Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/01/2003 03:14 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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."                                                                                                           
EDDY JEANS,  MANAGER, SCHOOL FINANCE AND  FACILITIES SECTION,                                                                   
DEPARTMENT  OF  EDUCATION  AND   EARLY  DEVELOPMENT  provided                                                                   
information  about the  legislation.   He compared the  House                                                                   
State Affairs  Committee version  and the Governor's  Bill as                                                                   
introduced.    He  noted  that   the  Governor's  bill  would                                                                   
eliminate  the program  beginning  July 1,  2003 whereas  the                                                                   
House  State Affairs'  Committee  Substitute would  eliminate                                                                   
the  current summer  program  with a  one-year  delay in  the                                                                   
effective  date  eliminating   the  statewide  correspondence                                                                   
program.   Both bills  contain a  provision under  14.70.430,                                                                   
which  deals  with  state  funding  of  correspondence  study                                                                   
programs  in  the  foundation   program.  These  and  similar                                                                   
programs  are funded  at 80  percent.  Some charter  schools,                                                                   
which   are   home-based  programs,   have   challenged   the                                                                   
Department   because   they   do  not   see   themselves   as                                                                   
correspondence  programs.   The  Department  has   taken  the                                                                   
position  that,  for foundation  formula  purposes,  programs                                                                   
outside  of a  brick  and  mortar school  are  correspondence                                                                   
programs. The  legislation would  bring clarity by  expanding                                                                   
the definition to include home-based programs.                                                                                  
Mr.  Jeans  discussed  two  central   issues:    first,  cost                                                                   
savings.  He noted the argument  that eliminating the program                                                                   
would not  save the  state of Alaska  money, but  rather cost                                                                   
money  as students  seek  accredited  programs  in brick  and                                                                   
mortar schools.   He suggested  that the Department  believes                                                                   
that many of  the students will find  correspondence services                                                                   
elsewhere in  the state. He added  that there is  a potential                                                                   
savings through  space lease reductions,  but noted  that the                                                                   
Department might have other uses  for the space. He discussed                                                                   
the second  issue: policy.   He gave  a brief history  of the                                                                   
Alyeska Central School (ACS or  Alyeska), which was initiated                                                                   
in 1939 and  has provided valuable services.   He pointed out                                                                   
that  at that  time there  were only  two options,  municipal                                                                   
school districts and state operated  schools.  He stated that                                                                   
in  1977, Regional  Education  Attendance  Areas (REAA)  were                                                                   
initiated,  so that  every area  of Alaska  was covered  by a                                                                   
school district. Each school district  has the responsibility                                                                   
of educating students within their  boundaries. Approximately                                                                   
seven years  ago, the State  began allowing students  to take                                                                   
advantage of correspondence  programs.  He referenced  SB 36,                                                                   
which supports  correspondence programs.  Today  there are 12                                                                   
[correspondence]  programs including  ACS. He suggested  that                                                                   
[ACS] students  would attend another  program.   He addressed                                                                   
statewide enrollments,  and observed that the  bill addressed                                                                   
open enrollments.  He noted that  Alyeska would allow certain                                                                   
exceptions to enrollment, such  as disability, but that these                                                                   
were case  by case.  He  suggested that they had  other rules                                                                   
for closing enrollment.                                                                                                         
Mr.  Jeans  addressed  accreditation and  noted  that  Craig,                                                                   
Delta, Galena,  and Yukon schools  districts had  applied for                                                                   
accreditation  and  been awarded  conditional  accreditation.                                                                   
He   explained  that   conditional   accreditation   provides                                                                   
transferable credit for students.                                                                                               
TAPE HFC 03 - 73, Side B                                                                                                      
AYIARE  VOORHEES, STUDENT,  testified  via teleconference  in                                                                   
support of the amended bill.   She stated that, although they                                                                   
would  prefer   for  the  school  to  remain   mandated,  she                                                                   
appreciated the  response of the  State to requests  to allow                                                                   
the school to remain open for the year.                                                                                         
NANCY ROCHAR,  PARENT,  testified in support  of the  Alyeska                                                                   
Central School.   She suggested  that it was the  only school                                                                   
that upheld the  no child left behind  regulations currently.                                                                   
