Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106

04/06/2011 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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08:05:06 AM Start
08:05:48 AM Presentation(s): Superintendent, Juneau School District
08:29:24 AM HB145|| HJR16
09:21:28 AM HB143
10:01:12 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation by Juneau School District TELECONFERENCED
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved Out of Committee
Heard & Held
                HB 145-K-12 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM                                                                             
              HJR 16-CONST. AM: EDUCATION FUNDING                                                                           
8:29:24 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.                                                                                                     
8:30:00 AM                                                                                                                    
JOHN ALCANTRA, Government  Relations Director, NEA-Alaska, stated                                                               
that the  members of NEA-Alaska  strongly opposed HB 145  and, by                                                               
extension,  HJR   16.    He   declared  that  the   Alaska  State                                                               
Constitution clearly stated:                                                                                                    
     The  Legislature shall  by  general  law establish  and                                                                    
     maintain  a  system  of  public  schools  open  to  all                                                                    
     children of the state and  may provide for other public                                                                    
     educational institutions.   Schools and institutions so                                                                    
     established shall  be free from sectarian  control.  No                                                                    
     money shall  be paid from  public funds for  the direct                                                                    
     benefit of  any religious or other  private educational                                                                    
MR. ALCANTRA pointed out that  discussions with the supporters of                                                               
the bill had  indicated that the legislation did  not ensure that                                                               
religious or  private schools would accept  all Alaskan children,                                                               
did  not ensure  that teachers  would be  certified, and  did not                                                               
ensure  the same  testing  requirements as  public  schools.   He                                                               
referred  to  earlier testimony  from  Cook  Inlet Academy  which                                                               
stated that it was necessary  to screen applicants, as the school                                                               
did not  have the  facilities for  students with  serious special                                                               
needs.  He stated that public  education was provided for all who                                                               
wished to  attend, regardless of religious  affiliation, learning                                                               
styles, or physical needs.                                                                                                      
The committee took an at-ease from 8:32 a.m. to 8:34 a.m.                                                                       
8:34:00 AM                                                                                                                    
ROD McCOY expressed his belief  in America, the Constitution, and                                                               
democracy  and pointed  out that,  as  a teacher,  he had  taught                                                               
these values to his classes.   He stated his belief for the value                                                               
of  maintaining  a  separation  of   church  and  state,  not  to                                                               
disregard  the  importance  of   church,  but  to  maintain  this                                                               
distance  as dictated  by the  writers of  the Constitution.   He                                                               
declared  his passion  and protection  for his  religion, and  he                                                               
endorsed the guidance  for a rational approach  to state affairs.                                                               
He  expressed his  disagreement  with an  earlier statement  that                                                               
"there  would  be  an  equitable  opportunity  for  both  private                                                               
schools and public schools."  He declared:                                                                                      
     That is entirely untrue.   The public schools under the                                                                    
     scenario  there  would be  required  to  keep each  and                                                                    
     every student.   The private schools in  [HB] 145 would                                                                    
     have no such requirements.                                                                                                 
MR. McCOY observed that there was  not a structure to require the                                                               
private  schools  to  retain  any students.    He  stressed  that                                                               
segregation  would  occur.   He  reported  on research  by  Money                                                               
magazine that  compared like circumstances,  and had  stated that                                                               
investments in  private education did  not result in  any greater                                                               
"bang for  their buck."   He offered  his belief that  change for                                                               
change sake  did not  guarantee improvement.   He asked  that the                                                               
legislators  "walk  slowly" in  consideration  of  change to  the                                                               
Alaska State Constitution.                                                                                                      
8:38:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WES  KELLER, Alaska State  Legislature, reiterated                                                               
that proposed  HB 145 would  provide public funding for  the cost                                                               
of attending grades kindergarten through  12 at any school of the                                                               
parent's choice.  He offered to answer any questions.                                                                           
[It was clarified that Version D was in front of the committee.]                                                                
8:39:47 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PRUITT asked  to clarify that HJR 16  would be put                                                               
on the  ballot so the  people of the  state could vote  to change                                                               
the constitution.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  agreed and explained the  remainder of the                                                               
process through the legislature.                                                                                                
8:40:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked for an  explanation of how the school                                                               
district would have the responsibility  to administer the program                                                               
and yet not have the authority for monitoring performance.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER explained that  any school must comply with                                                               
AS 14.45.030 or AS 14.45.100  - 14.45.130.  [Statutes that govern                                                               
religious  or other  private schools]   He  listed the  necessary                                                               
