Legislature(1999 - 2000)

02/24/2000 03:06 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 257 - BOARDING SCHOOL FUNDING                                                                                              
Number 1898                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN DYSON announced the next  order of business as House Bill                                                              
No.  257,  "An  Act  relating  to  funding  for  school  districts                                                              
operating secondary  school boarding  programs; and  providing for                                                              
an effective date."                                                                                                             
Number 1877                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   JEANNETTE   JAMES,  Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                              
sponsor,  came  forward to  present  HB  257.   She  prefaced  her                                                              
remarks with  the fact  that she  has supported regional  boarding                                                              
schools for  15-20 years.   When Nenana  was in her  district, she                                                              
tried  to  get  some  support for  a  boarding  school  which  was                                                              
unsuccessful.   Now things  are in place  for a dormitory  for the                                                              
boarding  school in  Nenana;   the  school  could  have twice  the                                                              
population   without  additional   teachers  or   funding.     She                                                              
principally filed  this bill  for them.   However, she  knew there                                                              
would be other beneficiaries if this bill passed.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES  explained   that  under  the  current  law,                                                              
boarding students who  don't have the opportunity to  go to school                                                              
in their own district can go to a  boarding school and get stipend                                                              
rates for  their room and board.   This bill would  allow students                                                              
who don't qualify  because there is a school in  their district to                                                              
attend  boarding school.   She  found  out Bethel  has a  boarding                                                              
school that is operating on a very  low budget;  the school leases                                                              
a four-plex for  the students to live in.  The  30 students at the                                                              
Bethel Alternative  Boarding School are students  that wouldn't be                                                              
going to school otherwise; the Bethel  Alternative Boarding School                                                              
is a safety net  for students.   The school has  been getting some                                                              
grants but  is at  the "bottom of  the barrel"  as far  as getting                                                              
grants.  If it  doesn't get some assistance some  way, this school                                                              
may not be able to continue.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  has consistently  said that the goal  of the                                                              
legislature and the state should  be to determine what is the best                                                              
way  to  deliver  education  to the  many  different  students  in                                                              
different parts  of the state  with different needs  and different                                                              
kinds of learning abilities.  The  boarding school wouldn't be for                                                              
everyone.   Not everyone can make  it in a regular  classroom, and                                                              
those students need to have this opportunity.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES indicated that  the fiscal note for the first                                                              
year would  be about $600,000, which  is a small price  to pay for                                                              
these students have this opportunity.   She urged the committee to                                                              
consider this legislation.                                                                                                      
Number 1666                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN  asked Representative James if  she had any                                                              
letters  of support  from  school districts  that  would use  this                                                              
option.  He didn't see any backup information in the packet.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES answered she  doesn't; she hasn't  solicited                                                              
any.   Most of  the support she  has been  given has been  verbal.                                                              
She could get that if it were required.                                                                                         
CHAIRMAN  DYSON asked Representative  James  if this bill  passes,                                                              
the existing boarding schools will gain more resources.                                                                         
Number 1567                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES answered  for the  most part,  yes.   Galena                                                              
does have  five students who qualify  under existing law,  but the                                                              
rest of  the boarding  schools will get  resources to  assist with                                                              
room and board.                                                                                                                 
CHAIRMAN DYSON  said when SB 36  was discussed two years  ago, the                                                              
legislature was  told that SB 36  would force the closure  of some                                                              
schools  and  would  force  Native  students  to  go  to  boarding                                                              
schools.    He  asked  Representative  James  if  she  has  gotten                                                              
feedback from the Native community  to see if there is going to be                                                              
resistance to this bill.                                                                                                        
Number 1519                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES commented  that there  would always  be that                                                              
concern,  but she has  heard more  that it  is an opportunity  for                                                              
students.   She's heard  of places  that wish  there were  more of                                                              
those opportunities  for their  children.  It  is a mixed  bag out                                                              
there.  The Native communities really  want the best education for                                                              
their children.   She believes there is big support  out there for                                                              
this school system as a way to deliver education.                                                                               
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked  her if this bill affects  Mt. Edgecumbe High                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES answered no,  unless some of the students who                                                              
currently attend Mt.  Edgecumbe go somewhere else  closer to home.                                                              
She  further explained  that this  bill gives  the other  boarding                                                              
schools approximately half of what Mt. Edgecumbe gets.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE   GREEN  asked  Representative   James   about  the                                                              
additional cost of room and board  for the other boarding schools.                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  JAMES indicated  that the  boarding schools  would                                                              
have to  find that funding  elsewhere; the  parents might  have to                                                              
pay  something.   The stipend  is not  enough to  cover the  whole                                                              
cost; it  just assists with  the cost.   Without the  stipend, the                                                              
