Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/13/2003 11:05 AM EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 174- CORRESPONDENCE STUDY                                                                                                  
Number 2751                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO announced  that the final order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 174,  "An Act relating  to the  state centralized                                                               
correspondence   study  program,   to  funding   for  educational                                                               
programs that  occur primarily outside school  facilities, and to                                                               
the duties of school boards  of borough and city school districts                                                               
and regional  educational attendance areas; and  providing for an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
Number 2700                                                                                                                     
JACK CADIGAN told the committee he  is a retired U.S. Coast Guard                                                               
captain,   retired  teacher,   and  physics   professor  at   the                                                               
University  of  Alaska,  and  taught  physics,  mathematics,  and                                                               
physical  science  at  the  Alyeska   Central  School  (ACS)  for                                                               
thirteen years.   He told the committee he sees  four issues with                                                               
the bill.   First  is the  savings to the  state in  closing ACS,                                                               
which is  shown in the  fiscal notes.   Fiscal note 1  includes a                                                               
projection  for savings  in fiscal  year 2004  (FY 04)  of [$5.5]                                                               
million from the  foundation fund to operate the  K-12 portion of                                                               
Alyeska  Central  School.   In  addition,  it cites  $500,000  in                                                               
receipt services from 33 other Alaska school districts.                                                                         
MR.CADIGAN said in fiscal note  2, the department notes a savings                                                               
of  [$1.17]  million from  the  secession  of the  summer  school                                                               
program as an option for Alaska's  students.  He pointed out that                                                               
Mr. Jeans acknowledged  the fact that the only  actual savings to                                                               
the  state would  be the  closing of  the summer  school program.                                                               
This is  because the remainder  would simply be  redistributed to                                                               
the  various districts  absorbing ACS's  students.   To summarize                                                               
what  Mr. Jeans  said,  Mr. Cadigan  noted  that closing  Alyeska                                                               
Central  School Summer  School Program  saves  the state  [$1.17]                                                               
million, and  closing the Alyeska  Central School  entirely still                                                               
only  saves the  state [$1.17]  million.   Mr.  Cadigan told  the                                                               
committee  this  fact  was  alluded   to  by  Mr.  Jeans  in  his                                                               
testimony, so  fiscal note  1 would seem  irrelevant if  there is                                                               
neither  savings   to  be   realized  nor   superior  educational                                                               
environments to be  provided.  Thus the question  pertains to the                                                               
quality  of   education  provided   by  Alyeska   Central  School                                                               
District.   Please note that  the school is fully  accredited, he                                                               
told  members.   Numbered among  its graduates  are students  who                                                               
have   distinguished    themselves   at    numerous   prestigious                                                               
Number 2625                                                                                                                     
MR. CADIGAN said  there seem to be 11  other districts authorized                                                               
to  operate   distance  education  for  the   next  fiscal  year.                                                               
Research  on the  Department of  Education and  Early Development                                                               
and school district web sites  reveals that three of these define                                                               
themselves  as   charter  schools,  four  define   themselves  as                                                               
providing  homeschool support  through  provisions of  computers,                                                               
and  an allotment  varies from  $1,400  to $1,500  to $1,800  per                                                               
student.   Another provides an  undefined level of  home support,                                                               
and three provide no web site  information at all.  Five of these                                                               
districts  currently  purchase  some  services  from  ACS  simply                                                               
because they  do not  themselves provide  similar service.   Thus                                                               
the students  being evicted  from Alyeska  Central School  do not                                                               
have an available similar alternative,  as only ACS offers an in-                                                               
state,    fully-accredited-instruction   correspondence    school                                                               
Number 2570                                                                                                                     
MR. CADIGAN  told the committee  that savings in  closing Alyeska                                                               
Central School Summer  School Program should be the  only item in                                                               
this bill,  as it is  the only  portion that can  actually reduce                                                               
the  foundation  fund expenditures.    He  said he  supports  the                                                               
objectives and  successes of  the summer  school program  for the                                                               
past 15 years,  but he recognizes the committee  must balance the                                                               
value of  that unique program  against the cost involved,  and as                                                               
such must be a subject of judgment by the committee.                                                                            
MR. CADIGAN  spoke about the  economic impact this  closure would                                                               
cause.   Placing 44 persons  on the unemployment rolls  in Juneau                                                               
might  be  considered  a  wash  if  the  foundation  money  being                                                               
redirected would  create jobs in  other districts  within Alaska.                                                               
However, as  noted before, this is  not the case.   All districts                                                               
listed on  the web providing  distance education do so  by either                                                               
purchasing  service  by  ACS or  by  purchasing  from  homeschool                                                               
support companies or from correspondence  schools in the Lower 48                                                               
states.   As  a practical  matter, closing  Alyeska would  simply                                                               
move more state money out of state.                                                                                             
MR. CADIGAN provided a solution  to the dilemma by suggesting the                                                               
department combine  Alyeska Central  School with  Mount Edgecumbe                                                               
