Legislature(2017 - 2018)CAPITOL 106
02/12/2018 08:00 AM EDUCATION
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|Informational Hearing: the Need to Increase the Bsa: Consequences in Funding is Not Adjusted|| Hb339|| Hb214|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Informational Hearing: The Need to Increase the BSA: Consequences if Funding is not adjusted [Contains discussion of HB 339 and HB 214.] 8:01:59 AM CHAIR DRUMMOND announced that the only order of business would be an informational hearing: The Need to Increase the BSA; Consequences if Funding is not Adjusted. 8:02:50 AM REPRESENTATIVE LES GARA, Alaska State Legislature, prefaced his slide presentation by stating that funding does not mean even funding or that teachers will not be cut. Representative Gara turned to slide 1, entitled "Education Matters: It's time to increase the BSA." He turned to slide 2, entitled "Costs are up, Funding is down," and indicated that costs, including rent, health care, and energy, have risen in school districts at the same time nominal and inflation-adjusted dollars have declined. 8:03:44 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA reported that since 2015, school funding is down by approximately $25 million in actual dollars, without accounting for inflation, of which $18 million is due to state funding decreases, and the remaining $7 million is due to changes in local contributions [slide 3, K-12 Formula Funding, FY 15-19 (Nominal dollars)]; and slide 4, [Public Schools Have Lost Nearly $25 million Since 2015]. REPRESENTATIVE GARA turned to slide 5, entitled "Why Has School Funding Declined Since FY 2015?" which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: ? $43 million added in FY 15 has been deleted from the budget ? This was only partially offset by $50 BSA increases in FY 16 and FY 17, each of which added $12.6 million. ? Overall, funding through the BSA has fallen by roughly $17 million. When you add in changes due to student counts & local contributions, the loss since FY 15 is about $25 million. REPRESENTATIVE GARA explained that many people think school funding has been flat; however, in 2015, $43 million was budgeted through the foundation formula; however, the district lost those funds in 2016. That money was replaced by two small based student allocation increases of $50 per year in 2016 and 2017. He reiterated that school funding is down due to the $43 million loss of BSA funding in 2016, with a $25 million gain over two years in small based student allocations, for an overall loss of $18 million. In addition, more losses occurred with local contribution formula changes and class count changes. 8:04:53 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA turned to slide 6, entitled "The Loss is Greater When You Consider Inflation: $90 Million" and to a bar chart on slide 7, entitled "K-12 Formula Funding, FY 15-19." With health care, energy, and rent costs all increasing, the Anchorage School District (ASD) has had a total loss of $90 million since 2015, he said. He stressed that education should not be about money but should be about education and instruction. 8:05:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA turned to slides that describe what is happening in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su): slide 8, entitled "A Tale of Two Districts," and then slide 9, "Cuts Have Hit Classrooms," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: ? 247 FTE positions have been cut (a 9.3% reduction) ? 216 of these were teachers ? The remaining were mostly teacher assistants ? Classroom sizes have increased and will continue to do so. REPRESENTATIVE GARA identified these as issues that stem from the effects of flat funding. He turned to slide 10, entitled "At the Same time in Anchorage," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: ? Special education enrollment is up 3.2% ? Intensive needs enrollment is up 8.6% ? Preschool enrollment is up 34% ? And many fixed costs, such as health care, have skyrocketed. REPRESENTATIVE GARA turned to slide 11, entitled "One Teacher's Story," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: ? Recently met a middle school science teacher from Anchorage ? Her classroom size has increased from 28 to 32 students ? She says it has finally crossed the line ? Can't fairly teach individual students who need help REPRESENTATIVE GARA acknowledged that many teachers have reached the tipping point with increased classroom sizes. 8:06:29 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA turned to slide 12, entitled "Mat-Su Faces Similar Cuts," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: ? Cut $8.4 million in FY 18, resulting in the loss of 87 FTE positions ? Expects to face an $8 million deficit in FY 19 ? The district has cut 247 FTE teachers, classrooms aides and classroom assistants since 2013, a 9.3% cut ? Also cut roughly 8 special education instructors REPRESENTATIVE GARA identified these cuts as real ones that adversely affect achievement, if one believes teachers are necessary to and student achievement and education. 8:06:54 AM REPRESENTATIVE GARA turned to slide 13, entitled "We need to hear from School Districts around the State," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: ? What are your challenges? ? What have the impacts been of flat or declining funding in your community? ? Is it affecting student outcomes? ? How is it affecting staffing and curriculum? REPRESENTATIVE GARA turned to slide 14, entitled "A Bill to Increase the BSA," which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Later in the week, the committee will hear a bill (HB 339) Chair Drummond, I and others introduced last week to raise the BSA by $100. We look forward to your testimony today and written testimony once the bill is before the Committee. REPRESENTATIVE GARA, in closing, turned to [slide 15], which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: Thank you for coming to Juneau, for speaking on behalf of Alaska's parents and students, and for all you do to educate and support Alaska's children. 8:07:36 AM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSTON could not recall whether Representative Gara was present when the ASD gave its legislative briefing. She asked whether proposed HB 339 would change how the BSA [base student allocation] is calculated. She recalled the ASD highlighted that how facilities were calculated [in the BSA] has had a huge impact on the ASD; thus, it is one of the ASD's legislative priorities. She further asked whether that would be addressed. REPRESENTATIVE GARA, in terms of the individual components of the BSA and how funding is divided between districts, answered that typically what benefits one district will hurt another district. He thought he was out of state when the ASD briefed the Anchorage legislators. He said he was unsure if the proposed funding would have an equitable impact on all districts. 8:08:41 AM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSTON asked school districts if they would please speak to that point as they give their testimony, noting that the ASD previously raised the issue of pupil transportation funding. CHAIR DRUMMOND clarified that Representative Johnston was referring to the school size factor, which the ASD can also speak to during its testimony. 