Leigh Sloan: Family Partnership Charter School faces Anchorage School Board decision on renewal of charter

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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/

26 COMMENTS

  1. It’s ALL about the money people, not about what’s good for our kids. FACT: Brick & morter schools cos twice what Charter or Homeschools cost. Where do those Xtra dollars go? Hmmmm, Teacher’s Unions, not necessarily the teachers. FACT: Our school system is broken, with additions of Critical Race Thwory, Gender Identification and Powr Mongering like “You WILL wear maskswhether they work or not, even though they are harmful, because I said so you will. So put it on, sit down and shut up!! Here it comes, Anchorage, be aware!

    • I agree. Charter schools take away funding from the Anchorage school district, therefore there is a conflict of interest for the school district to even be considering this. It’s not about the quality of the instruction, or what the parents want their kids taught.

      • I believe you are in favor of the charter school by your statement but I want to clear up somthing for you. Charter schools do not take away from the district at all. I don’t know how much they pay in fees to the district now but when I worked at two different charter schools 20 years ago we paid a 3% fee on ALL monies collected that included state funding & grants. Plus ASD kept all Muni money, we only received State monies.

      • Home school parents. If one has their their three kiddos enrolled in the Family Partnership Charter School it is the parent(s) overseeing instruction not a union member teacher. The contact teacher snd administrators may be union but there are far fewer of them and a contact teacher could have dozens of students rather than 25-30. Less union impact.

  2. ASD doesn’t want competition creating citizens that understand the Constitution, Bill of rights, love of country & personal responsibility.

  3. I am a parent of three children at this school and can attest that the school is well managed operationally speaking. My children have not always been “home schooled”, in fact before the pandemic all three were at neighborhood schools. Homeschooling has changed, its been modernized, and it was not even close to what I was expecting when we gave it a try. My children actually have choices that range from curriculum, to technology, flexibility around our busy schedules and sports, they have access to tutoring resources etc. In a household of two full time working parents IT ACTUALLY WORKS! My older kids are also able to take courses from Universities and get dual college / high school credits, which blew my mind. My oldest will be graduating from high school with a year of college completed, and all three have seen their test scores go up in the last 2 years…

    The school is lean and is financially healthy as a result; at a time when traditional brick and mortar schools are failing. I’m not saying traditional education is bad, but the world has changed, is changing, and traditional models need updating to keep up.

    I couldn’t be happier with the model that Family Partnership operates under. In fact, in many ways its the connection to ASD that is holding them back. I would encourage the ASD board to award this school a 10yr re-charter, remove barriers that hinder its growth, and take notes on why this school is so successful over other programs. A 5yr conditional re-charter is unnecessarily punitive considering no laws were broken by the school. We’re talking about a couple of procedural things that in my opinion carry no weight. In fact, the ASD board in their last session broke two procedural rules while I was in attendance. Was the ASD board punished? Did the ASD collapse in failure? No, because this stuff happens in business. You recognize, you adjust, you move forward with a plan, and you celebrate the wins. That’s what the school has done for over 20years, and what it continues to do.

    • FPCS parent, I am so glad you have had a great experience! I love the school and have been a partnering with the school and my children for the past 14 years – still have two at home! So grateful for FPCS.

    • Well said.
      We did the same for children.
      Modernization to keep up with the fluid education system is critical. Having different forms of schooling allows for this.

    • It sounds like an exceptional school. ASD should be thankful to have such schools under their umbrella.

  4. If we want to cut the budgets, we gonna have to get used to cutting out programs even janitorial positions as one speaker requested Mayor Bronson to reinstate. Layoffs and funding loss is the risk one takes to be governnent dependent. Cut the budget!
    The private sector route is better than continuing government dependence.

    • Trig, I think the actual figure is closer to $180,00 per student per year, at least when one takes into account the vast infrastructure spending for school buildings that often have only a 30-year life, which is criminally wasteful and unnecessary.

    • Currently religious curriculum is not something ASD charter schools are allowed to offer or fund. Parents may self fund any curriculum or supplemental instruction they wish, but the school may not reimburse them for those things. We provide both for our kids, some things are reimbursed to us and others are not. Its up to the parent, the sponsor teacher, the curriculum coordinator, admin and Principal to ensure compliance. I’d love to see this change, but it would have to happen at a state, or even federal level I believe. There’s some great curriculum out there that is being discouraged from being offered because of this out of date rule. Meanwhile wildly alternative / liberal curriculum makes it way into schools without any of the same scrutiny… Another reason families are leaving ASD.

  5. I have spoken to many Alaskans and all agree education is important.
    Traditional public school is but one of many forms of education to achieving good scholastic results. Ultimately, the desired result is the same educated students is critical for the growth and prosperity of Alaska. How we achieve that endstate should be as diverse as our population. School vouchers provide the best of all scenarios. It enables focused educational opportunities for students who are musically inclined or physically inclined or business inclined. Students can get focused tutoring in those subjects they struggle with. It allows for a new entrepreneurial employment opportunities for educators. Parents who feel their students require the traditional setting are empowered to provide their vouchers to the traditional public school model. It seems that the only real disadvantage would the control aspect that school districts and their byproducts retain currently. We have often heard the socialization argument but that is quite naive in this day and age…unless of course your public school closes for a year. Oddly enough that did not effect any home schoolers they still had their co-ops, soccer and other activities.

  6. This is what happens when you have a complete monopoly–public schools in AK. We need to have other organizations authorize charter schools to get them out from under the ASD monopoly. We need the University of AK, the State Board and nonprofits to be able to charter a school.

    It seems as if the ASD doesn’t like its successful charter school model. It only wants to fund neighborhood schools, many of which are failing our students and parents. Makes no sense.

  7. Family Partnership is over 20 years old, this is crazy that they are discussing putting them on a probation for stupid infractions. They didn’t even do that when a pricipal imbezzeled at a charter school years ago. Let them move forward so they can get their own facility, that is long over due and something ASD really should be helping all charter schools with.

  8. Sounds as if the “fair” Anchorage school board is weighing all the possibilities. Somehow, the term for the school board’s approval may be reduced from 10 to 5 years, if only the school would resolve some issues to the board’s satisfaction. When these issues are satisfactorily dealt with by the school a full ten year term should be approved. Any talk of reducing the approval term seems arbitrary and would set a bad precedent. Charter schools seem to be a bit of a threat to some school board members. Maybe it’s because charter schools generally more academically successful than ‘traditional’ schools.

  9. Focusing solely on reading here,
    Alaska boasts the worst reading scores in the entire country and spends a lot of money earning those bragging rights. Does it surprise anyone that the Anchorage School Board wouldn’t want FPCS showing them up? That their efforts would be directed at squashing efforts to turn out bright kids rather than mirroring what FPCS does?

    Consider that new graduating teachers don’t even know how to teach reading (sounds purposeful now, doesn’t it?).

    There are ongoing efforts in the Alaska State Legislature to bring reading back to schools. Yes, the legislature has gotten involved now, and ASD is considering punishing FPCS? For a procedural error? Purchasing religious curriculum? Sounds like the movie Idiocracy. Everything really is upside down.

    I’m surprised ASD wouldn’t want their kids to have sharp reading skills so they can benefit from all the pornography and CRT books in the ASD school libraries.

    I believe it’s Oregon that has decided to stop teaching reading in the future. That trend arrived here years ago. It’s understandable then why new teachers don’t learn to teach reading-waste of time.

    It seems to me that the only chance a child has to become a productive adult is to stay OUT of the ASD.

    Keep up the phenomenal work, FPCS!

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