High School.  The advantage would  be that the state would have a                                                               
single  superintendent   who  oversees   both  districts.     The                                                               
department would actually save one-half  person in staff salaries                                                               
and benefits.   At the  same time, it  would save the  $5 million                                                               
that the  governor is trying to  do.  He told  the committee that                                                               
is his favorite option.                                                                                                         
CHAIR GATTO  asked if his  second favorite  option is as  good as                                                               
his first.                                                                                                                      
MR. CADIGAN replied that it is almost  as good as the first.  The                                                               
second favorite  option would be  to keep Alyeska  Central School                                                               
as  a separate  school  district and  remove it  organizationally                                                               
from the  [Department of Education and  Early Development](DEED).                                                               
It would do  the same thing - remove those  funds out of [DEED's]                                                               
budget -  and it  is better situation  for the  superintendent of                                                               
Mount Edgecumbe High School.                                                                                                    
Number 2388                                                                                                                     
LAURELL  CLOUGH  told  the  committee  that  she  is  a  lifelong                                                               
Alaskan,  is a  retired public  school teacher  of 24  years, and                                                               
currently has two sons taking  classes at Alyeska Central School.                                                               
She said  her family tried  the school  district's correspondence                                                               
school  first,  and  based  on   their  recommendation  and  poor                                                               
materials that she received, she  went to Alyeska Central School.                                                               
She told  the committee  that she  called all  11 schools  on the                                                               
list provided  that currently offer correspondence  education and                                                               
those  that plan  to  next year.    She found  that  none of  the                                                               
schools  will  take her  sons  because  she  wants to  keep  them                                                               
enrolled part-time  in their own  schools here in  Juneau because                                                               
she thinks [the combination] is the best education they can get.                                                                
MS. CLOUGH said the part-time issue  is important for both of her                                                               
boys,  who will  be in  high school  next year.   One  will be  a                                                               
junior and other one will be a  freshman.  The problem is that to                                                               
receive  part-time funding,  a  student can  only  enroll in  two                                                               
classes   at  a   regular  high   school  and   two  classes   in                                                               
correspondence.  At  that rate, it would take her  sons six years                                                               
to complete high  school, which she considers  unacceptable.  She                                                               
said she  is doing part-time  enrollment in public school  not by                                                               
choice, but  by necessity.   No parent chooses to  homeschool his                                                               
or her kids because it is easier.   It is much easier to put them                                                               
on  the  bus  and be  done  with  it.    She said  she  chose  to                                                               
homeschool  her kids  because they  were failing  in the  regular                                                               
system.   After 24 years as  a public school teacher,  she really                                                               
supports  public  schools.    She   told  the  committee  she  is                                                               
currently on  the site council  at Dzantik'i Heeni  Middle School                                                               
in  Juneau.   She  explained that  when her  son  was making  Ds,                                                               
hating  school, and  threatening suicide,  she realized  that she                                                               
had to look  at alternatives.  Alyeska Central  School was there.                                                               
Within a  month, he was  getting "A"s, he  was happy, and  he was                                                               
removed  part-time   from  what  was  a   very  stressful  social                                                               
situation.  He continues to be an  A student with ACS and is very                                                               
happy.  He would like to  continue this kind of education through                                                               
high school.   A  lot of kids  like to do  this because  they are                                                               
pursuing things that the schools cannot offer.                                                                                  
MS.  CLOUGH said  she had  her daughter  out of  school part-time                                                               
because  there were  no violin  lessons  during the  after-school                                                               
period that  she could  do.   There are  many reasons  why people                                                               
have  done  this, and  providing  nothing  that offers  part-time                                                               
education,  is a  disservice to  the  approximately 440  students                                                               
statewide.  She said other kids may  find it easier to go back to                                                               
their  own school.    Her oldest  son has  autism,  and has  been                                                               
homeschooled.   He came out of  school in January as  a desperate                                                               
measure.  He was  there one day and out the  next, because it was                                                               
such  a failure  for  him.   She told  the  committee they  tried                                                               
correspondence and  part-time.   He is  in high  school part-time                                                               
now, and is  making it in his  high school work and  ACS work for                                                               
about three  periods a day, which  is about all he  can handle at                                                               
Juneau-Douglas  High  School,  with  about 1,700  students  in  a                                                               
building that was  designed for about 1,300.  She  said she feels                                                               
she  is in  a place  where there  is no  place left  to send  her                                                               
children.  She  said she talked to wonderful people  who told her                                                               
that they could  not hope to do what ACS  does.  Accreditation is                                                               
an  issue also.   Five  of  these schools  are currently  seeking                                                               
accreditation; however,  it is  a process  that they  go through.                                                               
She pointed out that ACS is  currently accredited.  It is sort of                                                               
scary  to put  a  high school  kid's education  in  the hands  of                                                               