records  to  maintain  exemption  from other  provisions  of  law                                                               
pertaining to education.                                                                                                        
8:42:56 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON   asked  for   more  information   to  the                                                               
educational responsibility of the school districts.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER replied  that  the  school district  would                                                               
have information about the participating schools.                                                                               
8:44:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  to  clarify,  should the  [private]                                                               
schools which received funding not  perform as well as the public                                                               
schools, would  there be a  report to the  parents.  He  asked if                                                               
there  was  any  accountability   or  mechanism  for  the  school                                                               
district to stop the funding to the [private] schools.                                                                          
8:45:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER expressed "a lot  of faith in the fact that                                                               
the parents  would not choose a  school that is doing  a bad job,                                                               
and that's the  whole point is to get that  information out there                                                               
and the  parents are  the ones  to make the  choice."   He stated                                                               
that "the market will work."                                                                                                    
8:45:47 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON reflected  that if private  schools had                                                               
to  follow  the same  regulations  as  public schools,  then  the                                                               
screening process at private school would not be allowed.                                                                       
8:46:06 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER replied  that participating  schools would                                                               
have independence and that laws prohibited discrimination.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON asked again if  the screening processes                                                               
would  be stopped.   She  referred  to earlier  testimony from  a                                                               
private school principal that there  was a screening process, and                                                               
that  the  [private]  school  could choose  the  students.    She                                                               
pointed out that the public school was not allowed this choice.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER replied that  the private schools could not                                                               
"pick and choose  based on race, gender, beliefs,  what have you,                                                               
that's part of the state law."                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON asked for Representative  Keller to put                                                               
on the record that there would be no screening.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER declared  that the  decision was  based on                                                               
choice and  if a  school provided a  statement of  faith, parents                                                               
would make the choice whether or not to sign such a document.                                                                   
8:48:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER,  in response to Representative  P. Wilson,                                                               
agreed that it would be the parent's choice.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON asked for confirmation  that the school                                                               
would not turn away a student.                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER replied:                                                                                                  
     There  may  be  supplements  in  the  application  that                                                                    
     somebody will not go to  the school, will choose to not                                                                    
     go to the school, because  of the requirements that are                                                                    
     there, but  I think it's  pretty clear that we  want to                                                                    
     leave   those    choices   to   whatever    school   is                                                                    
8:50:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON  offered an example of a  student with a                                                               
handicap, and  a private  school might indicate  that it  was not                                                               
prepared  to deal  with  that  handicap.   She  pointed out  that                                                               
public schools were not allowed to turn students away.                                                                          
8:50:41 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER,  in response,  said that  as a  parent, he                                                               
would choose the school that would best serve the child.                                                                        
8:50:58 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK  interjected that this  was a discussion  of minutiae,                                                               
and  he reflected  on  the difficulty  for  projecting the  final                                                               
outcome.  He posed that it  was not necessary to discuss details,                                                               
and  that moving  proposed HB  145 out  of committee  would allow                                                               
further scrutiny.   He stated  that this was a  nationwide issue.                                                               
He announced that the issue would  "end up in front of the people                                                               
of Alaska, and I think that's  really where the dialogue needs to                                                               
take place."  He expressed his  desire to allow the discussion to                                                               
continue beyond the  committee.  He stressed  the importance that                                                               
this decision be  made by the people of Alaska,  and not by those                                                               
in government.                                                                                                                  
8:53:42 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI  directed attention  to Version  I, which                                                               
stated  that districts  would approve  the participating  schools                                                               
and it  "specifically cited that the  discrimination in admission                                                               
and  hiring practices  was part  of this  bill."   He noted  that                                                               
Version  D did  not include  this statement,  but that  it stated                                                               
"they would admit  students based on a  random selection process,                                                               
but could  apply the  preference for siblings."   He  offered his                                                               
belief  that   Version  D  specifically   allowed  discrimination                                                               
against  students to  continue.    He opined  that  this was  the                                                               
proper  venue  to  discuss  policies  of  discrimination  against                                                               
