Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106

03/25/2011 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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08:03:39 AM Start
08:04:25 AM Presentation(s): Superintendent, Unalaska City School District
08:23:10 AM HB145|| HJR16
10:00:56 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation by School District Superintendent TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                HB 145-K-12 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM                                                                             
              HJR 16-CONST. AM: EDUCATION FUNDING                                                                           
8:23:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK  announced that  the next order  of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  145, "An  Act establishing  the parental  choice                                                               
scholarship program  to be administered  by school  districts for                                                               
the purpose of  paying the cost of  attending grades kindergarten                                                               
through 12  at public and  private schools; and providing  for an                                                               
effective date",  and  HOUSE  JOINT RESOLUTION NO.  16, Proposing                                                               
amendments to  the Constitution of  the State of  Alaska relating                                                               
to state aid for education.   He pointed out that these two bills                                                               
would be heard together.  [In  front of the committee was Version                                                               
I of HB 145.]                                                                                                                   
8:23:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT  moved  to adopt  the  proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  (CS)  for  HB   145,  Version  27-LS0223\D,  Mischel,                                                               
3/24/11, as the working document.                                                                                               
8:24:10 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON objected for discussion.                                                                                  
8:24:21 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WES KELLER,  Alaska State  Legislature, explained                                                               
that a  coalition had worked to  build the language of  the bill,                                                               
and that it  would be difficult to  list a point by  point of the                                                               
changes to  Version D.   He  stated that the  intent of  the bill                                                               
would be understood.                                                                                                            
8:25:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FEIGE asked if  the proposed committee substitute,                                                               
Version D, mirrored proposed SB 106.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  agreed that the house  and senate versions                                                               
mirrored each other.                                                                                                            
8:25:36 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON removed his objection.                                                                                    
[There being no  further objection, Version D was  adopted as the                                                               
work draft.]                                                                                                                    
8:25:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  explained  that   HB  145  would  provide                                                               
parents with more  control over the education  of their children,                                                               
as  parents were  the most  likely  to make  decisions about  the                                                               
appropriate  learning   environment  for  their  children.     He                                                               
directed  attention to  Version  D, Page  1,  line [7-10],  which                                                               
stated:  "The parental choice  scholarship program is established                                                               
for  the purpose  of  providing  public funding  of  the cost  of                                                               
attending  grades  [kindergarten]  through  12  at  a  public  or                                                               
private  school  selected  by   the  student's  parent  or  legal                                                               
guardian."  He  declared that the research  clearly revealed that                                                               
private  education cost  half  of the  cost  for publicly  funded                                                               
schools, and provided superior results.   He declared that it was                                                               
"intuitively obvious to me that  the people paying the bills, the                                                               
taxes, ought to  have some level of choice on  where the children                                                               
go to school."   He stated that the funding  formula for students                                                               
would  simply  pass the  revenue  to  a participating  public  or                                                               
private school.   He  agreed that  the Alaska  State Constitution                                                               
declared  that the  legislature  shall establish  and maintain  a                                                               
system of  public schools open to  all children of the  state and                                                               
that no  money shall  be paid  from public  funds for  the direct                                                               
benefit   of  any   religious   or   other  private   educational                                                               
institution.   He directed attention  to HJR 16, which  was being                                                               
discussed in  conjunction with HB  145 as  a means to  change the                                                               
Alaska State  Constitution, and noted  that these bills  would be                                                               
moved together.                                                                                                                 
8:29:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  P. WILSON  asked how  this bill  would work  with                                                               
regard to the various school funding.                                                                                           
8:29:56 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  replied that  the Department  of Education                                                               
and Early  Development (EED) would  address the  regulations, and                                                               
that the  funds would be paid  to a school based  on a "similarly                                                               
positioned student."                                                                                                            
8:30:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  P. WILSON  asked to  define the  use of  the word                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER replied that the  check would be written to                                                               
the selected  private school,  and not the  parents, as  would be                                                               
the case in  a voucher program.  He pointed  out that this system                                                               
necessitated passage of HJR 16.                                                                                                 
8:31:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK  pointed out  that Senator Dyson,  sponsor of  SB 106,                                                               
was present and available for questions.                                                                                        
8:31:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FEIGE  indicated concern for the  state investment                                                               
in  the school  facilities,  which were  separate from  classroom                                                               
education  costs.   He  asked  how HB  145  would separate  these                                                               
costs.   He  projected a  scenario  whereby a  school could  lose                                                               
sufficient students to no longer have operational funding.                                                                      
