Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/29/1997 08:03 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
             HOUSE STATE AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                            
                         April 29, 1997                                        
                            8:03 a.m.                                          
 MEMBERS PRESENT                                                               
 Representative Jeannette James, Chair                                         
 Representative Ethan Berkowitz                                                
 Representative Fred Dyson                                                     
 Representative Kim Elton                                                      
 Representative Mark Hodgins                                                   
 Representative Ivan Ivan                                                      
 Representative Al Vezey                                                       
 MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                
 All members present.                                                          
 COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                            
 *SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 110                                    
 "An Act relating to funding for charter schools."                             
      - MOVED SSHB 110 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                        
 (* First public hearing)                                                      
 PREVIOUS ACTION                                                               
 BILL:  HB 110                                                               
 SHORT TITLE: CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING                                           
 SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) NICHOLIA                                        
 JRN-DATE      JRN-PG             ACTION                                       
 02/03/97       219    (H)   READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S)                 
 02/03/97       219    (H)   STATE AFFAIRS, HES, FINANCE                       
 04/16/97      1121    (H)   SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE INTRODUCED-REFERRALS           
 04/16/97      1121    (H)   STATE AFFAIRS, HES, FINANCE                       
 04/29/97              (H)   STA AT  8:00 AM CAPITOL 102                       
 WITNESS REGISTER                                                              
 KATTARYNA BENNETT, Researcher                                                 
    to Representative Irene Nicholia                                           
 State Capitol, Room 409                                                       
 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182                                                     
 Telephone:  (907) 465-4527                                                    
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided sponsor statement for SSHB 110.                 
 REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA                                                 
 Alaska State Legislature                                                      
 State Capitol, Room 409                                                       
 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182                                                     
 Telephone:  (907) 465-4527                                                    
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Sponsor of SSHB 110.                                     
 ACTION NARRATIVE                                                              
 TAPE 97-53, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 0001                                                                   
 The House State Affairs Standing Committee was called to order by             
 Chair Jeannette James at 8:03 a.m.  Members present at the call to            
 order were Representatives James, Dyson, Elton, Ivan and Vezey.               
 Members absent were Berkowitz and Hodgins.  Representative                    
 Berkowitz and Hodgins arrived at 8:08 a.m.                                    
 SSHB 110 - CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING                                           
 The first order of business to come before the House State Affairs            
 Standing Committee was SSHB 110, "An Act relating to funding for              
 charter schools."                                                             
 CHAIR JEANNETTE JAMES called on Kattaryna Bennett, Researcher to              
 Representative Irene Nicholia, to present the bill.                           
 Number 0035                                                                   
 KATTARYNA BENNETT, Researcher to Representative Irene Nicholia,               
 explained the bill provided the mechanism for charter schools to              
 request funding to cover boarding cost for out-of-town students.              
 Although we had worked hard to encourage the creation of charter              
 and boarding schools, we had not provided the funding to pay for              
 the cost.  In Representative Nicholia's district there was a                  
 charter school which currently housed out-of-town students.  The              
 school already had to stretch its limited state dollars to cover              
 the cost of boarding the students.  Some of the students would have           
 dropped out of school if they had not been provided with this                 
 alternative educational opportunity.  "If this school and other               
 similar schools around the state are not provided with the means to           
 recover some of the cost spent on housing these student, then we've           
 set these schools up to fail.  And if these schools fail, then we             
 fail our children."  The cost of covering a boarding student was              
 not exurbanite.  According to the Division of School Finance, the             
 cost was about $8,000 per year per student - far less than the cost           
 of the state's judicial and correctional systems where some of the            
 at-risk kids could end up if we failed to offer an alternative.               
 Number 0205                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Bennett if she expected this to be part of              
 the school funding formula?                                                   
 Number 0220                                                                   
 MS. BENNETT replied it would be part of the boarding school budget            
 request unit (BRU) within the Department of Education.  Currently,            
 only Mt. Edgecumbe was under the unit now.                                    
 Number 0245                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES commented that the title only referred to charter                 
 schools.  She asked Ms. Bennett if she could foresee that the state           
 could have boarding schools that were not charter schools?                    