someone who  is seeking accreditation  that might be  denied when                                                               
that student is a senior, she told members.                                                                                     
Number 2194                                                                                                                     
MS. CLOUGH  pointed out that  none of these schools  are mandated                                                               
by law to exist.   She said she could put her  kids with a school                                                               
and [the school]  may decide to fold its hand  and leave the next                                                               
year.   Then she would  be hunting again to  find a place  to put                                                               
her sons.  She said the  other schools are all clearinghouses for                                                               
a wide  variety of services.   Some of these are  great services,                                                               
but having  a teacher on  the other end  of the phone  and having                                                               
that  teacher know  and understand  what it  is like  to live  in                                                               
Alaska is  important.  She  said ACS's curriculum is  written for                                                               
Alaskans.   It uses images  that make  sense to the  students who                                                               
live  in  rural areas.    For  example,  there  is none  of  this                                                               
"football field lengths" for a kid  who has never seen a football                                                               
field.   Alyeska Central  School has years  in the  business, and                                                               
while these  other schools may be  good, she does not  think they                                                               
come close to ACS, and these schools will not take her children.                                                                
Number 2145                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  Ms. Clough  about the  summer program                                                               
and asked if any of her children utilize that program.                                                                          
MS.  CLOUGH  responded  that  she has  used  the  summer  program                                                               
because it  took over one calendar  year to do an  algebra class.                                                               
Her son  just started  a geometry  class in  January, and  if her                                                               
family loses this program, she will  have to start a new textbook                                                               
and new system next year.                                                                                                       
Number 2105                                                                                                                     
RICK  CURRIER, School  Counselor; English  and Elective  Teacher,                                                               
Alyeska Central School,  spoke on the proposed  changes to Alaska                                                               
Statute  14.07.   He  said  to the  committee  that ACS  delivers                                                               
courses, enrolls students all  year, graduates students, promotes                                                               
students, and is not broken.   As mentioned before, a majority of                                                               
its  funding comes  from  its enrolled  full-time  students.   If                                                               
those students  go into  Anchorage classrooms,  it will  cost the                                                               
state 20  percent more  in FTE  [full-time equivalent].   Alyeska                                                               
Central School  currently has students  in Barrow,  Lake Iliamna,                                                               
and  other  rural  areas.    If  these  students  go  into  rural                                                               
classrooms, how much  more is it going to cost  the state to fund                                                               
their education?   He told the  committee they get a  lot of bang                                                               
for the  buck at Alyeska  Central School.   The other  issue that                                                               
has been described  is that ACS is a duplicate  service.  He said                                                               
he hopes  every school  in the state  does duplicate  services by                                                               
presenting content that meets  educational standards and accesses                                                               
students  to  make  sure  they meet  those  standards.    Alyeska                                                               
Central School does that.                                                                                                       
Number 2046                                                                                                                     
MR. CURRIER  used an analogy  to retail stores, saying  that Wal-                                                               
Mart, Home  Depot and  Nordstrom all  have display  space, staff,                                                               
and  products  to  purchase;  everyone   knows  they  all  target                                                               
different clientele,  have different products, and  sell products                                                               
differently.   He told  the committee  Alyeska Central  School is                                                               
unique.  To his knowledge,  no other distance-learning program in                                                               
Alaska  has   the  faculty,  the  Alaska-directed,   and  Alaska-                                                               
generated curriculum that the staff  has written, and 60 years of                                                               
established infrastructure.                                                                                                     
MR. CURRIER  told the  members that the  school is  expanding and                                                               
updating  the curriculum  constantly.   Right now,  19 of  the 29                                                               
courses that  the Alaska on-line consortiums  of school districts                                                               
has were written by ACS  teachers in partnership with the on-line                                                               
consortium.   He said the  school does  not have the  capacity to                                                               
provide elective  courses for  students.   He said  ACS purchases                                                               
courses from  places like North  Dakota, Division  of Independent                                                               
Study; the  University of  Nebraska; and  the American  School in                                                               
Chicago.   However, there is a  difference.  A majority  of those                                                               
classes  ACS  teaches  itself.     [The  program]  purchases  the                                                               
materials, but the teaching is done  here in Alaska.  Mr. Currier                                                               
said he asked a student the  other day how much response has been                                                               
received  from  teachers  in  Nebraska and  North  Dakota.    The                                                               
response  was  that the  student  never  got answers  from  those                                                               
teachers.   Time-difference  problems for  students is  an issue,                                                               
especially  for  students who  are  taking  classes from  schools                                                               
further east.                                                                                                                   
Number 1910                                                                                                                     
MR.  CURRIER   summarized  his  comments   by  saying   that  the                                                               
curriculum and faculty  are the points that  make Alyeska Central                                                               
