House Finance tackles charter school worries

JUNEAU — The House Finance Committee on Tuesday continued its discussion of Gov. Sean Parnell’s omnibus education bill, focusing on the charter schools.

Many committee members worried that House Bill 278 may unintentionally create new school districts operated by the state if a charter is denied by a local school district.

Co-chairman Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said it was a very unlikely scenario that his committee plans changing into an impossible scenario.

“It’s being overblown. But if it needs to be tightened down, we can do that,” Stoltze said.

Both he and Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said it was a situation local school districts would want to avoid because it would mean fewer students on their rolls, which would equate to less funding from state and federal sources.

A possible point of further discussion for the committee will be looking at what happens when a local school district denies a charter to a school, but the school wins the charter on appeal from the state Board of Education.

The committee became bogged down on the issue of transporting charter school students.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said the state is paying for the transportation of all public school students, yet some districts are not transporting all their school children.

She had concerns about equity, but said the terms of the bill allow districts equity if it “fits into their plan.”

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