By LEIGH SLOAN
Family Partnership Charter School is a homeschooling charter program that is part of the Anchorage School District.
Among the several homeschool charters in the state, FPCS offers the highest monetary allotment of $4,200 per year to families to help homeschool families get the resources they need to educate their children at home or participate in hybrid schooling programs offered by public and private vendors in the Anchorage area.
During the in-person school shutdowns of 2020 the school’s enrollment increased from just under 700 to full capacity at their cap of 1,500 students.
Anchorage parents realized that if students were not going to attend school in person, they wanted greater flexibility in the resources they could access. Because the allotment was capped, many Anchorage families were forced to look elsewhere for those opportunities.
FPCS face their charter renewal at today’s Dec. 6 Anchorage School Board meeting.
Normally charters are renewed for 10 years, but board members Andy Holleman and Pat Higgins are proposing limiting the approval to be extended for only five years as a sort of probationary period for “infractions” the school has faced.
These infractions broke no laws— only a few minor policies. The first “infraction” was merely a motion in a meeting— so not a real infraction.
The second was the purchase of religious curriculum that was reimbursed to the parents one time under a previous administration. The oversight was corrected and addressed.
The last two infractions involved a procedural mistake with teachers being allowed into a board meeting to voice their thoughts on the principal while the principal was under review. The first happened under the the previous principal, and the last happened under the current principal. Several other schools have faced more serious infractions and have still been approved for the full 10 years.
Margo Bellamy, Dave Donley, and Kelly Lessens spoke in support of extending the charter the full 10 years, while the remainder of school board members were undecided. If the charter is only approved for 5 years, this will be the first time that this has happened to any charter school in Alaska.
Family Partnership prides itself on keeping operating costs low in order to provide the most direct benefit to support families who are doing what is necessary to tailor their child’s educational experience to fit the student’s needs. It also helped support many of the small “micro-schools” that have popped up in Anchorage in response to the pandemic. ASD only receives 4% of the funds that are allotted for Family Partnership students.
In the last school board meeting concerning the matter, the enrollment cap was raised to 1850, but Family Partnership would like to see that number go up to 3,000.
Sixty-two percent of the school’s budget goes toward student allotments and the school says that with the 10-year charter, it will help them get the building space they so desperately need. They feel that they should be rewarded for keeping their own spending low so that families would be empowered as much as possible. In the past, ASD has tried to control the allotments that families are given, but Family Partnership asserted that this level of control was not appropriate.
At the school board meeting today, parents and other family advocates will ask the school board to extend the charter for the full 10 years and to increase the current capacity to 3,000 students. This would allow more families to access greater options for their children’s individualized learning plans. It would provide immediate solutions to more Anchorage families seeking alternatives during extenuating circumstances such as a worldwide pandemic or natural disaster.
Parents are now increasingly aware of the non-traditional and cost effective options that are available to them. The one-sized-fits-all approach to education is increasingly giving way to more innovative strategies as parents and educators work together to close the achievement gap for students.
To Anchorage community members, Family Partnership Charter School is a 27-year-old symbol of educational freedom in the state of Alaska and healthy competition that produces better outcomes for students.
Anchorage residents and other Anchorage community members may register (in person, on the phone, or via email) to testify by 2 pm today. The meeting begins at 6 at the Board Room at the ASD Education Center, 5530 E Northern Lights Blvd Anchorage. Follow this link to learn more. https://www.asdk12.org/school_board/calendar/