Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/24/1998 03:08 PM House HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 294 - LOCAL & STATE EDUC. FUNDING Number 0852 CHAIRMAN BUNDE announced the committee would next hear testimony on HB 294, "An Act relating to the formula funding public education; and providing for an effective date." He asked Representative Gene Kubina to present his bill. Number 0875 REPRESENTATIVE GENE KUBINA, Alaska State Legislature, presented the sponsor statement for HB 294. He said HB 294 does two things: 1) it raises the instructional unit value from $61,000 to $64,000; and 2) it increases the level of local contribution from 35 percent to 40 percent. The only districts affected by this are North Slope, Valdez, and Unalaska. It would distribute the rest of the money to the other school districts. Anchorage would receive $12 million; Fairbanks $4 million, and Kenai and Mat-Su would receive $3 million each and on down the line. REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA said he believes the current formula does work, but because inflation has not been dealt with for ten years, it's out of whack. He mentioned the concepts of other legislative bills, but it was his opinion that a plain and simple bill needed to be introduced and become part of the discussion of simply addressing the inflation factor in the existing formula. REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA said many people believe his school district is the rich school district, but the fact is, Valdez is debating cutting the only reading teacher in the elementary school and cutting one librarian. His point is that if the Valdez School District, who everyone perceives as being the wealthy district, is going through these problems, what are other districts going through. REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA urged committee members to consider this approach and noted there are battles going on to change the funding formula, but if it can't be changed so that it's fair and equitable for all districts without robbing Peter to pay Paul, he was hopeful this simple approach would be used to find an answer. Number 1061 CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked what the local contribution would be in North Slope, Unalaska and Valdez with the passage of HB 294. REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA said it would go up 5 percent; from 35 percent to 40 percent. The local contributions would be as follows: North Slope $908,000; Valdez $263,000; and Unalaska $136,000. He corrected those numbers to reflect North Slope at $886,000, Valdez at $259,000, and $141,000 for Unalaska. He urged committee members to pass HB 294 out of committee so it could become part of the funding debate in the Finance Committee. He pointed out the amendment addressed the single site issue which has been the only complaint about the bill, and it is his opinion it should be included in HB 294. CHAIRMAN BUNDE noted there were a number of people in the audience waiting to testify. He asked Marilyn Leahy to present her comments. Number 1202 MARILYN LEAHY, Member, Valdez School Board, testified in support of HB 294, although it wouldn't benefit the Valdez School District. In her opinion, this is a simple fix and even though there are more elaborate solutions being proposed to redistribute monies, more funds need to go into the system. MS. LEAHY discussed some accomplishments of the Valdez School District with funds that were available in the past. For example, the eleventh graders came out in the 81st percentile on the California Achievement Test this year and the eighth graders came out in the 66th percentile. However, as a school board member, the decisions having to be made will take this good system apart piece- by-piece. MS. LEAHY concluded that investment in education does pay off. The study entitled, "Student Achievement in a Changing American Family" indicated that two-thirds of the increase in the national assessment of educational progress test scores were due to the federal dollars that had been directed to the disadvantaged youth. CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Darroll Hargraves to come forward and testify. Number 1344 DARROLL HARGRAVES, Representative, Alaska Gateway School District, said the Alaska Gateway School District recently chose not to pass a resolution, but the board had directed him to support increased funding for education that would affect the Alaska Gateway School District. The board further directed that support be given to legislation that was simple and easily understood. He noted there have been a number of proposals the last couple years, but he wasn't confident any of them were simple and easy to understand. He cautioned that the formula to fund education may become so complicated and draw so much opposition that it may not be possible to pass a foundation funding formula that's agreeable and acceptable to everyone. MR. HARGRAVES shared a chart showing increased costs within his district. He noted there has been a $6,000 decrease in the average teacher salary in the Gateway School District. If the level of foundation funding for next year remains the same as this year, positions will be eliminated, there will be no salary increases, and cuts will have to be made in other places in order to continue operating. He noted the Gateway School District has been able to use reserves in the past, but all those reserves have been used, except what's required by law. MR. HARGRAVES said because of the complexities of the other bills, he would urge the committee to consider HB 294, which will save school districts. CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Carl Rose for his comments on HB 294. Number 1625 CARL ROSE, Executive Director, Association of Alaska School Boards, testified in support of HB 294. CHAIRMAN BUNDE asked Commissioner Holloway for her comments. Number 1645 SHIRLEY J. HOLLOWAY, Ph.D., Commissioner, Department of Education, said the department's position is there shouldn't be any new funding to public education without all the pieces. She stated, "We are absolutely committed to the fact that we know that we need the public's confidence in public education and that's going to come with accountability (indisc. - coughing) new money." CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked Commissioner Holloway for her comments and asked Mr. Cyr to comment. Number 1680 JOHN CYR, President, NEA-Alaska, testified in support of HB 294. He said, "I'd be more than happy to share all my charts and graphs with you and tell you all my sad stories. We're starving to death out there. You all have got to help us." Number 1715 CHAIRMAN BUNDE thanked everyone for testifying and announced that HB 294 would be held in committee for further deliberation.