Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

03/01/2006 01:30 PM HEALTH, EDUCATION & SOCIAL SERVICES


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ SB 281 SCHOOL DIST. ENROLLMENT SHARING/CORRESPON TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+= SB 162 REPORT STUDENT HEALTH/DISCIPLINE/SAFETY TELECONFERENCED
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
*+ SB 199 SCHOOL NUTRITION SUPPORT GRANTS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
     SB 281-SCHOOL DIST. ENROLLMENT SHARING/CORRESPONDENCE                                                                  
                                                                                                                              
CHAIR DYSON announced SB 281 to  be up for consideration.  As the                                                               
sponsor, he invited Mr. Keller to present the bill.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
1:44:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
WES   KELLER,  Staff   to  Senator   Fred  Dyson,   Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, explained  that SB  281 authorizes  school districts                                                               
to  design, promote  and  administer statewide  distance-learning                                                               
programs; it  makes explicit what  is implied, since  no existing                                                               
law prohibits a school district  from enrolling students from any                                                               
area  of  Alaska;  it allows  contractual  agreements  -  already                                                               
allowed in statute - between school  districts; and it adds a new                                                               
definition  of  correspondence  programs,  currently  defined  in                                                               
regulation only,  by defining  a program in  terms of  whether it                                                               
takes on the daily, routine care of children.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
He  requested  that  the  Senate   Finance  Committee  deal  with                                                               
financial  implications,  noting  he'd asked  the  Department  of                                                               
Education and  Early Development  (DEED) to assist  with wording.                                                               
Mr. Keller  said state  funding would follow  the student  to the                                                               
new  district,  as  would  federal  impact  aid;  however,  local                                                               
contributions would not, maintaining the status quo.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON  moved  to  adopt the  proposed  CS,  Version  F[24-                                                               
LS1430\F,  Mischel, 2/15/06]  as the  working document.   Without                                                               
objection, Version F was before the committee.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLER  pointed out that  SB 281  presses one question:   How                                                               
will  district costs  be factored  into the  funding formula  for                                                               
non-correspondence students  that enroll  in another  district if                                                               
it happens  more often because  of this legislation?   Suggesting                                                               
it's  an issue  for the  Senate Finance  Committee, he  added, "I                                                               
think  answering this  question in  open discussion  will clarify                                                               
things and  be helpful to us  as far as legislative  intent."  He                                                               
said SB 281  doesn't propose or  promote any  particular program,                                                               
doesn't  impose  mandates  and   introduces  no  new  legislative                                                               
intent.  He asserted that  it elevates the importance of district                                                               
boundary lines  because it's a  statement of confidence  in local                                                               
school districts.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
He informed members that technology  - which makes the impacts of                                                               
distance  disappear   -  drives   SB  281.     Relating  personal                                                               
background, Mr.  Keller said  he has new  hope for  Alaska's K-12                                                               
education.   He discussed a  "virtual box" designed for  a child,                                                               
based  on the  child's  needs and  current  level, an  individual                                                               
learning  plan,   state  standards  and  so   forth;  this  would                                                               
facilitate    personal   teacher-student    and   teacher-teacher                                                               
communication  never before  available.   Mr. Keller  elaborated,                                                               
suggesting  security measures  already  exist,  for example,  and                                                               
saying  small communities  can take  advantage of  expertise from                                                               
people outside the community.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
He expressed enthusiasm for  education technology and highlighted                                                               
the  following  myths:   technology  removes  teachers  from  the                                                               
equation;  technology  usage  only occurs  between  teachers  and                                                               
students, not  among students;  distance technology  is primarily                                                               
for correspondence schools or home  schooling; teachers need deep                                                               
technological  knowledge to  be  effective; kids  don't have  the                                                               
ability to take  care of technological hardware  such as laptops;                                                               
technology for education is expensive,  with no cost savings; and                                                               
accurate predictions can not be  made about future technology and                                                               
software.   Mr.  Keller concluded  by citing  a 2003  census that                                                               
found three out  of four Alaskan families have  computers - which                                                               
puts Alaska near the top -  and that 68.5 percent of Alaskans use                                                               
the Internet.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:00:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON asked  whether protections  should be  included to                                                               
keep  one  school  district  from  losing  students  to  another,                                                               
causing the school to fall below the minimum number of students.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLER suggested  that was  for legislators  to answer.   He                                                               
offered his  opinion, however,  that if  a local  school district                                                               
had the best  situation to attract its own students  with its own                                                               
programs, then nothing had to be done.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON  asked whether Section  1 allowed something  new to                                                               