School unique.   He commented that  the summer school is  done at                                                               
the direction  of the legislature.   If the legislature  wants to                                                               
save  [$1.17] million,  he suggested  cutting summer  school, but                                                               
knowing that it is a  lifeline for over 3,400 students statewide.                                                               
He said  the summer school  is not run just  in the summer.   For                                                               
instance, graduating seniors  may start a class  in March because                                                               
they are  a half credit  short.  He  told the committee  he often                                                               
gets calls from  parents and counselors asking if  it is possible                                                               
to get  a student into  a course  right away because  the student                                                               
wants to graduate in June.                                                                                                      
Number 1853                                                                                                                     
JEANNE  FOY,   Alyeska  Central  School   Education  Association,                                                               
testified  in opposition  to HB  174.   She said  that she  is an                                                               
English  teacher   at  Alyeska  Central  School   (ACS)  and  was                                                               
surprised at the governor's proposal  to close the school because                                                               
she  thought parental  choice was  one of  the key  components of                                                               
educational  reform.   She  told  members ACS  has  a long  track                                                               
record of  being committed to providing  high-quality courses and                                                               
instruction  to  students  in  a  variety  of  situations.    The                                                               
[federal] No  Child Left Behind  Act requires that  students have                                                               
highly qualified  teachers.   She said  ACS already  has teachers                                                               
certified in  the specific  subject areas  and grade  levels they                                                               
teach.  Families want teachers in  Alaska who can be reached by a                                                               
toll-free  phone number  or e-mail.   Students  who take  courses                                                               
from out-of-state  correspondence programs often  have difficulty                                                               
reaching those teachers.   Parents also want to  talk to teachers                                                               
who  know  the  courses  their  children  are  taking.    Parents                                                               
appreciate the  analysis ACS teachers provide  of their students'                                                               
work.    They want  an  accredited  program  to ensure  that  the                                                               
classes students take  with ACS are on par  with classes students                                                               
take at  a regular  or brick-and-mortar  school.   Parents choose                                                               
ACS because they recognize the value of what is offered.                                                                        
Number 1755                                                                                                                     
MS.  FOY  said  that  on  Tuesday, Eddy  Jeans  said  that  other                                                               
statewide programs  have called the department  stating that they                                                               
could develop and offer a similar  program to ACS's.  The ability                                                               
and  expertise to  develop  and  teach distance-delivery  courses                                                               
cannot   be  developed   quickly.     It  requires   a  long-term                                                               
commitment.   Right now, state  law mandates that  the Department                                                               
of  Education  and  Early   Childhood  Development  operate  this                                                               
school.  That means that  this alternative method of delivering a                                                               
public  school education  will always  be available  to students,                                                               
available, that is, as long as the  law is not changed.  The list                                                               
of  districts offering  statewide  programs for  the next  school                                                               
year is not  the same as this year's list.   Districts can choose                                                               
to discontinue to offer statewide programs at any time.                                                                         
MS. FOY  told the  committee one good  thing about  this proposed                                                               
closure is that  ACS has been inundated with  calls, letters, and                                                               
e-mails  from past  students  and families,  as  well as  current                                                               
families expressing  how much  they value the  school.   That has                                                               
been  encouraging.   These  families also  ask  why the  governor                                                               
wants to  remove this educational  choice from  Alaskan families.                                                               
To that question, she said she does  not have an answer.  Ms. Foy                                                               
provided  the  committee  with  samples  of  assessments  of  the                                                               
students' work.                                                                                                                 
Number 1657                                                                                                                     
MICHAEL  I.  JEFFERY,  Presiding Judge,  Alaska  Superior  Court,                                                               
Testified  via teleconference  as a  parent in  opposition to  HB
174.   He told  the committee  he was testifying  as a  parent of                                                               
children  enrolled in  Alyeska Central  School.   He said  he has                                                               
been listening to testimony on ACS  and could not agree more with                                                               
what has  been said.   About  five years  ago his  family started                                                               
using ACS for  his daughter, who is now graduating  from ACS this                                                               
year.  While  his family has opted  for a course or  two in local                                                               
schools, the  heavy academics have been  done through ACS.   In a                                                               
rural location,  the teachers  are doing the  best job  they can,                                                               
but the fact is that ACS  has a terrific track record with scores                                                               
on  tests and  admissions to  colleges,  and his  family has  the                                                               
assurance that their children are  getting the level of education                                                               
that anyone is getting in any city anywhere in the country.                                                                     
JUDGE  JEFFERY noted  that  ACS  kids are  going  on to  Stanford                                                               
[University] and  other top universities.   He said he  has three                                                               
students in  ACS right now,  and his oldest daughter  is applying                                                               
to colleges.   One thing  that he has  been very grateful  for is                                                               
that ACS has this great track  record.  He commented that ACS has                                                               
been  there since  1939.   College admissions  offices know  this                                                               
