Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/18/2003 11:05 AM EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 174- CORRESPONDENCE STUDY                                                                                                  
CHAIR GATTO  announced that the  only 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."   He told the  committee it is his  intention to                                                               
hear testimony and move the bill out of committee.                                                                              
Number 0142                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked if the information  requested by the                                                               
committee from the Department of  Education and Early Development                                                               
is available.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR GATTO asked  Mr. Jeans to address how the  state would save                                                               
money by implementing HB 174.                                                                                                   
Number 0183                                                                                                                     
EDDY  JEANS,  Manager,  School  Finance  and  Facilities  Section                                                               
Education  Support Services,  Department of  Education and  Early                                                               
Development, provided  the committee with  requested information.                                                               
He told the committee the  only additional savings the department                                                               
was able to identify  is in the lease cost for  the space that is                                                               
associated with  Alyeska Central  Schools (ACS).   The department                                                               
has estimated that  amount to be $365,000  annually, provided the                                                               
state  does not  use  that  space for  some  other  purpose.   He                                                               
pointed out that  the lease costs are paid out  of the Department                                                               
of Administration's budget.                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO said one of the  questions he had was what happens to                                                               
a typical  student if ACS closes.   Chair Gatto asked  what other                                                               
options are available beyond moving  out of state or enrolling in                                                               
another correspondence school, public school, or private school.                                                                
MR.  JEANS responded  that the  only option  Chair Gatto  did not                                                               
mention is enrolling in a charter school.                                                                                       
CHAIR  GATTO  commented  that  the   funding  for  educating  ACS                                                               
students goes with that student.                                                                                                
MR. JEANS replied that Chair Gatto is correct.                                                                                  
CHAIR  GATTO  pointed  out  that  there  are  two  other  options                                                               
students may choose.  One is  quitting school and the other is to                                                               
enroll in a private school where there is no cost to the state.                                                                 
Number 0380                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked if the  department is looking at what                                                               
the  current ACS  students will  probably cost  the state  if ACS                                                               
MR. JEANS  told the  committee it  costs the  state approximately                                                               
$3,800  per student  to  stay  at ACS  or  in any  correspondence                                                               
program.   He  mentioned that  in a  previous meeting  there were                                                               
discussions about the range of  costs per student.  Specifically,                                                               
Representative Gara  had asked  what the high  end would  be, and                                                               
Mr. Jeans  said he had responded  that the cost could  be as high                                                               
as $15,000 to $17,000 per child.                                                                                                
MR. JEANS  told the  committee he recently  received a  call from                                                               
one  of the  parents of  a child  currently enrolled  at ACS  who                                                               
wanted to know  how much it would  cost to send her  child to the                                                               
Far North School, which is  in the Yukon-Koyukuk School District.                                                               
He  said he  wanted to  use  this as  an example  because if  the                                                               
committee  looks at  extremes, it  is  important to  look at  the                                                               
other  side as  well.   Mr. Jeans  explained that  the Far  North                                                               
School currently  has 12  students enrolled in  it.   Through the                                                               
state foundation-funding program, a  base allocation covers 10 to                                                               
20 students.   In other words,  if a school has  10 students, the                                                               
school gets  exactly the same  amount as if  there were up  to 20                                                               
students.  This  parent currently has three  children enrolled in                                                               
ACS, and if this parent were  to enroll these students at the Far                                                               
North School, there  would be a savings to the  state because the                                                               
funding would  not change for  that particular school,  since the                                                               
numbers would still fall between 10  and 20 students for the base                                                               
allocation for this  school.  He told the committee  he was quite                                                               
shocked when this parent pointed this  out to him and the funding                                                               
worked out  that way.   Mr.  Jeans pointed out  that this  is the                                                               
other extreme.                                                                                                                  
Number 0574                                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS  said a  lot of  the cost  in educating  these students                                                               
depends on what grade level they  are in, because the larger high                                                               
schools  in Anchorage,  for example,  generate 0.84  funding once                                                               
the  school exceeds  the  750  student threshold.    He told  the                                                               
committee these schools generate 4  percent more than what an ACS                                                               
student generates.   The  cost or savings  will be  determined by                                                               
the setting that these students select.                                                                                         
Number 0622                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON asked  if there  are charter  schools that                                                               
are also correspondence schools.                                                                                                
MR.  JEANS   responded  that   there  are   a  couple   of  them.                                                               
Specifically,  Delta/Greely  is  a  cyber  school  out  of  Delta                                                               
Junction.   In Anchorage there  is the Family  Partnership, which                                                               
is a  homeschool correspondence  environment.   He said  there is                                                               
also the Horizon School that  the state board will be considering                                                               
for approval.   That school is in  the Mat-Su [Matanuska-Susitna]                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked if there  would be an opportunity for                                                               
current ACS students to go  to other correspondence schools or to                                                               
a charter correspondence school.                                                                                                
Number 0637                                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS responded  that the department is  committed to helping                                                               
these families find alternative programs.   There are a number of                                                               
statewide  correspondence programs  and charter  school programs.                                                               
He said he  reviewed ACS enrollments by community  and found that                                                               
85  percent  of  the  total  students enrolled  in  ACS  live  in                                                               
Anchorage, Fairbanks,  Juneau, Kenai, Ketchikan,  Kodiak, Mat-Su,                                                               
Petersburg,  and  Sitka.    Mr.  Jeans  pointed  out  that  these                                                               
students are going to have  other opportunities available to them                                                               
in the communities  they live in, along with  the other statewide                                                               
correspondence programs.                                                                                                        
CHAIR  GATTO commented  that two  charter schools  in Mat-Su  are                                                               
both  trying to  increase their  enrollment right  now, so  these                                                               
schools will likely try to capture some of these students.                                                                      
Number 0818                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  asked  how  many  charter  schools  have                                                               
availability  and how  many  students will  be  required to  gain                                                               
admittance by lottery.                                                                                                          
MR. JEANS  responded that the only  lotteries he is aware  of are                                                               
by  charter schools.   The  statewide correspondence  programs do                                                               
not  have lotteries.   He  said the  department has  been talking                                                               
with them about assisting with an additional number of students.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER asked if the  schools have the capacity to                                                               
meet the needs of these additional students.                                                                                    
MR.  JEANS said  that he  knows Galena  City School  District has                                                               
already expressed  some interest.   Galena will say that  it does                                                               
not  have the  exact program  that ACS  has in  place right  now;                                                               
however, it is  committed to developing a program  that meets the                                                               
needs of those parents.  Galena is  unique in its delivery.  If a                                                               
parent  does  not want  a  lot  of  involvement from  the  school                                                               
district,  Galena can  provide minimal  services  along with  the                                                               
allotment, or  if a parent wants  a lot of involvement  and a lot                                                               
of teacher contact  time, Galena will also accommodate  that.  He                                                               
told the  committee the majority  of people enrolled  in Galena's                                                               
program do  not want a lot  of teacher contact, but  that contact                                                               
is available.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER  asked, since  this bill  is an  effort to                                                               
look  at cost-saving  measures, if  Mr. Jeans  could provide  the                                                               
members  with how  much the  state would  save if  the department                                                               
recalculated  the growing  communities  and  determined how  much                                                               
they are  saving by not  including 100 percent of  their property                                                               
MR. JEANS  responded that he  believes Representative  Kapsner is                                                               
referring  to  the  required-local-effort  calculations  and  the                                                               
inclusion of only 50 percent of the increased value.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER said  she would like to know  how much the                                                               
state would save  if the department would look at  100 percent of                                                               
their property value.                                                                                                           
MR. JEANS  responded that  he could  provide that  information to                                                               
the committee.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR GATTO commented  that he is certain that if  HB 174 reaches                                                               
the House  Finance Committee,  that information  will need  to be                                                               
MR. JEANS  responded that  HB 174 is  not strictly  a cost-saving                                                               
measure  from  the department's  perspective.    It is  a  policy                                                               
