Anchorage School Board postpones action on Family Partnership Charter School - Must Read Alaska
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Anchorage School Board postpones action on Family Partnership Charter School

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The Anchorage School Board meeting heard testimony Tuesday about the homeschooling charter program Family Partnership Charter School. Discussion about the school consumed over two hours of the meeting, and a vote was never taken on extending the charter, as the matter was postponed.

Board Member Kelly Lessens motioned to extend Family Partnership’s charter to a full 10 years. The Board members began discussion on that amendment and there were three who appeared to support granting a full 10-year charter — Margo Bellamy, Dave Donley, and Kelly Lessens, while Dora Wilson and Carl Jacobs seemed to be undecided.

The apparent dissenters — Andy Holleman and Pat Higgins — argued that a 5-year charter would be adequate.

Although it was never said outright, the apparent sticking point is that a few years ago, a reimbursement was made to a parent at the charter school for a class from a religious-based institution, without that class having been preapproved by the district. The amount was minor, but some school board members do not like the religious-based education service providers.

Before last year’s school shutdowns, FPCS had 679 students, but now about 1,000 students attend the FPCS, and the school would like to expand capacity to 3,000, thus are asking for a 10-year extension on its charter so it may plan for expansion. Some school board members apparently want to cap enrollment.

During the meeting, Superintendent Deena Bishop and others mentioned how schooling had changed and how Family Partnership Charter school is the future of schooling.

As hundreds of students and their families look for resources and options for learning, a proposal from ASD to cap the number of students was concerning to those testifying in support of the charter school.

“Hearing homeschooling is the future of education, made me more resolved we need a 10-year charter and not to limit the number of students. Please commit to letting ASD hear your voice about where your tax dollars will go. Please feel free to check out the attached sample letter about Family Partnership Charter Renewal,” one parent wrote to Must Read Alaska.

Family Partnership Charter School began with the efforts of parents and teachers. The school’s first charter application was presented to the Achorage School District in 1996 and unanimously approved in January 1997.  Final approval by the State of Alaska Board of Education approval came on June 23, 1997 and  FPCS opened its doors a week later.  

The charter school is a bridge between home-school students and formal education. It provides a mechanism by which families may work with certified teachers to plan personalized individualize learning plans for their students. The school enrollment is by lottery, and is highly sought by parents in the district.

In the end, Family Partnership Charter renewal was tabled until the Dec. 6 meeting. The public may still testify by writing to [email protected].


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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Charter Schools are bad news to school boards. Charter schools provide real participation of parents in all aspects of the education of their children. Parents seems to be more interested in the 3 R’s rather than social justice themes.

    Of course, parents who are at odds with the latest shenanigans of their school boards should be careful lest they be investigated as being ‘domestic terrorists’ by their federal government. What times we live in.

  • Competition is good. Parent involvement provides a counterbalance to centralized learning objectives set out by special interest groups.

  • What is amazing is that some school board members want to restrict this successful business model while supporting failing neighborhood schools. I guess their agenda is to grow the teacher union membership because Family Partnership Charter School doesn’t need near as many teachers and support staff. It is an efficient, successful model. Listen to the parents, the customers, and provide the service/product. The “cookie cutter” neighborhood school does not work for all students. Listen to the customer or fail.

  • ASD has numerous under capacity schools which could be consolidated for a second Family Partnership School. A 1,000 student school would create local traffic problems and is way beyond any elementary school size I am aware of. Two separate 500 student schools would make much more sense. The two schools could share curriculum, specialized teachers, coordinated activities, etc. It simply does not make sense to build new space when overall enrollment is dropping, and there is underutilized existing space.

    • Frank, it appears you don’t understand what Family Partnership is. It is not actually a school. It is a way for parents to homeschool while using state funds to pay for curriculum and services (like private lessons). There is no actual school… The actual school is 1000 different kitchen tables in peoples homes.

      The upsetting thing is much of the money that is paid for the children is actually funneled off and never actually does anything for the kids. The overhead/administration costs eat up over half of the money. We used to be part of a different charter similar to Family Partnership. These were the numbers. The State was paying about $9,800 per student for public schools. The charter school was getting about $5,600 per student. The actual money going to the student for their education was $1,800. The rest of the money is a slush fund to pay “administration” costs. Those cost in no way actually improve the Childs education. Granted, it is better than sending your kids to the public schools as they actually can get an education, but it is still just a massive government waste fund, albeit on a smaller level than the public schools.

