Drawing new lines

When a charter school hoping to attract low-income students failed to get the green light by the Juneau Board of Education earlier this year, a legal discussion began – can more poor students legally be anyone’s goal?

Ultimately, after a consultation with City and Borough of Juneau Attorney Amy Mead, the answer was no. Because of random versus weighted lottery requirements, what Summit STEM Charter School developers wanted to do would not work. This analysis, however, presented unsettling information to the board — perhaps the weighted lottery at current district-optional programs might also not be legal.

The Juneau School District’s ability to meet the parameters under state and federal regulations was in part the work session topic during Tuesday’s board meeting. Board member Barbara Thurston said Mead has been asked to further review current lottery measures — a weighted process that gives preference in enrollment when more families apply than spots available — to check if the board is legally required to make alterations.

“But before we can start tweaking these rules … we need to confirm our goals,” Thurston said.

According to the JSD approved “Placement Procedure for Optional Programs:” The composition of the student body participating in district-wide educational option programs should reflect the percentages of students enrolled in the District…”

Thurston presented a demographic breakdown for the three optional programs – the Montessori Borealis School; Juneau Community Charter School; and the Tlingit Culture, Language, and Literacy Program — in comparison to the districtwide demographics for similar grade levels.

In all “diversity categories” — English language learners, free or reduced lunch students and special education students — the Montessori and charter schools had lower than average numbers, which goes against the initial district goal.

At TCLL, the special education and free or reduced lunch populations are greater than the district averages.

The questions before the board: Should all three of these program work toward one diversity goal, or should it be based on the program’s individual goals, and what are they legally allowed to do?

Lead teacher for the Juneau Community Charter School Cynthia McFeeters said she also isn’t sure what the goals legally can be, but diversity is certainly what she hopes for.

“That’s what we want,” McFeeters said. “We totally want that as a school and we want to strive for that.”

McFeeters acknowledged an existing barrier is misinformation. Some families may not be aware the Montessori and charter schools are public schools, therefore free to attend if accepted, and that bus transportation is guaranteed regardless of distance from the building.

The school board is now trying to answer a question of its own: Is diversity what it should continue to strive for? Furthering assessment of these goals and steps to achieve them is on the docket for each board member as they continue to move forward with this discussion. Input from the public is another component members said they await.

Legislative priorities

Board Vice President Andi Story presented a first reading of the Juneau Legislative Delegation and the Alaska Legislature priorities for legislative action to “ensure quality education.”

Among those goals includes a call for reliable and efficient service by the Alaska Marine Highway System, preserving Alaska Native language and culture by supporting immersion charter school funding and increasing the Base Student Allocation. A $50 increase to the current BSA could mean a $12 million investment to school districts statewide.

Read more

A full copy of the board’s legislative priorities can be found at: www.edlinesites.net/files/_LECls_/a975d1c27465d3403745a49013852ec4/7_3gs_Leg_Priorities-First.pdf.

More in News

Jordan Irving Parker Oldham, 26, has two warrants out for his arrest, according to a Juneau Police Department Press release. (Courtesy Photo | Juneau Police Department)
Police looking for man with outstanding warrants

Police are looking for a Juneau man wanted on multiple warrants.

A city maintainance crew waits for equipment to clean up a small mud slide at the south end of Gastineau Avenue on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
Rainfall brings mudslides to Haines but no relief to Ketchikan

A soggy weekend led to mudslides and high water across northern Southeast,… Continue reading

Election concerns run the gamut for local parents

Local families met with statehouse candidates Friday night for a meet the… Continue reading

Chum salmon are loaded into a tote at Alaska Glacier Seafoods in this Juneau Empire file photo. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)
U.S. lawmakers line up against salmon measure

Alaska’s congressional delegation spoke up about state politics on Saturday, urging Alaskans… Continue reading

In this screenshot taken from a video broadcast by the Alaska Legislature, state lawmakers gather in Anchorage to discuss crime and criminal justice reform on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. (Screenshot)
Lawmakers consider crime in runup to November election

Lawmakers and Alaskans frustrated by rising crime rates gathered in Anchorage Saturday… Continue reading

This chart shows the number of aviation accidents in Alaska between Oct. 1, 2008 and Sept. 30, 2018. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire)
FAA: Aviation accidents up from 2017

New statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration show a slight year-over-year increase… Continue reading

Snow-removal crews work in White Pass during the winter of 2015-2016. (Hal Hartman | Courtesy photo)
Keeping Klondike Highway open isn’t just a blast

The State of Alaska is looking for someone who enjoys working with… Continue reading

The wreckage of a crashed Airbus AS350-B3e is seen near Lituya Bay in early October in a photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board. (Courtesy photo)
Pilot ‘rolled back throttle’ in fatal helicopter crash

The sole survivor of a fatal helicopter crash has given federal investigators… Continue reading

The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States at 17 million acres. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
                                 The Tongass National Forest is the largest national forest in the United States at 17 million acres. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)
Prince of Wales wolf hunt numbers set

Once feared endangered, wolf numbers on fourth-largest U.S. island have rebounded.

Most Read