issue,  and  with  the  additional  schools  providing  statewide                                                               
correspondence   functions,  the   department  asked   the  basic                                                               
question of  whether the  department really needs  to be  in this                                                               
business anymore.                                                                                                               
Number 1052                                                                                                                     
KYM  WOLCOTT testified  via teleconference  in  opposition to  HB
174.   She  told  the  committee ACS  is  very  important to  her                                                               
family.   She currently  has two children  in seventh  and eighth                                                               
grades enrolled  at ACS.   Their  experiences with  local schools                                                               
were absolute nightmares.  She said  she was told many times that                                                               
the  school  did  not  have  time for  her  children  because  of                                                               
overcrowding,  lack  of  staff,   and  funding.    Upon  repeated                                                               
messages  such as  these, her  family  started researching  other                                                               
options for  her children's education and  found ACS.  It  is the                                                               
best resource  because her  family business  takes them  all over                                                               
Alaska.    Alyeska  Central  School   allows  her  family  to  be                                                               
together, contribute  to their  education, and  assure it  is the                                                               
highest quality education.  At the  time her children were in the                                                               
local school  system they  were receiving  low to  middle grades;                                                               
now,  due  to  ACS's  quality  education  program  and  excellent                                                               
support  system   with  certified  teachers,  her   children  are                                                               
receiving topnotch  grades.   On Saturday there  was a  town hall                                                               
meeting  in  Anchorage,  and  she   heard  the  Anchorage  School                                                               
District trying  to stop the  budget cuts  that are coming.   She                                                               
told the committee closing ACS  is just shifting the problem from                                                               
one hand  to the  other.   She said  her children  actually enjoy                                                               
learning  through  ACS's  program  and  asked  the  committee  to                                                               
maintain ACS.   She also told the committee she  does not believe                                                               
the facts  that Mr.  Jeans provided  to the  committee.   She was                                                               
told the cost per student is actually $3,200, not $3,800.                                                                       
Number 1300                                                                                                                     
MARVEL  LLOYD testified  via teleconference  in opposition  to HB
174.  She told the committee her  family has been with ACS for 13                                                               
years.   Of her three  children, one  is a sophomore  in college,                                                               
one is  in junior high  school, and one is  in high school.   She                                                               
said when she started with ACS  the main reason she chose ACS was                                                               
the  homeschool accountability,  with  the  parents and  children                                                               
being  accountable  to  real,  live teachers.    When  the  other                                                               
homeschools  started  up offering  free  computers  and paid  for                                                               
piano lessons it  was actually very tempting because  she did not                                                               
have a  good computer and  could not  afford piano lessons.   She                                                               
said at  that point her family  reevaluated and came up  with two                                                               
reasons why  they decided to  stay with ACS.   The first  one was                                                               
accountability.   The second reason,  was that the  teachers have                                                               
written and  rewritten their  curriculum, and  the courses  are a                                                               
high quality  of education.   She commented that in  listening to                                                               
the  hearings she  knows this  is mostly  about cost  savings and                                                               
about whether this  is going to be  more or less.   She asked the                                                               
committee  to address  quality education.   While  Galena may  be                                                               
able to develop a quality curriculum, it is not yet in place.                                                                   
Number 1456                                                                                                                     
LINDA VOORHEES  testified via teleconference in  opposition to HB
174.   She  told  the  committee her  family  lives  in a  remote                                                               
location  where they  do not  have access  to a  brick-and-mortar                                                               
school.   For fifteen years  she has  used ACS to  homeschool her                                                               
children.  Her oldest child graduated  from ACS two years ago and                                                               
is currently  a sophomore at  Stanford University.  She  said she                                                               
hears the committee discussing  other correspondence schools that                                                               
will satisfy the families that lose  ACS.  She said that will not                                                               
be true  because ACS  offers outstanding  programs, and  no other                                                               
program offers  so much for  so little.  No  other correspondence                                                               
school in  the state  can offer the  staff of  certified teachers                                                               
that  ACS does.    She  told the  committee  that she  personally                                                               
called every other  correspondence school in the  state and found                                                               
that most  of them have  one or two  teachers for all  the grades                                                               
and classes.   One estimated that it would have  15 teachers, but                                                               
it does not  grade papers or even comment on  the student's work.                                                               
That makes ACS the only  correspondence program that can remotely                                                               
comply with the No Child Left Behind Act by the year 2005.                                                                      
MS. VOORHEES  asked if  any of  the members  have asked  how many                                                               
correspondence schools  will be  left in 2005,  when specifically                                                               
qualified teachers  will be required  for each grade  and subject                                                               
in order to  stay open.  This is the  only correspondence program                                                               
mandated  by the  state; that  means all  the other  programs can                                                               
shut down anytime  they think it is to their  advantage to do so.                                                               
She suggested  this is going to  happen in 2005.   She also asked                                                               
what  it will  cost  to  reopen ACS  if  all  the other  distance                                                               
programs fold.  The money will  not be saved; it will just follow                                                               
the students.   She said  she was  surprised to hear  the comment                                                               
that  most   if  not  all   students  would  just  go   to  other                                                               
correspondence  schools, so  there  would be  no increased  cost.                                                               
There  are  a number  of  families  she  knows that  are  already                                                               
considering  public schools.    She decided  to  call some  other                                                               
families who  are currently enrolled  at ACS and found  eight out                                                               
of ten of the families  are considering brick-and-mortar options.                                                               
These  families  are  considering brick-and-mortar  schools  only                                                               
because the schools  would be accredited and  would have teachers                                                               
that  can offer  the support  that students  need.   Ms. Voorhees                                                               
acknowledged that there would be  savings in lease space for ACS,                                                               
but  the  building   is  owned  by  the   Alaska  Permanent  Fund                                                               
Corporation, and  this is just  about money going from  one state                                                               
department to another.   While ACS does get money  for the summer                                                               
school; it  is important to  note that  the summer school  is the                                                               
only one in the state.                                                                                                          
Number 1671                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO  asked  Ms.  Voorhees  about  the  school  that  has                                                               
teachers that do not grade papers.                                                                                              
MS.  VOORHEES replied  that he  is correct.   One  charter school                                                               
does not even know how many  teachers it has.  It estimated about                                                               
15, but the parents grade all the papers.                                                                                       
CHAIR GATTO asked the name of that charter school.                                                                              
MS. VOORHEES replied  it is IDEA [Interior  Distance Education of                                                               
Alaska, program of the Galena City School District].                                                                            
Number 1725                                                                                                                     
AYAIRE CANTRELL testified via teleconference  in opposition to HB
174.   She told  the committee  she has been  a student  with ACS                                                               
since kindergarten  and is  now a  senior with  a 4.0  GPA [grade                                                               
point average].   Alyeska Central School is  neither outdated nor                                                               
a  duplicate service  because  it is  excellent  at delivering  a                                                               
topnotch education to  Alaskan students.  She said  that while it                                                               
does use  course work  from the University  of North  Dakota, its                                                               
curriculum  is  always evolving  to  specialize  the program  for                                                               
Alaskan  students.    Courses offered  at  ACS  includes  on-line                                                               
courses, advanced placement courses,  and college credit courses.                                                               
There are specific  teachers for each subject,  which brings them                                                               
closer  to meeting  the  2005  standards for  the  No Child  Left                                                               
Behind Act than any other  correspondence school.  She said while                                                               
ACS  receives  20  percent  less  funding  than  brick-and-mortar                                                               
schools and no  funding for special education,  it still provides                                                               
special education.   She told the committee ACS  has provided her                                                               
with an  excellent education.   Students who have  graduated from                                                               
ACS  have   attended  such  schools  as   Stanford  [University],                                                               
Pennsylvania  State  University,  and  Duke  [University].    Ms.                                                               
Cantrell  said  that while  she  had  tried other  correspondence                                                               
schools because  she wanted  an easier math  course, she  did not                                                               
feel challenged  by any of the  other courses.  She  said that if                                                               
ACS  were  to  close,  she  would  be  faced  with  a  number  of                                                               
unsatisfactory options.   One of them  may be to attend  a school                                                               
that may  open in the  community where she  lives.  If  that does                                                               
not  happen,   then  she  might   have  to  use   PACE  [Personal                                                               
Alternative Choices  in Education, correspondence program].   She                                                               
also pointed out  that she likely will not be  able to finish her                                                               
senior year  before June 30,  which means  she will have  to wait                                                               