happen so one  district could create a charter  school in another                                                               
district.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLER  agreed it  wasn't  happening  already, but  said  he                                                               
wasn't sure it was illegal.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON expressed interest  in having the committee discuss                                                               
it,  since  it  would  be  a  significant  shift  and  he  didn't                                                               
understand all the ramifications.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OLSON asked  about the difference between  Version G, the                                                               
original bill, and Version F.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:02:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. KELLER explained  that the first version  didn't specify that                                                               
districts could make contractual agreements  with each other.  In                                                               
many  remote locations,  the school  building is  the center  for                                                               
culture in  the community.  A  school that wasn't happy  with its                                                               
teachers that  come and go from  the community might be  eager to                                                               
participate  in a  program offered  by another  district and  yet                                                               
still use the building.  This would allow such agreements.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON added  an example:  Hope, a small  community south of                                                               
his district, has  just 10 students, but a nice  school built for                                                               
60.   If the  number fell  below the threshold  of 10,  the local                                                               
district or  school could  contract with  the Anchorage  or Kenai                                                               
school  district  to  have  a  distance-delivery  charter  school                                                               
there, using  the building  and providing a  teacher's aide  as a                                                               
monitor  and proctor  in the  classroom and/or  providing support                                                               
for  students with  disabilities.   Some districts  conduct their                                                               
administration from Anchorage already,  and Chair Dyson suggested                                                               
this would  allow small schools  and districts to  take advantage                                                               
of   another   district's  economies   of   scale   or  to   work                                                               
collaboratively.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
He  highlighted the  problem of  a  small high  school trying  to                                                               
provide  a variety  of classes  and experiences  to students.   A                                                               
virtual school  could combine three  students in one  village who                                                               
wanted  to learn  Russian, aviation  or  medical technology,  for                                                               
example, with dozens of other  students in schools throughout the                                                               
area  or  the state;  it  would  be  taught by  highly  qualified                                                               
teachers  from   another  locale.     Chair  Dyson   related  his                                                               
understanding that all the bill's language is permissive.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLER  requested  that the  legislation  be  moved  forward                                                               
unless some  questions couldn't be  answered.   Regarding Senator                                                               
Elton's earlier  question, he said  charter schools  have another                                                               
"layer":   the  state board,  which can  approve or  disapprove a                                                               
decision that has been made at the local district level.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON opened public testimony.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
2:07:57 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
EDDY  JEANS, Director,  School Finance,  Department of  Education                                                               
and Early Development, informed members  that DEED hadn't taken a                                                               
position on the  bill yet, mainly because of  lack of opportunity                                                               
for  feedback  from  the  state  Board  of  Education  and  Early                                                               
Development.   Concurring  that many  items  in the  bill are  in                                                               
statute, he noted,  for example, that AS 14.14.110  has the title                                                               
"Cooperation with other districts."                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
He  conjectured  that some  concerns  of  the state  board  might                                                               
relate to Section 1, which allows  a district to create a charter                                                               
school to operate  in another school district,  and to Section 3,                                                               
which  allows a  local  school  board to  establish  a school  in                                                               
another  district.   Mr. Jeans  pointed out  that children  cross                                                               
boundaries  now, with  funding going  to the  district where  the                                                               
children actually attend school.   He gave examples.  In response                                                               
to Chair  Dyson, he  clarified that  under Section  1, subsection                                                               
(d), it  appears a local  school board could establish  a charter                                                               
school  outside  the district  boundaries  with  approval of  the                                                               
state board,  but without consent of  the other school board  - a                                                               
substantial  change.   He surmised,  at minimum,  that the  state                                                               
board would want  both local school boards to be  a party to such                                                               
a charter.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:12:20 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. JEANS, in further response,  said he believes the state board                                                               
will meet  March 17;  he covers  current legislation  during such                                                               
meetings and will  ensure this is before the board.   In response                                                               
to  Senator  Olson  regarding  the  bill's  necessity,  Mr. Jeans                                                               
mentioned  that  at  least  the  existing  cooperation  component                                                               
between  districts is  clearly allowed  by statute.   In  further                                                               
response,  he explained  that he  would present  the bill  to the                                                               
