Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106

04/04/2011 05:00 PM EDUCATION


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05:04:32 PM Start
05:05:52 PM HB145|| HJR16
06:17:31 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Please Note Time Change --
+= HB 145 K-12 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+= HJR 16 CONST. AM: EDUCATION FUNDING TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
                HB 145-K-12 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM                                                                             
              HJR 16-CONST. AM: EDUCATION FUNDING                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
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.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
5:05:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WES KELLER, Alaska  State Legislature, stated that                                                               
the purpose of HB 145 was  to provide public funding for the cost                                                               
of  attending  grades kindergarten  through  12  at a  public  or                                                               
private  school  selected  by   the  student's  parent  of  legal                                                               
guardian.   He clarified that,  as the Alaska  State Constitution                                                               
did  not allow  funding for  private schools,  HJR 16  offered an                                                               
amendment  to  the  Alaska  State  Constitution  for  funding  to                                                               
private schools.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
5:07:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR DICK  expressed his  concern for what  would happen  to the                                                               
many  students  who  remained  in  public  schools,  specifically                                                               
special education and discipline problem  students who may not be                                                               
admitted into the private schools.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  replied  that parents  of  children  with                                                               
special education needs  would be able to select  the school that                                                               
could  best serve  their child.    He explained  that any  school                                                               
could be a participating school.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
5:08:47 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON inquired  whether all schools  would be                                                               
required to provide the same services  as a public school if they                                                               
received public funding.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  replied that  it  would  be a  matter  of                                                               
parental  choice for  where their  child would  receive the  best                                                               
service.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  P.  WILSON  stated   that  a  public  school  had                                                               
mandated  services,  which may  not  be  available at  a  private                                                               
school,  but that  the  private school  would  still receive  the                                                               
funding.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER replied  that the  proposed bill  provided                                                               
funding to the  district to be paid to the  school of choice "for                                                               
a similarly situated student."                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
5:11:09 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI  asked that  if a school  was based  on a                                                               
model  such  as  Sharia  Law,  or an  economic  theory  based  on                                                               
Communism, would that be an acceptable public expense.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER replied that  should enough parents want to                                                               
send their  child to the school,  it should be able  to exist and                                                               
be  supported  with  the  funding   allocated  to  their  child's                                                               
attendance.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
5:12:50 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON asked what  options existed for students                                                               
in the rural areas.  She  opined that the proposed bill primarily                                                               
supported students in the RailBelt.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER replied  that  the proposed  bill did  not                                                               
favor any areas.  He stated  that the coalition supporting HB 145                                                               
had many  Alaskan Native  and rural supporters.   He  offered his                                                               
belief  that there  were opportunities  for rural  communities to                                                               
create  private  schools  to   emphasize  immersion  into  native                                                               
language.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
5:14:32 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
RONALD  PAINTER asked  that the  committee  support HB  145.   He                                                               
stated:                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     This is without  a doubt the best thing we  could do to                                                                    
     improve  education for  our  children  in the  shortest                                                                    
     time.   Nationwide, we  spend more  money now  than any                                                                    
     country except  one, and  we rank  among the  lowest of                                                                    
     all industrialized  nations for education.   More money                                                                    
     for public  education is not  the answer.  HB  145 will                                                                    
     go  a  long  ways  to solve  those  problems.    Please                                                                    
     support this.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MARIA PAINTER  said that  all four of  her children  had attended                                                               
parochial school and that she supported HB 145.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
5:16:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JESSICA DEAN said  that she had two children  enrolled in private                                                               
school,  while  dually  enrolled  in  a  district  correspondence                                                               
school.  She  opined that many private  schools offered solutions                                                               
for student  needs, and she  stated her support  for HB 145  as a                                                               
solution to the current school problems.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
5:19:19 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MICHELLE NILAND reported that her  child went to a charter school                                                               
and she  stated opposition for  HB 145.   She declared  that home                                                               
school was  a viable alternative  to provide a different  type of                                                               
education.  She  expressed concern that the  public schools would                                                               