until the beginning of the next  school year to enroll and finish                                                               
her classes.                                                                                                                    
Number 1919                                                                                                                     
MS. CANTRELL  summarized her  statement by  saying that  the only                                                               
real  savings  the committee  is  discussing  is by  closing  the                                                               
summer  school.   The  students  who  enroll  in the  ACS  summer                                                               
school, especially seniors,  are doing it so they do  not have to                                                               
delay going  on to  college.   It will  mean those  students must                                                               
wait until the following year  and another whole year of funding.                                                               
In this way, it will save money.                                                                                                
Number 1970                                                                                                                     
NANCY  RICHAR testified  via teleconference  in opposition  to HB
174.   She  told  the committee  that many  parents  go to  other                                                               
correspondence schools  because the programs are  not as rigorous                                                               
or demanding of the student's time.   She wanted the committee to                                                               
know that ACS  does not just take the top  students of the school                                                               
for the  academic decathlon, but  that they take an  equal amount                                                               
of A, B,  and C students on  each team.  The kids  on these teams                                                               
excel.   They  took  third  place in  all  the  large schools  in                                                               
Alaska.  Ms.  Richar said ACS students are doing  so well and are                                                               
meeting  the  requirements  of  the exit  exams  in  reading  and                                                               
writing early  on.  She  urged the  committee to keep  the school                                                               
open as an  example for other schools to come  up to their level.                                                               
Ms. Richar  said the only  option in  Trapper Creek is  the local                                                               
high school, where  they have cut all electives  and actually buy                                                               
courses from  ACS to  fill in  other courses.   She said  she has                                                               
neighbors  who  put  their  children  in  Mount  Edgecumbe  [High                                                               
School]  a few  years ago  and  she was  told it  cost the  state                                                               
$15,000 per  year, compared  with $3,000  at ACS.   She  asked if                                                               
there is a  political agenda that is unseen in  the discussion of                                                               
closing ACS.                                                                                                                    
Number 2173                                                                                                                     
WENDY TWOGOOD  testified via teleconference  in opposition  to HB
174.    She  told  the  committee she  wanted  to  echo  all  the                                                               
supportive  testimony from  the parents  about  ACS.   This is  a                                                               
school that is  keyed for educational success.   For example, she                                                               
said her  two children have been  enrolled at ACS, and  last year                                                               
her son,  who is in  the ninth  grade, passed a  college entrance                                                               
exam for  the University of  Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) with  a score                                                               
of 89.  That means he  will be able to skip developmental English                                                               
and enter into the  111 level at UAF.  He  is a full-time student                                                               
at UAF and  has complete 23 credits.  She  told the committee her                                                               
son could  not have  done that without  the help of  ACS.   He is                                                               
dually  enrolled   at  UAF  while  completing   his  high  school                                                               
requirements.  He is holding a 3.0  GPA.  Her daughter is a full-                                                               
time student  and a junior at  UAF.  She told  the committee that                                                               
she  has been  on the  dean's  list, and  chancellor's list,  and                                                               
currently is  holding a  3.75 GPA.   She  said her  children have                                                               
been enrolled at ACS since 1989.   Ms. Twogood told the committee                                                               
she  has  friends who  have  enrolled  their children  in  public                                                               
schools,  but removed  them because  of  the negative  influences                                                               
there, tried other correspondence schools,  but found that ACS is                                                               
superior  to  the other  programs  because  of the  attention  to                                                               
detail.   Her son still needs  two more years with  ACS to finish                                                               
high  school and  get his  master's degree  by the  year 2007  in                                                               
computer science  at the age of  20 years old.   Ms. Twogood told                                                               
the committee closing ACS will be a disruption.                                                                                 
Number 2363                                                                                                                     
PAULA  WILLIAMS,  President,  Parent  Advisory  Council,  Alyeska                                                               
Central School, testified in opposition to  HB 174.  She told the                                                               
committee that she  has been listening to the  testimony over the                                                               
last three  days and the parents  have covered what the  team has                                                               
put together.   She said this will not save  the state any money,                                                               
since  many students  will be  going  to schools  that will  cost                                                               
more, and maybe some to schools  that will cost less.  She talked                                                               
about the  changes ACS has  gone through  over the last  62 years                                                               
and the successes graduates from  ACS have accomplished including                                                               
acceptance  at  nationally  known  universities.    Ms.  Williams                                                               
pointed  out that  the state  will lose  the only  state-mandated                                                               
correspondence  program; the  summer  school is  the only  summer                                                               
school,  and last  year over  3,450 students  enrolled to  finish                                                               
their graduating credits  so they wouldn't have  to spend another                                                               
semester in high school.                                                                                                        
Number 2465                                                                                                                     
MS. WILLIAMS shared her family's  experience, saying that for the                                                               
last ten  years her family  of six has lived  in a log  cabin, 40                                                               
miles  away  from  the  nearest road,  store,  school,  or  power                                                               
supply.   Their  nearest neighbor  is 20  miles away.   When  her                                                               
husband  retired after  20 years  in  the U.S.  Army, they  moved                                                               
there  to raise  their children,  and run  a small  family lodge.                                                               
After  two  years  of  trying other  homeschools,  she  told  the                                                               
committee  they found  ACS  and have  been with  it  since.   Her                                                               
daughter graduated, and her three boys  are in high school.  They                                                               
have aspirations of attending college,  and do not believe any of                                                               
the current  homeschool choices can  give them  the accreditation                                                               
they need.   She said her  family feels their only  choice is the                                                               
Nenana Student  Living Center.   The  cost to  her family  is not                                                               
only  losing their  children prematurely,  but also  losing their                                                               
active participation in running their family business.                                                                          
MS. WILLIAMS pointed out that the  cost to the state per child at                                                               
ACS is  $3,800 and Nenana  is $15,000.  If  this is not  a money-                                                               
saving  move for  ACS,  why is  this being  taken  away from  her                                                               
children?   Why  would the  state have  another school  develop a                                                               
program like  ACS when it is  already in place?   Alyeska Central                                                               
School was  developed over years,  the teachers have  written the                                                               
courses, and a  school cannot just say it will  develop a program                                                               
and have it done.   It will take a lot of time  and money to have                                                               
that happen.   The department asked if they really  need to be in                                                               
this business,  she noted.   This is  a mandated program  for the                                                               
state.  The  state should be proud of the  program that they have                                                               
built.  She said she chose this option because it is the best.                                                                  
Number 2173                                                                                                                     
MS. WILLIAMS  said in  response to  Chair Gatto's  question about                                                               
the number of  children in her family that she  has four children                                                               
and  there  are six  in  her  family  including her  husband  and                                                               
Number 2535                                                                                                                     
RICK  GRESSETT,  School   Counselor,  Wrangell  School  District,                                                               
testified via  teleconference in opposition  to HB 174.   He told                                                               
the  committee that  removing ACS  would be  taking a  major tool                                                               
from  him.    When  he  had heard  that  this  might  happen,  he                                                               
immediately  started calling  other  schools  for a  replacement.                                                               
One place  he called shifted  him to five different  people, none                                                               
of whom  answered the phone; he  left a message with  all five of                                                               
them two  weeks ago, and he  has yet to receive  a returned call.                                                               
He told the committee if a  fellow professional does not get that                                                               
courtesy, what would happen to a parent or student.                                                                             
MR. GRESSETT said  in checking with some of the  other schools he                                                               
found  that the  number  of credits  required  for graduation  is                                                               
above the  state requirement,  which is  21.   The three  that he                                                               
talked to require  24 to 26 credits.  There  are many reasons why                                                               
students want  to get on  with their  lives and reasons  why they                                                               
are unable  to attend  a brick-and-mortar school.   Many  times a                                                               
student will  become a second-year  senior because of  being just                                                               
one-half  credit short  of qualifying  to graduate.   He  said he                                                               
turns to  ACS to help that  student graduate on time.   Sometimes                                                               
the student  can pick up that  credit in summer school.   This is                                                               
the only  accredited summer  school.  He  pointed out  that other                                                               
schools do not  permit part-time school.  It is  about the money,                                                               
he suggested.   What those schools want is for  the student to be                                                               
enrolled before  the count.  Once  the count is over  with, there                                                               
is no money in it for them.   However, ACS will take a student at                                                               
any time,  and it is a  key difference.   He said he was  told by                                                               
