Senators Joe Paskvan, Dennis Egan, and Gary Stevens during the closeout hearing of the Senate Finance DEED Subcommittee, March 20, 2012
This blog contains highlights from the Alaska Education Update. The update is issued daily during session and contains detailed summaries of education issues under consideration by the Alaska State Legislature. If there is a hearing on a Monday, a report will, with few exceptions, be released by Tuesday morning. There is also a weekly edition of the update. During interim, reports are issued only when there has been action. Interim action may include hearings, bill signings, the release of the Governor's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and other items that may be of interest to the education community.

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rep. Eric Feige: It's OK for Private Schools to Discriminate Against Special Education Students

The House Education Committee moved HB 145, the private school voucher bill ( out of committee on Wednesday, February 1, after hours and hours of testimony over the last two sessions.  The bill requires the state to pay up to 100 percent of both the state and local contribution for education funding to a private school.

Private schools would not be subject to AS 14.07.070, which withholds funds to districts and teachers that fail to comply with state laws and regulations relating to education, basically giving private schools carte blanche to do anything they want with the funding and not be constrained by the same rules governing public schools.

Included in the funding for private schools is funding that a student would receive if they were attending the public school district in which the private school is located, including:
  • School Size Factor funding, which is based on the size of the public school, without regard to the size of the private school that the student is attending;
  • District Cost Factor funding;
  • Quality School Funding Factor that was earned by the performance of the public school, without regard to the actual performance of the private school;
  • 20 Percent Block Grant Funding Factor for serving special education, gifted and talented, vocational education,  and bilingual services - but private schools won't be required to provide any of these services, even though they will be receiving funding for them;
  • 1 Percent Block Grant Funding Factor for serving High School vocational and technical education needs - but private schools won't be required to provide this service.  
Under HB 145, private schools reserve the right to choose to enroll or not enroll any student for any reason.   An amendment offered by Rep. Peggy Wilson in the House Education Committee that would have prohibited private schools from discriminating based on race, religion, disability, or any other reason failed.

Even sponsor Rep. Wes Keller agreed that HB 145 will allow private schools to choose which students they admit, for any reason.  A Baptist school could choose not to admit a Catholic student, a Norwegian school could choose not to admit a Swede, An Aleut school could choose not to admit a Tlingit, and they could all choose not to admit any special education students.

Rep. Eric Feige said that's fine though, because special education students already have the option to attend public schools.

Rep. Paul Seaton objected to the fact that they were spending so much time on a bill that wasn't even constitutional.