program, and  know that  teachers are there  that the  student is                                                               
relating  to.    This  is  not just  a  "cafeteria"  of  Internet                                                               
courses.   Judge Jeffery  said considering  the fine  record that                                                               
his daughter has built up, ACS  has a quality program.  Sometimes                                                               
classes will be  listed in ACS's catalog and  will refer students                                                               
to other  schools.   In these  cases, [his  family] has  not been                                                               
happy  with the  courses from  these  more distant  places.   The                                                               
classes just do not seem to be set  up as well.  [His family] has                                                               
a  lot  of   interchange  with  the  teachers.     Judge  Jeffery                                                               
summarized his  comments by saying  it is a quality  program that                                                               
he hopes will continue for a very long time.                                                                                    
Number 1436                                                                                                                     
RICH KRONBERG,  President, NEA-Alaska,  told the committee  it is                                                               
much  easier  to  maintain  than  to  replace  a  program.    The                                                               
committee has heard  that ACS has a proven track  record, but the                                                               
same  cannot be  said  of any  of the  other  schools that  offer                                                               
correspondence or homeschool  support in this state.   He pointed                                                               
out that the monetary savings are  doubtful at best.  With the No                                                               
Child  Left  Behind  Act,  parents  and  students  need  to  have                                                               
choices.  He said ACS is  certainly a preferable choice.  He told                                                               
the  committee there  will soon  be many  tests available  to the                                                               
state for which  the students' test results are going  to be very                                                               
public.    The  difference  is  that the  data  is  going  to  be                                                               
disaggregated.  Until  the state knows what the data  is going to                                                               
look like,  the state  cannot say with  any certainty  that these                                                               
other schools with  supposedly equivalent correspondence programs                                                               
are the equal of Alyeska Central School.                                                                                        
MR. KRONBERG offered a suggestion  to the committee that a better                                                               
way  to deal  with this  issue  is to  phase  in or  allow for  a                                                               
transition period.   If it turns out that this  is a program that                                                               
is superior  to others, there  are minimal cost savings,  if any,                                                               
and parental choice does mean  something; the state will not have                                                               
to start  all over again.   Mr.  Kronberg said the  startup costs                                                               
will be big  and it will be a waste  of precious state resources.                                                               
It is much  better to keep the  program in place, and  build in a                                                               
transition  period so  that  if, in  fact, it  is  not doing  the                                                               
things the  legislature needs it to  do, it can be  eliminated or                                                               
cut back, but  right now the legislature does not  know that.  In                                                               
fact,  there is  overwhelming  testimony that  ACS  is doing  the                                                               
right thing  and it  is doing  it better than  other places.   He                                                               
reiterated  his   suggestion  that  the  committee   build  in  a                                                               
transition period  and not  lose this  quality program  until the                                                               
members are sure there is something that can replace it.                                                                        
Number 1246                                                                                                                     
ALEXANDER  DOLITSKY,  Ph.D.,   Social  Studies  Teacher,  Alyeska                                                               
Central  School, offered  a brief  statement about  HB 174.   The                                                               
format of Alyeska Central School  is exactly what the legislature                                                               
and the state  wants to see in statewide education.   He said ACS                                                               
does  not   have  a  physical  district   like  other  districts.                                                               
Students come to ACS for a  certain purpose or for the quality of                                                               
education.  The  teachers and administrators of ACS  are on their                                                               
toes every  day or the  school loses  students.  If  students and                                                               
parents are  not satisfied  with ACS's program,  it would  not be                                                               
necessary to have HB 174; it  would end by itself because of lack                                                               
of  enrollment.    He  said  ACS  does  not  give  students  free                                                               
computers or  $1,000 for their  supplies.  He told  the committee                                                               
that parents  have heard  about the quality  of the  ACS program.                                                               
He told  the committee when  he hears the term  "duplication," he                                                               
knows  it is  not a  relevant term  because as  educators all  52                                                               
school  districts in  Alaska duplicate  each other.   They  teach                                                               
students  to read,  write, and  do math.   The  hospitals in  the                                                               
world duplicate  each other by  treating patients.   He suggested                                                               
that this  is not a  relevant term.  It  is not properly  used in                                                               
ACS's case.   In fact, ACS  is open year-round, which  is a great                                                               
difference from  other schools, not only  correspondence schools.                                                               
Furthermore, ACS enrolls  students in the middle  of the academic                                                               
year.  It  provides academic, and student  services, and programs                                                               
like Close Up, the Academic Decathlon, and other programs.                                                                      
Number 1079                                                                                                                     
DR. DOLITSKY said  the summer school is a separate  entity from a                                                               
traditional school.   The legislature  asked ACS to  perform this                                                               
service.  He  told the committee he has been  with the school for                                                               
15 years;  he started as  a summer  school teacher.   He recalled                                                               
that under  the Hickel Administration  the summer  school program                                                               