8:33:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  replied  that  proposed HB  145  made  no                                                               
distinction.   He stated that  it was  based on the  ADM (average                                                               
daily membership) formula.   He stated: "I  personally think that                                                               
the good  public schools  will have no  problem because  they can                                                               
also be  a participating  school and  so, they  are in  the game,                                                               
like you say, for the competition."                                                                                             
8:34:02 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FEIGE directed attention  to "the reasonable costs                                                               
of transporting  the student"  and he asked  for a  definition to                                                               
reasonable.    He  pointed  to   the  rural  areas  with  greater                                                               
distances  between schools,  and  the  potential for  significant                                                               
8:35:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  replied  "I'd  be  afraid  to  guess  how                                                               
reasonable would be  defined, but to me, the emphasis  on this is                                                               
that it is  definitely left up to the district."   He stated that                                                               
each  local district  was different  and  this would  need to  be                                                               
addressed by the local school board.                                                                                            
8:35:50 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK  emphasized that  HB 145 "would  be disruptive  to the                                                               
current paradigm."                                                                                                              
8:36:32 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   CISSNA  reflected   on   the  already   existing                                                               
financial challenges  facing Alaska, and  asked how HB  145 would                                                               
achieve the access to equality in education.                                                                                    
8:38:02 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  suggested  that   this  might  be  better                                                               
answered by  other testifiers,  as this bill  was supported  by a                                                               
8:38:22 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON asked  that the witnesses  identify the                                                               
school situation for their student.                                                                                             
8:38:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PRUITT asked if there was a fiscal note.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  replied that he  assumed there would  be a                                                               
fiscal note forthcoming.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT  asked  if  this  would  supplement  those                                                               
currently paying for private schools.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  replied that HB 145  merely addressed that                                                               
the money  would be sent to  the private school.   He offered his                                                               
belief that parents would no longer  be required to pay for their                                                               
children to attend private schools.                                                                                             
8:40:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT asked  if  there was  concern by  existing                                                               
private  schools  that  entering  into  a  public  process  would                                                               
sacrifice their independence from public guidelines.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  replied that  the  language  of the  bill                                                               
clarified that schools would administer their own programs.                                                                     
8:41:45 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK opened public testimony.                                                                                             
8:42:33 AM                                                                                                                    
TOM FINK, Board Member, Private  School, said that parents should                                                               
have the absolute choice for  what school their child attends and                                                               
that  "the  government  money  will follow  that  child  and  the                                                               
government will  have no restrictions beyond  health and safety."                                                               
He opined that  there was a lot of  national dissatisfaction with                                                               
public education,  with a variety  of ideas for improvement.   He                                                               
said that the  local school district should provide  money to the                                                               
participating schools,  which would  not exceed what  was already                                                               
being paid for students.  He  said this would be limited to local                                                               
and state  money, with no federal  money.  He offered  his belief                                                               
that it  would improve  the level  of education,  as one  type of                                                               
school was  not best  for everyone.   He  opined that  the parent                                                               
would make the  better decision for a child  than the government.                                                               
He declared  that it  would enable more  innovative schools.   He                                                               
stated his support for HJR 16 and HB 145.                                                                                       
8:46:48 AM                                                                                                                    
MIKE DUNLEAVY, Parent, declared that  he was "a lifelong educator                                                               
in  the State  of  Alaska" and  the parent  of  three school  age                                                               
children.  He stated  his support of HB 145 and SB  106.  He said                                                               
that  HB 145  would assist  the  public education  in Alaska,  as                                                               
there  was  a  current  monopoly on  education,  with  almost  no                                                               
competition.   He  declared that  the  scholarship program  would                                                               
have multiple  positive impacts.   He allowed  that there  may "a                                                               
little bit  of chaos  as this firms  up, but in  the long  run, I                                                               
think  it's going  to  help the  state  education system  because                                                               
there is going  to be competition and there's going  to be choice                                                               
models for parents."                                                                                                            
8:50:03 AM                                                                                                                    
SARAH WELTON read  from the Alaska State  Constitution: "no money                                                               
shall be  paid from  public funds  to the  direct benefit  of any                                                               
religious or other private educational  institution."  She stated                                                               
that  she   was  adamantly   opposed  to   this  change   in  the                                                               
constitution.   She  declared that  the  protection afforded  was                                                               
necessary to  ensure that support  was not given to  any specific                                                               
philosophies.     In  response   to  an  earlier   question  from                                                               
Representative P.  Wilson, she  said that  her two  children, her                                                               
