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CEAAC’s 2013 Legislative Program

By Political Director Tom Begich

This year our primary efforts are on 1) continuing to complete the funding support for the Kasayulie schools, fine-tuning the mechanism for the Kasayulie settlement to ensure that all small, rural districts benefit, and ensuring that the funds in the mechanism are able to be fully utilized; 2) ensuring that our successes derived from the Moore settlement continue and are expanded; and 3) the continued development of the Rural Residential Learning Center (RRLC) as well as other education-related initiatives.


Here is some of what we will be doing over the next year:

Working to extend the Kasayulie mechanism to non-REAA school districts with small populations and small tax bases. We have developed proposed legislation to amend the mechanism that was enacted to help resolve the Kasayulie school funding lawsuit. The present rural school funding mechanism does not address single-site districts with school populations under 300. These communities, from all around Alaska, were omitted from the initial effort to settle this legislation. In initial discussions with the Governor and the Commissioner of Education, there appears to be agreement in spirit with this approach.


Seeking to develop a standard definition for school construction and major maintenance to ensure full utilization of the Kasayulie mechanism.
Under present interpretations of law the Kasayulie rural school funding mechanism may only apply to new school construction despite the fact that many major maintenance projects are essentially new school construction efforts. The mechanism is also capped at $70 million. This means that, if funds are not fully spent in any two-year cycle, future deposits into the account will be limited. With an extensive and growing backlog of construction priorities, CEAAC believes that these funds should be used to effectively clear the lists of long-needed projects to complete the promise of Kasayulie. This may require either regulation or statute reform. The Commissioner and CEAAC are planning to meet to work out details of this issue and to determine if there is a clear path forward.


Ensuring that the remaining Kasayulie schools are funded appropriately. There continues to be a difference in interpretation as to the funding source for the remaining schools that were included in the Kasayulie settlement. Last year the Governor proposed that these schools be funded through the new mechanism. Senator Hoffman, author of the mechanism, shared our belief that the schools should be funded through the General Fund. While the Administration continues to disagree with this interpretation of the settlement, we continue to seek to ensure that the remaining schools in the agreement are funded through GF so that the mechanism can be used to reach other projects further down the list.


Continued efforts to pursue the Moore successes. We’ve made great progress following the Moore agreement. We are moving targeted resources forward, we’ve been able to secure and add to existing Pre-K funding, and we continue to develop our collaborative grants with the Department to districts based on our settlement. This year we will work to continue those efforts and to further imbed them in state law and regulation.

The Rural Residential Learning Centers. This effort, initiated by CEAAC and shepherded by Jerry Covey, is likely to require some changes in statute or regulation to ensure that this innovative approach to rural education is available to all districts that are interested in it. We are currently exploring what may need to occur to ensure that this effort moves forward.

Additional issues such as seeking to pro-rate formula funding for under populated schools, identifying ways to inflation-proof the rural schools funding mechanism, the expansion of Pre-K and a host of others will be on our radar this session as well. Should you have any questions, please contact our Political Director at cwrecord@alaska.net or (907)350-1635

 

Updated 12/12/12