the other  schools that if  the student enrolls after  the count,                                                               
the parent has to pay out of  pocket.  Mr. Gressett added that if                                                               
a student is expelled from  school, ACS will accept that student.                                                               
He said ACS is a major tool for school counselors.                                                                              
Number 2765                                                                                                                     
KANDI SOWARDS  testified via teleconference  in opposition  to HB
174.  She told the committee  she is a 17-year-old senior and has                                                               
been  with ACS  since  third  grade.   Ms.  Sowards  said as  she                                                               
listened to her fellow students,  teachers, and friends she feels                                                               
everyone  has brought  up so  many excellent  points and  she can                                                               
only restate  many of what  they said.   Her one main  point that                                                               
she felt  was not mentioned  enough is  the simple fact  that the                                                               
whole  point of  the bill  is to  save the  state money,  and the                                                               
point has obviously  been made that this will not  save the state                                                               
any  money.    Alyeska  Central  School  has  been  an  excellent                                                               
educational  resource to  her, she  told members.   She  said the                                                               
only  savings she  can see  is  from cutting  the summer  school;                                                               
however,  it is  the  only  summer school  that  is available  to                                                               
Alaskan students,  and she  feels it  would be  irresponsible for                                                               
the state to get rid of it.   Ms. Sowards told the committee that                                                               
almost  all   the  Lower  48   states  have   consolidated  their                                                               
correspondence, homeschool,  and cyber  school programs  into one                                                               
institution  because they  found  that the  cost  of having  many                                                               
school districts  competing and duplicating resources  on a small                                                               
scale  translates  in  the  long  term  to  reduced  services  to                                                               
students  and more  cost to  the state.   Alyeska  Central School                                                               
does not have  to pay for the expenses  a brick-and-mortar school                                                               
must  pay.   She  said she  recently  heard of  a  school in  the                                                               
Anchorage  School  District  that  spent $600,000  on  art  while                                                               
renovating a school.                                                                                                            
Number 2948                                                                                                                     
ELNORA WALKER  testified via teleconference  in opposition  to HB
174.   She told the committee  she is a tenth-grade  student with                                                               
ACS and  has been since  kindergarten, with the exception  of two                                                               
years when she tried other schools.   Her brother is currently an                                                               
eighth-grade student at  ACS.  She said that anyone  who says ACS                                                               
is duplicating services is mistaken.   The teachers and librarian                                                               
take  into account  students' needs.    She lives  in the  remote                                                               
Bush.  When an assignment comes  up that requires the Internet to                                                               
complete, ACS provides  materials and books to  help its students                                                               
complete the assignment.                                                                                                        
TAPE 03-13, SIDE B                                                                                                            
MS. WALKER said  the teachers are wonderful  and always available                                                               
to the  students.  At the  other school it would  be necessary to                                                               
make an appointment to ask  questions that were not answered very                                                               
well.   She said her brother  was able to choose  what classes he                                                               
wanted, and he  had three or four choices per  subject.  When she                                                               
was in the eighth grade those  choices were not available, so she                                                               
said it is always interesting to see new changes each year.                                                                     
Number 2879                                                                                                                     
JENNIFER WILCOX testified via teleconference  in opposition to HB
174.   She told  the committee she  is in the  11th grade  at ACS                                                               
which  is the  only accredited  year-round school  in the  state.                                                               
There are excellent teachers who  are accessible by telephone, e-                                                               
mail, fax,  or mail, and  over 250 classes are  offered including                                                               
on-line  and advanced-placement  classes.   Many  extracurricular                                                               
activities  are offered  through ACS  including programs  such as                                                               
Alaska and  National Close  Up and the  Academic Decathlon.   Ms.                                                               
Wilcox summarized her  comments by saying she  believes it should                                                               
remain an option in Alaska's educational system.                                                                                
Number 2827                                                                                                                     
DANIEL KNUDSEN  testified via teleconference in  opposition to HB
174.   He  told the  committee  he is  a  senior at  ACS and  has                                                               
attended ACS for the last  three years; however, before that time                                                               
he attended private  and public school.  He said  no other school                                                               
came  close  to the  education  he  is  receiving  at ACS.    The                                                               
curriculum  is  interesting,  challenging,  and  flexible.    The                                                               
teachers are  qualified and  competent.   Last summer  his father                                                               
was diagnosed with cancer and he  had to leave the state while he                                                               
received  treatment.   He had  not finished  classes before  that                                                               
time,  and at  any  other school,  he would  have  had to  retake                                                               
another semester of high  school to make up for it.   That is one                                                               
of the  things that makes  ACS such a  great school.   The school                                                               
has also  been successful  in creating a  sense of  community for                                                               
the  students  by  allowing  them  to know  each  other  and  the                                                               
teachers.    Alyeska  Central  School   unites  the  parents  and                                                               
teachers to  educate the student  in the  best way possible.   He                                                               
said he hopes  that ACS will be available for  students for years                                                               
to come.                                                                                                                        
Number 2727                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO announced  that the committee would take  a brief at-                                                               
ease at 11:57 a.m.  The committee reconvened at 12:05 p.m.                                                                      
Number 2692                                                                                                                     
JOHN SCOTT  read his testimony in  opposition to HB 174  into the                                                               
record.  The first part of  his written testimony read as follows                                                               
[original punctuation provided, but some formatting changed]:                                                                   
     My name  is John Scott  and I reside near  Glacier Bay,                                                                    
     Alaska.   I am here  to testify against  HB 174.   I do                                                                    
     not  support  the  closure of  Alyeska  Central  School                                                                    
     (ACS).  In very general terms  all I have ever asked of                                                                    
     this  State's  constitutionally   mandated  and  funded                                                                    
     educational system is:                                                                                                     
     1)   What subjects are you going to teach my children                                                                      
     2)   When are you going to teach the subjects                                                                              
     3)   How will you know if mastery has been achieved                                                                        
     4)   Will you provide assistance to  me as a parent and                                                                    
     to  my child  as  a  student if  mastery  has not  been                                                                    
     The local  REAA school could not  provide clear answers                                                                    
     to questions 1  through 3 and in  several cases refused                                                                    
     assistance  when   we  as  parents  found   mastery  of                                                                    
     subjects being taught was lacking.                                                                                         
     As a  result we as  a family studied what  options were                                                                    
     ACS  provided  the  only  alternative  with  a  60-year                                                                    
     history,  with  a  Legislative  charter,  that  offered                                                                    
     accreditation  and   a  complete  course   catalog  and                                                                    
     program that we  could plan by.  They  also offered the                                                                    
     only  experienced distance  education staff  willing to                                                                    
     evaluate student  performance and capable  of providing                                                                    
     assistance.    ACS  also has  the  support  capable  of                                                                    
     providing quality course work.                                                                                             
     None  of  the  other  in-state  correspondence  schools                                                                    
     could offer the following:                                                                                                 
     1)   History and prestige of ACS                                                                                           
     2)   Accreditation   and    therefore   acceptance   by                                                                    
     colleges of course work completed                                                                                          
     3)   Course catalog and program                                                                                            
     4)   Willing and  able staff  capable of  evaluation of                                                                    
     mastery and provision of assistance and support                                                                            
Number 2580                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO asked  if no school could provide  the combination of                                                               
all four or only one individual point.                                                                                          
MR. SCOTT responded  that he was looking for a  school that could                                                               
provide all four of  the items.  He said, as  an example, none of                                                               
them  could provide  the history  and prestige  and none  of them                                                               
could provide  the accreditation.   Some  could provide  a course                                                               
catalog, but not  a complete program.  None, other  than ACS, had                                                               
staff  that  were  capable.    He said  he  is  bothered  by  the                                                               
discussion of state funds.  There  needs to be some equality; the                                                               
committee  is  comparing is  apples  and  oranges.   These  other                                                               
correspondence  schools are  not at  the same  level.   Mr. Scott                                                               
continued to read his statement,  which read as follows [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     The proposed closure  of ACS smacks of a  money raid by                                                                    
     the shills  of other less qualified  and less organized                                                                    
