Legislature(1999 - 2000)

02/09/2000 01:35 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
         SB 198-INCREASE BASE ALLOCATION FOR EDUCATION                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN MILLER announced SB 198 to be up for consideration.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WILKEN, sponsor of SB 198, said the State of Alaska's                                                                   
education funding formula is based on a specific dollar amount per                                                              
student.  Currently, the base student allocation is $3,940.  SB 198                                                             
increases this allocation by $50, making the base allocation                                                                    
$3,990.  In FY01, the foundation program, which funds K-12 Alaska                                                               
public schools, will require approximately $19 million less in                                                                  
state aid than the amount authorized in FY00.  Several key factors                                                              
contribute to this drop in state aide while continuing to fund the                                                              
foundation formula.  One is a decline in projected student                                                                      
enrollment which is projected to be about .8 percent; another is a                                                              
required increase in the local effort per the formula (an increase,                                                             
depending on where you live, of around 2-5 percent); another is an                                                              
increase in assessed values across the state; and last, an increase                                                             
in the deductible impact aid, known as PL 874 money (an increase of                                                             
$11 million or 15 percent over last year).                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SB 198 keeps a portion of these savings within K-12 education and                                                               
provides a modest increase in school funding equally across the                                                                 
state.  He encouraged their support.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. EDDY JEANS, School Finance Manager, Department of Education                                                                 
(DOE), said the Governor has introduced SB 244 which would direct                                                               
an increase in funding through the quality schools grant component                                                              
of the foundation program.  Specifically, it targets the money to                                                               
improve student performance.  The Department of Education prepared                                                              
a fiscal note for SB 198 and the $50 increase in the base student                                                               
allocation equals $10,489,300.  He emphasized that he feels                                                                     
strongly that new dollars in the foundation program need to be                                                                  
targeted to improve student performance.  He offered to answer any                                                              
questions at this time.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 908                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. JOHN CYR, President, National Education Association - Alaska,                                                               
stated support for SB 198.  NEAA believes the need for more money                                                               
for schools is critical.  It believes the foundation formula needs                                                              
to be increased.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
NEAA is also concerned about teacher salaries.  More and more young                                                             
professionals are leaving the state because they can't make a                                                                   
living here.  For instance, his son-in-law is moving away with his                                                              
two grandchildren.  He has been teaching in Homer for the last                                                                  
three years but cannot make an adequate living.  The same thing is                                                              
happening to other folks, too; and it's a shame to see it happen.                                                               
                                                                                                                                
The State needs to provide the basic infrastructure that schools                                                                
require.  Alaska schools need help all over, not just in the                                                                    
quality schools initiative.  He urged committee members to pass the                                                             
bill.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 1021                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. CARL ROSE, Executive Director, Association of Alaska School                                                                 
Boards, stated support for SB 198 and made the following comments.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
The quality of life in Alaska and across the U.S. will be directly                                                              
proportionate to the quality of the education we provide the young                                                              
people today.  The issue is one of quality and he agrees with the                                                               
Department of Education that we need to pay strict attention to                                                                 
that.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
There is a system in place right now and quality initiatives have                                                               
been introduced that will require additional money.  We don't have                                                              
the option of stopping what we do right now and focus strictly on                                                               
the quality of improvements.  We have to continue providing the                                                                 
services they do right now and, in many cases, schools are doing a                                                              
good job.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Their needs are tremendous and the way the foundation is set up ...                                                             
we have a strong economy in Alaska and it's reflected in our                                                                    
property values.  It calls for more local contributions as a result                                                             
of declining enrollment and the additional impact aid money.  The                                                               
actual money to public education will be less than what was                                                                     
appropriated last year and the question is not that we have fewer                                                               
needs today; we have more needs.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
They support the quality initiatives.  He understands the                                                                       
Governor's position, but he is perplexed by the comment that                                                                    
dollars won't be siphoned off or redirected to salaries,                                                                        
maintenance and administration.  Students have to be housed                                                                     
somewhere, which is maintenance.  Our students have to be taught                                                                
and that is largely salaries for our teachers.  These schools have                                                              
to be administered; that's not the responsibility of professionals                                                              
in the class room. They are under tremendous mandates; schools have                                                             
to be administered to provide the public with some level of                                                                     
accountability.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
He concluded by saying that schools have great needs and this                                                                   
should get us part of the way there.  There is some merit to the                                                                
Governor's proposal.  We are $19 million short and he wanted to do                                                              
everything he could to get those dollars into our schools, because                                                              
they need the money.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WILKEN moved to report SB 198 out of committee with                                                                     
individual recommendations with the attached fiscal note.  There                                                                
were no objections and it was so ordered.                                                                                       

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