 Number 0268                                                                   
 MS. BENNETT replied the House of Representatives had passed                   
 legislation this year to create additional boarding schools                   
 throughout the state within charter schools.  The bill was waiting            
 for a hearing on the floor of the Senate.  She anticipated it would           
 Number 0326                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY stated he could not see what the bill did.            
 The local board "may" request funds from the school board and the             
 department's annual budget request "must" include funding for the             
 expenses of housing nonresident students.  It could be $1.  It was            
 a good idea, but it had not been put together very well.                      
 Number 0373                                                                   
 MS. BENNETT explained she had worked with the Division of School              
 Finance and Legislative Legal and Research Services on the                    
 language.  She explained the local school board would request from            
 the Department of Education the funds necessary to cover the cost.            
 The Department of Education would then request within the                     
 Governor's budget the funds necessary to cover the cost.  It would            
 be up to the legislature to approve the cost.  It was the same                
 mechanism currently used to cover the boarding cost for Mt.                   
 Edgecumbe.  The mechanism was in place for state boarding schools,            
 but not for charter schools.                                                  
 Number 0435                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated he failed to see what prevented the               
 Department of Education from coming to the legislature to ask for             
 a line-item appropriation now.  The purpose of a statute and the              
 funding formula was to come up with an applicable means of                    
 distributing a pot of money whereas, the bill called for a line-              
 item appropriation.                                                           
 Number 0508                                                                   
 MS. BENNETT stated it was her understanding that the language was             
 necessary to provide the mechanism necessary for funding.  If the             
 committee felt it needed to be expanded on, she would be happy to             
 work on it further.                                                           
 Number 0524                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES stated when HB 110 was filed the only recognized                  
 boarding school was Mt. Edgecumbe.  Therefore, there was no                   
 mechanism to recognize funding for any other boarding school.                 
 Another piece of legislation recognized that other boarding schools           
 were an option, but the state would not pay for them.  She could              
 not remember if that meant the state would not pay for the                    
 construction or the operation of the school, however.  The bills              
 were in conflict.  She was distressed because the bill did not say            
 "may" for options with the number of requests for school                      
 construction and maintenance.                                                 
 Number 0678                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE MARK HODGINS stated it was HB 147 that Chair James             
 was referring to.                                                             
 Number 0696                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN stated he had the opportunity to hear from           
 a person who ran a charter school in the Yukon area where the                 
 parents and community were very involved in running the school.               
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN asked what the difference was in regards to               
 funding for charter and boarding schools?  He also asked how many             
 schools were in the state that would benefit from SSHB 110?                   
 Number 0767                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Bennett why a representative from the                   
 Department of Education was not here today?                                   
 MS. BENNETT replied she requested late yesterday that the                     
 Department of Education come.  She was afraid that they did not get           
 the message.                                                                  
 CHAIR JAMES explained boarding schools were for the special                   
 education students.  She had a few in her district so she was                 
 personally interested in the issue.  There was a percentage of                
 money given to the charter schools per student.  She asked                    
 Representative Vezey if he knew if it was 100 percent?                        
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied he did not know for sure.  He had no             
 reason to think it was 100 percent, however.                                  
 CHAIR JAMES stated she believed it was a certain percentage of the            
 per capita that the school district used under the school funding             
 formula that went to charter schools.  It would not cover the cost            
 of room and board, however.                                                   
 Number 0890                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON stated to the best of his recollection the           
 state correspondence schools were funded at a percentage of the               
 foundation.  Charter students were counted in the same way as                 
 regular students for the purpose of distributing dollars.                     
 CHAIR JAMES stated in Fairbanks she believed that the school                  
 district did not allocate the entire amount.  Maybe that was a                
 local decision.                                                               
 Number 0926                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated it could be.  He did not think so,                
 Number 0933                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained a student in a charter school was              
 a student in the local school.  They were funded by the state to              
 the local school board at the funding formula amount.  The local              
 school board had full discretion on how to allocate funds to the              
 charter school.  In Fairbanks, the school district was funding the            
 charter school at a higher rate than the average student.                     
 Number 0964                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated they would have to use local dollars to           
 fund beyond the average.                                                      
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied the school district received the money           
 in a lump sum and it had great discretion on how to allocate the              
 money.  Local money would go into the same pot and once it was in             
 the pot you could not tell which dollars went where.                          