was closed to  save money.  Then it was  reinstated the next year                                                               
and  grew to  the level  that  it currently  holds.   To cut  the                                                               
summer school  does not  require this  bill; the  legislature can                                                               
just cut the  funds to operate the summer school.   Please do not                                                               
confuse  the  traditional  program  with the  summer  school,  he                                                               
asked.    The traditional  program  costs  20 percent  less  than                                                               
conventional  education  and  will  cost as  much  as  any  other                                                               
correspondence  school,  but there  is  no  guarantee that  1,100                                                               
students  enrolled in  ACS will  go to  a correspondence  school.                                                               
The committee  has heard that  ACS is  what the parents  want; if                                                               
these families cannot  have ACS, the students may go  back to the                                                               
traditional schools where  they live, and it can  cost $28,000 to                                                               
educate a child  in Barrow or other rural schools,  or $15,000 to                                                               
educate a child  at Mount Edgecumbe.  He noted  that ACS has over                                                               
50 students that live in are rural areas.                                                                                       
DR. DOLITSKY summarized  his comments by saying  that, first, ACS                                                               
is not  a duplicative institution  and, second, there will  be no                                                               
budgetary savings in eliminating ACS.                                                                                           
Number 0912                                                                                                                     
JON  PADEN, Counselor,  Alyeska  Central School;  Representative,                                                               
Alyeska Central  School Association,  testified in  opposition to                                                               
HB 174.   He told the  committee, first, ACS funding  follows the                                                               
kids wherever the students go.   Second, the [$1.17] million from                                                               
summer  school is  really for  kids in  the districts  around the                                                               
state,  not really  the  kids in  ACS, and  only  as a  secondary                                                               
benefit to them.   Third, what makes ACS unique  has been said by                                                               
other people,  but to summarize  the thought, it is  a year-round                                                               
school.  A  student's semester begins when  that student receives                                                               
textbooks and materials,  and the semester ends  for that student                                                               
when four  to six  months have  passed.   He emphasized  that ACS                                                               
offers Alaskan-teacher-mediated and  developed instruction, and a                                                               
parent advisory council  that takes in parents from  all over the                                                               
state.    He  said  the   department  testified  the  day  before                                                               
yesterday that  district are willing to  develop similar programs                                                               
and  said his  take  on that  is  that there  are  folks who  are                                                               
willing to  duplicate in the future  what at present they  do not                                                               
Number 0710                                                                                                                     
VICTORIA MARTIN told the committee  she is a homeschoolteacher to                                                               
two students.   There are six  courses that ACS has  developed in                                                               
Alaska  history and  Alaska science.   She  said she  has success                                                               
stories with  her students that  were falling through  the cracks                                                               
at  Anchorage public  schools.   Yesterday her  granddaughter was                                                               
asked by the  committee what options were available to  her.  Ms.                                                               
Martin  told the  committee she  called and  found that  Iditarod                                                               
School  District has  correspondence courses  available; however,                                                               
there is  only one English  teacher, one elementary  teacher, one                                                               
special  education teacher,  one office  person, and  four people                                                               
who work  there.   CyberLynk has  not returned  her call.   Raven                                                               
Correspondence  is  district-only.   PACE  [Personal  Alternative                                                               
Choices in Education], which is  part of Craig City Schools, does                                                               
not offer  dual enrollment, and  students get "school in  a box."                                                               
The parent  does all  the work without  support, whereas  ACS has                                                               
teachers  available  to help  parents  and  students.   The  IDEA                                                               
[Interior  Distance  Education  of Alaska]  program  has  parents                                                               
grading the work, and there  is one correspondence school through                                                               
Delta Junction that is not adequate.   Ms. Martin said one of her                                                               
students has  taken driver's education through  North Dakota, and                                                               
there was no way to call to  ask questions.  She pointed out that                                                               
ACS offers many other programs  including a Lego robotic team and                                                               
academic  decathlon.   She said  she has  a gifted  youngster who                                                               
went to  the gifted  programs here and  fell through  the cracks.                                                               
He  was deliberately  getting  bad grades  because  he was  being                                                               
bullied because  he is bright.   She  said he is  now an A  and B                                                               
student.  He  is becoming well adjusted.  Ms.  Martin said ACS is                                                               
a great program  and asked the committee to  please not eliminate                                                               
Number 0456                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO told the committee he  has a number of questions from                                                               
the  department.     Specifically,  if  the   money  follows  the                                                               
students, aside  from the  summer school, is  there some  way the                                                               
state realizes a large savings if  it is paying out the money for                                                               
the students anyway.                                                                                                            
Number 0431                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON   said  if  the  state   is  funding  this                                                               
correspondence study  at 80  percent, and if  even 20  percent of                                                               
these students go into regular  public schools in rural areas, it                                                               
does not save money, other than  the summer school.  Where is the                                                               
