Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106
02/25/2011 08:00 AM EDUCATION
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|Presentation(s): Pribilof School District|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 5-CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY CURRICULUM 8:24:47 AM CHAIR DICK announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 5, "An Act requiring a standardized statewide history of American constitutionalism curriculum and a secondary school history of American constitutionalism examination in public schools in the state; and providing for an effective date." [A committee substitute (CS) labeled CSHB 5, 27- LS0018\D, Mischel, 2/1011, was adopted as the working draft, at the 2/21/11 meeting; also available in the committee packet was a document labeled CSHB 5, 27-LS0018\E, Mischel, 2/24/11.] 8:25:56 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to rescind the action adopting CSHB 5, 27-LS0018\D, Mischel, 2/1011. There being no objection Version D was rescinded. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to adopt CSHB 5, 27-LS0018\E, Mischel, 2/24/11. There being no objection, Version E was adopted as the working draft. The committee took an at-ease from 8:26 a.m. to 8:27 a.m. 8:27:20 AM REPRESENTATIVE KELLER referred to Section 3, subsection (a) to note the deletion of the requirement for testing in the twelfth grade, and pointed out that the legislation does not establish testing standards. 8:29:17 AM REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI queried whether existing statute defines the term "curriculum segment." REPRESENTATIVE KELLER deferred. 8:29:40 AM JIM POUND, Staff, Representative Wes Keller, Alaska State Legislature, answered that various terms were juggled in an effort to arrive at one which would allow local superintendents, and school boards, to determine how they want to classify the segment. REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI asked for the sponsor's definition of the term "curriculum segment." MR. POUND recalled his high school experience to suggest that it could be a six week course. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON pondered the options of specifying a segment of time versus stipulating required curriculum. He suggested that required curriculum could be incorporated into an established program; a less onerous approach. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER offered that the intent is to provide broad language and allow the districts to establish curriculum and determine when the segment will be taught. 8:33:31 AM CHAIR DICK stated support for the intent of the bill, but expressed concern for the school districts receiving an unfunded mandate, and asked whether testing would be imperative; particularly attached as a graduation requirement. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER agreed that mandates are difficult to impose, but the issue is important and should be brought to the fore. Testing is necessary, as it creates a point of business that must be accomplished. The school board is the contact between the parents and what occurs in the schools, and specifics for meeting curriculum requirements should be in their hands for discussion. It is important to have an evaluation of learned knowledge, and, to that end, a test is the best vehicle. CHAIR DICK pointed out that about 25 percent of prisoners don't understand the process by which the government acted to place them in lockup. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER concurred. CHAIR DICK pointed out that, given the parameters of the bill, a one day course and a two minute test could be acceptable. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said yes, that is the latitude that the bill allows. 8:37:27 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON, referring to Section 2, paragraph (4), and Section 3, subsection (a), which name the seven documents to be taught, recalled that the sponsor's intent to have American values taught. She said: There's a big difference ... between teaching these [documents], and teaching American values. ... I'm not quite sure what you want taught. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER explained that the suffix "ism" implies standards and values, and the documents capture the values of the nation. The source and the core of American human rights are natural, as specified in these documents. He allowed that some teachers may already be teaching some aspects of these documents in existing curriculum. REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON pointed out that current U.S. government values are different than when the named documents were adopted. 8:41:41 AM REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA commented that the urban and rural values, in Alaska, may create a discrepancy, and opined that imposing non-indigenous values into the Native culture may not be appropriate; other priorities may need to be addressed first. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER pointed out that the bill does not include the Alaskan Constitution, but provides segue to that course of study as well. He contended that the most important rights for rural and urban Alaska, core values of sovereignty, are included in the required documents. 8:46:26 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON said that law suits may be forthcoming should this legislation be enacted. The bill does not require the teaching of the specific documents, but rather instruction of something portrayed in the documents. He paraphrased a previous statement from the sponsor, stating: Your response was that we're teaching the values that were established when the [U.S.] Constitution, and ... the Articles of Confederation, etcetera, were adopted, and as was pointed out, those values aren't necessarily the values today. ... We don't have slavery ... we've got a lot of different things that we incorporate in diversity today. Women didn't have the right to vote - those kinds of things. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON pointed out that lacking a definition of American Constitutionalism, and addressing it by the named documents, which are peripheral to the ism, as well as lacking a clear statutory definition of what values are to be taught under the rubric, may invite challenges from the districts. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER disagreed, but acknowledged that the values are not defined in the bill. He maintained that the term "American Constitutionalism" is a definable term, and the bill is to require the instruction of how the U.S. government was formed. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON argued that the term is not commonly used and said it would be important to prevent a misunderstanding of what is to be taught by inserting a definition in the bill. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER underscored the intent to provide broad language, and thus, allow latitude to the local school districts. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON maintained his concern to have clear language regarding what is to be taught, in the proposed statute. Additionally, he asked why the Alaskan Constitution is not included in the list of source documents; Section 3, subsection (a). REPRESENTATIVE KELLER responded that it would change the scope of the bill, and allowed that the committee has the jurisdiction to amend the working draft. Some teachers may choose to include the Alaskan Constitution, but he said: This is a mandate to teach history, and some of the circumstances, stories, values and things that surround a fifteen year block of history in the United States of America. 8:52:45 AM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON said that the intent is not clearly stated in the bill. She said: I'm not sure that what you really want is what the bill says. ... You just want ... American history taught with the start of the context of these documents. That could mean just going over the documents pretty quickly and then going onto ... [other] American history. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said the bill is very clear and directed attention to page 2 lines 20-25, and read [original punctuation provided]: An approved syllabus must ensure a students' understanding of the history of American constitutionalism as portrayed in the Declaration of Independence, the first state constitutions, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the United States, the Federalist Papers, the Bill of Rights, and other historical documents produced in the founding of our constitutional republic model of government. REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON maintained concern for the intent not being clearly stated. CHAIR DICK interjected that the intent of the committee is to continue public discussion and consideration of HB 5. 8:55:07 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON directed attention to the committee packet to point that the Mat-Su Borough School District has provided a resolution recommending that the legislature mandate a required half credit course be taught in civics, focused on the Alaskan Constitution, the U.S. Constitution documents, and the Declaration of Independence. The district supports teaching these documents along with civics, but the bill indicates teaching the values held by the people, during the fifteen year period when the documents were created. He noted that the CS does not appear to reflect the resolution points, and asked whether the Mat-Su Borough School District could choose to institute a half credit class, under current statute. REPRESENTATIVE KELLER said that the district could offer a class; however, the resolution requests that classes be offered statewide, in a specific and consistent manner. 8:58:08 AM CHAIR DICK announced that the bill would be held.