     correspondence school programs in the state.                                                                               
     ACS   is  not   redundant.     It  provides   the  only                                                                    
     acceptable,  accredited  correspondence school  program                                                                    
     in the state.                                                                                                              
     If you  are going to  push this proposal  forward, what                                                                    
     are  you going  to provide  or  offer to  the ACS  High                                                                    
     School  students as  an or-equal  alternative in  their                                                                    
     last  years of  study?   How  are you  going to  handle                                                                    
     ending  the   program,  meaning  how  do   the  current                                                                    
     students  complete their  one-year course  of study  if                                                                    
     their  year is  up in  September and  your ax  falls in                                                                    
     The Republican  Party public stand  regarding education                                                                    
     has been to "leave no  children behind" and to "provide                                                                    
     choice and  alternative to families faced  with poor or                                                                    
     failing    schools    (i.e.;    better    choice    and                                                                    
     alternatives)"  Yet here  I sit  testifying  on a  bill                                                                    
     which  leaves  children  behind and  does  not  promote                                                                    
     choice and does not provide for better alternatives.                                                                       
     Please  do not  support  this  bill.   If  you want  to                                                                    
     follow  this  logic  you  will get  rid  of  the  State                                                                    
     library (there are three libraries  in Juneau alone) or                                                                    
     perhaps  the  State  Museum   (does  not  Anchorage  or                                                                    
     Fairbanks have  a museum).   I would not  support these                                                                    
     tongue in cheek proposals and hope you won't either.                                                                       
     Thank you for the opportunity to testify.                                                                                  
     John Scott                                                                                                                 
Number 2494                                                                                                                     
JOHN  FRENCH testified  in opposition  to HB  174.   He told  the                                                               
committee he  is the father of  a student of ACS,  and he thanked                                                               
the  committee  for  taking  the  time to  truly  listen  to  the                                                               
testimony.  He compared the  story of "Angela's Ashes," where the                                                               
drunk  father takes  his children's  money and  spends it  in the                                                               
bar, which  is what  he said  he feels  the legislature  would be                                                               
doing by passing this bill.  He  said he feels the state would be                                                               
trading on the  children's future on an orgy  of free government.                                                               
An  immediate problem  would occur  for the  students who  are in                                                               
this program.                                                                                                                   
MR. FRENCH said  he cannot imagine that the "will  of the people"                                                               
had this  in mind when they  elected the present government.   He                                                               
said he  can see how  well-intentioned people have tried  to meet                                                               
unreasonable  mandates, and  tried to  meet those  demands.   The                                                               
demand to  cut education  is wrong to  begin with,  he suggested.                                                               
If  it  must be  cut,  this  proposal  does  not even  meet  that                                                               
criterion.   It creates a  great academic  loss for little  or no                                                               
savings.   Perhaps it will  create more cost.   Cutting ACS  is a                                                               
shell  game that  may  look  good to  the  uninformed, but  which                                                               
crumbles  under  scrutiny.   He  challenged  the  legislators  to                                                               
balance the needs  and protect those who have no  voice.  He said                                                               
today he thought  they were expressing that voice very  well.  If                                                               
ACS  closes, there  are basically  three options:   a  brick-and-                                                               
mortar  school,  for  increased   cost;  a  Mount  Edgecumbe-type                                                               
school,  for greatly  increased cost;  or Internet-based  charter                                                               
schools with no teaching services and  no savings there, so it is                                                               
a wash in the funding.                                                                                                          
MR. FRENCH asked how  many of the folks in the  room have gone to                                                               
college.   He  noted  that  about half  the  people raised  their                                                               
hands.   He asked who feels  qualified to teach every  subject in                                                               
high school.   He noted  that there were not  many hands up.   He                                                               
asked  who feels  that they  could  be impartial  with their  own                                                               
children if  they had  to give the  grade.  He  noted that  a few                                                               
people raised their  hands.  He told the committee  these are the                                                               
kind of schools  the legislature would be  handing these students                                                               
over to.   It might be  interesting for the committee  to look at                                                               
the  charter schools  that  are out  there and  see  if they  are                                                               
credible, he suggested.                                                                                                         
Number 2274                                                                                                                     
MR.  FRENCH  responded  to  Chair  Gatto's  question,  concerning                                                               
charter schools  that have teachers  that can teach  every grade,                                                               
by saying  that the parents  are the  ones in charge  of teaching                                                               
and  grading.    That  is  why many  of  these  schools  are  not                                                               
accredited.     Mr.  French  said   if  he  were   an  admissions                                                               
administrator of Stanford University and  had some child from the                                                               
Bush that wanted to go  to Stanford and the student's educational                                                               
background was an  unaccredited school, taught and  graded by his                                                               
parents, it is unlikely there would  be very much credit given to                                                               
the student's application.                                                                                                      
CHAIR GATTO  responded that the student's  Scholastic Achievement                                                               
Test  (SAT scores),  interview, and  application would  mean more                                                               
than where he or she went to school.                                                                                            
MR. FRENCH  replied that in  this competitive  market, everything                                                               
counts  to highly  competitive schools.   Alyeska  Central School                                                               
has students that  have gone to Stanford  on scholarships because                                                               
they have  done a terrific  job.  He said  he made this  point to                                                               
show that there are not  equal-to-equal educational choices.  The                                                               
main areas  he is  concerned with  are accreditation  and teacher                                                               
services.  Teacher services is where  ACS shines.  If a kid lives                                                               
in  the Bush,  are  we  offering them  an  opportunity  to go  to                                                               
college?   Urban kids that  go to ACS  have reasons why  they are                                                               
not attending  the public schools  where they live.   He reminded                                                               
the committee  of that high  school senior who cannot  complete a                                                               
course on time; instead of being  allowed to finish that class in                                                               
summer  school, the  student has  to go  back for  another entire                                                               
semester to finish high school and  has to wait an entire year to                                                               
go to college.   He said his daughter is a  high achiever and has                                                               
been  taking  courses each  summer  to  pad  the credits  she  is                                                               
getting to  go to college.   She wants  to do a  foreign exchange                                                               
program next year  and during that time take  courses through ACS                                                               
that will  be accredited so that  when she comes back  she is not                                                               
penalized for having outside interests and doing extra things.                                                                  
Number 2177                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  asked Mr. French how  much time in a  normal week he                                                               
spends working with his children on their studies.                                                                              
MR. FRENCH  responded that his  family does not  have television,                                                               
so his kids  study during the week.   Two to three  hours per day                                                               
are  spent  doing schoolwork.    He  summarized his  comments  by                                                               
saying  that he  believes the  state should  be in  this business                                                               
because it  is the state's  business to assure  quality education                                                               
to all  children.  The  "No Child  Left Behind" idea  is correct,                                                               
and ACS  serves as the safety  net for those children  who are in                                                               
danger  of being  left behind.   He  urged the  committee not  to                                                               
delay the decision or pass the buck, but to do what is right.                                                                   
Number 2086                                                                                                                     
JACK CADIGAN  testified in  opposition to  HB 174.   He  asked to                                                               
make  two brief  points.   First, he  pointed out  that the  U.S.                                                               
military requires  a high  school education,  not a  GED [general                                                               
equivalency diploma]  for entry into  the armed services,  and to                                                               
the best  of his knowledge, homeschool  diplomas and unaccredited                                                               
correspondence school  are also  not accepted.   Second,  he said                                                               
two years from now there will be  a real problem in the Bush when                                                               
all school will be required  to have certificated teachers in all                                                               
subjects.    Mr. Cadigan  pointed  out  that  ACS  has a  lot  of                                                               
certificated  teachers.   He  said  in the  past  he has  taught,                                                               
through  small schools,  subjects  for which  they  did not  have                                                               
certificated teachers.                                                                                                          
Number 2016                                                                                                                     
[Rick Currier,  who had testified  previously, asked to  speak to                                                               
the  financial aspects  of the  bill, but  was informed  by Chair                                                               
Gatto  that  the  House  Finance  committee  would  be  the  more                                                               
appropriate venue to address the financial aspects.]                                                                            
Number 1991                                                                                                                     
JEANNIE PADEN  testified in opposition to  HB 174.  She  said she                                                               
had two children who were  students at ACS, two grandchildren who                                                               