be  "left with  the higher  needs  children, with  now a  greater                                                               
limit  on  the resources  that  are  available  for them."    She                                                               
directed attention to  Version I, lines [24] -  25, and expressed                                                               
concern that  the school  district would  be required  to provide                                                               
reasonable  transportation   to  the  school  of   choice.    She                                                               
suggested greater involvement  from the parents as  a solution to                                                               
the  school  district  needs.   She  declared  that  alternatives                                                               
already existed, and she urged opposition to HB 145.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
5:23:53 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BARBARA HANEY stated  her support for HB 145.   She said that her                                                               
seven children  had been  home schooled  and had  attended public                                                               
school.   She opined  that special  needs students  would receive                                                               
the most benefits.   She said that she put her  career on hold to                                                               
educate her children at home, and as  a result she did not have a                                                               
pension.  She offered her belief  that the rural areas would also                                                               
benefit.   She  opined that  competition among  schools would  be                                                               
healthy,  as  this would  make  schools  more responsive  to  the                                                               
requests of parents.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
5:31:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHERYL PEYTON  stated support  for HB  145, and  she read  from a                                                               
prepared  statement:   [Included in  members' packets]   "Parents                                                               
know  their  children  better  than  anyone.    Parents  are  the                                                               
rightful authority  to choose how  and where their  children will                                                               
be educated."   She described the process that  she had undergone                                                               
with   her  Down's   syndrome  child,   and  reported   that  the                                                               
neighborhood school  was the  only choice  offered.   She relayed                                                               
that  the consensus  for a  special  needs child  was most  often                                                               
"bending  to  the   will  of  the  neighborhood   school."    She                                                               
concluded:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     Studies  show that  educational  quality improves  when                                                                    
     parents  have the  fundamental  right  to choose  where                                                                    
     their   children  are   educated.      I  believe   the                                                                    
     introduction of  "market forces" improves  all schools,                                                                    
     and  I believe  it  is especially  helpful for  special                                                                    
     needs children and families.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
5:35:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOHN TOBEY stated support for HB  145, and said that his daughter                                                               
had been in  public school, private school, and home  school.  He                                                               
offered  his belief  that this  was an  important opportunity  to                                                               
allow  parents to  have a  freedom  of choice  for their  child's                                                               
education,  and that  the proposed  bill would  allow the  public                                                               
school system to improve through competition.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
5:39:50 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ANDY CLARY expressed  support for the proposed CS for  HB 145 and                                                               
HJR 16.   He said  that he  attended a private  school, Anchorage                                                               
Christian School.  He stated  that this was not an insurmountable                                                               
shift in  education policy.   He reflected on the  recent Arizona                                                               
laws on school choice.   He reported that the standard assessment                                                               
tests  and  accountability  were  already  occurring  in  private                                                               
schools.  He declared that  empirical evidence showed that school                                                               
choice  programs stimulated  improvement in  the participant  and                                                               
public schools competing for students.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
5:43:04 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
NEIL NICHOLS stated his support  for HB 145, and paraphrased from                                                               
a prepared statement.  He  offered his belief that the increasing                                                               
cost of public education in  Anchorage had not delivered improved                                                               
test scores  and graduation rates.   He opined that  the proposed                                                               
bill   would  bring   fresh  ideas,   new   resources,  and   new                                                               
opportunities for children.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
5:44:29 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT TIMMINS  stated his support for  HB 145, and said  that it                                                               
"was  crucial for  the interest  of our  children."   He declared                                                               
that true  competition among the  schools, allowing  for parental                                                               
and student choice,  would have the "single  most positive effect                                                               
on  vaulting  our  state  to  new  heights  in  productivity  and                                                               
capability."   He  declared this  to be  a minimal  cost way  for                                                               
Alaska  to incentivize  students  to  do their  best.   He  urged                                                               
support for HB  145.  He relayed that his  wife had home schooled                                                               
both their children.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
5:47:41 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KRISTINA  JOHANNES urged  support for  HB 145  and HJR  16.   She                                                               
offered  her belief  that the  section of  the U.S.  Constitution                                                               
which  prohibited  money  for parochial  schools  was  "an  anti-                                                               
Catholic animus that was existing at  the time in our country and                                                               
unfortunately  it  made it  into  our  Constitution, and  it's  a                                                               
