOL GRADE LEVELS                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
The  Department of  Education and  Early Development,  along                                                                    
with members from  the public testified.  The  bill was held                                                                    
in committee.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SB 105-PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The Sponsor,  along with members from  the public testified.                                                                    
A committee  substitute was adopted.   The bill was  held in                                                                    
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SB 198-INCREASE BASE ALLOCATION FOR EDUCATION                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The Sponsor,  along with members from  the public testified.                                                                    
The bill was held in committee.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SB 244-QUALITY SCHOOL GRANT FUND INCREASE                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
The  Commissioner  of  Department  of  Education  and  Early                                                                    
Development, along  with members from the  public testified.                                                                    
The bill was held in committee.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     SENATE BILL NO. 95                                                                                                         
     "An Act relating to the combination of grades that                                                                         
     constitute junior high, middle, or secondary school."                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Phillips  explained  that  this  legislation  would                                                                    
provide a  mechanism to alleviate an  overcrowding situation                                                                    
in an Anchorage high school.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DEBBIE  OSSIANDER,  Anchorage  School  Board  testified  via                                                                    
teleconference  from  Eagle River.    She  stated that  this                                                                    
legislation addresses  a specific  problem in  the Anchorage                                                                    
school district.   She noted  that those schools,  which are                                                                    
more geographically isolated than  the ones in the Anchorage                                                                    
bowl, are  being unfairly  impacted by  current regulations.                                                                    
She  explained   that  Chugiak  High  School   is  the  most                                                                    
overcrowded  in the  Anchorage  School  District, but  under                                                                    
current regulations  it is impossible  to qualify  for state                                                                    
reimbursement to address the problem.   She pointed out that                                                                    
this  current  legislation  would make  less  stringent  the                                                                    
requirements to qualify for relief.   She then gave specific                                                                    
characteristics  of   Chugiak  High   School's  overcrowding                                                                    
situation.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
EDDY JEANS, Manager, School  Finance and Facilities Section,                                                                    
Department of  Education and  Early Development  stated that                                                                    
this   legislation's  related   fiscal  note   reflects  the                                                                    
increased   eligibility  for   districts   to  qualify   for                                                                    
additional  monies for  major  maintenance or  construction.                                                                    
He  added that  this  legislation allows  the allocation  of                                                                    
secondary square footage for six  graders who are located in                                                                    
middle  schools.     He  noted   that  overall   the  system                                                                    
implemented  by this  legislation would  allow reimbursement                                                                    
under   the   debt   retirement  program   or   the   school                                                                    
construction   grant   program   as  appropriated   by   the                                                                    
legislature.  He then outlined  the fiscal note figures more                                                                    
specifically.  He explained that  these figures would not be                                                                    
retroactive.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Phillips  explained that  the figures  referenced in                                                                    
the fiscal  note would  be the  maximum potential  of monies                                                                    
necessary  to rectify  this overcrowding  problem.   He then                                                                    
gave a general overview  of other school districts statewide                                                                    
that are also nearing saturation.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Jeans outlined  the reasons behind a  reduction of funds                                                                    
from   $26  million   to  $18   million   related  to   this                                                                    
legislation's  fiscal note.   He  explained that  the fiscal                                                                    
note was  originally prepared under the  assumption that all                                                                    
six-grade students  would move  to a middle  school concept,                                                                    
reflecting the  maximum possible increase in  eligibility if                                                                    
this concept was initiated.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilken  referred to page  three, lines 15 -  23, and                                                                    
asked  for   an  explanation   for  the   proposed  language                                                                    
addition.  This section reads:                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
          (A) projected long-term student enrollment that                                                                       
     indicates the district has inadequate facilities to                                                                        
     meet present or projected enrollment or has unhoused                                                                     
     students; for purposes of this subparagraph,                                                                             
               (i) students are considered unhoused if the                                                                    
          students attend school in temporary facilities;                                                                     
