MINA'BENTE SINGKO NA LIHESLATURAN GUÅHAN

1999 (FIRST) Regular Session

 

Bill No. 89 (COR )

 

Introduced by: E.B. Calvo

Mark Forbes

 

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A GUAM PARENTAL SCHOOL CHOICE PROGRAM.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF GUAM:

Section 1. Legislative Findings and Intent. Guam is in the midst of an economic downturn. The Asian economic crisis as well as U.S. Military downsizing on Guam are major factors that led to this recessionary environment. Guam now finds itself in a situation in which it must compete with other economies in the Pacific for tourists, investment and capital.

I Liheslaturan Guahan recognizes that Guamís most important economic asset is its people. It is further realized that the people of Guam must be fully prepared for the challenges of the competitive environment of a global economy.

A motivated and well educated workforce is the key ingredient to Guamís future prosperity. High quality education will not only ensure the formation of a superior workforce, but will also pave the way for a higher percentage of local business owners and entrepreneurs included in the islandís future economy. It imperative to Guamís future economic survival that our youth receive the best educational instruction possible.

The Guam public school system, as is the case with most public school districts in the United States, is bemired with a myriad of problems. Foremost being that while the tax dollar investment towards the cost of public school expenditure per pupil has continued to increase, American schools including the public schools on Guam have experienced greater student dropout rates as well as lower SAT and Achievement Test scores. On Guam, the military recognized that the current system can no longer be tolerated and in order to provide military dependent students with higher quality education, opened a Department of Defense School system for military dependent students.

I Liheslaturan Guahan recognizes that while the Department of Education has been the single largest of beneficiary of tax dollar investment over the years and that the dollar investment per pupil has been roughly equivalent to the national spending average, the quality of education has not shown any corresponding improvement. This is clearly evidenced by the Guam public schools consistent low ranking in student achievement and Sat test scores.

Currently, the Department of Education spends approximately $5,060.00 per student albeit doubtful that a large percentage of this amount actually gets down to the student. On the other hand, the private schools on Guam require an average of $3,582.00 per student with a higher percentage of those dollars reaching the students as opposed to the Guam public schools.

I Liheslaturan Guahan recognizes, as the U.S. Defense Department earlier, that Guamís youth deserve a higher quality of education and that their parents require a

additional education alternatives in order to achieve that end result.

I Liheslaturan Guahan recognizes that more parents would prefer to send their children to the school of their choice. However, for many of the parents on Guam, the ability to make that choice is restricted due to their income level. Therefore I Liheslaturan Guahan intends that all parents on Guam be given the ability to make a decision as to the best educational option for their children by allowing them the opportunity to send their children to the school of their choice.

Section 2. This Act shall be known as the "Guam Parental School Choice Empowerment Act of 1999."

Section 3. Student Eligibility to Participate:

    1. Any pupil in grades kindergarten to 12 who resides in Guam may attend, at no charge, any private school located in Guam if all of the following are met.

(1) The pupil is a member of a family that has a total family income that does not exceed an amount equal to 1.75 times the poverty level income for that family as determined by the United States government.

    1. In the previous school year, the pupil was enrolled in the Guam public school, was attending a private school on Guam, or was not enrolled in school.
    2. The pupil or the pupilís parent or guardian shall submit an application, on a form provided by the Director of the Department of Education, to the participating private school that the pupil wishes to attend. Within 45 days after receiving the application, the private school shall notify the applicant, in writing, whether the application was accepted. The Director of the Department of Education shall ensure that the private school determines which pupil to accept on a random basis, except that the private school may give preference in accepting applications of siblings of pupils accepted on a random basis.
    3. If the private school rejects an application because it has too few available spaces, the pupil may transfer his or her application to a participating private school that has space available.
    4. Upon receipt from the pupilís parent or guardian of proof of the pupilís enrollment in the private school, the Director of the Department of Education shall pay to the parent or guardian, from the departmentís budget, an amount equal to the amount that the Department of Educationís cost per student, or an amount equal to the private schoolís operating and debt service cost per pupil that is related to educational programming, as determined by the Department, whichever is less. The Director of the Department of Education shall pay 25% of the total amount in September, 25% in November, 25% in February and 25% in May. The Department shall send the check to the private school. The parent or guardian shall restrictively endorse the check for the use of the school.

Section 4. Private School Eligibility to Participate:

    1. The private school shall comply with 42 USC 2000d.
    2. The private school meets all health and safety laws or codes that apply to public schools
    3. No more than 10 percent of the Department of Educationís enrollment may attend private schools under this Act. If in any school year there are more spaces available in the participating schools than the maximum number of pupilís allowed to participate, the Department shall prorate the number of spaces available at each participating school.

Section 5. The Director of the Department of Education Shall:

    1. Ensure that pupils and parents and guardians of pupils are informed annually of the private schools participating in the program under this Act.
    2. The Department of Education and the Department of Public Works shall continue to provide bus transportation to students participating under this Act in the same manner that transportation is provided prior to the enactment of this Act.

Section 6. Standards to be met by participating private schools:

    1. Each private school participating in the program under this Act shall meet at least one of the following standards:

    1. At least 70 percent of the pupils in the program advance one grade level each year.
    2. The private schoolís average attendance rate for the pupils in the program is at least 90 percent.
    3. At least 80 percent of the pupils in the program demonstrates significant academic progress.
    4. At least 70 percent of the families in the program meet parental involvement criteria established by the private school.

Section 7. Additional Requirements

    1. The Director of the Department of Education shall monitor the pupils attending private schools under this Act. If the Director determines in any school year that the private school is not meeting at least one of the standards under Section 6, that private school may not participate in the program under this Act in the following year.
    2. A private school may not require a pupil attending the private school under this act to participate in any religious activity if the pupilís parent or guardian submits to the pupilís teacher or the private schoolís principal a written request that the pupil be exempted from such activities.

Section 8. There is created a pupil assignment council composed of one representative from each private school participating in the program under this Act. Annually, by June 30, the council shall make recommendations to the participating private schools to achieve, to the extent possible, a balanced representation of pupils participating in the program under this Act.

Section 9. The Territorial Auditor shall perform a financial performance evaluation audit on the program under this Act. The Territorial Auditor shall submit copies of the audit report to the Speaker of the Liheslaturan Guahan for distribution to the appropriate standing committees.

Section 10. In order to provide for sufficient time to prepare for the implementation, this Act shall become effective at the beginning of the school year 2001-2002.