blight on  our Constitution, and  as a Catholic, whenever  I read                                                               
that, I feel  personally insulted, actually, to be  honest."  She                                                               
opined  that the  current  system was  an  economic injustice  to                                                               
parents.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
5:50:18 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SHIRLEEN RANNALS stated  her support for HB 145 and  HJR 16.  She                                                               
stated  that  she had  four  children,  with  the youngest  in  a                                                               
Catholic school,  which she  opined to  offer a  higher education                                                               
and  a  healthier atmosphere.    She  stated  that she  had  many                                                               
complaints with  the Anchorage School  District during  the years                                                               
her children attended  its schools.  She offered  her belief that                                                               
the most  important thing  to remember was  that parents  had the                                                               
right to choose the best education for their children.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
5:52:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CYNTHIA GEIERMANN, stating her support  for HB 145, said the size                                                               
of  the  public  school  classes did  not  allow  for  individual                                                               
attention.   She  shared that  her child  now attended  a private                                                               
school, which  allowed for  a moral  component to  her education,                                                               
but it came at a personal  cost.  She stressed the importance for                                                               
parents to have  a choice and for the public  money to follow the                                                               
child.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
5:55:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KARIN OWENS shared that she had  four children, had taught in the                                                               
Anchorage School District  for ten years, and  that she supported                                                               
HB 145.   She relayed that her one child  currently in school was                                                               
in a private school, as the  public schools attempted to be a one                                                               
size fits  all system.   She opined  that more  choices empowered                                                               
the  children and  the parents.   She  directed attention  to the                                                               
popularity of  charter schools as  an example of the  support for                                                               
school choice programs.  She  offered her belief that the current                                                               
system was  not working, and  she could  not put her  children in                                                               
the public schools.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
5:57:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CONNIE WINGREN, Principal, Holy  Name Catholic School, stated her                                                               
support for  HB 145 as  this would  allow parents to  place their                                                               
children in  the school of choice.   She reported on  the success                                                               
of the  students that  graduate from  Holy Name  Catholic School,                                                               
where standardized tests were administered.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
5:59:01 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DAVID BOYLE  stated support  for HJR 16,  and paraphrased  from a                                                               
prepared statement,  which read as follows  [original punctuation                                                               
provided]:                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     I  would  like   to  testify  today  on   HJR  16,  the                                                                    
     constitutional amendment to the Alaska Constitution.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     As  background,  Alaska has  what  is  called a  Blaine                                                                    
     amendment  in its  constitution  which precludes  state                                                                    
     funds  going  to  private  and  secular  schools.  This                                                                    
     Blaine amendment has a very  shady history, named after                                                                    
     U.S. Congressman  James Blaine.  These  amendments were                                                                    
     passed as  a direct result of  the anti-immigrant, anti                                                                    
     -Catholic  bigotry that  was dominant  in the  19th and                                                                    
     early  20th centuries.   Many  states were  required to                                                                    
     include  Blaine   amendments  in   their  constitutions                                                                    
     before they were  allowed to join the union.   This was                                                                    
     called the  inclusion act  of 1899.   This is  why many                                                                    
     western states  have Blaine  amendments in  their state                                                                    
     constitutions today.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     The U.S.  Supreme Court  laid the  constitutionality of                                                                    
     the  Blaine  amendments  to  rest   in  its  Zelman  vs                                                                    
     Simmons-Harris of 2002 decision.   This decision stated                                                                    
     that the  federal establishment clause is  not violated                                                                    
     by  the participation  of religious  schools in  school                                                                    
     choice  programs.   Students  in  Cleveland were  given                                                                    
     state vouchers  to attend the  school of  their choice,                                                                    
     sectarian  or   non-sectarian.    Religious   and  non-                                                                    
     religious  schools could  participate  in this  voucher                                                                    
     program.     Over  60  percent  of   the  students  who                                                                    
     participated  in  this program  were  at  or below  the                                                                    
     poverty line.  The court  held that this government aid                                                                    
     reaches   religious  institutions   only   by  way   of                                                                    
     deliberate choices  of numerous  individual recipients.                                                                    
     Chief  justice  Rehnquist  stated that  the  court  had                                                                    
     rejected similar challenges three times.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     In August  2002, the Washington State  Blaine amendment                                                                    
     was struck down by the  9th Circuit Court of Appeals by                                                                    