8:09:24 AM KALI SPENCER, Student, Eagle River High School (ERHS), Anchorage School District (ASD), stated she attends the ASD at the Eagle River High School. She said she wished to specifically address raising the BSA to retain quality educators in her district. She provided her personal history, emphasizing that education is her life. She moved to Alaska when she was in the second grade. At that time her mom was a single mom with three children who decided to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. After graduation she was hired at Eagle River High School, which her mom described as great. However, at the end of the first year, her mom received a "pink slip" notifying her that she would be fired. She said her mom did not know what to do and even considered moving several times. She emphasized the point she wished to make is the need to encourage educators or else they may decide to leave the state. She identified her mom as Valerie Ballard, who was one of ten teachers in Alaska since 1987 to be awarded the national Milken Educator Award, with a prize of $25,000. She expressed her concern if the district does not retain quality educators it will lose powerful teachers like her mom. She said she thinks that raising the BSA will directly correlate to a stronger staffing and encourage people to come to Alaska for the quality education being provided. 8:11:43 AM DIEULEVEUT BIRINGANINE, Student Body President, Service High School (SHS), Anchorage School District (ASD), as a senior at Service High School, asked to testify on the impact of raising the BSA. She identified herself as a refugee and immigrant, with English as her second language. In 2008, she did not speak English when she attended third grade, but she received support from an ESL [English as a second language] teacher. At that time classes were smaller, but now classes typically have 32 to 45 students. Last year, her Spanish class size was 40 so her teacher had to teach three different levels of Spanish to meet student needs. She indicated that having her teacher teach to three levels made learning Spanish more difficult. MS. BIRINGANINE, speaking to class sizes, reported typical freshman English classes at Service High School classrooms had 32 students. In classes that large students do not receive one- on-one time with teachers or enough support. She has observed that some class sizes continue to rise so some teachers spend their lunch hours helping students. As a representative of the student body, she finds it hurtful that students are not getting the help they need to succeed. She asked members to please raise the BSA as it will be a good investment. Although she will be in college next year, she emphasized the importance to provide adequate funding for students. She offered her belief adequate funding will be life changing for them. MS. BIRINGANINE advised that her student government class, an extracurricular class, has 50 students. She said that extracurricular activities are very important to students and create opportunities for students. In fact, it provided the opportunity for her to speak to the committee today. She also predicted that sports will be eliminated as funding decreases because the money must come from somewhere. She offered her belief that the ASD has done everything it can to avoid cutting teachers because 88 percent of our funding goes to our teachers. It has become necessary to tap into the transportation fund to make sure teachers are not cut. She cautioned against continual budget cutting since the district will keep losing its teachers and class sizes will grow. She hoped she gave members a sense of what is happening in the schools and the districts. 8:15:04 AM DANIEL JEOUN, Student, South Anchorage High School (SAHS), Anchorage School District (ASD), stated he is a junior at South Anchorage High School. He offered his support for HB 339 [not on the calendar] because raising the BSA by $100 will offer students more opportunities and help students discover what they are passionate about and provide them the resources to strive for their future. He informed members that his sophomore year was a demoralizing year. He described that the overcrowded classrooms had adversely affected him, and he had a hard time retaining information. He found it difficult to have a one-on- one conversation with his teachers. He went from perfect attendance to often skipping classes, which he now regrets. He felt his school experiences attributed to his declining mental health, including a lack of connection with the school counselor. The ASD has a ratio of 1 to 30 students for its counselors. The American School Counselor Association recommends the counselor ratio should be 1 to 25. He said that teacher and counselor to student ratios also adversely affected him and that his mental health suffered during this time. He considered harming himself. He sought help, but felt rushed during his counselor appointments, since so many students also needed the counselor's help. This added to his stress, he said. Luckily, he advised that he was able to reach out to an educator in his school who helped him through this difficult period. He expressed concern that as the budget deficit has increased, the ASD has had to make reductions, including eliminating 5.5 positions for school counselors this year. He offered support for HB 339 [not on the calendar] which will increase the BSA by $100. Without the $100 increase to the BSA, he feared his school district will lose these amazing educators and counselors. He said he paid his own way to testify today to see if he could make a difference. He did so because his educators helped save his life. Without them, he did not think he would be here today. He thanked members for listening and hoped what he had to say will make a difference. 8:19:40 AM BEN POST, Student, Stellar Secondary School (SSS), Anchorage School District (ASD), stated he is a sophomore at Stellar Secondary School. He offered his support for the bill [HB 339, not on the calendar] to increase the BSA because growing class sizes are a big issue in the ASD. He said that one of his brother's science class at Romig Middle School had over 30 students. He described the difficult experience his brother had in asking questions in such a large group. In fact, his brother did not earn good marks or learn much about biology, he stated. In another instance of overcrowding classrooms, he said his friend at West High School had an English class with more than 30 kids. His friend said it was difficult for his teacher to edit and grade the volume of papers for such a large class. He acknowledged that education has associated costs, but the rewards and opportunities for students are endless. He thanked the committee members for taking the time to listen to his testimony. 