Priorities head list of school board plans

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2004

Members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education will meet today to piece together state and federal legislative priorities to take to Juneau, which likely will move into final action at the Dec. 6 board meeting.

For the most part, the initials represent changes in funding, which will be addressed at 3 p.m. in the work sessions.

Those funding initiatives will include discourse of state priorities with regard to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) and the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), and an adjustment for funding large class sizes.

The board cites the following reasons for funding increases with regard to class sizes: high academic achievement, federal mandates and increased accountability. Due to budget constraints, the district has been forced to increase the number of students in classrooms. Current pupil teacher ratios are 1:24 in grades K-3; 1:29 in grades 4-6 and 1:19 in the K-12 small schools (under 200 students, where it is common for four grade levels to be taught in a single classroom).

In order to lower class sizes to the appropriate and research based averages of 18:1 in K-3, and 24:1 in 4-12, 60 additional teachers would be needed in the district. This would mean an increase of $3.9 million, or the need for an additional $175 in the funding formula.

The board will discuss the high cost to maintain the 44 diverse types of schools and the cost that comes with doing business on the peninsula, specifically rising costs of fuel and insurance.

The district plans to call for an adjustment in the education funding formula, which would result in excess of $2 million for the distribution of state resources.

The main grounds for the adjustments is that the district is facing general rising costs and an increase of 60 teachers needed for the district. The final state legislative priority will address inflation regarding the funding formula, which is not inflation proofed.

The federal legislative priorities cast attention to more funds required to meet the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandates.

The funds will be used to sustain personnel to monitor and document NCLB requirements, annual assessments and comprehensive training of effective implementation of the NCLB criteria.

Full funds are planned to be requested for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as Congress has authorized to nationally cover 20 percent of the excess costs.

School board members say Congress should fund the full amount they originally pro-mised.

The final federal legislative priority is to develop East End Road from Homer to top of the hill above Kachemak Selo because the current road prevents school bus traffic to all but McNeil Canyon.

The 4 p.m. work session will be dedicated to the class size enrollment report, specifically in accountability reports by Sam Stewart. Based on the report on the projected numbers for next year, the board will begin discussions on the budget.

The general board meeting begins at 7 p.m. and will include standard actions such as the finance report and six-year enrollment projections by Melody Douglas, chief financial officer and approval of new teacher assignments and substitute teacher contracts. Finance action will look at a suggested change to BP 1321, Solicitation of Funds From and By Students.

The school board meets at the Borough Building, 148 N. Binkley St. in Soldotna. Work sessions and board meetings are open to the public. Work sessions are listen-only, while public testimony is taken during scheduled times at the general meeting.

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