are currently  in ACS, and  a third who  is hoping to  start next                                                               
fall.  She told the committee  she wanted to make two points that                                                               
are important for the committee to note.   One is that ACS is the                                                               
only school in  the state that offers year-round  enrollment.  As                                                               
a parent of  two boys, she told the committee  both of them would                                                               
have been left  behind had it not been for  ACS's year-round open                                                               
enrollment.  Both  of her boys graduated and went  on to college.                                                               
On March  12 the administration  vowed to support the  federal No                                                               
Child  Left   Behind  Act  (NCLB).     At  the  same   time,  the                                                               
administration  is   removing  the   only  safety  net   that  is                                                               
available, because ACS is mandated to take these kids.                                                                          
MS. PADEN  said her  second point  is that if  ACS is  shut down,                                                               
there will  no savings to  the Department of Education  and Early                                                               
Development, and  savings will actually  be to the  Department of                                                               
Administration.   She  pointed  out  that jobs  will  have to  be                                                               
created to handle  the transcripts of all the kids  who have gone                                                               
to ACS,  and it  will be ongoing  for many years.   She  said she                                                               
believes the  department wants to sacrifice  an accredited school                                                               
that would fit in  to the NCLB, over rent.  She  asked if ACS has                                                               
been  given  the  opportunity  to   talk  to  the  Department  of                                                               
Administration about  seeking cheaper  facilities, and if  it has                                                               
not, it  is an insult  to every child in  this state.   Ms. Paden                                                               
closed  her  comments  by  saying  ACS is  a  great  bargain  for                                                               
education  and  urged the  committee  to  seriously consider  the                                                               
welfare of the children of Alaska.                                                                                              
Number 1743                                                                                                                     
DAN   BECK,  Superintendent   of  Schools,   Delta/Greely  School                                                               
District, Delta  Junction, testified  before the committee  on HB
174 and  answered questions by  the members.   He stated  that he                                                               
was not testifying for or against  the bill, but asked to clarify                                                               
some  points.     Delta/Greely  School  District   has  the  only                                                               
statewide  charter program  in the  state.   He  said the  school                                                               
initially  started  serving  students  in  grades  seven  through                                                               
twelve, and  does not offer a  choice for parents to  select this                                                               
curriculum or  that curriculum.   All  classes are  developed and                                                               
delivered on  line.  The  classes are Alaska  standards-based and                                                               
taught by  teachers who are  highly qualified in their  area, and                                                               
their qualifications  fit the definitions  of the NCLB Act.   Mr.                                                               
Beck said the school is in  the process of accreditation, and the                                                               
emphasis on  the classes has been  upper end, advanced-placement,                                                               
and college-preparatory  classes.  Currently, it  has between 150                                                               
and 200  students who  attend part-time  while they  attend other                                                               
public  schools in  Alaska  that cannot  offer  classes in  those                                                               
areas.   He wanted to clarify  that there are options  out there,                                                               
but the  options are pretty  narrow.  He commented  on references                                                               
that were made  earlier that students' work is not  graded by the                                                               
certified teachers or assisted by  certified teachers; he said it                                                               
is  not  true  of  the  Delta/Greely  school.    In  response  to                                                               
Representative Kapsner's  question, he  said he  is not  aware of                                                               
the  practices  of other  schools,  but  all  work is  graded  by                                                               
certified  teachers at  Delta/Greely school.   He  explained that                                                               
the school  has been in operation  for about five years  now, and                                                               
it has some teachers who have developed programs that work.                                                                     
Number 1606                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  asked if  the certified  teachers have  contact with                                                               
the students.                                                                                                                   
MR. BECK responded that contact is by phone or e-mail.                                                                          
CHAIR GATTO commented that it is a cyber contact.                                                                               
MR.  BECK said  he is  correct.   These are  on-line courses,  as                                                               
opposed to a paper-and-pencil type of distance delivery.                                                                        
CHAIR GATTO  asked how long  it will be before  Delta/Greely will                                                               
be accredited.                                                                                                                  
MR. BECK responded  that the application is in this  year, and he                                                               
is not  sure if accreditation  would be  given this year  or next                                                               
Number 1577                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER asked  what can  be done  for communities                                                               
that do not have Internet access.                                                                                               
MR. BECK responded that he does not  have an answer for that.  He                                                               
said    that   Delta/Greely    does   provide    an   in-district                                                               
correspondence program for those services.                                                                                      
Number 1549                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  asked  if   Delta/Greely  has  space  for                                                               
developmentally disabled or other learning-disabled students.                                                                   
MR. BECK  replied that it provides  a service to Pathway  Home in                                                               
Anchorage, a residential treatment  facility, and is working with                                                               
some intensive-type educational programs  for students there.  He                                                               
said Delta/Greely has  students from other areas of  the state on                                                               
IEPs  [individual education  plans] that  it manages  to service,                                                               
although it is  not funded to do that because  there is no factor                                                               
for special-needs  students but the  school is still  required by                                                               
federal law  to provide  those services.   He told  the committee                                                               
that  if  Alyeska  Central  School   closed  down  tomorrow,  the                                                               
Delta/Greely school  could not absorb  the number of  students it                                                               
has and offer a quality program.                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  commented that  Delta/Greely has  200 students.   He                                                               
asked what the school's capacity is.                                                                                            
MR.  BECK  responded  that  the   200  students  Chair  Gatto  is                                                               
referring  to are  just  the students  who  are dual-enrolled  in                                                               
public  schools and  Delta/Greely.   He said  there are  probably                                                               
400-500 students who are enrolled  either part-time or full-time.                                                               
Delta/Greely has private-school students  who will enroll because                                                               
they  cannot  get classes  they  need  in  the schools  they  are                                                               
enrolled in.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked how  many students his  school could                                                               
take in addition to what are already enrolled.                                                                                  
Number 1447                                                                                                                     
MR. BECK  replied that is a  tough question.  He  said the sooner                                                               
the  school  would  be  notified,  the  more  Delta/Greely  could                                                               
absorb.   He said it  might be possible  to take on  200-300 more                                                               
students.   He emphasized that it  would only be a  viable option                                                               
if these students had access to the Internet.                                                                                   
CHAIR  GATTO pointed  out that  some schools  actually furnish  a                                                               
MR.  BECK responded  that  the Delta/Greely  school  will loan  a                                                               
computer to a student.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  pointed out  that  does  not mean  there                                                               
would be Internet access.                                                                                                       
MR. BECK agreed.  There is still a need for a telephone line.                                                                   
Number 1365                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO commented  that a  student would  have to  be pretty                                                               
remote not to have access to a telephone.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  said  that  even if  an  individual  has                                                               
telephone  access,  he/she  may  still not  have  access  to  the                                                               
Internet  or  access  to  long  distance,  which  could  generate                                                               
thousands of dollars in charges.                                                                                                
Number 1320                                                                                                                     
SUSAN UNDERBAKKE  testified via  teleconference in  opposition to                                                               
HB 174.   She told  the committee she  is currently a  student at                                                               
ACS.   She said that  she lives in  the Mat-Su Valley,  and while                                                               
she could  go to a  brick-and-mortar school, the school  does not                                                               
provide classes that are as good as  what is offered by ACS.  She                                                               
told  the committee  many  of her  friends who  do  go to  public                                                               
school  choose  to take  summer  classes  to  make up  for  those                                                               
inferior classes.   She explained  that some of her  friends have                                                               
experienced problems  with diplomas from outside  charter schools                                                               
where the diploma  was not accepted at college.   She pointed out                                                               
that ACS  is not  a duplicate  school, and,  in fact,  ACS offers                                                               
classes that local high schools do not offer.                                                                                   
CHAIR GATTO asked what community Ms. Underbakker lives in.                                                                      
MS. UNDERBAKKE told Chair Gatto she lives in Wasilla.                                                                           
CHAIR  GATTO noted  that she  has access  to not  only the  local                                                               
public schools, but charter schools as well.                                                                                    
MS.  UNDERBAKKE replied  that none  of these  options offered  as                                                               
good  an  education as  ACS.    Also,  there are  other  negative                                                               
influences  in  the  local  public  high  school,  which  is  the                                                               
original reason her family left the local public school system.                                                                 