8:20:43 AM STARR MARSETT, Vice-President, Anchorage School Board (ASB), Anchorage School District (ASD), offered her support for HB 339 [not on the calendar] which would increase the BSA. She further offered her testimony on behalf of students, teachers, parents, and staff who could not be here today. She said the committee has heard from some very bright students on how this funding has impacted their lives. She asked members to also consider students who are struggling and not receiving support they need because the state is cutting this support. She said she has met with many teachers regularly after school and has heard how their morale is being impacted by asking them to take on more duties while class sizes continue to increase. Further, teachers talk about how daily trauma has seeped into classrooms. This trauma has adversely affected student behavior and classes at the same time the district is cutting counselors, and classroom support that help them effectively manage their classrooms. Additionally, the district has cut custodial staff and has increased middle school to eight periods. This means teachers lose planning time, which is necessary for teachers to assist students who need extra help. MS. MARSETT emphasized these are all important things. She referred to handouts in members' packets that show the impacts of funding cuts since 2013 [Handout K-12 Formula Funding, FY 15- 19], and an outlook for the next six years. She cautioned that if the ASD continues along this path, in 2019 the district will eliminate 484 fulltime equivalent positions (FTE) and will eliminate 591 positions by 2020. She said, "We can't continue. I mean, I think this year is our breaking point, to tell you the truth. We are taking our teacher experts, the supports that our teachers need in the schools from the district and they are now going into the classrooms so that we have teachers in those classrooms so we're moving personnel so that we don't have to hopefully impact all of our classes." The overall effect has been to eliminate classroom support that teachers need; instead, teachers will be directed to online support to search for answers to their questions. She predicted that teachers will need to cut into their instruction time to get technology questions answered due to support staff cuts. Further, when teachers need to ask the district questions they cannot receive timely answers due to cuts to district personnel. These are just a few of the impacts to students and teachers. She said that if the ASD did not ask for funding increases, the community will be "up in arms" because they know that increased funding is needed for students. 8:24:13 AM TAM AGOSTI-GISLER, Member, Anchorage School Board (ASB), Anchorage School District (ASD), expressed her frustration when she has heard people say to "cut the fat" or to cut administrative costs. She reported her experiences spanning the five ASD budgets she has worked on from fiscal year 2013 (FY 13) to FY 19, such that the district has cut administration costs by 28.5 percent. Besides the costs for seven board members statutorily required that cannot be cut, the district's leadership has been cut 36 percent. She challenged anyone to "find the fat." Still, the administration has made decisions to send administrative staff back to the classrooms as the district's strategy to least impact instruction in the classroom. She related a scenario that highlighted the adverse impacts for those decisions. When the ASD instituted new curriculum to improve K-2 literacy for students to achieve proficiency in reading by the third grade, the curriculum had a poor roll out due to staff shortages for teacher training. In fact, hundreds of teachers provided feedback on how poorly the program was implemented. Thus, the district has had to regroup to figure out how to work with current staff to accomplish literacy improvements. MS. AGOSTI-GISLER expressed her concern over suggestions that school districts might be penalized if schools were consolidated to achieve efficiency. She referred to a potential hold harmless clause in the funding formula for size if schools were consolidated and asked the legislature for help to ensure the district would not be penalized and lose funding in those instances. In addition, she has heard some consideration of shortening the school year to achieve savings, which she found abhorrent. The district does not have a lot of options left, she lamented. Currently, the district has been using some operating funds for student transportation as the budget is drastically cut. She closed her testimony by expressing concern over the quality of education the district can provide in the long run. She asked members to consider the dramatic needs for districts across the state. 8:27:45 AM JEAN-LUC LEWIS, Student, Wrangell High School (WHS), Wrangell Public School District (WPSD), stated that he is a junior at Wrangell High School in Southeast Alaska. He said that education is the highest priority and cannot afford any more cuts. Even though Alaska is having a financial crisis he still asked the legislature to find a solution to increase revenue. He suggested a state income tax, a sales tax, or a potential cut to the permanent fund dividend (PFD). Since costs to run schools increase each year, flat funding the school district's budget is equivalent to a cut. At the bare minimum he requested the legislature increase the BSA to compensate for inflation and cost-of-living expenses. Further, in Southeast Alaska the cost of health insurance coverage is increasing every year and districts are struggling to provide these benefits for their employees. In addition, the cut to the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) has raised the cost of student travel outside the district. Not only are less students getting the opportunity to travel but students miss more school and districts are burdened with airline travel costs. In addition, the bus transportation company in his district has closed. During his time in high school, retired teachers have not been replaced which has affected course offerings. For example, his school offers two years of Spanish and many students would like to take a third year of language since competitive colleges require three years of foreign language. He offered his belief that any budget cuts will limit student learning since it reduces electives. This will hurt high achieving students as well as students who struggle to pass courses, he said. Therefore, if funding does not increase, the quality of public school education in Alaska will decline. Investment in education should be the highest priority since not doing so will adversely affect opportunities for students. He cautioned that education will continue to decline if funding is not increased. He thanked members for their time. 8:30:51 AM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSTON asked whether he has taken any online classes. MR. LEWIS answered yes; that he is taking a world history course. In response to a question, he indicated that he has not found the class engaging as he primarily watches videos and answers questions. He has found the class to be boring since it lacks interaction with the instructor and other students. 8:31:36 AM REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSTON further asked whether he knew the source of the district's online classes. MR. LEWIS offered his belief that the course was an Alaska Digital Academy course. 