foster  children, and  her grandchildren  had  attended or  would                                                               
attend public  schools.   She affirmed that  she was  an American                                                               
Baptist pastor,  and that HB 145  was an affront to  both her and                                                               
her congregation.   She opined that it would be  "a nightmare for                                                               
bureaucracy" to move  students out of their home  districts.  She                                                               
stated her belief  that it was necessary to  increase and improve                                                               
the funding for all schools.                                                                                                    
8:52:54 AM                                                                                                                    
LYNN  GATTIS  said that  she  was  a  lifelong Alaskan  with  two                                                               
children, one enrolled  in home school and one  in a neighborhood                                                               
school.   She declared  her support  for HB 145  as "I  know that                                                               
monopolies do  not produce the  best.  Our present  public school                                                               
systems are just that, monopolies."   She stated that competition                                                               
in the schools would bring about change.                                                                                        
8:54:51 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. JESS  ELLIS offered his  belief that the public  schools were                                                               
"the educational equivalent of the  old Soviet collective farms."                                                               
He reminisced about  the breakup of "Ma Bell"  and reflected that                                                               
innovation was  its result, despite the  fears that communication                                                               
would  crumble.    He  endorsed  an  end  to  the  public  school                                                               
monopoly,  to allow  parents to  choose  for the  needs of  their                                                               
children.   He opined that  this would  better meet the  needs of                                                               
lower income  families which could  not currently  afford private                                                               
8:58:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  to  have the  witnesses respond  to                                                               
whether the  current statewide  education standards  should apply                                                               
to the private schools.                                                                                                         
8:59:18 AM                                                                                                                    
BETHANY MARCUM said that, although she  was not a parent, she was                                                               
aware of students  who had concerns for the options  to a quality                                                               
education.   She questioned  the odds  of finding  a neighborhood                                                               
school which fit each student's needs.  She endorsed HB 145.                                                                    
9:02:32 AM                                                                                                                    
MARY ROWLEY,  Principal, Cook Inlet  Academy, detailed  that Cook                                                               
Inlet  Academy   was  a  private,   Christian  school,   with  an                                                               
enrollment  of 165  students.    She advocated  that  it was  the                                                               
responsibility of the  parent for the education of a  child.  She                                                               
opined that  parents of  children in private  schools had  to pay                                                               
both taxes and tuition.  She  stated that parents should have the                                                               
educational choice  for their  children.   She reported  that her                                                               
school partnered  with parents to  educate the children  and that                                                               
the  school had  a 100  percent  graduation rate.   She  endorsed                                                               
curriculum standards and accountability.   She opined that HB 145                                                               
would allow schools to maintain  identity.  She expressed support                                                               
for HB 145.                                                                                                                     
9:05:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  asked if the private  schools could reject                                                               
MS. ROWLEY replied that private  school would need the ability to                                                               
screen  applicants, as  many  private schools  did  not have  the                                                               
facilities for  special needs students,  and there was  a limited                                                               
capacity.    She   relayed  that  Cook  Inlet   Academy  did  not                                                               
compromise on  its curriculum, and  she pointed to  the statement                                                               
of faith which was required of the parents to sign.                                                                             
9:07:23 AM                                                                                                                    
DREW BAKER  said that he  agreed with choice and  that monopolies                                                               
were not  good.   He offered  his belief  that schools  should be                                                               
rewarded for doing well.  He  shared that one of his children was                                                               
in a private  school, and one was in the  public school, with the                                                               
decision based  on each of  their needs.   He opined  that public                                                               
school did have a philosophy  of education and social upbringing.                                                               
He stated  that although HB 145  was a departure from  the Alaska                                                               
State  Constitution,  no  bill   was  perfect,  and  the  current                                                               
situation was not perfect.                                                                                                      
9:10:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON, acknowledging that many  parents would                                                               
like their child  to attend private school, asked  Ms. Rowley how                                                               
the students would be chosen.                                                                                                   
9:11:51 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  ROWLEY  explained that  every  family  was interviewed,  the                                                               
school  philosophy was  explained, and  a determination  was made                                                               
whether the school would meet the  needs of the child.  She noted                                                               
that students  were often  allowed to  enroll for  a probationary                                                               
period  if  there  was  any  question.   She  declared  that  the                                                               
interview process was designed to be as thorough as possible.                                                                   
9:13:08 AM                                                                                                                    
JENNIE HAMMOND  said that her  two children attended  the private                                                               
Cook Inlet  Academy, as she  had observed that the  public school                                                               
system  was not  working for  her "special  needs child"  with "a                                                               
learning issue".   She  opined that  many children  would benefit                                                               
from  smaller schools  with smaller  classrooms.   She  suggested                                                               