Number 1217                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  asked what school  she would  have gone to  and what                                                               
negatives are involved.                                                                                                         
MS. UNDERBAKKE  said she  would have  been attending  Colony High                                                               
School.  When her brother  attended Colony High School there were                                                               
bomb threats and other problems for  which the troopers had to be                                                               
called into the  school.  In addition, the  classes were inferior                                                               
to ACS's, and  the school only offered Spanish and  French in the                                                               
language program.                                                                                                               
CHAIR GATTO asked if the initial problem was security.                                                                          
MS. UNDERBAKKE  replied that  that is correct.   Her  brother was                                                               
getting  beaten  up on  the  school  bus,  and he  was  receiving                                                               
threats  and crank  calls to  their  home, and  when her  parents                                                               
discussed it with  the district, nothing was done  to correct the                                                               
CHAIR  GATTO  asked  if  Colony   High  School  offered  adequate                                                               
academics or if ACS would have been better.                                                                                     
MS.  UNDERBAKKE stated  that she  believes  ACS is  better.   She                                                               
knows  students who  are  repeating classes  at  ACS because  the                                                               
classes are better than at the traditional public high school.                                                                  
Number 1000                                                                                                                     
BECKY  CRABTREE,  Alternative   Education  Teacher,  North  Slope                                                               
Borough   School  District,   testified  via   teleconference  in                                                               
opposition to HB 174.  She told  the committee one of her jobs in                                                               
the  North  Slope  Borough  School   District  is  to  coordinate                                                               
correspondence classes.  She said  that the district had begun an                                                               
affiliation  with ACS  last March,  and since  that time  over 50                                                               
North Slope students  in six remote villages in  grade levels one                                                               
through twelve  have enrolled  in one  or more  classes.   A wide                                                               
variety of  classes are  available to their  students who  do not                                                               
have access  to higher-level language  classes or  other elective                                                               
offerings, or for those who chose  to study at home and for those                                                               
who  need a  class at  a time  when some  of their  small schools                                                               
cannot schedule  it.  She  told the committee about  two students                                                               
who live  in a tiny  village; one is learning  basic electronics,                                                               
and another is  taking photography.  These are  both classes that                                                               
the district cannot offer in  school.  The students have in-depth                                                               
support for their studies from ACS.   She told the committee that                                                               
her students  need ACS  and the  accredited classes  it provides.                                                               
The proposal  to close the  school has  driven her to  search for                                                               
other  options that  might be  offered  to the  students.   After                                                               
looking at  the alternatives, she  told the committee  ACS offers                                                               
the best  academic support and  variety of classes both  off line                                                               
and on  line.   She asked  the committee  to please  consider the                                                               
needs of rural students when considering this bill.                                                                             
Number 0852                                                                                                                     
CINDY  OLSON testified  via teleconference  in  opposition to  HB
174.   She told the  committee she is a  parent of a  student who                                                               
just recently  enrolled at  ACS and, in  fact, just  received the                                                               
materials this week.   Her son is a seventh  grader who is gifted                                                               
and has special needs.  She  told the committee he is just coming                                                               
out  of Central  Middle School,  which is  considered one  of the                                                               
best  middle  schools  in  the state.    However,  the  classroom                                                               
environment is  not appropriate  due to his  special needs.   She                                                               
plans  on  keeping him  enrolled  at  Central Middle  School  for                                                               
electives, but using ACS for all core curriculum classes.                                                                       
MS. OLSON said  she is concerned not only for  her own child, but                                                               
for all  children like  him.   She is the  past president  of the                                                               
Alaska  Chapter of  the Autism  Society of  America and  has been                                                               
known as a disabilities rights  advocate for the last nine years.                                                               
Alyeska  Central  School  gives  students such  as  her  son  the                                                               
opportunity to focus  on their education, to take  advantage of a                                                               
very clean,  concise curriculum  that is  highly developed.   The                                                               
information that was provided will give  her son what he needs to                                                               
learn  and move  forward.   He has  tested out  at the  gifted or                                                               
genius  range at  the  99th percentile;  however,  in the  normal                                                               
school environment he  is failing.  This is what  ACS offers.  As                                                               
a parent she  has seen her own child benefit  from access to ACS.                                                               
The interest he  lost as he experienced problems  in a mainstream                                                               
classroom  is  being   reignited.    With  the   quality  of  the                                                               
curriculum and materials  he is receiving, he is  now saying that                                                               
this  is something  he can  do and  understand.   This curriculum                                                               
gives him  the information he  needs so  he can move  forward and                                                               
learn.   Children who have  trouble dealing with  others socially                                                               
have a tendency  to be victimized by  bullies.  He is  one of the                                                               
sensitive children and not one  of the aggressive children.  That                                                               
is why he  is enrolled at Central Middle School  part-time, so he                                                               
have exposure  to other children and  will pick up some  of those                                                               
social skills that are important,  but she told the committee she                                                               
is counting  on ACS to  provide the  core curriculum he  needs to                                                               
learn at his level.  She  told the committee the state needs this                                                               
quality of  school to be maintained.   She pointed out  that even                                                               
in  Anchorage  it  can  be  difficult  to  maintain  an  Internet                                                               
Number 0578                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO asked  if she was homeschooling her son  and how much                                                               
time she spent each day working with her son on schoolwork.                                                                     
MS.  OLSON replied  that she  is  doing part-time  homeschooling.                                                               
She said she is only just  beginning at ACS and is expecting that                                                               
the two to three  hours per day that she use  to do with homework                                                               
will be adequate to do the daily schoolwork.                                                                                    
Number 0540                                                                                                                     
THOMAS ROBINSON testified via teleconference  in opposition to HB
174.   He told the  committee that his  daughter, who is  in high                                                               
school, is  also a special-needs  student.  While she  has always                                                               
been an  honor roll student, due  to her special needs  she found                                                               
it  impossible to  sit through  the classes  without her  special                                                               
needs  disrupting the  class.   He said  his family  had to  find                                                               
another alternative  to get  her into, and  in their  search they                                                               
found ACS.   It takes at least  three to four hours  each day for                                                               
them to help  her with classes.  This school  has really answered                                                               
a  need for  his  daughter.   There  must  be  hundreds of  other                                                               
parents  out  there with  this  same  problem.   Alyeska  Central                                                               
School has a 60-year history that is working.                                                                                   
MR. ROBINSON summarized his comments  by saying that he has heard                                                               
about the federal legislation which  would leave no child behind;                                                               
however, with  this bill it  means no  child will be  left behind                                                               
unless the students have special-needs or live in the Bush.                                                                     
Number 0214                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO announced  that anyone  who is  not able  to testify                                                               
today may  testify when the  bill comes before the  House Health,                                                               
Education and  Social Services Standing  Committee, which  is the                                                               
next committee of referral.                                                                                                     
MR. ROBINSON said  he would like to hear from  some of the alumni                                                               
of ACS.  He believes it would be very helpful.                                                                                  
Number 0137                                                                                                                     
BREANNA ROBINSON  testified via  teleconference in  opposition to                                                               
HB 174.   She told  the committee  she is new  to ACS and  is not                                                               
able to  go to  public school because  her special  needs disrupt                                                               
the classroom.   Without ACS  she would  be more than  a semester                                                               
behind, and  that is not fair  because she deserves the  right to                                                               
go to  school.  If the  legislature closes ACS, what  will happen                                                               
to the  special-needs students  next year?   She said  she cannot                                                               
use on-line  courses because  her family  only has  one telephone                                                               
line into their house.                                                                                                          
CHAIR GATTO asked  Ms. Robinson what grade she is  in and how old                                                               
she is.                                                                                                                         
MS. ROBINSON replied  that she is in ninth grade  and is 15 years                                                               
old.  She said  a big advantage in going to ACS  is that there is                                                               
one-on-one instruction if a student has a problem.                                                                              
TAPE 03-14, SIDE A                                                                                                            
Number 0046                                                                                                                     
CINDY  MICHOU testified  via teleconference  in opposition  in HB
174.   She  told the  committee  she has  been homeschooling  her                                                               
eighth-grade  son  this  year,  and  it  has  been  a  lifesaving                                                               
experience.   He has asthma really  bad and gets sick  when he is                                                               