          and                                                                                                                 
               (ii) sixth grade students shall receive the                                                                    
          space allocation given  to secondary students when                                                                  
          the sixth  grade students are  housed in  a middle                                                                  
          school, junior  high school,  or high  school that                                                                  
          includes the sixth grade;                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Jeans explained that this  language would give districts                                                                    
secondary space allocation  if the students are  housed in a                                                                    
middle  school.    He noted  that  students  are  considered                                                                    
unhoused under section  (i) if the students  are in portable                                                                    
or temporary facilities.  He  then explained the square foot                                                                    
ramifications of this language.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Wilken  asked  if this  section  would  change  the                                                                    
global definition of "unhoused" students in Alaska.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Jeans responded that he  would do additional research to                                                                    
answer this question.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Ms.   Ossiander   confirmed   that  students   in   portable                                                                    
facilities in Anchorage have been considered "unhoused."                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Phillips  advised   that   the  Anchorage   School                                                                    
District,  along  the  Department  of  Education  and  Early                                                                    
Development will work with demographers  in order to further                                                                    
refine  this  fiscal  note.     He  then  gave  examples  of                                                                    
overcrowding and growth of community  sectors, both of which                                                                    
reflect a need for this legislation.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Jeans clarified that the  numbers outlined in the fiscal                                                                    
note reflected  the additional amount  of money  allowed for                                                                    
eligible  reimbursement.   He continued  that  the level  of                                                                    
reimbursement  would depend  on the  funding mechanism  that                                                                    
the  legislature passes.   He  added  that this  legislation                                                                    
would  change entitlement  for  school districts,  affecting                                                                    
the related project priority process.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
NANCY DAVIS,  Eagle River  PTA (Parent  Teacher Association)                                                                    
spoke  to the  fiscal note  and noted  that this  district's                                                                    
highest priority  was to  secure funding  for a  second high                                                                    
school  in North  Anchorage.   She noted  that the  district                                                                    
currently has nine portable facilities at this high school.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Torgerson ordered the bill HELD in committee.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     CS FOR SENATE BILL NO. 105(HES)                                                                                            
     "An Act determining the facilities constituting a                                                                          
     school for purposes of public school funding; and                                                                          
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Taylor   stated  that  this   legislation  corrects                                                                    
problems  with  SB  36, legislation  passed  in  a  previous                                                                    
session changing  the foundation funding formula  for public                                                                    
schools.  He pointed  out that  Petersburg barely  qualified                                                                    
for  the  enrollment  requirement  set  out  in  SB  36.  He                                                                    
continued  that  in the  community  of  Wrangell there  were                                                                    
three  funding   units  for  elementary,  middle   and  high                                                                    
schools.  He noted that  because of this, Wrangell would not                                                                    
receive any  significant funding,  but rather  were required                                                                    
to institute  special taxation programs  to make up  for the                                                                    
shortfall.  He added that  Petersburg or Wrangell have never                                                                    
taken  advantage  of  the   previous  school  basic  funding                                                                    
formula.    He  explained   the  characteristics  of  a  new                                                                    
committee  substitute not  presently  before the  committee,                                                                    
which would  provide for  a decline  on the  present funding                                                                    
mechanism at 75 percent, then  to 50 percent, and finally to                                                                    
25 percent.   He asserted  that these funding  percents were                                                                    
created  for   the  purposes  of  bringing   Petersburg  and                                                                    
Wrangell to current levels of necessary allotted monies.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator Phillips  affirmed that this legislation  would only                                                                    
affect three  communities, these being  Petersburg, Wrangell                                                                    
and Delta Greely.  He  wondered how much each community paid                                                                    
for their schools.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Senator Taylor  responded that these  communities pay  up to                                                                    
the cap  and above, some of  which; is paid out  of the city                                                                    
coffers.   He  continued  that Wrangell  increased its  real                                                                    
property  taxes by  20 percent,  all of  which was  spent on                                                                    
education.   A discussion ensued between  Senator Taylor and                                                                    