that the charter school was the  only other current option in her                                                               
area.  She stated her support for HB 145.                                                                                       
9:15:24 AM                                                                                                                    
KATHLEEN  BALLENGER, Board  Member,  St.  Mary's Catholic  School                                                               
Board in  Kodiak, stated her  "wholehearted support for  HB 145."                                                               
She said that Alaska was behind  on the school choice issue.  She                                                               
stated  that  the  request  was  simple,  "that  each  parent  or                                                               
guardian of  a school age child  gets to choose the  school where                                                               
they want  their child to be  educated."  She declared  that this                                                               
would offer opportunities to many  parents who could not consider                                                               
private schools  because of  the cost.   She predicted  that this                                                               
would allow private  and public schools to  compete for students,                                                               
and that everyone  would benefit.  She lauded  her education, and                                                               
that of her grandchildren, at a private catholic school.                                                                        
9:17:55 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked if all  of the teachers at the school                                                               
were certified by the state.                                                                                                    
MS. BALLENGER replied that they were all certified.                                                                             
CHAIR DICK asked about the drop out and graduation rates.                                                                       
MS. BALLENGER  replied that  there was  a 100  percent graduation                                                               
9:18:32 AM                                                                                                                    
JON ROSS  stated his support for  HB 145.  He  offered his belief                                                               
that the public  school system was broken,  failing many students                                                               
across the state,  and that it was time to  make systemic changes                                                               
to  the school  system.   In Anchorage,  the public  schools were                                                               
failing the Alaska Native students,  their graduation rate was 43                                                               
percent, and their  proficiency scores were 30  points lower than                                                               
Caucasian students.  He reported  that Native students had stated                                                               
that  "they don't  feel  comfortable in  [the]  schools and  that                                                               
there's  a  lot of  discrimination."    He declared  that  Alaska                                                               
Native   student   proficiency   scores   were   worsening,   the                                                               
environment  was  not  safe,  the  schools  were  not  culturally                                                               
responsive, and  that the system  was antiquated.  He  stated his                                                               
support for  HB 145, to allow  parents the choice of  schools for                                                               
their children.                                                                                                                 
9:23:49 AM                                                                                                                    
JEFF MCDONALD  said that he was  the parent of a  student who had                                                               
attended public  school.  He  expressed his frustration  with the                                                               
public school experience for his child,  so she was enrolled in a                                                               
small private school.  He compared  that the cost for the private                                                               
school  was  $3,000  annually versus  $12,000  annually  for  the                                                               
public school.   He said  that he supported the  school standards                                                               
for curriculum.                                                                                                                 
9:26:43 AM                                                                                                                    
ANNA BOUTWELL  stated her support for  HB 145, that the  bill was                                                               
about choice  and that parents  should be allowed to  decide what                                                               
was best for their children.   She offered her belief that HB 145                                                               
would allow  a continuum of  the values  that were taught  in the                                                               
9:30:14 AM                                                                                                                    
MARY BARR shared  that she was a grandparent, and  she stated her                                                               
support  for  HB  145  and  HJR  16,  as  HB  145  would  provide                                                               
accountability by the local school system.                                                                                      
9:31:04 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVE BRONSON  said that  he had two  students in  private school,                                                               
and he opined that the  Anchorage public schools were failing the                                                               
students, as only  69 percent were graduating,  even though there                                                               
was payment  of $17,000 per  student annually.   He spoke  of the                                                               
"lottery"  for  admission  to  charter,  optional  and  immersion                                                               
schools, and that  this system was unacceptable.   Replying to an                                                               
earlier comment  by Representative Cissna, he  said that students                                                               
were assigned to  schools by their zip code, with  no choice.  He                                                               
stated his support for HB 145.                                                                                                  
9:33:22 AM                                                                                                                    
JIM MINNERY, President,  Alaska Family Council, said  that he had                                                               
attended Anchorage  public schools,  but that his  three children                                                               
were  enrolled in  a private  Christian school.   He  stated that                                                               
attendance  in  this  private  school   was  only  possible  with                                                               
financial  support from  the grandparents  of the  children.   He                                                               
noted that this  private school did not provide  a socio economic                                                               
or cultural  diversity, and  he opined that  this was  because of                                                               
cost.  He  pointed to available information  which indicated that                                                               
school  choice programs  improved public  school performance  and                                                               
created healthy competition,  and he read from  the conclusion of                                                               
one  study: "Our  result suggests  that  policies that  introduce                                                               
competition to public schools spur  improvements in public school                                                               
student test scores."   He implored the  House Education Standing                                                               
Committee to  move HB 145 out  of committee.  He  stated that the                                                               
proposed bill was not an attack  on the public school, but was an                                                               
opportunity  for  choice  and  for   improvement  in  the  public                                                               