She  pointed out  that  all teachers  were  certified in  the                                                                   
subjects that they  teach.  She maintained that  services are                                                                   
not duplicated,  and suggested that  it was the  only program                                                                   
with  direct  teacher  involvement.   She  acknowledged  that                                                                   
other programs,  which offer cash  inducements might  be more                                                                   
popular, but  maintained that  other programs were  deficient                                                                   
in  teacher  involvement.    She   suggested  that  this  cut                                                                   
produced  no  cost savings  to  the  state  of Alaska.    She                                                                   
pointed out that  not every student had Internet  access, and                                                                   
that Alyeska also utilized regular  mail correspondence.  She                                                                   
commended the success and quality of the program.                                                                               
JANET  WALKER,   PARENT,  testified  via   teleconference  in                                                                   
support of  the Alyeska Central  School.  She noted  that her                                                                   
family lived in the wilderness  of Alaska. Therefore, Alyeska                                                                   
was essential since it offered  programs that were not on the                                                                   
Internet.   She  acknowledged  that  while there  were  other                                                                   
correspondence  schools, Alyeska  was the  only one  that was                                                                   
fully accredited  and provided  online adult education.   She                                                                   
suggested that  to close the school  would cost the  state of                                                                   
Alaska  up to  $300  thousand.   She  urged  members to  keep                                                                   
Alyeska open.                                                                                                                   
GREG  MILLER,   CHARTER  SCHOOLS,  ANCHORAGE   testified  via                                                                   
teleconference.   He stated his experience as  an attorney in                                                                   
representing charter schools.   He addressed Section 5 to the                                                                   
Committee Substitute, which pertained  to AS 14.70.430, which                                                                   
set the  level of 80 percent  for charter schools.   He noted                                                                   
that  the change  expands  the definition  of  correspondence                                                                   
schools, and  suggested that it  raised a much  larger issue.                                                                   
He stated that it would in essence  treat any school not in a                                                                   
regular facility  as a correspondence  school.   He suggested                                                                   
that  this  was  not an  appropriate  definition  and  should                                                                   
rather relate to the mailing of  materials between the school                                                                   
and  students.   He  noted  three  potential impacts  of  the                                                                   
language  change:   first,  that  charter schools  that  were                                                                   
outside of  a "school facility"  as a correspondence  school;                                                                   
second, home  school study programs  would now  be considered                                                                   
correspondence   schools;  and   third,  alternative   school                                                                   
district programs  would now be affected.   He concluded that                                                                   
this sentence raised a larger issue.                                                                                            
KYM  WOLCOTT, ANCHORAGE,  parent  of Alyeska  Central  School                                                                   
students testified  via teleconference in support  of Alyeska                                                                   
Central School.   She suggested  that ACS had no  parallel in                                                                   
service in  the state.   She discussed the services  provided                                                                   
by  ACS, and  questioned how  students may  be absorbed  into                                                                   
districts  that  are already  overcrowded  and  under-funded.                                                                   
She  challenged   the  Administration   to  support   quality                                                                   
education and not close ACS.                                                                                                    
RYAN    WOLCOTT,    student,   Anchorage,    testified    via                                                                   
teleconference  in support  of the  Alyeska Central  Schools.                                                                   
He said  that the teachers at  Alyeska provided him  with the                                                                   
support  he needed  to achieve  an education.   He  suggested                                                                   
that there  was not  a cost  savings and  requested that  the                                                                   
members consider saving the school.                                                                                             
VICTORIA    MARTIN,   PARENT,    ANCHORAGE   testified    via                                                                   
teleconference  in support  of  the Alyeska  Central  School.                                                                   
She pointed  out that  Alyeska was  currently accredited  and                                                                   
had been a part of the state since  1938.  She suggested that                                                                   
every child could be supported  by the Alyeska Central School                                                                   
and expressed  the negative impact  on her family  of closing                                                                   
the school.   She  noted that she  had testified  on numerous                                                                   
SEAN    RUDDELL,    STUDENT,    ANCHORAGE    testified    via                                                                   
teleconference  in opposition  to the bill.   He stated  that                                                                   
the amendment was not acceptable.                                                                                               
DEBBY CHALMERS, ALYESKA CENTRAL  SCHOOL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION                                                                   