8:32:01 AM STELLA TALLMON, Student, Juneau-Douglas High School (JDHS), Juneau School District (JSD), stated that she is a sophomore at Juneau-Douglas High School (JDHS). She offered her support for HB 339 [not on the calendar]. She understood that the state is facing tough decisions and the state has a tight budget. However, not increasing the BSA would have extreme consequences for students throughout Alaska. She reminded members that the state has a constitutional mandate to provide a public education for all K-12 students. Further it is everyone's civil responsibility to ensure that their education is of the highest quality possible. Currently the district faces large cuts in several programs that provide services to low-income families making this an issue of equity and opportunity. In addition, class sizes would increase and could cause people to leave the state. The state needs to create a stable fiscal plan that allows students to become the best they can be without being bogged down by financial issues. Education is a progressive field that should never become stagnant. She emphasized the need to provide adequate schools to allow students to compete in a global economy. Healthy and prosperous societies invest in their youth since they represent the future. One day some students will become legislators and she hoped they would be well educated and informed leaders to move the state forward into the future. In response to a question, she answered that Steve Tallmon is her father. 8:33:34 AM PAUL MARKS stated that he comes from a family of educators, including his son, daughter, and wife. He said his son works for the school district at the Mendenhall River Community School as a paraeducator in the Tlingit Culture, Language, and Literacy Program (TCLL). His daughter works for the Mayflower Montessori School and at Marie-Drake school. His wife works at Gastineau Elementary School and he works for the Goldbelt Heritage Foundation as an elder and educator. He offered his support for this bill [HB 339, not on the calendar]. Even increasing the BSA would still mean that TCLL will lose staff for lack of funds, he lamented. He commented that one cannot put a dollar value on education. In fact, he offered his belief that education is one of the most important values for the Tlingit people. His parents encouraged him to attend school to become successful. He reiterated that the value of education cannot be measured by dollars. He said, "Our children, all our children, are losing, and we lose also because of our children being lost. He also said he was touched by the young man's testimony earlier today with respect to his struggles in school. He described the benefits of the TCLL program, noting that students hear from members of their culture, which fosters an interest in education. He reiterated his support for the bill [HB 339, not on the calendar], which would increase the BSA. He thanked members for their attention. 8:36:30 AM KATIE MCKENNA, Student; Sophomore Class President, Juneau- Douglas High School (JDHS), Juneau School District (JSD), provided a brief list of extracurricular activities, including running and cross-country skiing. She thanked members for their legislative service. Students are the ones who must live with legislators' decisions and represent the future, she said. She stated her support for maintaining the BSA, which is essential, if only to sustain continued poverty in our system. She reported that the JSD has sustained $11 million in budget cuts in the past seven years. In the current budget, the district is being asked to cut an additional $3 million. Even with a fully funded BSA, all these cuts hurt all students. She urged members to maintain the status quo for survival. The district has been asked to cut nurses, librarians, Tlingit language teachers, and to continually increase class sizes. She detailed some of the major cuts, including reducing $1.5 million in classroom teachers, $1.2 million in special education teachers, and $700,000 in information technology. She added that her mother was a revered teacher with the JSD district who died in 2011 and her father is a Juneau principal. She questioned what her education will consist of if the BSA is not adequately funded. She reported that class sizes are increasing while choices are diminished, and teachers are at the edge of burnout. She urged members not to let it get worse. The schools need stable and predictable funding, she said, noting that her friends want to compete in a global community and live in a state where people are supported and inspired to invest their talents. She hoped the legislature would give her generation a more optimistic start. She thanked members for the opportunity to testify on behalf of students. 8:39:25 AM SIENA HANNA, Student; Student School Board Representative, Thunder Mountain High School (TMHS), Juneau School District (JSD), stated she is a senior at Thunder Mountain High School (TMHS). She has observed that class sizes are getting bigger. She said that teacher support is crucial in her advanced courses, noting students in her classes often need clarification on instruction. Teachers are the ones that provide the right type of support students need, she said. Flat funding for the district has adversely impacted academics and extracurricular activities. She reported that the district has had to cut over $600,000. During her time in high school, soccer team fees have increased from $400 to $700. Despite scholarships and team fundraising, these increases can create an equity issue of who can participate. She plans to go to college and has two siblings in the JSD, and she would like them to get the education they deserve. She would like to return to Alaska to live and hopes to raise future children here. MS. HANNA, in response to Chair Drummond, answered that the soccer fees primarily cover travel costs. 8:43:07 AM ANDI STORY, Member, Juneau School Board (JSB), Juneau School District (JSD), offered her belief that one of biggest investments in the budget is for state mandated public education. She said there are two systems in which students interact. In one system, the sentiment is that students are doing well and going off to colleges, including Stanford and Dartmouth. In the other system, many students are struggling. In that second system, which is referred to as an instructional gap, an economic gap, and a cultural relevance gap. The Alaska education challenge, school boards, and communities are all unified in the goal to address issues and have students succeed. She highlighted that flat funding often is referred to as "silent budget cuts." Although some people have states that education is fully funded, rising costs continue to erode school budgets. Referring to a reduction list, she said that since FY 2011, the district has cut 92 positions. In addition, the JSD has heard from 150 parents in two meetings to address budget cuts. The middle school counselors were cut from two to one. One middle school currently has 479 students and the other has 501 students. High schools have two counselors serving 578 in one school and 698 students in the other. With passage of Bree's Law about healthy relationships, the Alaska Safe Children's Act, educators and parents have become more informed about trauma and how it affects children and learning. Counselors are critical to students, so as a school board member she does not want to cut them. MS. STORY advised that schools encompass the academic system to prepare students to take jobs in Alaska. Class size is important, but the quality of instruction is also important. The district has adopted higher standards in the past few years, and is training teachers; however, only three instructional coaches remain. She feared those positions will likely be cut this year. She stressed that education is a field that is dynamic, which requires resources to help teachers evolve. In addition, she has sensed a lack of confidence in the public education system. She would like to convey the message that Alaskans invest in education and are working hard together. Investment in the state's education system has immediate and long-term results. She remarked that she is so proud of the students who testified today. Ninety percent of the JSD's budget goes to staffing, and the funding comes back into the system through the multiplier effect. She emphasized she is very passionate about her students and sensed that everyone on the committee wants to support them and make the right decisions. 