9:37:42 AM                                                                                                                    
LORI  BERRIGAN,  Chair,   Academic  Policy  Committee,  Birchtree                                                               
Charter School, shared  that she had two school  age children and                                                               
that she was a founding parent  of Birchtree Charter School.  She                                                               
stated her belief  of choice in education.  She  declared that HB                                                               
145 allowed parents to become involved in their child's                                                                         
education.  She encouraged passage of HB 145.                                                                                   
9:39:24 AM                                                                                                                    
JODI TAYLOR expressed her concern  that the belief of competition                                                               
in the  public school system  would not make our  schools better.                                                               
She opined  that private universities  in the United  States were                                                               
the best in the world.                                                                                                          
9:40:33 AM                                                                                                                    
NATE DAVIS, Superintendent, Grace Christian School, stated his                                                                  
support for HB 145, paraphrasing from a prepared statement,                                                                     
which read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                     
     I am  a 43-year Alaskan  who has been educated  in both                                                                    
     public  and   private  K-12  schools  in   Alaska.    I                                                                    
     graduated from the University  of Alaska Anchorage with                                                                    
     degrees  in Math  and  Education.   I  have taught  for                                                                    
     seven years  in the public  schools of Alaska  and have                                                                    
     been educating  students for the last  fifteen years at                                                                    
     Grace Christian  School in Anchorage  and now  serve as                                                                    
     its Superintendent.   My wife and I  have four children                                                                    
     and have  educated them in  public school,  home school                                                                    
     and private school.                                                                                                        
     I am in full support of HB 145.                                                                                            
     The  question  on  this  bill   that  must  remain  the                                                                    
     priority is, "What is best  for Alaskan children?"  And                                                                    
     the answer to that  most significant question is, "Only                                                                    
     the parent knows best."                                                                                                    
     The  state has  long held  that parents  have the  God-                                                                    
     given right and responsibility  to provide what is best                                                                    
     for the  child:   food, clothing,  housing, discipline,                                                                    
     and education.                                                                                                             
     Should  the  state  ever  decide   to  aid  parents  in                                                                    
     providing what is  best for the child, it  should do so                                                                    
     in an equitable  manner for all citizens  of the state.                                                                    
     Obviously,  this state  has long  ago  decided to  give                                                                    
     financial assistance  to parents  to educate  their own                                                                    
     However,  the  current   system  provides  100  percent                                                                    
     funding for  some parents, partial funding  for parents                                                                    
     who choose  charter schools, only a  fraction for those                                                                    
     who  choose to  home-school,  and 0  percent for  those                                                                    
     parents  who know  that a  private school  is the  best                                                                    
     answer   for  their   child.     This  partiality   and                                                                    
     discrimination  by the  state in  funding education  is                                                                    
     finally addressed in HB 145,  which allows the state to                                                                    
     help all parents  bear the full and  reasonable cost of                                                                    
     educating their child.                                                                                                     
     This  reminds  me  of The  American's  Creed  which  my                                                                    
     private school  made me memorize  in 5th or  6th grade.                                                                    
     More  than  90 years  ago,  William  Tyler Page  won  a                                                                    
     national  contest  sponsored  by  the  Commissioner  of                                                                    
     Education  of  New York  when  he  authored this  brief                                                                    
     document that  captures the  essence of  America's most                                                                    
     significant founding documents.  And I recite in part,                                                                     
     "I  believe  in  the  United States  of  America  as  a                                                                    
     Government  of  the  people  by  the  people,  for  the                                                                    
     people, whose just powers are  derived from the consent                                                                    
     of  the   governed;  a  democracy  in   a  Republic;  a                                                                    
     sovereign Nation  of many  sovereign States;  a perfect                                                                    
     Union,  one  and  inseparable; established  upon  those                                                                    
     principles of freedom,  equality, justice, and humanity                                                                    
     for which American patriots  sacrificed their lives and                                                                    
     As for  Freedom:   Thank you for  our current  laws and                                                                    
     leadership!    Parents  of   Alaska  already  have  the                                                                    
     freedom  to  choose  which school  is  best  for  their                                                                    
     child… as  long as  they have  a substantial  amount of                                                                    
     extra money.                                                                                                               
     As for Equality:   Why do some  parents receive $15,000                                                                    
     per child,  others $10,000, some only  $1,500, and some                                                                    
     none?  HB 145  addresses  Equality by  paying the  full                                                                    
     cost of education for each Alaskan child.                                                                                  
     As for Justice:  Lawmakers,  I beseech you to refuse to                                                                    
     allow the  debate to  center around  the self-interests                                                                    
     of  adults.   Which  adults will  be  affected by  this                                                                    
     bill?  Who will be  empowered?  Who will feel slighted?                                                                    