savings in this bill?                                                                                                           
Number 0389                                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS  responded that Representative  Seaton is  correct that                                                               
if the students go back  and enroll in their community's schools,                                                               
they are going to be funded  at a higher level.  [The department]                                                               
has  not crafted  the  actual savings  in the  long  term as  the                                                               
result  of  closing  Alyeska  Central   Schools.    He  told  the                                                               
committee he would produce that  information for the committee so                                                               
everyone can  see the  long-term savings.   Right now  the fiscal                                                               
note only shows  a savings from the closure of  the summer school                                                               
program.   However, [the department]  does believe there  will be                                                               
other savings with facility leases.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON replied  that he  would like  to see  that                                                               
information before going forward.                                                                                               
Number 0287                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  commented that  there are  two parts  to the                                                               
bill.  One is getting rid  of the Alyeska Central School, and the                                                               
second, is getting rid of the  summer school.  Closing the summer                                                               
school is the only  part that saves the state money.   He said it                                                               
is  likely that  a  number  of the  students  who  leave ACS  who                                                               
currently receive 80 percent funding  will then enroll in schools                                                               
where  they will  receive 100  percent  funding.   Some of  those                                                               
students  go to  schools  that  have a  high  ADM [average  daily                                                               
membership], for example, in Goodnews  Bay, where it will be even                                                               
more expensive to fund their education.                                                                                         
Number 0199                                                                                                                     
MR.  JEANS  restated  that  if those  students  enroll  in  their                                                               
community's school,  there will be  an increased cost  to educate                                                               
those students.  The department has been very clear about that.                                                                 
CHAIR GATTO  suggested that  the likelihood of  a student  at ACS                                                               
going back  to the public  school instead of into  an alternative                                                               
program is low.  He said  he thinks students that are involved in                                                               
these programs are  there because they are  successful, enjoy it,                                                               
and  would  probably  get  first   crack  at  one  of  the  other                                                               
correspondence schools.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  commented  that  he  disagrees  with  Chair                                                               
Gatto's  point.   He  asked Mr.  Jeans to  give  the committee  a                                                               
comparative dollar  cost of sending  one child to ACS  versus one                                                               
of the  more expensive  schools in  the Bush.   He said  he would                                                               
like  to have  a comparative  number  so that  the committee  can                                                               
consider what it would  cost to have a child leave  ACS and go to                                                               
the foundation formula.                                                                                                         
Number 0046                                                                                                                     
MR.  JEANS  replied  that  the  allocation  to  a  correspondence                                                               
program,   whether   Alyeska   Central  School   or   any   other                                                               
correspondence  program  is  80   percent  of  the  base  student                                                               
allocation, which equals about $3,800.                                                                                          
TAPE 03-12, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS said the  cost to operate a rural school  with 20 to 25                                                               
kids  is  a  cost  of  $15,000 per  student.    He  reminded  the                                                               
committee that  the department has  heard from teachers  that ACS                                                               
has about  45 to  50 students  living in  rural areas.   However,                                                               
many  of  the  students  that   ACS  is  serving  live  right  in                                                               
Anchorage,  Juneau,   and  other   larger  communities,   so  the                                                               
comparison of $3,800  to $15,000 is the extreme, and  not many of                                                               
ACS's students fall into that category.                                                                                         
Number 0104                                                                                                                     
JOYCE JONES  testified via teleconference that  she currently has                                                               
eight students enrolled  in the ACS correspondence  program.  She                                                               
told  the  committee  that  it  is an  option  to  go  through  a                                                               
correspondence program in the local  district; however, she tried                                                               
that  but  it   did  not  work  out  because   the  district  was                                                               
overwhelmed with  the number of  students already enrolled.   She                                                               
told the  committee she used  to live in  Kodiak and had  her two                                                               
boys enrolled in Kodiak public schools.   The school was just too                                                               
overcrowded and  she did not  approve of the education  they were                                                               
receiving.  Ms.  Jones said her family moved back  to Karluk, her                                                               
hometown,  where they  thought about  getting their  school open,                                                               
but it  is a very small  community.  This year  the community was                                                               
not able to  get the department to open Karluk  School because of                                                               
the low head count.                                                                                                             
MS. JONES  told the committee that  the ACS program is  very well                                                               
laid out.  The older students  that are in sixth and ninth grades                                                               
are  pretty  independent.    Day-to-day  classes  and  day-to-day                                                               
lesson plans  are provided.   Her students  started a  month late                                                               
and the  kids are doing  very well in  the program and  are right                                                               
were they  should be even,  though they  started late.   The kids                                                               