8:49:25 AM CHAIR DRUMMOND asked whether counselors or teachers provide the Bree's Law curriculum. MS. STORY answered that it is a combination. The district has had to break down the components and is attempting to provide the curriculum as best as it can. 8:50:06 AM CHAIR DRUMMOND answered that Bree's Law has been working. The reporting of teen dating violence has been reduced from ten to five percent in the past year or two. She reported that Bree's Law, HB 214, will be on the House floor today. She explained to the students present that the bill will rename the portion of the Alaska Safe Children's Act after the young woman who was murdered by her boyfriend. MS. STORY remarked that school board members want to know all the children in the district. The district has programs that make children who have not succeeded be able to succeed. She acknowledged a lack of advocates for some programs. In fact, one of the hardest things to do as a school board member is to make unpopular decisions. She acknowledged that some win and some lose in making budget decisions and it is hard to make decisions about programs during these times of declining budgets, but that these decisions are important. 8:51:45 AM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH said it was good to hear about the issues that are before us. He asked for clarification on the effect of the $100 increase to the BSA. He understood it would only meet a fraction of the deficit resulting from years of inflation and increased health care costs. He asked what fraction of the budget would be addressed by a $100 increment. MS. STORY replied that the district must cut $3 million, which represents about a five percent cut. The district would need a $300 increase to the BSA to maintain services. 8:52:42 AM REPRESENTATIVE KOPP asked whether the deficit was mostly due to increased health care costs or declining enrollment. MS. STORY agreed that declining enrollment was a contributing factor. Last year the district had 100 more students, but this year it has 100 less resulting in $1 million deficit. The district will need to hire five less teachers next year. She offered to get back to the committee on the specific health care costs as she was uncertain of the percentage. 8:54:29 AM OLIVIA CARROLL, Student; Senior Class President, Cordova Jr./Sr. High School (CHS), Cordova School District (CSD), stated that she is the senior class president, a student representative to the city council, and a member of the National Honors Society. She asked to speak to members about increasing investments in education. When students feel valued by something that takes a significant amount of time, as education does, they will come back to Alaska. Recently, Cordova Jr./Sr. High School has had many alumni and college graduates return because they feel valued by their school. She has heard many rural Alaska students express an interest in returning to their communities as teachers, principals, and administrators but must face reality. As it currently stands with flat funding, they will not feel valued and will not return. She offered her belief that investments in education will bring more students back to their communities in Alaska. 8:56:20 AM JIM ANDERSON, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Anchorage School District (ASD), said it was tough to add to the testimony students provided. The real impact of words like streamline and reduction result in what committee members heard today from students and educators. During the first semester of the school year teachers met school board members at bi-monthly evening meetings, and they reported that class sizes are getting larger while support for professional development or training for new programs has diminished or is gone. District support to teachers, students, and classrooms has been substantially reduced in the last five years. He advised that next year, to balance the ASD's budget, the district will need to cut mid- shift custodial positions at middle and high schools. MR. ANDERSON felt certain most committee members and the district realize the result of flat funding is a budget cut. Just as homeowners must pay rising utility costs, the district has many rising fixed costs that must also be paid. The district has cut administration and instruction support services under the guise of streamlining operations. Turning to pupil transportation, he stated that the ASD moves about 20,000 per day. Currently, the budget deficit for transportation costs is over $3 million. Since the district has an obligation to transport students to and from school, these costs are being paid from general fund monies. In fact, this year after the district cut about 90 positions, it realized any additional cuts were untenable, so it has considered charging for busing, activity fees, and reducing programs for gifted students. Due to considerable community feedback, the district decided not to do so this year. Further, the district has been refining the way it provides advanced placement courses. Fortunately, the district has a school partnership with the University of Alaska that allows high school students to earn college credits. 8:59:56 AM MR. ANDERSON expressed how frustrating it can be for board members and the administration, noting last year he heard expert testimony before the legislature that implied if schools cut administration by ten percent, that more teachers would be in the classroom. He assured members that the ASD has cut every area over the past five years. He predicted the effect of budget cuts will affect teachers' salaries with flat funding. He reported that a $100 increase to the BSA results in about $9.1 million of a $560 million total ASD budget. Further, the timing of appropriation bills affects whether the district must "pink slip" teachers or not. The Municipality of Anchorage locks in its tax rate in April so any funding passed after April would certainly mean the ASD would not receive local funding. The reality is the $100 increase is closer to $7 million. The district had a $13 million deficit this year, of which $3 million was for pupil transportation. He reported that 88 percent of the ASD's budget is designated for personnel costs or fixed costs, including rent, utilities, or contracts. Further, the district cannot change health care costs. When the district encounters flat funding, which is a budget cut, it means people. At a time when people are moving to the Lower 48, it is really frustrating to realize another 90 people will not have a job. All the budget cuts affect the local economy and the schools, he said. In closing, he offered his support of the $100 increase to the BSA. 9:02:55 AM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH asked for any additional factors that would help the ASD avoid cuts to the quality of education students receive. He further asked for the percent of BSA per year needed to keep the district whole. MR. ANDERSON answered that an estimated $160 to $170 increase to the BSA would prevent budget cuts, but significantly more to repair the damage in terms of budget cuts affecting class size and teacher support programs. 