     These are all red herrings.  Focus on what is just.                                                                        
     As for Humanity:   Keep the debate centered  on what is                                                                    
     best for children and stand  firm on the principle that                                                                    
     only parents know best what is best for the child.                                                                         
     This  is a  constitutional  issue.   Under our  current                                                                    
     system, many  of your  Alaska constituents  either work                                                                    
     multiple  jobs, settle  for  less  for their  children,                                                                    
     live with  guilt that they  should be doing  better for                                                                    
     their   kids,    or   dramatically    sacrifice   their                                                                    
     lifestyles.  They sacrifice  their very lives, liberty,                                                                    
     and  the pursuit  of happiness  to give  their children                                                                    
     the best.  This last, by  the way, is very noble if the                                                                    
     state asks every other citizen to do the same.                                                                             
     As  for   Grace  Christian  School  and   most  private                                                                    
     schools-yes,  we  do  have grave  concerns  about  what                                                                    
     government  restrictions   might  accompany  government                                                                    
     funding that might try to  limit our school's autonomy.                                                                    
     We say that under this  bill all private schools should                                                                    
     remain  autonomous-their personal  distinctive are  why                                                                    
     parents choose  them.  Even  public schools  believe in                                                                    
     site-based  management  to  empower parents  to  impact                                                                    
     excellence in schools.                                                                                                     
     What  about accountability  for  private  schools?   If                                                                    
     someone  asks  the  question,  then  they  do  not  yet                                                                    
     understand  the  beauty  of a  free  enterprise  system                                                                    
     where  competition brings  out  the  best in  everyone.                                                                    
     Every private  school, like every private  business, is                                                                    
     already under more accountability  than the state could                                                                    
     ever heap upon it.   Parents choose us to educate their                                                                    
     child.    If we  cannot  keep  parents satisfied,  they                                                                    
     leave.  It's that simple.   And, this principle of free                                                                    
     enterprise  is the  very principle  that will  make our                                                                    
     public schools  stronger than ever when  HB 145 becomes                                                                    
     I urge you to trust  parents.  Trust competition.  When                                                                    
     private  schools   like  Grace  take   average  Alaskan                                                                    
     students and graduate  100 percent of them  and send 95                                                                    
     percent  of seniors  on  to  colleges and  universities                                                                    
     where  they excel,  what  rules  of accountability  are                                                                    
     necessary to make sure they are doing a good job?                                                                          
     Also,  do not  let  the  fears of  a  mass exodus  from                                                                    
     public  schools  deter  you.    Even  if  thousands  of                                                                    
     parents  wanted to  leave, there  would be  very little                                                                    
     physical room  in current  charter and  private schools                                                                    
     in the early  years for them to  do so.  It  would be a                                                                    
     slow transition  as existing  schools expanded  and new                                                                    
     schools  were birthed,  giving  public schools  several                                                                    
     years to  become more competitive.   The  final result?                                                                    
     A  nurturing educational  environment  in Alaska  where                                                                    
     children  would thrive  in a  large variety  of schools                                                                    
     chosen by their parents.                                                                                                   
     I urge you  to let Alaska become  the innovative leader                                                                    
     of our nation in excellent education by moving HB 145.                                                                     
9:44:09 AM                                                                                                                    
BILL NOLL stated his support for HB 145, and said that this "may                                                                
be the most important piece of legislation in front of the                                                                      
legislature this year."                                                                                                         
9:45:13 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID BOYLE  stated that  he had three  adopted children  who had                                                               
attended school  in five  different state  school districts.   He                                                               
declared his strong  support for HB 145 and  HJR 16, paraphrasing                                                               
from  a  prepared  statement, which  read  [original  punctuation                                                               
     I  come to  you as  a  concerned Alaskan.  I have  been                                                                    
     active in education policy issues  for about 3 years. I                                                                    
     would   like   to   preface  my   remarks   before   my                                                                    
     presentation. I represent no  special interests. I only                                                                    
     represent  what is  the best  for our  kids. I  have no                                                                    
     vested financial  interests in  House Bill 145  and HJR                                                                    
     16.  However,  I do  stand  to  gain when  all  Alaskan                                                                    
     children  can  have  the  opportunity  to  reach  their                                                                    
     maximum potential.                                                                                                         
     I  strongly  support  HB 145  because  it  creates  the                                                                    
     opportunities  for kids  to become  productive citizens                                                                    
     of this state and country.  This bill gives parents the                                                                    
     right  to choose  the best  educational  fit for  their                                                                    
     children,  whether  it  be  a  charter  school,  public                                                                    
     school, private  school or home school.  A child should                                                                    
     not be relegated  to attend the school  in which he/she                                                                    
     lives if  it is a  failing school  or does not  fit the                                                                    
