Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/07/2003 01:33 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 121-COMMUNITY SCHOOLS CHAIR DYSON announced SB 121 to be up for consideration. MR. EDDY JEANS, School Finance Manager, Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) spoke to SB 121 and explained that it would repeal the current statutes dealing with the community schools program. This program has been in place since 1975 and was adopted to encourage and assist local school districts in the establishment of community schools. The intent of the Legislature was to provide a program of community school grants to be established to provide assistance to local communities in the initial development, implementation and operation of community school programs. He explained in the early years this program was funded at its statutory authorization. For the last couple of years it has been funded at about $500,000. The department still thinks that community schools are a viable activity after the school day is over, but they believe the programs are already established and self sufficient without the state's support. He was able to identify about $1.4 million of total community school expenditures of which the state is providing about a half million (less than 7 percent of the total funding being spent on community schools). The application process is set out in statute, which still refers to the initial development of a community schools program. The administration and department believe that this statute has fulfilled its intended purpose. SENATOR WILKEN asked him to go over the Fairbanks figures. MR. JEANS responded that Fairbanks recorded $180,000 in community school expenditures in FY02. The state grant was $50,000; the state's support was almost 28 percent of the total expenses. He said the fiscal note only shows the money that they get through the grant program. Page 2 of the fiscal note shows the community schools allocation based on FY04 projections. The statute says that districts are entitled to one half of one percent of the foundation aid state support that was provided or $10,000; whichever is less. He said the total entitlement under this program would be almost $3.3 million. The Legislature had recommended funding at $.5 million, which would represent about 15 percent of the total entitlement under FY04 projections. CHAIR DYSON asked why the Legislature recommended $500,000. MR. JEANS replied that he misspoke and that was based on what was in the budget last year. SENATOR GARY WILKEN said if this legislation were to pass, Fairbanks would lose $48,688. MR. JEANS said that is correct. MR. RICK LANGFITT, Community Schools Coordinator for the Kodiak Island Borough School District, said while the level of state funding may be minimal, that small amount shows base support for the value of community schools programs. The Kodiak school district is facing a $2 million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year and the community schools program is one among many valuable programs the district is considering for elimination. State support for it would make it harder to justify eliminating it and the district would lose grant funds if it does not provide a program. CHAIR DYSON asked him what if the state said if the local people don't care enough about it to fund it, we're getting the wrong signal. MR. LANGFITT replied that the level of funding Kodiak gets from the community schools grant is $10,700 and the rest of the money to support the program, which totals $70,000, comes from local communities. He maintained: While we're looking to cut things, with that additional state cut, it just makes it that much harder to justify trying to come up with another $10,000 to support a program when we already have a $2 million shortfall for next year. MS. JOYCE KITKA, volunteer with the Alaska Association for Community Education (AACE), referred to information she provided the committee that shows what her organization helped make happen in communities. Existing buildings in 53 out of 53 school districts are being used on nights and weekends as opposed to being closed at the end of the school day or year. Over 20,000 programs and activities were offered and over 342,000 activity hours were logged, over 464,000 youth were served, over 390,000 adults were served, over 20,000 different volunteers logged in almost 212,000 hours. She continued: ...the National Association for Partners in Education state that an average volunteer is worth $15.62 per hour, if you take that and multiply that by the 212,000 hours, we brought in over $3 million in services from our volunteers. We think that's an excellent track record and we would challenge you to find any other program in this state that serves as many people on as few state dollars as we get. MS. KITKA responded to the question of why the program should be state driven for local people by saying she thought it was a partnership and a good faith effort on both parts. She noted: On Saturday in House Finance, it was referred to as being the spark plug. The $500,000 was the spark plug that keeps these programs going...We do open gyms. We will not deny that. When I open a gym and I have 150 kids who are hanging out there on a Saturday night, I know it's meeting a need. MS. KITKA concluded by saying: The Department of Education's mission statement addresses life-long learning and yet they and the governor are wishing to eliminate the funding for the one vehicle that helps promote this. She said the Legislature could choose to not fund the program right now as it realizes money is tight, but it can do that and still keep the statute intact. MR. LARRY WIGET, Executive Director, Public Affairs, Anchorage School District, said the district does not support eliminating the community schools program from the statute or eliminating the funding. He maintained: According to AS 14.36.010(a), the purpose of the community schools is an expression of the philosophy that the school is a fine educational institution of the community. It's most effective when it involves the people of that community in a program designed to fulfill their educational needs. He thought the law should be changed, but rather than eliminating community schools from statute, the intent of the law should be changed to include ongoing operation of community school programs. MS. DEBBIE BOGART, Director, Community Education Program, Anchorage School District, said if passed, SB 121 would devastate community education. This program is a valuable component that contributes to the academic success of our students. It provides continuing education for adults and preschool education for young learners. The community school programs keep the community involved in our schools. It brings people without children into the schools so they know more about them. Last year 33,000 youth and 28,000 adults were involved in their programs. CHAIR DYSON asked why the department has chosen to eliminate the statute as well as the funding. MR. JEANS replied that basically DEED was looking to eliminate the funding, but the intent of the program was to provide seed money to get the programs up and running, "and they are up and running." CHAIR DYSON asked why they couldn't leave in language for the start up of new programs and eliminate the continuous funding language. MR. JEANS replied that all 53 school districts participate in this program and the start up has occurred. If the Legislature wants to provide on-going operational money, at a minimum the statute needs to be amended to reflect that. SENATOR WILKEN asked if school districts track the net expenditure of community schools in the chart of accounts. MR. JEANS replied probably not. CHAIR DYSON called a brief at-ease and came back on the record to state the agenda for the next meeting. He announced that SB 145 was being held in committee.