in school.   She  said she is  unsure whether it  is the  dust or                                                               
mold, but he is sick a  lot.  Since he started homeschooling with                                                               
ACS,  his health  has  been wonderful.   He  has  not had  asthma                                                               
attacks.     The  teachers   are  super  there.     He   has  had                                                               
opportunities he would not have  had through the Anchorage School                                                               
District.   Now that there are  high school exit exams,  she said                                                               
the  Anchorage   School  District  is  changing   its  curriculum                                                               
drastically, trying to come in line  with the exit exams.  He has                                                               
been bored for the last three  years because they keep going over                                                               
the same  things.  Alyeska  Central School has provided  him with                                                               
more challenging schooling, new  materials, and an opportunity to                                                               
participate with  the Lego Team this  year.  The school  where he                                                               
formerly attended  sent a  team also, and  the coaches  from that                                                               
school did not even bother to  show up.  Patrick Herding from ACS                                                               
flew  all  the way  to  Anchorage  to cheer  the  team  on.   The                                                               
teachers there are absolutely wonderful,  she said, and she would                                                               
hate to see the school close.                                                                                                   
Number 0237                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO asked  what  her  thoughts are  on  the high  school                                                               
qualifying exit exam.                                                                                                           
MS. MICHOU said she believes that  if the public schools had been                                                               
teaching  the basics  to begin  with,  the state  would not  have                                                               
needed the  high school exit exam.   The basics are  what ACS has                                                               
taught for years.                                                                                                               
CHAIR GATTO  asked if she thought  ACS would be able  to continue                                                               
on  with the  same  curriculum  and its  students  would have  no                                                               
problem passing the exit exam.                                                                                                  
MS. MICHOU  said yes, she  believes its curriculum  addresses the                                                               
exit exams perfectly.                                                                                                           
Number 0318                                                                                                                     
DEBBIE REISWIG  testified via teleconference in  opposition to HB
174.   She told the committee  she has been homeschooling  for 15                                                               
years, three  of them with  ACS.   During those years  her family                                                               
has  tried  several  of the  charter  school  programs  available                                                               
within  the state  and outside  of the  state as  well, and  they                                                               
found ACS to  be superior to everything out there.   She said ACS                                                               
is unique  and not  duplicated by  any other  program.   She said                                                               
that is especially  true for the high school level  from grades 9                                                               
through 12,  which is when they  put their children in  ACS.  The                                                               
fact that ACS is accredited  is important when looking at college                                                               
admittance.  The  quality of teachers at ACS is  very high.  They                                                               
are professional,  and certified, but most  importantly, they are                                                               
interested.   One problem  that they  found with  charter schools                                                               
was the lack  of accountability, which is not the  case with ACS.                                                               
The grades  that she provided were  the grades that showed  up on                                                               
the transcript with  no questions asked.   Alyeska Central School                                                               
really provides that accountability.                                                                                            
Number 0480                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO asked  her if she was able to  assign grades that her                                                               
children earned or felt she had padded the grades.                                                                              
MS. REISWIG responded that she was  tough on her kids because she                                                               
wanted them  to succeed.   She kept  good records to  assure that                                                               
the grade  was fair.   Ms. Reiswig  said she has  quite a  bit of                                                               
training in the education field,  so she just used her background                                                               
to ensure that grades were fair.                                                                                                
Number 0560                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  announced that testimony  on HB  174 is closed.   He                                                               
told the  committee any amendments to  the bill will be  taken up                                                               
in the next committee of referral.                                                                                              
Number 0613                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON moved  to report HB [174]  out of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
Number 0643                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA objected  for  purposed of  discussion.   He                                                               
said that when he first  heard the governor's rationale behind HB
174, it sounded compelling.   This was just a duplicative school,                                                               
and  a  cost savings  of  $5  million  would  be achieved.    The                                                               
committee has heard testimony on the  bill, however,  and he said                                                               
he  believes ACS  is not  a duplicative  school and  is convinced                                                               
that it  is the  best of  all the  correspondence schools  in the                                                               
state.   He believes the cost  savings spoken of earlier  are not                                                               
significant and  that it may end  up costing the state  more.  He                                                               
said he  does not  see any  fair way to  assume closing  ACS will                                                               
save the state money.                                                                                                           
Number 0736                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said the  testimony has  been overwhelmingly                                                               
in support  of the  summer school.   He said  it is  an important                                                               
service to the students of this  state.  It is clear that closing                                                               
the summer  school will  be leaving children  out of  school, the                                                               
children  who  need  twelve  months   to  complete  a  nine-month                                                               
curriculum, the  children with illnesses,  and the  children with                                                               
learning  disabilities.    He  said  he sees  this  bill  not  as                                                               
addressing the No  Child Left Behind, but rather  as leaving more                                                               
children behind.                                                                                                                
Number 0784                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO  commented  to  the   members  that  if  anyone  has                                                               
information that  deal with  numbers, it  would be  excellent for                                                               
those figures to  be provided to the next  committee of referral.                                                               
It would also  be helpful if the numbers would  be made available                                                               
to Mr. Jeans so he can be prepared to respond.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  responded that  he does not  have additional                                                               
numbers other than  what was discussed in testimony.   He said he                                                               
thinks it is speculative to assume  there would be any savings to                                                               
the state based on what he has heard.   He said he will be voting                                                               
against the bill  because he does not think it  is smart to close                                                               
the best correspondence school in  the state and take away choice                                                               
from parents.                                                                                                                   
Number 0860                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER told the committee  she is also opposed to                                                               
moving  this bill  out of  committee.   She said  she thinks  the                                                               
members need  to be asking themselves  what is good for  the kids                                                               
in the state.   She does not  think this is one  of those things.                                                               
She pointed  out that Mr.  Jeans said  this is not  necessarily a                                                               
budget decision, but  a policy decision.  She said  she thinks it                                                               
is  a terrible  policy decision.   The  governor said  during his                                                               
state of  the state  address that he  is supportive  of providing                                                               
distance education choices  for rural Alaska, she  observed.  She                                                               
said a lot  of people do not understand the  technology gaps that                                                               
are experienced  in the state.   Not  only is it  very expensive,                                                               
but the service  is very sketchy.  That is  terrible because kids                                                               
will be  unable to complete tests  because they will get  cut off                                                               
from on-line  service.  This  flies in the  face of the  No Child                                                               
Left Behind  Act.  Representative  Kapsner said she is  in strong                                                               
opposition to this bill's passing out of committee.                                                                             
Number 0966                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO announced that there  will be additional input in the                                                               
next  committee of  referral.    He said  there  have been  three                                                               
hearings in this committee already and  there will be more in the                                                               
next committee.                                                                                                                 
Number 1010                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said  that  to  accommodate  the  chair's                                                               
wishes  he is  willing  to vote  to  move the  bill  to the  next                                                               
committee;  however, he  will oppose  the  bill in  terms of  its                                                               
passing.  He  said after the testimony he has  heard, he does not                                                               
believe this bill makes sense.                                                                                                  
CHAIR GATTO clarified Representative  Seaton's comments by saying                                                               
that while  a Representative may vote  in favor of moving  a bill                                                               
from   committee,    each   Representative   may    add   his/her                                                               
recommendation as  to whether the  bill should  pass or not.   He                                                               
said the next  committee of referral will look  very carefully at                                                               
the recommendations of the previous committee.                                                                                  
Number 1065                                                                                                                     
A  roll call  vote  was taken.    Representatives Gatto,  Wilson,                                                               
Wolf,  and Seaton  voted  in favor  of reporting  HB  174 out  of                                                               
committee.   Representatives Gara  and Kapsner voted  against it.                                                               
Representative Coghill  was absent for  the vote.   Therefore, HB
174 was reported out of  the House Special Committee on Education                                                               
by a vote of 4-2.                                                                                                               

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