Legislature(1997 - 1998)

1997-02-12 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

1997-02-12                     Senate Journal                      Page 0308
SB 85                                                                        
SENATE BILL NO. 85 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                               
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                          
An Act relating to the public school funding                                  
program; repealing the public school foundation                                
program; relating to the definition of school district,                        
to the transportation of students, to school district                          
layoff plans, to the special education service agency,                         
to the child care grant program, and to compulsory                             
attendance in public schools; and providing for an                             
effective date.                                                                
was read the first time and referred to the Health, Education and              
Social Services and Finance Committees.                                        
Fiscal note published today from Department of Education.                      
Governors transmittal letter dated February 12:                                
Dear President Miller:                                                         
Providing Alaskas children with the top-notch quality education they           
deserve must be a priority of my administration and the legislature.           
I am therefore pleased to send you today this proposal to overhaul             
the Public School Foundation Program.  This new approach to our                
school funding will help us fulfill our promise to the states children         
and our childrens future.                                                      
The proposed foundation formula distributes the states wealth among            
our 53 school districts in a fairer and easier to understand method            
than our current system.  It also, for the first time, requires our            
school districts to be accountable for providing a quality education           
for all our children,  regardless of  whether they attend the smallest         
or the largest school in our state.                                            

1997-02-12                     Senate Journal                      Page 0309
SB 85                                                                        
The foundation formula offers incentive money to school districts to           
set and meet high standards for students, educators, individual                
schools and communities.  Accountability is ensured in the                     
accreditation process which is being developed by the State Board              
of Education.  Schools that fail to meet standards will not be                 
accredited.  We cannot afford to send our children to schools that             
dont meet our standards.                                                       
This foundation formula was developed over the past two years by               
the State Board of Education working in concert with many other                
Alaskans to find a better way to fund our schools. This funding                
proposal makes many significant changes that are long overdue. They            
Providing funds to school districts on a per pupil basis                      
instead of the complicated instructional unit method now in                    
Eliminating the need to unnecessarily label children as                       
special needs students. Instead, districts will receive a                      
block entitlement of 20 percent above their base funding for                   
students currently labeled gifted and talented, vocational,                    
bilingual, and most categories of special education.  Districts                
will continue to get categorical funding only for students                     
with the most serious, or intensive, disabilities.  This                       
proposal will significantly reduce the paperwork involved at                   
the state and local levels in identifying, labeling and                        
reporting such students.                                                       
Ending Alaskas need to meet a federal disparity test and                      
removing the threat of the federal government to effectively                   
determine how state and local funds are distributed among                      
Alaskas schools.                                                               
Lifting the current local funding cap that prevents local                     
governments from contributing above a certain level of                         
funding for schools.                                                           

1997-02-12                     Senate Journal                      Page 0310
SB 85                                                                        
Funding for pupil transportation which is currently a separate                
program requiring school districts to make detailed reports                    
with significant oversight from the Department of Education.                   
Only school districts which provide transportation services                    
for their students will be eligible for this funding.                          
Under this foundation formula proposal, school districts will be               
eligible for three levels of funding:                                          
Level 1: Base funding for each school district according to                 
the number of students in their classrooms.  Most funds are                    
distributed through Level 1.                                                   
Level 2: Funding under a supplemental equalization formula                  
that evens out the differences in wealth among communities                     
based on their assessed valuation.  All districts receive                      
funding under this part of the formula, but less wealthy                       
districts are paid more per student than wealthier districts.                  
Level 3: Incentive grants equaling about $150 per student                   
for districts that take steps to implement the Quality Schools                 
Initiative.  To qualify for these funds, school districts will                 
have to adopt and implement high student academic                              
standards and measure whether the standards are being met.                     
This proposal also resolves two other long standing problems with              
the foundation program: adjusting for the cost differences between             
funding communities within school districts; and providing an                  
adjustment for single site funding communities.                                
In addition, I am proposing to protect school districts that stand to          
receive less funding under the proposed program through the year               
2001 with a transitional funding provision.                                    
The changes I have described in this transmittal letter will end many          
of the criticisms Alaskans have for years leveled against our school           
funding program.  This is just a beginning.  This proposal will allow          
us to let go of the funding issues which divide us and put more of             
our energies on the urgent matter of improving the quality of                  
education our children are getting in the classroom.                           

1997-02-12                     Senate Journal                      Page 0311
SB 85                                                                        
I applaud the State Board of Education and hundreds of other                   
Alaskans from all walks of life--from parents, to leaders in business,         
government, education and other fields--for working so hard to                 
develop this proposal.  It is bold.  It is imaginative.  It is innovative.     
It is what we need to do.                                                      
						Tony Knowles