Legislature(1997 - 1998)
04/29/1997 08:03 AM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 pass. 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, however. 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 board. 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 program. 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 well. 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 amendment. 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 school. 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 students? 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 question. REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY suggested that she ask the Department of Education. 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 preference? 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. ADJOURNMENT Number 2058 CHAIR JAMES adjourned the House State Affairs Standing Committee meeting at 8:40 a.m.