students.   He announced that  he would  not support to  move the                                                               
bill out of committee.                                                                                                          
8:55:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON pointed out that  the proposed HB 145 would                                                               
not  go   to  a  vote  of   the  people,  as  it   was  currently                                                               
unconstitutional.  He  directed attention to HJR  16, which would                                                               
allow a vote on proposed HB  145 by Alaskans.  He emphasized that                                                               
a job of the committee was to get into the minutiae of a bill.                                                                  
8:55:58 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER,  indicating Version  D, page 2,  lines 14-                                                               
17, observed that  the intent of the sponsor was  that the school                                                               
district   may    participate   in   the   option    of   student                                                               
transportation.   He reported  that "it leaves  the option  up to                                                               
the good  will of the district  based on the money  they received                                                               
on that program."                                                                                                               
8:57:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PRUITT  expressed his  concern with  perception of                                                               
the  word  "may."    He  declared his  concern  with  the  fiscal                                                               
accountability  for the  transportation  clause  of the  proposed                                                               
bill.  He indicated that  the transportation cost should be borne                                                               
by the parents of the student.                                                                                                  
9:00:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER,  in  response to  Representative  Pruitt,                                                               
said  that  the  burden  for transportation  was  placed  on  the                                                               
district, but  that the proposed  bill did not  require expansion                                                               
of  the  current  transportation   beyond  100  percent  of  that                                                               
allocated to "a similarly situated student."                                                                                    
9:01:14 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took an at-ease from 9:01 a.m. to 9:06 a.m.                                                                       
9:06:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER,  in  response to  Representative  Pruitt,                                                               
offered to  remove the transportation language  from the proposed                                                               
9:07:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PRUITT  asked  to clarify  that  the  legislative                                                               
intent was  not to  provide transportation  for every  child, and                                                               
that the  parental choice of  schools would include  the parental                                                               
responsibility for the student's transportation to the school.                                                                  
9:08:35 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked  if it was the intent  of the sponsor                                                               
of the  bill that  the district  would provide  transportation to                                                               
some private schools, but not to other private schools.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER replied  that  the  school district  would                                                               
have the choice to provide transportation.                                                                                      
9:09:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON stated,  for the  record, that  the intent                                                               
was to allow a school  district to supply transportation for some                                                               
students to schools within the  district, but not to all students                                                               
to all schools.                                                                                                                 
9:10:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON expressed her  concern that a parent may                                                               
bring  a law  suit  if  the school  district  does not  transport                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  said that the  bill was not  specific, and                                                               
that the  intent of  the sponsor  was "to  give the  district the                                                               
choice based on good sense of what to do."                                                                                      
9:11:46 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON asked  what the  intent of  the sponsor                                                               
was for transportation.                                                                                                         
9:12:21 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  apologized and stated that  his intent was                                                               
to   allow   a   school   district   the   option   for   student                                                               
transportation.   He  said that  the  bill wording  was not  that                                                               
9:13:06 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON maintained her concern for this issue.                                                                 
9:13:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DICK said that HB 145 would be held over.                                                                                 
9:13:41 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE PRUITT  moved to  report HJR  16 out  of committee                                                               
with individual recommendations.                                                                                                
9:13:59 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI objected for discussion.                                                                                
9:14:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON stated his support  for HJR 16, as it would                                                               
need to be passed by the legislature and the people of Alaska.                                                                  
9:15:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI maintained his objection.                                                                               
9:15:31 AM                                                                                                                    
A roll  call vote was  taken.  Representatives Feige,  Pruitt, P.                                                               
Wilson,   Seaton,  and   Dick   voted  in   favor   of  HJR   16.                                                               
Representative Kawasaki voted against it.   Therefore, HJR 16 was                                                               
reported out of the House  Education Standing Committee by a vote                                                               
of 5-1.                                                                                                                         
9:16:41 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative Keller  pointed out  that HJR  16 and  proposed HB                                                               
145 could  not ultimately  be separated.   He  encouraged support                                                               
for HB 145.                                                                                                                     

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