Senator  Phillips regarding  the  non-tax  paying status  of                                                                    
Delta Greely.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilken gave a historical  overview of school funding                                                                    
for  Petersburg and  Wrangell, as  well as  Delta Greely  as                                                                    
illustration of  the inequities between  tax based  and non-                                                                    
tax  based  communities,  which progressed  into  a  general                                                                    
discussion about  how school  expenses are  funded statewide                                                                    
per   established  formulas.      Senator  Taylor,   Senator                                                                    
Phillips, Senator  Green and  Senator Leman  participated in                                                                    
this discussion.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Green referred  to  discussions  from last  session                                                                    
regarding   the   Department    of   Education   and   Early                                                                    
Development's hesitancy  to amend  SB 36, until  the overall                                                                    
effects of this legislation could  be weighed on a statewide                                                                    
basis.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Jeans responded  that this  is  still the  department's                                                                    
position.  He  noted that the department  does recognize the                                                                    
effects to a school system  that falls below the established                                                                    
formula number.   He  noted that when  a community  has more                                                                    
than 750  students in their  system, this community  has the                                                                    
benefit  of   counting  three  schools,  if   three  schools                                                                    
presently  exist.    He  continued   that  with  a  drop  of                                                                    
students, this community  can only count on  funding for two                                                                    
schools, which can  be a substantial cut.   He remarked that                                                                    
a three-year transition formula  as proposed in this current                                                                    
legislation might  be inappropriate,  but rather  a one-year                                                                    
transition might be in order.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Green asked  if the  department  could foresee  any                                                                    
other community falling into this similar situation.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Jeans responded  that the  two  communities closest  to                                                                    
this cut-off figure  are Petersburg and Delta  Junction.  He                                                                    
then responded  to various questions about  a proposed study                                                                    
regarding cost differentials, which  this study is slated to                                                                    
be completed next year.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilken  referred to the efforts  of two Accountants,                                                                    
who  are presently  trying  to align  the  state's chart  of                                                                    
accounts.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Jeans  responded  that  in   addition  to  SB  36,  the                                                                    
legislature appropriated  additional resources for  the hire                                                                    
of two  internal auditors who are  compiling comparable data                                                                    
between school  districts.  He  added that  different school                                                                    
districts were accounting for  certain types of expenditures                                                                    
inconsistently with  other school districts.   He summarized                                                                    
that these  efforts were an  attempt to make  these accounts                                                                    
more uniform.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
DAN BECK,  Greely School Board testified  via teleconference                                                                    
from  Greely.   He  stated  that his  community  was in  the                                                                    
process of creating  a borough.  He noted  that Greely would                                                                    
need help  with funding  their schools once  this transition                                                                    
takes place.  He outlined the  funds that Greely has lost in                                                                    
this past  year because their student  enrollment fell below                                                                    
the cut-off  formula.   He stressed  that unless  Greely can                                                                    
get  some relief,  the community  will  have to  lay off  19                                                                    
teachers  and one  administrator.   He  spoke to  additional                                                                    
shortfalls.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Tape: SFC - 00 #45, Side B, 9:49 AM                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Beck responded  to a  question posed  by Senator  Leman                                                                    
regarding  the  district's  ADM (Average  Daily  Membership)                                                                    
number at  1022 students,  putting them over  the threshold.                                                                    
Mr. Beck noted this number was closer to 891 students.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Phillips asked  what the  timeline  was related  to                                                                    
Greely becoming a borough.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Beck  responded that  the  charter  would be  submitted                                                                    
within six weeks.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
ART GRISWOLD, Borough  Incorporation Committee testified via                                                                    
teleconference   from   Greely  reiterated   this   six-week                                                                    
estimate.  He continued  that after the necessary signatures                                                                    
were collected,  it would be  up to the  Boundary Commission                                                                    
to  set a  date  for a  hearing, and  it  would probably  be                                                                    
within 90 to  120 days after this hearing that  a final vote                                                                    
