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Small charter schools get a reprieve

Senate subcommittee supports funding rejected by the House of Representatives

Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2007

Special funding for small charter schools, rejected earlier by the House of Representatives, has been resurrected in the Senate.

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That's good news for the Juneau Community Charter School, said Brenda Taylor, parent of a student at the downtown school. An increase of $200,000 has been included in the budget working its way through the Senate.

It is now under discussion in the Senate Finance Committee, after having been recommended by a subcommittee.

"This appropriation will ensure that parents across Alaska have a range of excellent and varied public school options for their children's education," Taylor said.

The Juneau charter school is part of the Juneau School District, but under state school funding rules it gets less per-student money than do schools with 150 or more students.

In recent years the Legislature has made special appropriations to help out those schools with fewer than 150 students, but this year the House of Representatives declined to make that special appropriation.

When the budget reached the Senate, however, the issue went to the Senate Finance Committee's Education and Early Development Subcommittee, whose chairman, Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, is a supporter of charter schools.

Huggins' subcommittee included $200,000 in this year's budget, less than the $250,000 requested in the House, but Taylor said she and other parents were grateful.

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Two of the schools that would be helped by the funding, in Nome and Fairbanks, fell below the 150-student cutoff by chance, but Juneau's school and others were designed to be smaller, Taylor said.

"For the other charter schools enrolling 150 isn't realistic, sometimes because of the size of their communities or the focus of their programs," she said.

The budget is now being considered by the full Senate Finance Committee, where Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, said he supports the funding.

No one on the Senate committee has spoken against the funding.

However, Republican members of the House Finance Committee said they opposed the special appropriation because they wanted to discourage the proliferation of small charter schools that are expensive to operate.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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