Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106

01/27/2005 11:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
11:03:54 AM Start
11:08:08 AM Overview: Public School Funding Program
11:40:31 AM HB73
11:55:41 AM HB1
11:57:12 AM HB18
12:21:00 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Overview: Funding Formula
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
HB  18-INCREASE AMT OF BASE STUDENT ALLOCATION                                                                                
CHAIR NEUMAN announced that the final order of business would be                                                                
SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR  HOUSE BILL NO. 18 "An  Act increasing the                                                               
base student allocation used in  the formula for state funding of                                                               
public education; and providing for an effective date."                                                                         
11:57:12 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON,  sponsor, expressed her belief  that it is                                                               
essential  to  attract  and  retain  the  most  highly  qualified                                                               
teachers and support  staff in order to provide  the best program                                                               
offerings  for students.   She  explained  that costs  associated                                                               
with  operating  schools  are increasing  and  teachers  have  no                                                               
control  over the  regulation of  these  expenses.   Furthermore,                                                               
although teachers have to assume  greater responsibilities due to                                                               
NCLB  standards,   they  are   not  receiving   monetary  awards.                                                               
Therefore,  it is  imperative that  the legislature  increase the                                                               
student  allocation.    This  bill  would  increase  the  student                                                               
allocation by  $325 dollars  per student.   She related  that she                                                               
has  received letters  from around  the state  which have  stated                                                               
that the  governor's bill would  not allocate  sufficient funding                                                               
for securing basic  needs, such as rehiring  current teachers for                                                               
the coming school year.  She  reviewed some of the specific needs                                                               
of specific districts.                                                                                                          
12:00:50 PM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  LYNN   requested  a  spreadsheet   comparing  the                                                               
similarities and differences between HB 1, HB 18, and HB 73.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS  inquired as  to the effects  of increasing                                                               
quality school grants.                                                                                                          
MR. JEANS replied  that quality schools funding  is separate from                                                               
the foundation program base funding  which is discretionary money                                                               
to allocate  as the school board  sees fit.  The  quality schools                                                               
grants require that the district  submit an application, tell how                                                               
it's  going to  use those  funds to  improve student  performance                                                               
achievement and  require follow-up  reports and assessments.   He                                                               
explained  that although  an increase  in  quality schools  grant                                                               
doesn't allow an increase in  the local contribution, an increase                                                               
in the base student allocation  will increase the allowable local                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  SALMON asked  if the  department had  established                                                               
what the  school district's needs are  this year.  He  noted that                                                               
it  seems  that  things  are  always  based  on  Anchorage.    He                                                               
expressed the need  to concentrate on the small  schools in rural                                                               
12:05:37 PM                                                                                                                   
MR.  JEANS  said the  school  districts  haven't been  polled  in                                                               
regard to their fiscal desires.   He pointed out that the formula                                                               
makes adjustments for  the size of the  student population within                                                               
communities,  and  there is  more  funding  provided for  smaller                                                               
student  populations and  smaller  schools.   He  said there  are                                                               
adjustments  with the  regional  cost differentials  that are  to                                                               
assist in  offsetting the regional cost  differences of providing                                                               
education. In  the end, when the  money is put into  the formula,                                                               
he  said,  those adjustments  are  being  considered through  the                                                               
other factors in the funding formula itself.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   SALMON  asked   if   the   formula  takes   into                                                               
consideration the location of the schools.                                                                                      
MR.  JEANS  replied yes,  and  restated  that the  regional  cost                                                               
factor takes into account the  varying regional cost factors.  In                                                               
further  response  to  Representative   Salmon,  he  stated  that                                                               
increasing  the   base  student   allocation  should   be  making                                                               
adjustments for those increased costs such as higher fuel costs.                                                                
12:09:04 PM                                                                                                                   
STEVE  BRADSHAW, Superintendent,  Sitka  School District,  opined                                                               
that he  has serious concerns  related to increased  demands with                                                               
special education.   He explained  that these students  have high                                                               