would take place.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
KAREN   LIGON,   Nome    Public   Schools,   testified   via                                                                    
teleconference  from Nome.   She  stated that  in Nome  they                                                                    
absorb   the  Nome   Youth  Facility,   which  is   a  youth                                                                    
correctional  institution.     She  added  that  educational                                                                    
services  are  provided here  for  a  capacity  of 6  to  12                                                                    
students.  She  spoke about an alternative  high school with                                                                    
a student population that fluctuates  from 25 to 35 students                                                                    
there as  well.   She stressed  that it  is hard  to provide                                                                    
adequate  services  to these  small  schools  when it  is  a                                                                    
requirement to count them as  part of a larger school, which                                                                    
has the highest ADM.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
DEBBIE   COOK,   Chinook   Charter  School   testified   via                                                                    
teleconference  from Fairbanks.    She  stated the  school's                                                                    
concern  with SB  105 dealt  specifically with  section 1.3,                                                                    
which states:                                                                                                                   
               (3) in a community with an ADM of greater                                                                        
     than 450  [750], each facility that  is administered as                                                                  
     a  separate  school shall  be  counted  as one  school,                                                                    
     except  that each  alternative school  with  an ADM  of                                                                    
     less than 200 shall be counted  as a part of the school                                                                    
     in the district with the highest ADM.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
She  stated that  this section  continues  to treat  charter                                                                    
schools with  less than 200  students for  funding purposes,                                                                    
as  if the  students are  enrolled  in the  school with  the                                                                    
largest  ADM  in  the  district.   She  asserted  that  this                                                                    
creates an inequity with smaller  schools.  She gave various                                                                    
examples of  how the  Chinook Charter  School lacks  many of                                                                    
the  programs of  these larger  schools and  along with  the                                                                    
established  funding formulas,  this  charter  school has  a                                                                    
harder time meeting their costs.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SCOTT  WHEAT testified  via  teleconference  from Homer  and                                                                    
stated that he supports  this legislation, especially from a                                                                    
rural perspective.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
RICK  HARNESS testified  via  teleconference  from Homer  to                                                                    
support this bill.   He spoke to the  possibility of cutting                                                                    
staff  in  Homer  schools  because  of  funding  shortfalls,                                                                    
something,  which  affects the  whole  community.   He  also                                                                    
stressed  that funding  charter  schools  takes away  monies                                                                    
that could be used in the public school system.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
PATRICK  HICKEY,   Kenai  School  District,   testified  via                                                                    
teleconference from  Kenai.  He  addressed the issue  of how                                                                    
schools are  categorized by this legislation.   He suggested                                                                    
that  having  a  charter  school  with  26  students,  while                                                                    
funding  it along  with a  community  of 600  students in  a                                                                    
larger  high school  creates an  inequitable situation.   He                                                                    
concluded that  charter schools should  be treated  like any                                                                    
other.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Green  responded  to Co-Chair  Torgerson's  concern                                                                    
that  the  testimony  was  turning  into  a  charter  school                                                                    
debate.   She pointed out  that this legislation  in earlier                                                                    
versions did make reference to  charter schools and inferred                                                                    
that some  of the  testifiers were  referring to  this older                                                                    
version.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
ELIZABETH  BACOM,  Petersburg  School  Board  testified  via                                                                    
teleconference  from   Petersburg.    She   highlighted  the                                                                    
negative  fiscal impacts  created  by declining  enrollment,                                                                    
while  using the  two-school formula  as  versus the  three-                                                                    
school  calculations as  was testified  to previously.   She                                                                    
listed  all  those  programs that  the  district  stands  to                                                                    
loose, as  a result and  those that they have  already lost.                                                                    
She also outlined  how Petersburg has had to  shore up their                                                                    
resources to save existing funding.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MIKA   MACH,   Chinook   Charter   School,   testified   via                                                                    
teleconference  from Fairbanks  regarding  the inclusion  of                                                                    
charter schools  into this legislation.   She requested that                                                                    
a benchmark  be included in  section 3 to cover  the Chinook                                                                    
Charter School.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CARL ROSE, Executive Director,  Association of Alaska School                                                                    