     a vote  of 2-1.  The  decision was based on:   "A state                                                                    
     law may not offer a benefit  to all but exclude some on                                                                    
     the basis of religion."                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     In  addition, under  the Individuals  With Disabilities                                                                    
     Act  (IDEA),  the  federal government  gives  funds  to                                                                    
     provide    special   education    to   children    with                                                                    
     disabilities;  it  requires  districts  spend  some  of                                                                    
     these funds  for children whose parents  choose private                                                                    
     (including religious) schools.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     The question  to ask now:   is the  Alaska Constitution                                                                    
     unconstitutional?                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     The overriding  consideration should  always be:   what                                                                    
     is best for the kids?                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     The  U.S.  Supreme  Court ruled  on  April  4th,  2011,                                                                    
     [today] in a 5-4 decision  that the Arizona tuition tax                                                                    
     credit plan  was constitutional.   The  majority wrote:                                                                    
     "Awarding  some  citizens  a tax  credit  allows  other                                                                    
     citizens  to retain  control over  their  own funds  in                                                                    
     accordance with  their own  consciences."   Per justice                                                                    
     Kennedy: the plaintiffs'  position "assumes that income                                                                    
     should  be treated  as if  it were  government property                                                                    
     even  if  it has  not  come  into the  tax  collector's                                                                    
     hands." (Arizona Christian  school tuition organization                                                                    
     v. Winn, no. 09-987).                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
6:02:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TIM GEIERMANN,  stating his support for  HB 145 and HJR  16, said                                                               
that he  "would send  my children  to the  garbage dump  before I                                                               
sent 'em to a government school,  because at least they'd learn a                                                               
trade."   He  reported  that he  chose to  home  school and  then                                                               
private education.   He opined that "my property  taxes, my state                                                               
money  should follow  the child  to  the school  of the  parent's                                                               
choice."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
6:03:14 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CARL  ROSE,  Executive  Director, Association  of  Alaska  School                                                               
Boards (AASB),  agreed that  parents did have  a right  to choose                                                               
the  school  for  their  children,  but  that  the  state  had  a                                                               
responsibility, under  the Constitution  of the State  of Alaska,                                                               
"to  provide  a   free  public  education  for   all  school  age                                                               
children."  He  said that the schools were not  failing, and that                                                               
he  detected  "an  anti-government sentiment  being  attached  to                                                               
schools."  He stated his  adamant disagreement with the statement                                                               
of  the  bill  sponsor,  Representative   Keller,  that  "it  was                                                               
intuitively obvious"  that private  schools out  performed public                                                               
schools.  He  offered his belief that HB 145  would create a dual                                                               
system  of education.   He  directed attention  to the  costs for                                                               
operation, construction  of facilities, and  transportation which                                                               
would need  to be included  in the fiscal  note.  He  stated that                                                               
allowing the funds  to follow a student would be  far more costly                                                               
than what  it was today.   He emphasized that the  public schools                                                               
were not  failing and that challenges  did exist.  He  stated his                                                               
agreement with the exercise of  choice, but he questioned whether                                                               
the state should pay for that choice.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
6:08:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee took a brief at-ease.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
JULIE ZERKEL  stated support for HB  145.  She said  that she was                                                               
the parent  of a  high functioning, autistic  child, and  that it                                                               
was  difficult to  find  workable situations.    She offered  her                                                               
belief that  it was difficult  for children  who did not  fit the                                                               
public school model.  She stated  that parents needed a choice of                                                               
schools for their children.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
[Chair  Dick  passed the  gavel  to  Vice  Chair Pruitt  for  the                                                               
duration of the meeting.]                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
6:14:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KATHRYN  BOLAK said  that she  was an  advocate of  pro-choice in                                                               
education, and  stated her  support for  HB 145.   She  said that                                                               
choice  was  important and  necessary,  as  the public  education                                                               
system did  not fit every  child.   She opined that  more choices                                                               
would raise the standards in every institution.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
6:16:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BETTY  SMITH  stated  her  support  for HB  145,  and  said  that                                                               
competition would  improve the public  schools.  She  offered her                                                               
belief that government  regulation should not be  attached to the                                                               
money.  She opined that parents  should have a choice of schools,                                                               
regardless of their income.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
[HB 145 and HJR 16 were held over.]                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
CSHB 145 Version D.pdf HEDC 4/4/2011 5:00:00 PM
HB 145