needs  that  require  multiple special  assistants.    The  costs                                                               
involved, he said, are extremely  high.  He mentioned the demands                                                               
of NCLB  standards and  opined that  the [Sitka  School District]                                                               
has  made  great  leaps  forward  in  the  education  of  Alaskan                                                               
children  but  more  manpower  is required.    He  expressed  his                                                               
frustration  in  finding  the quality  of  teachers  demanded  by                                                               
statute and not  being able to offer them competitive  wages.  He                                                               
stated  his   appreciation  of   the  governor's   proposal,  but                                                               
explained that it will not meet his school district's needs.                                                                    
He stated:                                                                                                                      
     We've already  started the  budget process;  we'll have                                                                    
     to cut  $200,000.   That means,  four teachers  in this                                                                    
     district.   If  I  take  four of  the  teachers at  the                                                                    
     bottom of the pay scale,  it will cost me four teachers                                                                    
     to get through  next year.  I can't afford  to cut four                                                                    
     teachers;  I've  already cut  about  13  over the  last                                                                    
     three years.  So, any effort  that you can make to help                                                                    
     us in the  situation would be greatly  appreciated.  We                                                                    
     can get  the job done,  we can educate every  child and                                                                    
     not leave any  child behind, but I  need specialists in                                                                    
     the classroom  to help my  teachers, not only  my kids,                                                                    
     but  my teachers  in instruction  in reading,  writing,                                                                    
     and math.   I know you've got a tough  year in front of                                                                    
     you, I  appreciate your efforts,  and we just  need the                                                                    
     help, so thank you.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS  pointed out  that Sitka is  considered the                                                               
same base  as Anchorage  and inquired  as to  the impact  loss of                                                               
MR.  BRADSHAW stated  that the  cost  of living  and the  housing                                                               
costs in  Sitka are high, but  fuel costs in Southeast  are lower                                                               
than in other  parts of the state.  He  expressed his belief that                                                               
the Southeast cost factor should be adjusted.                                                                                   
12:14:50 PM                                                                                                                   
BRUCE JOHNSON, Association of Alaska  School Boards, (AASB), said                                                               
that on  behalf of  AASB, he  wanted to  thank the  committee for                                                               
taking this issue seriously.   The governor's bill is a wonderful                                                               
starting point, he said.  He  explained that AASB is working with                                                               
member districts to look at some  of the impacts of a $62 million                                                               
increase and  what it  might take  to offer  the same  program as                                                               
this  current year  plus appropriate  changes relevant  to recent                                                               
mandates.   He emphasized that AASB  would not shy away  from the                                                               
accountability  portion  and  that  many of  these  measures  are                                                               
helpful in moving ahead.                                                                                                        
12:17:22 PM                                                                                                                   
MARY  FRANCES,  Executive  Director,  Alaska  Council  of  School                                                               
Administrators, ,  related that the association  is supportive of                                                               
any bill that increases the  student base allocation.  She stated                                                               
that "SAA"  is trying  to decide  on a  specific request  for the                                                               
student base  allocation.   She pointed out  that after  years of                                                               
flat funding  and increased inflation,  it has been  difficult to                                                               
compensate  each  year.    Therefore,   "SAA"  looks  forward  to                                                               
continued incremental improvement.                                                                                              
MARY HAKALA, Coordinator, Alaska  Kids Count (AKC), described AKC                                                               
as  a  grassroots  lobbying  effort   organized  by  parents  and                                                               
community members supporting public education.   She said this is                                                               
a statewide network of over 500 individuals.  She explained that                                                                
AKC  establishes its  goals dependent  on  what involved  parents                                                               
determine  is  needed  in  schools.     She  related  that  AKC's                                                               
priorities this  year are  to increase  foundation funding.   She                                                               
expressed that  although AKC  appreciated the  governor's initial                                                               
increase proposal,  it does  not bring  the schools  into "status                                                               
quo funding".   She  said that school  programs have  suffered in                                                               
the past,  due to the lack  of sufficient funding, and  AKC would                                                               
like to see a direction change.                                                                                                 
[HB 18 was held over.]                                                                                                          

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