9:04:16 AM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH asked whether students will experience a decrease in the quality of service the district can provide even if the $100 BSA increase passed. MR. ANDERSON responded that was a fair statement, that the main reason is the ASD has a $3 million shortfall in pupil transportation. Without a shortfall the $100 BSA increase would allow the district to provide services at the same level as this year. 9:05:00 AM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH recalled his earlier testimony that it would take significantly more to repair the damage done in recent years due to flat funding. He asked whether he could give the committee a ballpark figure of the increment necessary to bring the same quality of services to a kindergarten student. MR. ANDERSON answered that it would be tough to give a fixed dollar amount. He recalled an ASD study done years ago that discussed optimal education across every category. He offered that to meet the class sizes in that study would cost $56 million. He offered his belief that districts do not have to be optimal at everything to still make progress. He advised that as a financial officer he was not the best person to discuss programs and optimal education. He recalled it would cost $100 to implement the items in the study. In response to Representative Parish, he offered to send a copy of the study to the committee. 9:07:38 AM MIKE BRONSON, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Anchorage Branch, stated the NAACP, Anchorage Branch's support for HB 339 [not on the calendar], which would increase the BSA and reduce class sizes. He said the NAACP believes it is a step in the right direction to lower the out-of-control class sizes that the district has observed during visits to the Anchorage schools. He also observed that many seventh-grade students are behind in math skills, including many students from military families, in part due to overcrowded classrooms and they never catch up. Teacher layoffs in schools have raised class sizes to a level that is almost unmanageable. In addition, class sizes have resulted in lost opportunities for extra math help outside the classroom. Trends are not any better in high school, he said. The result is many students will never catch up in math. He suggested HB 339 [not on the calendar] might be one solution that could result in math and reading proficiency throughout the state. 9:09:34 AM DAVID KATZEEK, Tribal Leader Educator, Juneau School District (JSD), [gave portions of his testimony in Tlingit, then translated it to English]. He said: My name is Kingeest?. I'm from the Chilkat, and I'm _ from a people who settled this earth here in Southeast Alaska long, long ago. My name is David Katzeek. I'm a parent. I have seven children, numerous grandchildren who are attending the Juneau public school system here in Juneau. I'm going to use my language because when you look at your statistics on the wall it's easy to alienate yourself from people. These things represent human beings, live human beings, who have feelings, who are intelligent, who have talents, skills, and creativity. And the responsibility of a teacher is to "open up" that box of knowledge that every human being has, not just Tlingit people. Tlingit means human being, but in Western worlds we look at the "human" aspect more than we look at the "being" aspect of ourselves as a people. From time immemorial, before the great flood, education has always been something that our people looked at and sacrificed - all that they can - for the sake of their children and their ability to settle this land that you know as Alaska, successfully. 9:12:16 AM MR. KATZEEK said he uses "successfully" because one can look down the street and see the large Sealaska building. Some may think it was given to Sealaska by the government. He shared that the Sealaska building represents the knowledge of the elders that came before them and is a symbol that stands very tall. Adjacent to the Sealaska building is the Soboleff building, which also represents the knowledge and wisdom of the elder ancestors and the Tlingit language. He said, "What has happened is that the language that we spoke was taken away, given up and when that was taken away there was a vacuum." It left a vacuum in the community because that language and culture helped each one become successful in their endeavors, including fishing, hunting, and trapping. He noted that all the communities in Alaska have Tlingit names, even Petersburg and Wrangell have Tlingit names, he said. He identified the Tlingit name for Skagway as "Skagua" and Haines as "Deish?." He emphasized that these Tlingit names are the ones people taught their children to provide a sense of history, just as George Washington and other American leaders have provided a sense of history to Americans. He acknowledged that it is okay to have statistics, but these statistics represent not just brown or black faces but faces in all the colors of the rainbow. He reiterated that the Tlingit people sacrificed their finances for their children. 9:15:19 AM MR. KATZEEK expressed his sense of pride when entering the Capitol building, because one of his ancestors, Frank Peratrovich, served as a delegate to Alaska's Constitutional Convention. He called the Tlingit people heroes, but he acknowledged that they were not better than anyone else. He said he believes that Juneau's education system is as powerful today as when it began. In fact, what has been happening in the JSD is outrageously phenomenal, he remarked. Young Native and non-Native students are learning about the history and the community of the Tlingit, which will change Juneau because this cultural education is developing a sense of community in Juneau. The student education at Harborview Elementary School includes starting the day singing, dancing, and smiling, which builds confidence in them. These practices make education fun, he said. He described the sense of community that dancing provides, especially when students see their teachers and other community members dancing with them. An increase to the BSA of $100 does not mean a lot in the Tlingit culture since giving is an integral part of the Tlingit culture. He then urged members to please give. He characterized the proposed increase to the BSA as an investment. He asked members to consider how much money this state has spent on things that have not produced anything. He applauded the proposed $100 increase to the BSA. He then predicted that the increase would create renewable human resources. He recognized that members' children and grandchildren are as valuable as children and grandchildren are to those who speak a different language. He wondered what these children and grandchildren will say if the legislature takes this opportunity to provide educational funding for them. He said he was not here to judge but to encourage members MR. KATZEEK said, as follows: Most precious beloved children of the earth. Thank you for the time you have given to us to say words on what you are proposing. Most noble, very precious children of the earth. We believe in you, we trust in you, and we thank you for your vision and your courage. MR. KATZEEK again shared the children's reactions when they are told that they have "knowledge" within them, such that they jump up and down in excitement. 