- Associated Press - Friday, February 28, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The House Education Committee on Friday took a hard look at transportation for charter schools as proposed in Gov. Sean Parnell’s omnibus education bill.

The bill calls for districts to provide transportation for charter school students, and some members wondered what that would do to already-tight district budgets.

The Anchorage district doesn’t provide transportation for the 2,600 students, or 5 percent of the student population attending the city’s eight charter schools. Education department figures show if the district had to provide busing, it would cost the district more than $1 million from its transportation

“We don’t have the resources to give every student in Anchorage a bus ride to a charter school,” Anchorage parent Gretchen Stoddard said.

Anchorage Assistant Superintendent Mike Abbott told the committee his district buses students who are more than a mile and half from their school, primarily elementary age students.

“Taking 5 percent out of the transportation fund would cause us to reduce service levels or take the money from our general fund,” said Abbott.

Abbott said currently less than half of Anchorage’s student population use the district’s bus system.

It would not just be Anchorage taking a financial hit for busing charter school students.

Education department figures show potentially the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District could lose $1.3 million from its transportation fund; the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, $695,000; Fairbanks North Star, $613,000; Ketchikan Gateway, $250,000; Juneau, $70,000; Lake and Peninsula Borough School District, $69,000, and Nome, $29,000.

Sen. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, who has been vocal during hearings this week against the measure, warned it would gut the transportation fund of most districts.

“The more schools you have (charter schools), the more money it will take from the system,” Seaton said during a Wednesday hearing.

The committee is expected to take up the measure again Monday.

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