state board to  receive feedback, but would also  point out that,                                                               
for this  particular section,  current statute  already addresses                                                               
the cooperative nature between districts.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
2:14:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked  Mr. Jeans whether he believes  the present law                                                               
allows a district "on invitation,  with agreement" to establish a                                                               
new charter school in another district.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. JEANS answered  that it hadn't happened yet,  other than with                                                               
the Delta Cyber  School, which was approved as  a charter school,                                                               
serves students  statewide via  the Internet and  is funded  as a                                                               
correspondence program.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON indicated  Version  F differs  from  current law  in                                                               
allowing a charter school to  operate specifically within another                                                               
district.   He  proposed getting  a legal  opinion as  to whether                                                               
additional authorization is needed beyond existing statute.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JEANS,  in   response  to  Senator  Elton,   said  he  reads                                                               
Section 3,  paragraph (1),  to  say a  district  can establish  a                                                               
brick-and-mortar school  in another  district without  the second                                                               
district's approval.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  DYSON surmised  the drafter  thought the  approval of  the                                                               
state board  provided a safeguard.   He asked about options  if a                                                               
recalcitrant school  district at some  point isn't doing  what is                                                               
necessary.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON remarked  that it's an interesting  point, but said                                                               
he reads Section 1 as being  different from Section 3.  Section 1                                                               
provides that  the state  board would  be involved  in decisions,                                                               
but Section 3 is just a local response.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  JEANS  noted  that  Section  1  amends  the  charter  school                                                               
legislation, which already has a  state board approval component.                                                               
Section 3  amends AS 14.14,  adding a  new subsection  that deals                                                               
with operations of districts.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR.  KELLER added  that  he couldn't  imagine  a school  district                                                               
going out  and building a  school in a  rural area.   He reported                                                               
that   one  big   concern  he   has  heard   from  districts   is                                                               
administration.   Although  he could  see safeguards  so students                                                               
aren't viewed  as revenue sources,  he suggested this is  more of                                                               
an  opportunity to  "put sizes  and needs  together, rather  than                                                               
trying to take over another district."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:21:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked about financial implications.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MR. JEANS  answered that  DEED hadn't  analyzed it  for financial                                                               
impact.   Regarding  the issue  raised by  Mr. Keller  about cost                                                               
differentials and  the dollars following the  students, Mr. Jeans                                                               
offered the belief that it's  being achieved already by providing                                                               
funding  to  the  schools  and districts  that  are  serving  the                                                               
children.   In further  response, he  said there  may not  be any                                                               
cost implications.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
2:23:56 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CARL  ROSE,  Executive  Director, Association  of  Alaska  School                                                               
Boards (AASB), testified that AASB  has no formal position on the                                                               
bill  because  all the  implications  aren't  known.   Addressing                                                               
possibilities, he pointed out that  those wanting to do a charter                                                               
school might  seek other  sponsors; thus the  bill could  be far-                                                               
reaching.   Mr.  Rose  offered his  understanding  that the  bill                                                               
intends to  restate the latitude already  possessed by districts.                                                               
As for  financial implications,  he pondered  whether going  to a                                                               
district with another cost differential might affect costs.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
2:27:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
LEE  YOUNG,  Principal,   Connections,  Kenai  Peninsula  Borough                                                               
Schools,  informed  members that  Connections  is  a home  school                                                               
program.   He requested  clarification as  to whether  the bill's                                                               
focus is  distance delivery, for  remote students  especially, or                                                               
is  to  perhaps  shape  core  school  districts.    He  predicted                                                               
financial  benefits  if school  districts  can  go outside  their                                                               
boundaries; he  also believes his  program is better  off because                                                               
of the competition.   Mr. Young suggested if there  were a way to                                                               
rate  districts  for  doing  a good  job,  then  perhaps  charter                                                               
schools  wouldn't  be  allowed to  set  up  new  brick-and-mortar                                                               
schools.  He  asked about ways to craft the  legislation to avoid                                                               
having new  brick-and-mortar schools  draw students from  the old                                                               
school programs,  thereby watering them  down.  He  asked members                                                               
to continue to analyze this and do good work.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked whether anyone else wished to testify.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:30:23 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON announced SB 281 would be held over.                                                                                

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