Boards   stated   that   the   association   supports   this                                                                    
legislation,  although they  are  concerned  that a  present                                                                    
state funding policy exists under  a foundation formula.  He                                                                    
noted the  benchmark change  from 750 to  450 ADM,  his main                                                                    
point  being that  whatever the  benchmark, it  needs to  be                                                                    
consistent from one school district to the next.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Phillips asked  Mr. Rose  to  address the  inequity                                                                    
created by  two tax paying jurisdictions  that are presently                                                                    
requesting  relief,  along  with  another  community,  Delta                                                                    
Greely, a non-paying tax community.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Mr.  Rose responded  that  he does  agree  that an  inequity                                                                    
exists, but  suggested that this issue  be addressed through                                                                    
another  avenue.   A lengthy  discussion ensued  between Mr.                                                                    
Rose,  Art  Griswold  and Senator  Phillips  regarding  this                                                                    
issue.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilken made a motion  to adopt SB 105, 1-LS06AA\T as                                                                    
the committee substitute.   Hearing no objection,  it was so                                                                    
moved.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Torgerson ordered the bill HELD in committee.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     SENATE BILL NO. 198                                                                                                        
     "An Act increasing the base student allocation                                                                             
     component of the public school funding formula; and                                                                        
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Wilken   as  sponsor  gave  an   overview  of  this                                                                    
legislation.  He  noted that this bill  simply provided that                                                                    
an additional fifty  dollars be added to  the student dollar                                                                    
for  K-12  foundation formula.    He  pointed out  that  the                                                                    
foundation formula puts  a demand on state  resources in the                                                                    
amount of $19.96 million dollars  less than the year before.                                                                    
He noted that this legislation  recognizes that part of this                                                                    
money, if  not all of it,  is education.  He  continued that                                                                    
this  $19.96  million  is generated  by  three  things:  the                                                                    
first,  Alaska  has  fewer  students,  federal  monies  have                                                                    
increased since  last year, and  through the efforts  in the                                                                    
last  decade of  this legislature  and others,  the assessed                                                                    
value  of Alaska  continues  to grow.    He summarized  that                                                                    
these  three aspects  contributed  to a  $20 million  dollar                                                                    
reduction to the  state's resources.  He felt  as though the                                                                    
increase in funding outlined in  SB 198 would provide relief                                                                    
to various communities.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MALCOLM FLEMING, Principal Seward  High School testified via                                                                    
teleconference  from  Seward.    He  pointed  out  how  this                                                                    
district is slated  to loose three regular  teachers and one                                                                    
special education teacher due  to falling enrollments, along                                                                    
with the effects of budget cuts.   He added that if they had                                                                    
been able to  use the funding formula from 1996  - 1997, the                                                                    
district would  presently have four more  teachers on staff.                                                                    
He outlined  the additional effects  budget cuts  would have                                                                    
on the Seward school district.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
ROYCE   CHAPMAN,  Fairbanks   School  Board   testified  via                                                                    
teleconference from Fairbanks.   He noted that the Fairbanks                                                                    
district is faced  with a $4 million-dollar  gap in funding.                                                                    
He declared  that the  district made up  $3 million  of this                                                                    
deficit through cuts to administrative  areas, which did not                                                                    
have  a direct  affect  on  student programs.    He gave  an                                                                    
overview  of   other  such  efforts,   including  shortfalls                                                                    
anticipated in the future.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CYNTHIA HENRY,  President, Fairbanks School  Board testified                                                                    
via  teleconference from  Fairbanks.   She  stated that  the                                                                    
board recently  held two public  hearings and heard  from 80                                                                    
citizens regarding  the Fairbanks school budget.   She noted                                                                    
that every participant requested  the reinstatement of those                                                                    
programs  already  cut because  of  budget  shortages.   She                                                                    
explained that the district  would eventually ease subsidies                                                                    
to their charter  school contingents.  She  spoke to loosing                                                                    
children from the district due to program cuts.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Tape: SFC - 00 #46, Side A, 10:36 AM                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CARTER   CRAWFORD,   testified   via   teleconference   from                                                                    
Fairbanks.  She stated her  support for SB 198 and education                                                                    