schools might  not be able to do  it.  She further  explained that                                                              
the stipend  is paid monthly based  on the actual count  of who is                                                              
at the school.  The stipend does  not fall into the count taken in                                                              
the  fall.   She  went  on  the  answer Chairman  Dyson  that  the                                                              
Department of  Education & Early  Development has not  submitted a                                                              
fiscal  note because  the proposed  committee  substitute has  not                                                              
been adopted.                                                                                                                   
Number 1251                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  made  a  motion  to  adopt  the  proposed                                                              
committee substitute  (CS) for HB  257, version 1-LS1055\I,  Ford,                                                              
2/2/00, as a work draft.  There being  no objection, that proposed                                                              
CS was before the committee.                                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN DYSON asked what committee referrals HB 257 has.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES  answered the  HES committee and  the Finance                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL  asked if  there  is a  wait  list at  Mt.                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied yes.                                                                                               
Number 1138                                                                                                                     
JOHN  ANGAIAK  testified  via  teleconference  from  Bethel.    He                                                              
expressed his  support for HB 257.   He explained his  reasons for                                                              
support which included  the school districts being  reimbursed for                                                              
some expenses in running these schools  which often offer a second                                                              
chance to some  students.  The Bethel Alternative  Boarding School                                                              
serves 30 students whose lives have  been changed.  Room and board                                                              
is a  costly item.   He believes  if this  becomes law,  the state                                                              
will save  money in the long  run because students will  be turned                                                              
around and will become productive adults.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN  asked Mr.  Angaiak what his  connection is                                                              
to the educational system in Bethel.                                                                                            
MR. ANGAIAK  answered he  is speaking as  a committed parent.   He                                                              
was on the school board last year.   His commitment is unending to                                                              
improve the educational situation  for the students whether or not                                                              
he is on the board.                                                                                                             
Number 0865                                                                                                                     
BOB KNIGHT,  Mayor, City of  Nenana, testified via  teleconference                                                              
from Nenana.   He expressed his support  for HB 257.   He believes                                                              
this will be an opportunity for students  in the state to increase                                                              
their  potential  for  their  education,  and  it  will  give  the                                                              
students in  Nenana a chance to  intermingle with the rest  of the                                                              
Number 0767                                                                                                                     
TERRY BENTLEY, Superintendent, Nenana  City Schools, testified via                                                              
teleconference  from Nenana.   He  expressed support  for HB  257.                                                              
Nenana is trying  to get a boarding school going,  and the stipend                                                              
will allow Nenana,  Bethel, Galena and Takotna a  chance to recoup                                                              
some  money for  the  student's room  and  board.   Each  boarding                                                              
school runs a different style of  program.  These boarding schools                                                              
give  the students  choices  about  where they  want  to  go.   He                                                              
believes  that Nenana  can offer  a good program  by offering  the                                                              
students a choice.                                                                                                              
Number 0624                                                                                                                     
EDDY  JEANS,  Manager,  School  Finance  and  Facilities  Section,                                                              
Education  Support  Services,  Department  of  Education  &  Early                                                              
Development (EED),  came forward to  testify.  He referred  to the                                                              
spreadsheet that  was handed  out to committee  members.   He told                                                              
the committee  that  since the proposed  CS has  been adopted,  he                                                              
will prepare  and submit a fiscal  note immediately.   He reviewed                                                              
the five different residential programs  around the state that are                                                              
shown  on  the spreadsheet.    The  five  schools are  located  in                                                              
Bethel, Nenana,  Galena, Takotna [Iditarod REAA  District] and St.                                                              
MR. JEANS pointed out that 123 students  are being served by these                                                              
five schools,  and if  they receive the  current stipend  rate for                                                              
boarding  homes, it  will cost  approximately $540,000.   When  an                                                              
average figure  of $500 is figured  in for airfare, the  cost goes                                                              
up to $601,671.  When the enrollment  projections are figured, the                                                              
total cost  in FY 2002  could be approximately  $1.4 million.   He                                                              
explained  other districts  could  start other  programs, but  the                                                              
figures on the spreadsheet are the ones out there right now.                                                                    
Number 0430                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN  asked Mr. Jeans if the EED  has a position                                                              
on HB 257.                                                                                                                      
MR. JEANS  said that the EED  supports choice; but  the department                                                              
has  not had  the legislative  meeting  to establish  a policy  on                                                              
this.  That  meeting will be this  week, and he could  report back                                                              
after the meeting.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE KEMPLEN stated he  felt the EED's comments would be                                                              
relevant especially since concern  was expressed several years ago                                                              
on  SB 36  about  schools closing  in  villages  and the  students                                                              
having to  attend boarding  schools.  He  would like to  allay any                                                              
concerns about those  issues.  He asked Mr. Jeans  how the stipend                                                              
rate is determined.                                                                                                             
Number 0336                                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS explained  that the stipend rate was  established by the                                                              