     child's learning style or needs.  We have these failing                                                                    
     schools  in Anchorage-they  remain  open under  waivers                                                                    
     from the  Dept of Ed  and Early Development and  the US                                                                    
     Dept  of  Education.  Why   must  children  from  these                                                                    
     neighborhoods be required to attend failing schools?                                                                       
     Many of  the failing schools  in Anchorage are  Title 1                                                                    
     schools  and  located  in lower  income  neighborhoods.                                                                    
     These  lower income  families are  unable to  get their                                                                    
     kids out  of these schools  and into either  charter or                                                                    
     optional  schools.   (by  the  way,  the   charter  and                                                                    
     optional  schools in  Anchorage are  the absolute  best                                                                    
     when it  comes to  student achievement.) Under  HB 145,                                                                    
     these parents  could opt out  of these  failing schools                                                                    
     and enroll their kids in  private schools or non-public                                                                    
     charter  schools.  If  schools are  failing,  the  kids                                                                    
     should not be allowed to fail.                                                                                             
     Children should not be denied  a good education because                                                                    
     of the neighborhood in which  they live. They should be                                                                    
     allowed  to  choose  the right  school  just  like  the                                                                    
     families  with the  necessary  financial resources  do.                                                                    
     These kids  should not be  denied an  equal opportunity                                                                    
     to a quality education because of a zip code.                                                                              
     The current  way of doing  business, throwing  money at                                                                    
     the  problem, is  not  solving the  root  cause of  the                                                                    
     problem. Today  we have an education  monopoly in which                                                                    
     only the  wealthy can choose options.  This educational                                                                    
     system has  little incentive  to improve  because there                                                                    
     is virtually no competition.  This system asks for more                                                                    
     money  to  solve  its problems  with  little,  if  any,                                                                    
     accountability  for making  progress toward  increasing                                                                    
     student achievement.                                                                                                       
     This  bill  and HJR  16  can  bring a  transformational                                                                    
     change to  a broken  system. Alaska  can blaze  a trail                                                                    
     and  set  the example  for  the  other states  in  true                                                                    
     school choice. I  ask that you be  the trailblazers for                                                                    
     our  kids. Our  only focus  should be  on the  kids and                                                                    
     what is best for them!                                                                                                     
9:48:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE FEIGE asked Mr. Boyle how the Alaska school                                                                      
districts compared to the five other state school districts                                                                     
which his children had attended.                                                                                                
MR. BOYLE replied that Anchorage was in the middle.                                                                             
9:49:15 AM                                                                                                                    
DENNIS BRADLEY declared that his children and grandchildren had                                                                 
attended public school in Anchorage, and he stated his support                                                                  
of HB 145 as it would provide parents the flexibility to choose                                                                 
the school best suited for their children.                                                                                      
9:52:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SID HEIDERSDORF, stating his support for HB 145, paraphrased                                                                    
from a prepared statement, which read [original punctuation                                                                     
     I support  H.B. 145.   I believe the availability  of a                                                                    
     scholarship program giving parents  the choice of which                                                                    
     schools they  wish to  support is a  step in  the right                                                                    
     direction.    I  think  most   people  agree  that  the                                                                    
     performance  of   our  schools  in  terms   of  student                                                                    
     educations has  seriously declined.  We  have witnessed                                                                    
     for many  years the  failure in  our public  schools as                                                                    
     they have  morphed into social  services organizations.                                                                    
     During this time the constant  demand has been for more                                                                    
     and  more  money.    In fact,  the  decline  in  school                                                                    
     performance  has occurred  precisely during  the period                                                                    
     when  more and  more  public money  is  being spent  in                                                                    
     public education.  It is  an unhappy fact that very few                                                                    
     public officials  and legislators are willing  to stand                                                                    
     up  to  the  powerful unions  and  professional  school                                                                    
     administrators   as   they   demand  an   increase   in                                                                    
     The problem  with our schools  is not lack  of adequate                                                                    
     funding.   In  Alaska, the  amount of  money spent  per                                                                    
     student ranks near  the top when compared  to the fifty                                                                    
     states.  More  money  will   not  salvage  the  present                                                                    
     system. We are  long past the time when  we should have                                                                    
     admitted that  our present approach  does not  work and                                                                    
     we need a change in direction.                                                                                             
     There are many  reasons for the decline  of our schools                                                                    
     and  H.B. 145  or similar  approaches represent  needed                                                                    
     changes.  Reversing the trend  will not be easy because                                                                    
     of the  entrenched and powerful opposition  which major                                                                    
     changes will precipitate. I believe  at least two major                                                                    