9:21:17 AM MR. KATZEEK then said, as follows: This is not "make pretend" world. Knowledge is in every one of us, and courage is in every one of us, and wisdom is in every one of us. And caring is in every one of us. All we have to do is open that door. You're all special and it's not by chance that I'm sitting here. My grandparents maybe prepared me for this moment, so they're here with me right now. They probably have tears running down their face[es.] That's education, folks; more than just social studies. Thank you very much for giving me the time. I know I took a lot of time. Thank you. 9:22:16 AM REPRESENTATIVE PARISH [speaking in Tlingit] thanked him by saying, in part, "gunalch?esh." 9:22:41 AM DEENA MITCHELL, Vice President, Anchorage School Board, Anchorage School District (ASD), began by thanking the committee. She exclaimed that the testimony from the Tlingit gentleman was so wonderful, that he expressed what so many people feel, including the sacrifices the Tlingit have made for their children and their children's education. She acknowledged that everyone wants a better world and a brighter future for their children. She pointed out that the committee heard from many people who have highlighted important issues. The students spoke passionately, she said. She noted that Mr. Anderson may have provided the committee with a document [not identified] that outlines some cuts. MS. MITCHELL asked to speak about equity issues in education for students. She explained that equity issues exist with the achievement gap across groups of students. All districts, including the ASD, are working to close the achievement gap; however, it does take resources. She said that people need to have connections to feel valued and to feel as though they matter, and those are the connections, when reflecting on one's education, that make a difference. She said her father was a sociologist who believed that those connections matter as humans are tribal. She cautioned that as class sizes increase and place stress on teachers, the connections cannot be made. The district needs to make sure every student gets the same opportunities as every other student and not have inequity over time. She has heard many legislators say that the state cannot afford to fully fund education at this time. MS. MITCHELL moved to discuss the Alaska Permanent Fund, which was created in 1976 under Governor Jay Hammond. It was originally designed to preserve Alaska's wealth for future generations. It was not originally designed to provide a dividend to current residents, but to even out the ebbs and flow of income and to preserve that wealth for future generations. She respectfully disagreed that the state cannot invest in students who currently need the state's help right now. The state has savings in the permanent fund for such a time. She emphasized that the state cannot afford not to invest in students in its schools right now. She pointed to previous testimony that identified overcrowded classrooms and overworked school counselors as well as the large number of students with adverse childhood experiences. She reiterated that the legislature cannot afford not to invest in schools right now. There are students who are failing because they do not have support counselors, who have enormous caseloads and the many students at risk. The state can make a difference to these students, which will alter Alaska's history and it will create a brighter future for our state, she said. She offered her belief that Alaska has the means, and the future of the state depends on making sure that the state provides for its "seed corn" in good times and in bad times. She urged members to dig deep and support students who are currently in Alaska's schools in order to reap the benefits of their graduations. She offered her appreciation for HB 339 [not on the calendar] that would increase the BSA by $100. As Mr. Anderson previously testified, the proposed bill does not provide enough but it certainly is a huge help. Every single district needs the additional funding. She thanked members for their time. 9:28:10 AM MARNIE HARTILL, speaking on behalf of herself, stated she is also the vice president of programs for the Anchorage Education Association (AEA), a former English teacher, and an educator at Bartlett High School. She noted from her previous experiences working at Clark Middle School and at Bartlett High School that the urban schools are really struggling. She recalled that five years ago the social worker was cut from Clark Middle School and subsequently teachers and counselors have been cut. The community has a high suicide rate, yet the schools have lost many resources students need to cope. This also hits home with equity issues, such as when students wonder why their school does not have some programs like a robotics program that other neighborhoods have, she said. She has observed trash cans collecting water from leaky roofs and other physical plant problems. She acknowledged that Anchorage is not alone, because villages suffer a great deal from lack of funding. Further, students with IEP's [Individualized Education Programs] are to be met according to their special education needs; however, the ELL [English-language learners] students are being placed in the same classroom with IEP students. These student groups have unique needs and should not be clumped together. She characterized this as gross negligence. In closing, she called for additional revenue prior to any cuts to programs such as the PFD. She asked the committee to increase the BSA, especially considering the constitutional obligation. 9:31:38 AM SABRINA FERGUSON, Student, Ninilchik School, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD), stated she is a senior at Ninilchik school and will graduate in 98 days. Her school serves pre-kindergarten through high school [Pre-K-12]. When she started preschool, the school had thirteen teachers, but now has seven teachers. She described some of her experiences in school, including that she serves as a teacher's aide in a preschool room, which she loves. She related a classroom experience she had in science class that she was never able to complete due to funding cuts and teacher reductions. She related a scenario in her class about a preschool boy with a prosthetic leg who wore shorts one day, revealing his prosthetic leg. When another student asked him about his leg, he told the boy that he was born that way. The boy then called him a "super hero." She asked the committee to please give this little boy the education he needs to be that "super hero." In response to Chair Drummond, she stated that when she started in preschool the Ninilchik School had about 180 students and now has 127. 