department years ago, and it is set  out in regulation.  The rates                                                              
are not  included in regulation but  are included in  the boarding                                                              
home application  packet.  He  didn't know the  actual origination                                                              
of the rates.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  asked if schools are shutting  down, would                                                              
this allow  more latitude to open  a high school in a  REAA [Rural                                                              
Education Attendance  Area]; could this  be a cost saving  in that                                                              
area that has to be done.                                                                                                       
MR. JEANS explained  that SB 36 changed the funding  mechanism for                                                              
schools serving  less than ten  children, which basically  did not                                                              
give the schools enough money to  operate.  The local school board                                                              
makes  the  decision  to  continue   to  operate  using  resources                                                              
generated  by other  schools or  whether  the school  needs to  be                                                              
closed.  He said  since SB 36 passed, a number  of schools closed,                                                              
but a number have convinced their  school boards to remain open to                                                              
show that the student population  would come back and get back the                                                              
funding.  The  communities have to work through  the school boards                                                              
to  make the  ultimate decision.    This bill  allows parents  and                                                              
students more  choice.   The choice is  already happening,  but HB
257 will  provide some  additional revenue  to those districts  to                                                              
defray the residential component of their program.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE asked  Mr. Jeans  if SB  36 didn't give  the                                                              
school districts enough to operate, why did the EED support it.                                                                 
MR. JEANS replied  the legislature made a decision  that it didn't                                                              
want to provide  the same level of funding to  schools that served                                                              
less than  ten students.   It  was the  legislature that  made the                                                              
decision  that the  threshold would  be  ten students.   It  still                                                              
provides the  school with revenue,  just not enough to  operate an                                                              
independent school at the level the school was accustomed to.                                                                   
TAPE 00-22, SIDE A                                                                                                              
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
JOHN CYR, President, National Education  Association (NEA)-Alaska,                                                              
came forward  to testify.   He indicated  that the NEA-Alaska  has                                                              
not  taken  a formal  position  on  HB 257,  but  NEA-Alaska  does                                                              
support more  boarding schools, more  flexibility and  more choice                                                              
within the  public school  system.   If this bill  is going  to be                                                              
used in  the future to close  local schools, obviously  NEA-Alaska                                                              
is not  in favor of  local schools closing.   The NEA-Alaska  does                                                              
believe HB 257 is  a good idea.  It gives added  potential to help                                                              
students who need help.                                                                                                         
Number 0173                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE  asked Mr. Jeans  if a school with  less than                                                              
ten students  brought in  a number of  boarding students  to raise                                                              
the  enrollment  number, how  would  the  stipend and  funding  be                                                              
MR. JEANS  noted that would be  dealt with through  regulation and                                                              
may have  to be  addressed.  He  gave a  brief explanation  of the                                                              
foundation funding formula.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   WHITAKER  asked  why   small  schools   would  be                                                              
discouraged from attracting more students.                                                                                      
Number 0583                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES pointed out  that the stipend is for room and                                                              
board,  not the  cost of running  the  school.  She  sees that  as                                                              
mixing apples and oranges.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  BRICE said  that was  the point  he was trying  to                                                              
have clarified.                                                                                                                 
Number 0629                                                                                                                     
BOB  MEDINGER,  Principal,  Bethel  Alternative  Boarding  School,                                                              
testified  via  teleconference  from   Fairbanks.    He  told  the                                                              
committee that the Bethel Alternative  Boarding School has been in                                                              
operation since  August 1998, and  the program is  meeting student                                                              
needs  that weren't  addressed in  regular programs.   The  Bethel                                                              
Alternative Boarding School is having  difficulty with the funding                                                              
formula  because it  is  treated  as a  classroom  on the  biggest                                                              
school in its  community.  By not having the  site allocation, the                                                              
school  board has had  to subsidize  the boarding  school for  the                                                              
boarding  portion.     There  aren't  grants  available   to  fund                                                              
residential programs  under state school districts.   The boarding                                                              
school has had  to come up with about $150,000-$165,000  a year to                                                              
operate  the  boarding   portion.    The  need   is  greater  than                                                              
anticipated,  and the school  could serve  more students  if there                                                              
were an  avenue to fund  this program.   Mr. Medinger  stated that                                                              
the Bethel Alternative  Boarding School is desperate  for funding.                                                              
He expressed strong support for HB 257.                                                                                         
Number 0776                                                                                                                     
CHAIRMAN  DYSON  closed  the  public  hearing  on  HB  257.    The                                                              
committee took an at-ease from 4:51 p.m. to 4:52 p.m.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE BRICE  made a motion  to move CSHB 257,  version 1-                                                              
LS1055\I,  Ford,   2/2/00,  out   of  committee  with   individual                                                              
recommendations  with accompanying  fiscal note.   There  being no                                                              
objection, CSHB  257(HES) moved from  the House Health,  Education                                                              
and Social Services Committee.                                                                                                  

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