      School vouchers would fix this 100%. Lets say, if $8,000 followed each student to wherever they went, we would have private schools competing for the funds. You would see private schools popping up all over. The poor mom working 3 jobs to keep food on the table could send her kids to a private school of her choice. She would have power over getting her kid out of the failing local school. She could elect to keep her kid in the local school if she wished also. Imagine a world where you can pick the best option for you and your kids and not be stuck with what some bureaucrat deems best. Competition always lowers cost and improves outcome. We would cut cost, improve education, improve parents choice. ASD spends close to $20,000 per student. Imagine a $12,000 per student savings for the tax payer with better outcomes. But alas, it will never happen because politicians will never vote for it because the teachers union that lines their election campaign coffers will be the only looser in this situation. The teachers union would loose power and that is their sole purpose. The teachers union is ironically the single biggest obstacle to improving our children’s educations.

      • Thank-you for the clarification. Many of the Federal funds used for ASD programs require a lot of OH to track and report. I am not sure how this applies to Family Partnership funding, but attacking teachers and unions in your response does not impress me.

        • I didn’t attack teachers at all. I think teachers are awesome. It’s something I could not do. I know many teachers personally and one very personally as I am married to her. I am attacking the teachers union and politicians who support them for kickbacks. The school district’s job should be for the education of children. Unfortunately it has turned into a power struggle and money laundering for political campaigns. We spend $20,000 per student in ASD and are dead last or second to last in the nation. I am giving the answer and reducing the price at the same time. It would work without a doubt, it just will never happen just because of the teachers union and corrupt politicians. Sad. I agree that there is a lot of overhead for federal and state funds. Vouchers fix that. It stops the nanny state and empowers the individual. When the state pays $5,600 for a child and the child only receives $1,800 in actual education funding (these are actual figures, not made up), don’t you think there is a problem? If a businesses overhead costs are 68%, that would bankrupt any business. There is no way they could compete. Instead we just say we need to throw more money at it. Insanity.

      • JJ- spot on. School vouchers enable parents to select curriculum that meets their child’s needs. There are outfits that help parents make education decisions. Meanwhile students get a comprehensive education with ability to specialize in topics they find interesting. All the extra stuff is weeded out. With vouchers parents can homeschool or send their children to a traditional or hybrid school.
        A win win for the students and a win win for the community.

    • Frank, you clearly don’t understand how this school works. FPCS is a year-round correspondence program. These are HOMESCHOOL students, whose parent teachers collaborate with teachers on curriculum etc. and the school personnel provides practical support and guidance. These students don’t come to school in a traditional sense. Students learn from home at the kitchen table, which is why the school can manage 1000 students. In order to serve more students they need to increase networking abilities, staffing etc. Parents want more input in their children’s education and this is a perfect middle ground and a cost-effective solution for parents and ASD as well as the tax payer.

      • Thank-you for your clarification. The article did not really explain how ASD OH was allocated and what ASD fixed costs were needed for the FPCS program. I know of some home schoolers in the past who could participate in school sports and prgrams. I hope that applies to FPCS students

    • Frank, FPCS is a homeschool. They could theoretically expand their ranks to 10,000 and not cause disruption to their business park location in mid town Anchorage. The new space is to accommodate required testing for students mainly.

      I agree with you that ASD overall has too many brick and mortar schools that are under populated and failing. By comparison, Family Parnership’s footprint and cost structure are a fraction of what is being spent elsewhere in ASD.

  • I’m sure that part of the reason that the school district doesn’t like charter schools is that it takes away from public school students thereby decreasing the amount of funding the ASD receives. Couple this with taking away union membership and you have a model the district doesn’t like.

    • It is my understanding that any student enrolled in an ASD supported home school program gets counted as an ASD student for the purpose of base student allocation numbers. I agree that home schools do not support the union or the CRT equity curriculum so favored by our school board. Interestingly when a lady from Bartlett testified before the board the other week, she continuously referred to Bartlett as a “family”. Can’t replace the real family, if students are not actually spending time in your facility, but are at home with mom & dad.

  • Why do these people look so unhealthy?

    Can we bring back masculinity and femininity? I sure do miss beautiful people.

  • Unhealthy looking bunch, hope they don’t have any aspirations of mandating COVID vaccinations to strong healthy kiddos. #justsayin #booksandcoversandallthatstuff

  • As a rule I’m against anything those bozos are for.

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