- Associated Press - Monday, March 3, 2014

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska Senate Education Committee on Monday questioned the constitutionality of a bill that would fund the purchase of student equipment and technology services for correspondence schools and home schooling.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, calls for an increase from an 80 percent base student allocation for those involved in correspondence and home schooling to 100 percent.

It would allow correspondence schools and home schooling families to purchase educational programs and materials developed by universities.

The bill also calls for establishing grant programs to fund the purchase of such technological equipment as iPads and other tablet computers.

The issue of the bill’s constitutionality centers on taking the state Department of Education and Early Development out of a supervisory role for the program as called for in the bill.

Committee chair Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, requested that state legal services review the bill for constitutional concerns. The measure does call for school district supervision of grant funds that would go to correspondence schools and home schooling.

Dunleavy disagreed with the need for departmental oversight.

“This is a public school issue. This bill will stop the department from oversight, but it should be local control,” Dunleavy said.

The bill calls for individual learning plans for students in correspondence schools and home teaching schools to be put together by the students’ guardians and certified teachers with school districts supervising the effort.

Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley told the committee he had worked with Dunleavy on the wording of the bill.

“Frankly, the department monitors districts and not individual students,” Hanley said.

Public testimony on the Dunleavy bill received strong support.

“This bill offers our public seeking education options that are meaningful,” said Lon Garrison, president of the Sitka School Board.

Others pointed out that the bill was one of cost containment witnessed by the savings found in leasing educational tools for correspondence schools as opposed by their purchase taken out of a local district’s budget.

The bill remains in committee.

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