Legislature(1999 - 2000)

04/24/1999 10:09 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 195 - SCHOOL GRANT/DEBT REIMBURSEMENT                                                                                        
Number 0174                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN COGHILL announced the next order of business as House                                                               
Bill No. 195, "An Act relating to school construction grants and to                                                             
municipal school construction debt reimbursement."                                                                              
Number 0218                                                                                                                     
BRUCE CAMPBELL, Legislative Assistant to Senator Randy Phillips,                                                                
came forward to present the sponsor statement for HB 195.  This is                                                              
a companion bill to SB 95 which is supported by the Anchorage                                                                   
school board, the Anchorage caucus and the Fairbanks school board.                                                              
Senate Bill 95 recognizes the grades 6 to 8 middle school concept.                                                              
Currently, the statutes deal with junior high, grades 7, 8, and 9,                                                              
but they don't have a middle school concept in the statute process;                                                             
it makes it difficult to address middle schools in determining the                                                              
school size and calculations for construction.  Anchorage junior                                                                
highs have been converted to the middle school concept.  In                                                                     
downtown Fairbanks, there are still junior highs, grades 7 through                                                              
9, but North Pole has a middle school of grades 6, 7 and 8.  This                                                               
change seeks to expand the DOE regulations in a manner that                                                                     
conforms with the middle school concept, and it gives school boards                                                             
flexibility in determining how they house their students.  The core                                                             
of the bill is on page 3 where they have added the middle school                                                                
concept in lines 20 through 23.                                                                                                 
MR. CAMPBELL told the committee that currently sixth graders are                                                                
calculated as if they were in elementary schools, even though they                                                              
are in a middle school.  Elementary schools have smaller size                                                                   
requirements than middle schools.                                                                                               
Number 0417                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked how this will affect existing schools                                                                
that have the sixth graders in elementary schools.                                                                              
MR. CAMPBELL said there would be no change.                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON believes this is not going to have any                                                                        
detrimental affect of schools and students now, but it will allow                                                               
districts to plan and build for the middle school concept and be                                                                
able to treat the students according to the facility they are in,                                                               
not the academic progression.  He asked if this change will get                                                                 
more operational funding for the student for the district.                                                                      
MR. CAMPBELL answered no, it is strictly the capital side.                                                                      
Number 0752                                                                                                                     
LARRY WIGET, Executive Director, Public Affairs, Anchorage School                                                               
District, came forward to testify.  Their goal is allow them to be                                                              
able to count students who are in a middle school program have the                                                              
square footage counted as a secondary school student to meet the                                                                
program needs of that student.  Sixth graders that are housed in                                                                
elementary school programs will be counted as elementary students.                                                              
They believe this will allow them the flexibility in the design in                                                              
putting up new middle school, if the school board decides they want                                                             
a sixth grade combination in a middle school program.  This will                                                                
allow them to put the square footage in.  They are looking for                                                                  
flexibility in the design of new facilities and being able to count                                                             
the sixth graders in a middle school program as secondary students                                                              
as they should be.                                                                                                              
Number 0914                                                                                                                     
DEE HUBBARD, Member, Bond Reimbursement and Grant Review Committee,                                                             
testified via teleconference from Anchorage.  She is also a                                                                     
volunteer.  She sees two concerns.  One deals with the wording in                                                               
both Sections 1 and 2  which talks about a specific building.  She                                                              
pointed out that there are schools in this state that house grades                                                              
K-8 and K-12.  The way this language is written, because the K-8 is                                                             
housed in an elementary school, these sixth grade students, if they                                                             
were receiving a secondary program education, would not be counted                                                              
to allow the increase in square footage from 106 to 150 square                                                                  
feet.  She suggested that instead of talking about the physical                                                                 
structure of where they are housed, they should talk about the                                                                  
level of education that they are getting.  That would remove the                                                                
barriers for schools with other configurations that aren't covered                                                              
in this legislation.                                                                                                            
MS. HUBBARD said the other concern involves a lot of paperwork.  If                                                             
the bill does not take care of the K-8 and K-12 schools, the school                                                             
districts will be keeping two sets of books, and that causes a                                                                  
consternation problem.  She admitted to being the culprit of this                                                               
bill.  In 1994, she noticed the anomaly in the statute and went to                                                              
the school board and suggested they do something about the sixth                                                                
graders in middle schools.                                                                                                      
Number 1166                                                                                                                     
MIKE MORGAN, Manager, Facilities Section, Education Support                                                                     
Services, DOE, came forward to testify.  He explained that the bill                                                             
started out in a directed fashion looking at middle schools.  Last                                                              
year the DOE provided a definition for middle schools that really                                                               
gave districts the maximum flexibility to put any grade                                                                         
configuration they wanted to together, and they didn't expand it                                                                
beyond the middle school concept, because that is where the sponsor                                                             
started out.  They can certainly look at language changes that will                                                             
accommodate the other K-8 or K-12 facilities.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if Mr. Morgan saw any problem with the                                                               
change to include K-8 and K-12.                                                                                                 
MR. MORGAN didn't believe it will cause any problems, but it would                                                              
cost more.                                                                                                                      
Number 1279                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked if they don't make the change, would                                                                 
there be a chance they would be hammered for preferentially                                                                     
selecting these students over those students.                                                                                   
MR. MORGAN agreed that this does provide disproportionate funding                                                               
to a very small element because primarily middle schools right now                                                              
occur in large urban areas.  The smaller districts have gone to                                                                 
unified facilities rather than splitting the facilities up so they                                                              
could qualify for additional funding.                                                                                           
CO-CHAIRMAN COGHILL asked if the word "shall" on page 3, line 20,                                                               
was a prohibition to those districts who choose not to put sixth                                                                
graders in middle school.                                                                                                       
Number 1346                                                                                                                     
MR. MORGAN commented that what is often misunderstood about the                                                                 
DOE's current space guideline regulations is that they are not                                                                  
recommendations; they are a maximum that is going to be available                                                               
for funding.  There is a range of space allocation per facilities                                                               
but the DOE doesn't tell the district how to use their total space                                                              
allocation.  The way the districts combine their students is up to                                                              
the districts.  The DOE is only saying there is a maximum they will                                                             
fund up to.  The districts don't have to choose to build to that                                                                
maximum.  That is what the space guidelines are doing.  There could                                                             
be a ripple effect if districts decided to move the sixth graders                                                               
out of K-6 schools into secondary schools to qualify for more                                                                   
space; the K-6 schools could have excess space and then the high                                                                
schools would be overcrowded, and that is the most expensive space                                                              
to build.                                                                                                                       
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked Mr. Campbell if these questions have come                                                               
up in the Senate.                                                                                                               
Number 1485                                                                                                                     
MR. CAMPBELL answered that some have come up, and the general                                                                   
discussion is that it is not the intent, other than to allow                                                                    
flexibility.  He has not heard the intent of increasing the dollars                                                             
available for construction.  Once the DOE makes the allocation, the                                                             
school district can pick and choose and try to get more flexibility                                                             
in their options.                                                                                                               
Number 1512                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON made a motion to move HB 195 from the committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and attached fiscal notes.                                                                      
Number 1523                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE objected because of concerns in his school                                                                 
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON asked if they waited to move it out on Tuesday                                                                
would that give him enough time to work on it.                                                                                  
Number 1546                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said yes, and if not he will try to deal with                                                              
it in the Finance Committee.                                                                                                    
Number 1570                                                                                                                     
CO-CHAIRMAN DYSON announced they would hold HB 195 until Tuesday.                                                               
[HB 195 was heard and held.]                                                                                                    

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