generally  as a  high priority.   She  added that  education                                                                    
should not  be considered  an expense just  because it  is a                                                                    
budget item.  She countered  that drops in enrollment should                                                                    
be  an  opportunity  for   districts  to  increase  Alaska's                                                                    
commitment to existing students.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
PATRICK  HICKEY  testified  via teleconference  from  Kenai.                                                                    
He noted that  Kenai's property taxes have  increased to the                                                                    
point where the state should  realize a reduction of revenue                                                                    
at  $781,000 next  year.   He  stated his  support for  this                                                                    
legislation.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Catherine  DeLacee,  President,  Soldotna  Elementary  Sight                                                                    
Council,  testified  via  teleconference from  Kenai.    She                                                                    
stated   that   the   Council  unanimously   supports   this                                                                    
legislation.  She stated that  the local school there had to                                                                    
"pink  slip"  four  teachers recently  and  she  noted  that                                                                    
teachers have had  to pay for supplies out  of their pockets                                                                    
for the last three years.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SCOT  WHEAT  testified  via teleconference  from  Homer  and                                                                    
voiced his support for this legislation.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
RICK HARNESS  testified via teleconference  from Homer.   He                                                                    
stated his support of the previous testimony.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
DEBBIE  COOK testified  via  teleconference from  Fairbanks.                                                                    
She stated  wholeheartedly her support for  this legislation                                                                    
in face of budget shortfalls.   She felt as though education                                                                    
of Alaskan children should be its highest priority.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CARL ROSE, Executive Director,  Association of Alaska School                                                                    
Boards  stated  that the  state  has  been  on the  move  to                                                                    
improve the quality  of education in Alaska.   He noted that                                                                    
the  intent of  previous legislation  namely, SB  36 was  to                                                                    
inject $26 million  into the education system.   He asserted                                                                    
that this legislation was to  offset enrollment declines and                                                                    
increased  property  values  as   a  local  contribution  to                                                                    
education.   He stated  that his organization  supports this                                                                    
legislation  because the  weight  of money  generated by  it                                                                    
will go towards the children directly.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
VERNON   MARSHALL,   Executive   Director,   NEA   (National                                                                    
Education Association)  Alaska stated that  his organization                                                                    
supports   the  $50   increase  as   allowed  for   by  this                                                                    
legislation.  He added that  the NEA would gladly support an                                                                    
amendment to  raise the basic  student allocation  to $4,040                                                                    
in an  effort to restore  the $19.17 million  as recommended                                                                    
by the governor.   He noted that this money  would go a long                                                                    
way to preparing students for the  2002 exit exams.  He also                                                                    
stated  a concern  with the  quality  schools initiative  as                                                                    
presented in SB 244.  He  pointed out that this effort would                                                                    
require additional  personnel, materials  and training.   He                                                                    
outlined  the specific  related cost  ramifications of  this                                                                    
initiative as well.                                                                                                             
     SENATE BILL NO. 244                                                                                                        
     "An Act increasing the eligible maximum amount for                                                                         
     quality school grant funding for school districts; and                                                                     
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
RICK CROSS, Commissioner, Department  of Education and Early                                                                    
Development  stated   that  this  legislation   provides  an                                                                    
increase from $16 to $52 of  the quality school grant in the                                                                    
public  school  foundation  formula.    He  noted  that  the                                                                    
ultimate  impact of  this increase  would total  $7,552,000.                                                                    
He asserted  that this legislation provides  money to school                                                                    
districts  using a  different mechanism  than SB  198, which                                                                    
the  department  also  supports.   He  continued  that  this                                                                    
legislation  provides quality  school  grant increases  that                                                                    
targets  money for  specific  purposes,  meaning to  improve                                                                    
student  performance.   He  cited that  this  money was  for                                                                    
districts  to provide  necessary  programs  ensuring a  high                                                                    
level of student success for exit exams.                                                                                        
ADJOURNED                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Torgerson adjourned the meeting at 11:00 AM.                                                                            

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