9:34:23 AM DEBBIE CARY, Member, Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board (KPBSB), Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD), stated that she is the newest member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board. In 1990, she had children in sixth and ninth grade. She described the school education system as a wonderful one. Now, the Ninilchik School does not even have a music program. The school offers core classes and online classes. The school district has cut $7.7 million over the last three years. Although the KPBSB has tried very hard not to impact classes, it cannot sustain the teachers and classrooms it currently has and the KPBSD will need to cut more teachers. She explained the Ninilchik School has a fourth, fifth, and sixth grade split classroom. The teacher teaches all grade levels at one time. The maturity level between a fourth and sixth grade student is significant, which creates challenges for the teacher to meet the needs of all students. Meeting the needs of every student and every classroom is what education is all about. She offered her support to raise the BSA. She realized that the State of Alaska has challenges with its fiscal policy issues, but Alaskans only get one chance to educate their children. She asked members to give students a chance and please fund their education. 9:36:48 AM BARBARA CADIENTE-NELSON, Member, Sealaska Corporation; Tlingit elder, offered her support to HB 339 [not on the calendar]. She began by giving her Tlingit name, X'esh.k'uk'e of the Brown Bear Clan, and Shaanux Hit (Valley House), Angoon Kwaan. She was given her second Tlingit name by Tlingit Elder, David Katzeek, who previously testified. She asked members to allow her friend, Marlene Corpus, to join her at the table. She does not wish to testify but is a mother and grandmother of children who have attended the school district system. She noted that an elder, Seral George once said, "Sometimes you don't have to say anything; it's important that you just show up and you show your face." She said, "And that's our intent here, in support of the vision that you have, in support of the bill that you're pushing uphill, to support you, that you would have the knowledge that we're standing behind you and with you and championing you on." 9:37:52 AM MS. CADIENTE-NELSON stated that she is a member in good standing of the of the Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 2 (ANSC), a council member of the Douglas Indian Association (DIA), a federally recognized tribe, a director of the Sealaska Corporation, a trustee of Sealaska Heritage Institute, a district administrator for the Juneau School District (JSD), and the parent of four children and grandparent of three children who graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. In her current capacity as an administrator for the JSD, she has the oversight of nine paraeducators who are cultural specialists. She said these cultural specialists bring to the school district a level of knowledge to engage students and inform them of their identity. These paraeducators work with teachers to help their curriculum be culturally relevant. She referred to earlier testimony about the historical trauma the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian and other Native peoples have experienced in school. She said her mother, Irene Cadiente, was one of those. She attended a mission school in Skagway and was punished for speaking her Tlingit language. Her father left his homeland in the Philippines as a young man because he wanted his children to be afforded the realization of dreams in America. MS. CADIENTE-NELSON related that her parents raised nine children on Starr Hill in the toughest times. They sacrificed so their children could have a good education. They sent the children to St. Anne's parochial school, which was not free. In fact, she felt sure the Diocese of Juneau helped support their education because she does not know how her parents clothed, fed, and educated them from their humble salaries. Still, they sacrificed for their children, she emphasized. She reminded members that sacrifice is called for now. She stated that 2,000 Native children are in this district of 5,000 students, and she represents them all. Students represent the future that schools are impacting to value diversity and to value culture. The JSD does not see student struggles as an achievement gap when they cannot succeed. They see it as an instructional gap, which can only be filled by qualified educators who know the culture and the knowledge of this place. The teachers cannot do it alone. She advised members that she was the first graduate of the PITAAS program [Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools], earning a Masters' of Arts in Teaching degree (MAT). 9:41:44 AM MS. CADIENTE-NELSON said she taught for nearly three years at the Juneau-Douglas High School. The first year of her teaching she received a "pink slip." The second year she received a "pink slip." She offered her belief that at the time there was a hierarchy in the school, a privilege not only of status and credentials, but also of color. She said it was a painful time and she was embarrassed to receive a "pink slip," but she persevered because her children were moving through the school system. She felt it was a bit much in her third year. She asked to share her daughter's experience. Her daughter, Asia, was hired as a Tlingit language teacher at Thunder Mountain High School and received a "pink slip" her first year of school. She was a new teacher, teaching a foreign language, but her room became a central meeting place for Native and non-Native students to come and be engaged with a teacher who cared. In addition to learning Tlingit, it is who they are as people. She further asked to share the words of the late Walter Soboleff at the outcome of the first camp she implemented. Mr. Soboleff said, "Do you know what you've done here; do you know what you've accomplished? When our children know who they are they don't kill themselves." That represented the motivation and integrity by which educators come to bear on our work in the school district and this community. The entities do their part with less and are expected to do more with less. It has been said that the greatness of a people can be measured by how they revere their children. It has also been said by a Tlingit elder to the children, "We lift you high above ourselves because we cherish you." She acknowledged that the committee members have chosen to lead and represent Alaskans. She continued by saying, "And so I wanted to see you, and have you see my face; and say that when you go to push this rock uphill that we are behind you and that we support you. That these are our children that our arms are wrapped around." 9:44:40 AM MS. CADIENTE-NELSON highlighted that four of her staff will be cut this year. These staff have direct contact with 562 students. Another two staff teach 62 students in the Tlingit Culture and Language Literacy Program (TCLLP). This district has put significant effort into cultivating these educator's knowledge. She asked who will do their work. She suggested this district is poised to go deeper into affecting change in education, that this district is model district with an equity standard that encompasses the cultural standards in the curriculum. She asked members to watch the district do more with less. She expressed concern that they will lose people. She thanked the members for their time in English and in Tlingit by saying "gunalcheesh." 9:47:27 AM ADJOURNMENT There being no further business before the committee, the House Education Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 9:47 a.m.
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HEDC 2/12/2018 8:00:00 AM