     changes are required to improve  the performance of our                                                                    
     schools  and make  them responsive  once  again to  the                                                                    
     educational  needs of  our children.  First  of all  we                                                                    
     need  a  drastic  restructuring of  the  public  school                                                                    
     system  which gives  more  autonomy  to local  schools.                                                                    
     This would  involve freeing the schools  from the grasp                                                                    
     of  the   existing  educational  bureaucracy   and  the                                                                    
     National  Education  Association, thereby,  giving  our                                                                    
     good teachers  a chance to  do the job they  were hired                                                                    
     to do- namely teach.                                                                                                       
     Secondly, a good dose of  competition among our schools                                                                    
     would be beneficial  for all of our  schools.  Parental                                                                    
     choice will return  some power to the  parents where it                                                                    
     belongs.   This  is where  H.B.145 would  contribute to                                                                    
     improving   our   schools.   There  is   nothing   like                                                                    
     competition  to  improve  services and  performance  as                                                                    
     schools concentrate  on the business  at hand  which is                                                                    
     Ultimately,  I believe  a  full-fledged voucher  system                                                                    
     whereby parents  receive money for  each child  and the                                                                    
     freedom  to  select  the  school  of  their  choice  is                                                                    
     cheaper  simpler   to  administer.  It   would  provide                                                                    
     incentive to  our schools that  we are  finally serious                                                                    
     about  improving their  performance.  In conclusion,  I                                                                    
     support H.B. 145.  I believe it is a step  in the right                                                                    
     direction  to give  some choice  to parents  to support                                                                    
     schools that are doing a good job.                                                                                         
9:55:35 AM                                                                                                                    
RICHARD GIESSEL  stated his support  for HJR  16 and HB  145, and                                                               
noted that  he had  been a  teacher for  16 years.   Paraphrasing                                                               
from  a   prepared  statement,  he  read   [original  punctuation                                                               
     Public Schools are Religious.                                                                                              
     Secular Humanism is the official  State Religion of our                                                                    
     Public Schools.                                                                                                            
     John Dewey, father of modern  public education was main                                                                    
     architect of the 1933 "Humanist Manifesto."                                                                                
     Charles  Francis  Potter,  honorary  president  of  the                                                                    
     National  Education  Association  was coauthor  of  the                                                                    
     "Humanist Manifesto."                                                                                                      
     First  Amendment to  US Constitution  states, "Congress                                                                    
     shall  make  no  law  respecting  an  establishment  of                                                                    
     religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."                                                                       
     Federal Department  of Education, State of  Alaska, and                                                                    
     Anchorage  School Board  have  all  violated the  First                                                                    
     Amendment  by  establishing  Secular  Humanism  as  the                                                                    
     official   atheistic   religion   of  the   State   and                                                                    
     eliminating Biblical Christianity from public schools.                                                                     
     It is  wrong for  the State  to confiscate  a citizen's                                                                    
     property  by  force   (through  property  and  business                                                                    
     taxes) and use that  money to indoctrinate his children                                                                    
     in a religious worldview contrary to what he believes.                                                                     
     The   proposed  School   Choice   bill  corrects   this                                                                    
     violation of  the First Amendment  for citizens  of the                                                                    
     State of Alaska.                                                                                                           
     It restores freedom of religion  by allowing parents to                                                                    
     put  their children  in a  school where  their religion                                                                    
     will be  respected and affirmed rather  than mocked and                                                                    
     It  stops the  legal plunder  of Theistic  Believers by                                                                    
     the  State and  the  exclusive use  of the  confiscated                                                                    
     property to  indoctrinate Theistic  Believers' children                                                                    
     in atheism.                                                                                                                
     The State is not God  and should not dictate teaching a                                                                    
     single  Religious Worldview.    Please  fix our  faulty                                                                    
     state constitution and restore  our freedom of religion                                                                    
     by passing the School Choice measures.                                                                                     
9:57:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK agreed that secular humanism was the religion of the                                                                 
9:58:14 AM                                                                                                                    
KATHERINE HICKS  stated that her  son went to public  school, and                                                               
she shared  her reactions to  visits of the local  grade schools.                                                               
She stated her support of HB  145 and HJR16, and pointed out that                                                               
the bill addressed the need for academic accountability.                                                                        
9:59:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK declared that public testimony would remain open.                                                                    
[HB 145 and HJR 16 were held over.]                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 145 Support.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 145
HB 145 Sectional.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 145
HB 145 Sponsor.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 145
CSHB 145 Version D.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 145
HJR016A.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HJR 16
Rethinking schools.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HB 145
Parent Chocie Legal memo.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HJR 16
HJR 16 Fiscal Note.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HJR 16
HJR 16 Sponsor.pdf HEDC 3/25/2011 8:00:00 AM
HJR 16