 Number 0986                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated it was his understanding that a               
 charter school did not have to affiliate with the local school                
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied that was not correct.                            
 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated a charter school had to affiliate             
 with a local school, but not on the physical premise.                         
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY explained under current law a charter school             
 was a school within the local school district and governed by the             
 local school board.                                                           
 REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ stated a charter school had to affiliate             
 with a school board, but not with a particular school.                        
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied, "Correct."                                      
 Number 1013                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE FRED DYSON stated he was also concerned with the               
 word "must" in the bill.  It seemed to indicate that the department           
 would have to put a request in for a line-item appropriation.                 
 Number 1046                                                                   
 MS. BENNETT stated the bill was written so that the department must           
 request the funding to cover the cost for the boarding students.              
 It was written that way for a stronger potential to get the                   
 funding.  It was up to the legislature to decide to appropriate the           
 money or not.                                                                 
 Number 1078                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated the bill put the discretion for the               
 funding with the legislature because the department "must" reflect            
 every one of the requests.                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON stated he would support the bill.  He would              
 prefer that it fit under schools; and not just charter schools, so            
 that any school could become a partial or total residential                   
 Number 1131                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated the answer that Ms. Bennett gave to               
 Representative Dyson was not correct.  The bill said it "must"                
 include funding for the request which could be $1.  The Department            
 of Education had full editing authority over the request; the                 
 legislature had full editing authority over the Department of                 
 Education; and the Governor had full editing authority as well.  It           
 did not address an amount, just a funding request.                            
 Number 1175                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON stated the language indicated that the only              
 discretion a department would have would be to edit down to the               
 total expenses for the room and board.  The department would not              
 have the option to go down to $1.                                             
 Number 1219                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES stated she tended to agree with Representative Vezey.             
 The bill called for the funds requested to be the "necessary"                 
 amount, but then it called for the department's annual budget to              
 "include funding for the expenses".  There was room for the                   
 Department of Education to scrutinize the request.                            
 CHAIR JAMES stated she also shared the same concerns of                       
 Representative Dyson in that we should include boarding schools as            
 Number 1348                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE IRENE NICHOLIA, Alaska State Legislature, explained            
 HB 147 called for the funding to come from the school district                
 formula directly whereas, SSHB 110 called for the funding to go               
 straight to the state.  Funding was tight and the mechanism for               
 funding in SSHB 110 would not work in HB 147.                                 
 Number 1393                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES stated there was a lot of effort to try to rewrite the            
 school funding formula.  She was not distressed with the current              
 formula.  It just was not enough, therefore, there was a tendency             
 to try for line-item funding.  She would prefer to look at the                
 bigger picture to include the funding in the school formula, if               
 amended, rather than a separate line-item.                                    
 Number 1454                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS commented the essence of SSHB 110 could have           
 been put into HB 147 with an amendment.  He asked Representative              
 Nicholia if she had made an attempt to try to amend HB 147?                   
 Number 1465                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied they were not going to take any               
 amendments.  Members of the committee would not even forward an               
 Number 1475                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES stated she tried to amend the bill as well but was                
 unable to amend the bill.                                                     
 Number 1483                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY stated he had always assumed that the cost               
 differential would be less where the boarding school was located              
 than where the student came from.  He had always assumed as well              
 that the cost differential would be credited to the boarding                  
 Number 1552                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA stated there was still the problem that               
 schools were underfunded due to a lack of inflation proofing.  The            
 money was being stretched right now when charter schools included             
 the extra expense of room and board.  She introduced the bill on              
 behalf of Takotna and Galena that were barely making it now.                  
 Number 1601                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN stated it was his understanding that rural                
 education attendance areas (REAAs) were allowed a charter school in           
 their area and that the funding came from the regular formula.  The           
 Takotna area was asking for additional funds to bring in kids with            
 disabilities from other areas.  The charter schools had raised                
 funds from the communities to the maximum to pay off some of the              
 cost.  The bill was written to off set the cost.                              
 Number 1658                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES stated Representative Ivan was correct.                           
 CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Nicholia what were Galena's plans            
 in regards to the military buildings?                                         
 Number 1676                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied Galena had acquired the military              
 base which was shut down about two years ago.  The military turned            
 over the dormitory and some of the classrooms to the Galena school            
 for $1 per year.  It was the perfect place for a vocational school.           
 CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Nicholia if Galena housed boarding           
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied it did last fall.  It held a class            
 on placer mining.                                                             
 Number 1717                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Nicholia how Galena had been                 
 funding it?                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied it had received some federal funds.           
 Number 1723                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Nicholia if she was familiar with            
 Nenana's request for a boarding school?                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied, "Yes."                                       
 CHAIR JAMES stated Nenana was over built for the number of students           
 now.  It could handle another 50 students.  She asked                         
 Representative Nicholia if the Yukon/Koyukuk district was still               
 providing a boarding school type program?                                     
 Number 1759                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied she thought the program still                 
 existed.  It was receiving students from the Yukon-Kuskokwim School           
 District and the Yukon Flats.                                                 
 Number 1771                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked Representative Nicholia if she knew the            
 cost differentials for the schools in her district?  He assumed               
 that each REAA had its own cost differential which might not be the           
 same for each area.                                                           
 Number 1784                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied she had 13 different school                   
 districts in her district.  It was impossible for her to answer the           
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY suggested that she ask the Department of                 
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA explained he was talking about 220,000                
 square miles, almost the whole state of Alaska.                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY replied we were talking about 13 school                  
 districts with their own cost differentials.  He had always assumed           
 that the boarding school sites had a lower cost of providing an               
 education than other school districts.  If that was not correct               
 then it needed to be looked at again.  "We certainly don't want to            
 send our students to a school where the cost of educating them is             
 higher than where they're coming from."                                       
 Number 1823                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES explained there were North Pole students attending the            
 Takotna school.  She guessed that the cost of an education was less           
 in North Pole than in Takotna.  But, there was no school in North             
 Pole that could offer the services as in Takotna for the special              
 education kids.  She asked Representative Nicholia how old were the           
 kids in Takotna?                                                              
 Number 1844                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied high school age.  It was for at-              
 risk and special education students.                                          
 Number 1854                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS explained the cost differential in Kenai was           
 the same as Anchorage even though there were schools across the               
 water that required special shipping needs.  If there was one area            
 of the formula he would change, it would be the cost differential             
 problems.  The differential went as high as 1.6 in Representative             
 Nicholia's district.  And the differential went as high as 1.0 in             
 Mat-Su, Kenai and Juneau.                                                     
 Number 1887                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES explained the House of Representatives just passed a              
 budget which called for the allocation of funds to review the cost            
 differentials in the various school districts.  It was an area that           
 could be addressed without rewriting the formula.                             
 Number 1905                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS announced he would support extra dollars               
 going into education for the cost differential program.                       
 Number 1931                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE DYSON reiterated he supported the bill, but he would           
 be more enthusiastic if it was in the section related to schools,             
 rather than the section specific to charter schools to allow for              
 more residential programs.  He asked Representative Nicholia how              
 she felt about that?                                                          
 Number 1962                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied she introduced the bill on behalf             
 of Takotna, Galena and the other charter schools in the state.  His           
 concern would be taken care of next session in a bill addressing              
 the funding formula.                                                          
 Number 1984                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES announced she was comfortable with the idea, not the              
 language.  There were two choices - carry the bill over and wait              
 for testimony from the Department of Education, or put the bill in            
 a subcommittee?  She asked Representative Nicholia what was her               
 Number 2012                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA replied she would prefer to move it out of            
 the committee.                                                                
 CHAIR JAMES stated that could be done.  The next committee of                 
 referral was the House Health, Education and Social Services                  
 Committee (HES).                                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE NICHOLIA stated it would be fine if the HES                    
 committee dealt with the bill.                                                
 Number 2030                                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN moved that SSHB 110 move from the committee               
 with individual recommendations and the attached fiscal note(s).              
 There was no objection, SSHB 110 was so moved from the House State            
 Affairs Standing Committee.                                                   
 Number 2058                                                                   
 CHAIR JAMES adjourned the House State Affairs Standing Committee              
 meeting at 8:40 a.m.                                                          

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