have contact with  their own teachers, there  is quick turnaround                                                               
on the work that is being sent  in, and the kids are getting good                                                               
grades.    Ms.  Jones  told   the  committee  education  is  very                                                               
important in the small rural areas.   She asked, if this is taken                                                               
away, what her family will do.                                                                                                  
Number 0389                                                                                                                     
SHEILA SYMONS  testified via teleconference  in opposition  to HB
174.   She  told  the committee  she lives  in  Central, a  rural                                                               
community,  and homeschools  three  of her  four  children.   Her                                                               
husband graduated  from ACS  and she  has been  homeschooling for                                                               
eight years.  She told the  committee ACS is not a duplication of                                                               
services.    The  teachers  are  fantastic.    They  support  the                                                               
parents, know  the courses,  and always have  the answers.   They                                                               
have helped  her be a  better teacher by offering  suggestions in                                                               
presenting  material  in a  different  way  if something  is  not                                                               
getting through.   They speak  to her  kids and have  great bond.                                                               
Ms. Symons told the committee  they have a different schedule and                                                               
frequently do  not start school  until November, but it  does not                                                               
matter if  the school year does  not end until August.   She told                                                               
the committee  there is no  Internet access where she  lives, but                                                               
ACS  offers   an  excellent  library  service   and  a  fantastic                                                               
education to her children.  For  those who are getting started in                                                               
homeschooling, ACS  gives a  daily lesson plan,  and that  is not                                                               
available from other programs.                                                                                                  
CHAIR GATTO commended  Ms. Symons on her many years  of work as a                                                               
professional homeschooler.   He  wanted her to  know that  he and                                                               
the  other  members of  the  committee  appreciate and  recognize                                                               
those who are willing and capable of homeschooling.                                                                             
Number 0697                                                                                                                     
JESSIE GIYER testified via teleconference  and told the committee                                                               
that she  and her  husband have been  teaching their  son through                                                               
ACS for six years  now.  She said ACS is  the best option because                                                               
it  provides  a  wide  variety  courses,  and  a  high  level  of                                                               
education, and  is there to assist  the parents.  If  the teacher                                                               
is unavailable, they leave voice mail  and ACS gets right back to                                                               
them.   She said they  live in Palmer  and are in  the Matanuska-                                                               
Susitna School  District, and  while the  Matanuska-Susitna study                                                               
program is available to them, they  feel ACS is the better of the                                                               
two programs.  She summarized her  comments by saying it would be                                                               
a shame to lose this program.                                                                                                   
CHAIR GATTO  thanked everyone who  has waited so long  to testify                                                               
on HB 174.  He announced  that even though the committee allotted                                                               
the  entire  time  for  testimony,  not  everyone  will  have  an                                                               
opportunity to speak.                                                                                                           
Number 0873                                                                                                                     
NANCY  RICHAR testified  via teleconference  in opposition  to HB
174.   She  told the  committee that  her son  attended ACS  from                                                               
Kindergarten through  12th grade  and graduated in  January, when                                                               
he entered  the University of  Alaska Southeast (UAS),  School of                                                               
Fisheries, on five  scholarships.  She expressed  concern for the                                                               
students  who will  not graduate  until July  or September.   She                                                               
asked  what  will happen  to  them.    Ms.  Richar said  ACS  has                                                               
survived  and  thrived since  1939  because  they have  a  unique                                                               
background,  skill,  and knowledge  to  adapt  to each  student's                                                               
individual needs.   The program has given the  students the tools                                                               
and skills to  succeed in college.  The teachers  write their own                                                               
courses supplemented by textbooks  because there are no textbooks                                                               
written  for  math, especially  for  correspondence.   They  have                                                               
received awards for the courses they  have written.  She told the                                                               
committee  her son  was very  interested in  marine life  and the                                                               
teachers  wrote  a course  of  study  for him  from  Kindergarten                                                               
through  6th grade.   One  course  became a  permanent course  of                                                               
study.   Ms. Richar told the  committee that this past  summer he                                                               
was  admitted  into  the UAF  [University  of  Alaska  Fairbanks]                                                               
Honors Institute,  where he  completed a  full semester  of three                                                               
regular courses  in six weeks,  and earned eight  college credits                                                               
with  a 3.25  GPA [grade  point average].   She  said he  learned                                                               
these skills  at ACS.   He is  currently a straight-A  student at                                                               
UAS and has been allowed to  take a postgraduate course in marine                                                               
research as  a freshman.  She  summarized by saying that  her son                                                               
is  not unusual.    There  are many  students  who  are doing  an                                                               
outstanding job and earning honors.                                                                                             
CHAIR  GATTO announced  that he  will  be holding  the bill  over                                                               
until  more  information  is  provided  from  the  Department  of                                                               
Education and Early Development.                                                                                                

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