- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Sean Parnell’s omnibus education bill was questioned Wednesday by members of a House committee who focused on a provision to provide transportation for students in charter schools.

At a House Education Committee hearing, Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said the bill would require money for transporting charter school students to be taken from a school district’s transportation fund.

“This takes public funds from the transportation fund and give it to public charter schools and now we’re going to destroy the transportation system,” Seaton said.

Charter schools are public schools operating under the authority of both a local school board and the state school board. They receive funding through the local school board. Charter schools are created for focusing on a specific aspect of development such as the arts or science and are often far from a child’s neighborhood school.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has a robust number of charter schools, Seaton said. Allowing each one to take away from the district’s transportation fund would make the fund inadequate to meet the needs of the district, he said.

Susan McCauley of the Alaska Department of Education told the committee the bill was tailored to provide some sort of basic transportation for charter school students.

“Right now there is no requirement for bus service to charter schools,” McCauley said. She noted that when she was principal of a charter school in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the school district arranged for two drop-off points for parents so the district system could pick students up and bring them to her charter school.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, said she supports a transportation component for charter schools, but not when it takes funding from the transportation formula of a school district.

“How practical would this work, say, in Anchorage?” she asked.