Legislature(2019 - 2020)

2020-01-21 House Journal

Full Journal pdf

2020-01-21                     House Journal                      Page 1432
HB 204                                                                                                                        
HOUSE BILL NO. 204 by the House Rules Committee by request of                                                                   
the Governor, entitled:                                                                                                         
    "An Act relating to early education programs provided by school                                                             
    districts; relating to funding for early education programs; relating                                                       
    to a department literacy program; relating to a comprehensive                                                               
    reading policy; relating to the duties of the state Board of                                                                
    Education and Early Development; and providing for an effective                                                             
was read the first time and referred to the Education, Community &                                                              
Regional Affairs, and Finance Committees.                                                                                       
The following fiscal note(s) apply:                                                                                             
1. Zero, Dept. of Education & Early Development                                                                                 
2. Fiscal, Dept. of Education & Early Development/Fund                                                                          
3. Fiscal, Dept. of Education & Early Development                                                                               
4. Fiscal, Dept. of Education & Early Development                                                                               
5. Fiscal, Dept. of Education & Early Development                                                                               
The Governor's transmittal letter dated January 17 follows:                                                                     

2020-01-21                     House Journal                      Page 1433
"Dear Speaker Edgmon:                                                                                                           
Under the authority of Article III, Section 18, of the Alaska                                                                   
Constitution, I am transmitting a bill relating to literacy and early                                                           
education titled the "Alaska Reads Act."                                                                                        
A student's ability to read is a critical predictor of educational and                                                          
lifelong success. Children with an early basic knowledge of reading                                                             
are more likely than their peers to experience later academic success,                                                          
attain higher levels of education, and secure employment. Sadly,                                                                
Alaska's students have scored below the national average in Grade                                                               
Four reading every year since 2003. Last year, over two-thirds of Pre-                                                          
Kindergarten to Grade Three students attended schools in Alaska                                                                 
where 50 percent of Grade Three students were proficient in English                                                             
language arts. A strong reading program, beginning in Kindergarten,                                                             
continuing into Grade Three, and beyond, gives students the best                                                                
possible chance to maximize their education.                                                                                    
The Alaska Reads Act would create a statewide comprehensive                                                                     
reading policy designed to improve our children's reading                                                                       
performance. Comprehensive implementation strategies for reading                                                                
policies are necessary to ensure early identification of struggling                                                             
readers and establish intensive reading intervention services for                                                               
students who need more help to become successful readers. Early                                                                 
identification of students' reading skills – through assessments, strong                                                        
reading programs, and additional supports for struggling readers –                                                              
together form a pathway that leads to student success.                                                                          
The first program in this bill, for our youngest students, would create                                                         
an early education grant program for four and five year olds attending                                                          
school district early education programs. School districts would                                                                
receive a three-year grant designed to help these programs meet higher                                                          
state standards, beginning with the lowest performing districts and                                                             
progressing to encompass all early education programs over the course                                                           
of ten years.                                                                                                                   
The second program is a targeted literacy program, designed to                                                                  
improve school literacy programs for young students, from early                                                                 
education through elementary school. As part of the literacy program,                                                           
the Department of Education and Early Development would employ                                                                  

2020-01-21                     House Journal                      Page 1434
reading specialists that will initially focus on Alaska's lowest-                                                               
performing schools. These specialists would help design reading plans,                                                          
create school improvement goals, and coach district teachers in order                                                           
to increase reading performance and outcomes.                                                                                   
The final program in this bill is a comprehensive reading intervention                                                          
program, designed to increase literacy for children in Kindergarten                                                             
through Grade Three. First, the Department of Education and Early                                                               
Development would establish a system of support for districts,                                                                  
including training, methods to monitor progress, and a statewide                                                                
screening tool the department would administer to students three times                                                          
every school year. Second, districts would offer students in                                                                    
Kindergarten through Grade Three reading intervention services,                                                                 
including a reading teacher for students with identified reading                                                                
deficiencies. Districts would create tailored reading improvement                                                               
plans for identified students and work with parents to improve reading                                                          
skills both at home and in school. Multiple pathways are provided for                                                           
students to demonstrate sufficient reading skills for progression to                                                            
Grade Four, including performance on the statewide reading screening                                                            
or assessment or an alternative reading assessment as determined by                                                             
the State Board of Education, or, as evidenced through a student                                                                
reading portfolio. The legislation also allows for good cause                                                                   
exemptions, which include being a student with a disability who                                                                 
operates with an individualized education plan or a student learning                                                            
English as a second language.                                                                                                   
A comprehensive reading program, beginning in Kindergarten and                                                                  
continuing into Grade Three and beyond, gives students the best                                                                 
possible chance to maximize their education.                                                                                    
I urge your prompt and favorable action on this measure.                                                                        
Michael J. Dunleavy