(ACSEA)  testified in  support of  the Committee  Substitute.                                                                   
The  teachers  and  parents  support  a  one-year  transition                                                                   
period.  She observed  that  the school  has  a very  complex                                                                   
program  and infrastructure,  which has  been developed  over                                                                   
many years.                                                                                                                     
CECILIA MILLER,  ACSEA, testified  in support of  keeping the                                                                   
Alyeska Central  School open for  all the children  that need                                                                   
to be served.   She asked that  there be at least  a year for                                                                   
transition.  It  would benefit the State for the  best.  This                                                                   
will impact kids that are off to college.                                                                                       
JOHN  PADEN,  COUNSELOR,  ALYESKA CENTRAL  SCHOOL,  spoke  in                                                                   
opposition to the  proposed legislation.  He  noted that when                                                                   
the bill  was first heard,  the idea  of saving of  money was                                                                   
the major  consideration.  He  observed that the  elimination                                                                   
of  the program  might  not reduce  the  lease  costs of  the                                                                   
Department.   He noted  that the two  main issues  were money                                                                   
and  duplication  of services.    Parents and  students  with                                                                   
Alyeska recognize  that it  is unique.   The real issue  is a                                                                   
policy  one.    He maintained  that  the  legislation  is  an                                                                   
affront to  those children and  families.  Extending  Alyeska                                                                   
would  be better  than  closing  it on  June  30.    Allowing                                                                   
Alyeska to continue would be the best solution.                                                                                 
KEVIN SWEENEY,  LEGISLATIVE LIAISON, DEPARTMENT  OF EDUCATION                                                                   
AND  EARLY   DEVELOPMENT,  summed  up  the   Administration's                                                                   
arguments in support of the bill.   He realized that this was                                                                   
an emotional issue, but observed  that the educational system                                                                   
has changed since the implementation  of ACS. At its peak ACS                                                                   
served more  than 2,000 students.  It now educates  just over                                                                   
one-quarter  of  that  amount.  He  pointed  out  that  other                                                                   
districts  now offer the  same type  of service, which  could                                                                   
accommodate  the program.   There  are  currently over  8,000                                                                   
students  registered  in statewide  correspondence  programs.                                                                   
The State  has encouraged  these school  districts to  expand                                                                   
their correspondence program.                                                                                                   
Mr. Sweeney  stated that  the intent is  to see the  programs                                                                   
continue to grow and attract students.   He observed that the                                                                   
primary  argument against  the  closure of  ACS  is that  the                                                                   
program  is  unique  and  is the  only  program  that  offers                                                                   
accreditation.    He  disagreed   with  those  arguments.  He                                                                   
stressed  that programs,  which  are run  outside of  Juneau,                                                                   
have shown  great promise.  These programs  have assured  the                                                                   
Department that they will adapt  to the needs of the students                                                                   
and they  want to attract  students. He asserted  that school                                                                   
districts  are  ready  to  provide  teacher  interaction  and                                                                   
"snail mail" service.                                                                                                           
Mr. Sweeney pointed  out that the temporary  accreditation is                                                                   
not an issue  that is unique to correspondence  programs. All                                                                   
the   credits    that   students   earn    [under   temporary                                                                   
accreditation]  are  counted   as  accounted  credits.    The                                                                   
Governor's  approach  is  to avoid  duplication  and  support                                                                   
competition among school districts.                                                                                             
Discussion on HB 174 was HELD until later in the meeting.                                                                       
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."                                                                                                           
MICHEAL JEFFREY, PARENT, BARROW,  testified in support of the                                                                   
Alyeska   Central  School.     He   commended  the   school's                                                                   
reputation and  accreditation.  He maintained  that temporary                                                                   
accreditation   did  not   reflect   well  with   prestigious                                                                   
colleges.    He  referred to  the  Committee  Substitute  and                                                                   
suggested  that  it  would provide  a  compromise  and  allow                                                                   
parents to  attempt to  keep the school  going in  some form.                                                                   
He suggested  that Alyeska's  certified teachers  presented a                                                                   
cost savings to the state of Alaska.   He urged the Committee                                                                   
to pass the Committee Substitute for HB 174.                                                                                    
HB  174  was   heard  and  HELD  in  Committee   for  further                                                                   

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