Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/23/2004 11:01 AM EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 179-CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS/TEACHERS                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 0050                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  announced that the  only order of business  would be                                                               
SENATE BILL NO.  179, "An Act allowing  teacher certification for                                                               
certain  persons based  on a  criminal  history background  check                                                               
without fingerprints."                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
NUMBER 0080                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ZACK  WARWICK, Staff  to Senator  Gene  Therriault, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, testified  on behalf of Senator  Therriault, sponsor                                                               
of SB 179  and answered questions from the members.   He told the                                                               
members that SB 179 addresses  a problem with fingerprint checks.                                                               
One problem is that those in  the teaching field have [the ridges                                                               
in on their  fingertips] wear out to the  point that fingerprints                                                               
are  not readable  and which  makes  background checks  virtually                                                               
impossible to get.  Mr.  Warwick explained that this bill creates                                                               
an alternative  process.   He commented that  the staff  from the                                                               
Department of Education  could speak to that point.   Some of the                                                               
teachers are  getting reprinted every  three months,  receiving a                                                               
yellow card, and authorization to  teach for another three months                                                               
because their prints  are not readable, he said.   As a result of                                                               
this  problem the  school  districts were  not  receiving a  full                                                               
background check, he summarized.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WARWICK explained  that this  legislation would  change that                                                               
process.  After fingerprints were  rolled twice and rejected, the                                                               
Department  of Public  Safety (DPS)  would  make a  determination                                                               
that  the  fingerprints  were not  rejected  because  the  person                                                               
rolling  the prints  was incompetent,  but that  the prints  were                                                               
unreadable.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 0264                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. WARWICK  commented that during  the Senate  Health, Education                                                               
and  Social Services  meeting it  was discovered  that DPS  has a                                                               
long list of occupations where  background checks are required at                                                               
the  federal  level.    For example,  some  occupations  such  as                                                               
members of the  Alaska Bar Association or  liquor license holders                                                               
are  required to  be fingerprinted.   The  legislature was  given                                                               
broad based  authority in statute  to get background  checks, but                                                               
it  did not  say fingerprint  background checks,  just background                                                               
checks, he  said.   The U.S. Department  of Justice  reviewed the                                                               
State of Alaska's  statutes and found that the state  is close to                                                               
falling out  of compliance with  federal laws.  It  was suggested                                                               
that there  be corrective  changes to  statute.   Those suggested                                                               
changes  were made  in the  Senate Health,  Education and  Social                                                               
Services Standing  Committee and clarified in  the Senate Finance                                                               
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0321                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO noted the bill has grown.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WARWICK  agreed with  Representative  Gatto's  comment.   He                                                               
explained that the reason it has  grown is that for every section                                                               
of statute  where authority was  created to do  background checks                                                               
it was  necessary to  cross-reference and  state that  these were                                                               
fingerprint-based background  checks.  It  was also  necessary to                                                               
include the fee section, he added.   Mr. Warwick told the members                                                               
that it was during this  process that Chairman Gatto also brought                                                               
to the  Senator Therriault's attention  a problem that  exists in                                                               
the  Matanuska-Susitna Borough  School District.   Teachers  were                                                               
not getting  their fingerprint background checks  back within the                                                               
three-month period.  When language  was inserted into the bill to                                                               
address  this problem  there  was concern  that  it violated  the                                                               
single subject  rule so the  language was changed  by Legislative                                                               
Legal and Research  Services to ensure this  change is compatible                                                               
with that rule, he explained.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. WARWICK told  the members that this bill  would authorize the                                                               
Department of Education and Early  Development to extend the time                                                               
period  for teacher's  temporary certificate  from a  three-month                                                               
period  to  a  five-month  period.   This  change  would  relieve                                                               
teachers  from having  to resubmit  paperwork every  three months                                                               
while waiting for the fingerprint  background checks to come back                                                               
to the  department.   He emphasized that  this extension  is only                                                               
applicable when  the background  checks do  not come  back within                                                               
three  months through  no fault  of  the teacher  applicant.   He                                                               
commented that post 9/11 [the  terrorist attacks of September 11,                                                               
2001]  the Department  of  Justice had  a  tremendous backlog  in                                                               
fingerprint checks.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0479                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  asked what has changed  about unreadable fingerprint                                                               
checks.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. WARWICK responded that there  will be an alternate system put                                                               
in place  if a teacher  applicant submits fingerprints  twice and                                                               
the  Department of  Public Safety  (DPS) makes  the determination                                                               
that the  fingerprints are not readable.   At that point  the DPS                                                               
would do a name-based background check.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF asked  for  clarification  on the  statement                                                               
that fingerprints  of teachers  wear off.   He commented  that he                                                               
can  understand welders  burning thumbs,  but sees  little way  a                                                               
teacher's fingerprints could wear off.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. WARWICK responded  that teachers and nurses  have the highest                                                               
incidence of  [ridges in  thumbprints] wearing  out.   He offered                                                               
that teachers and nurses are  required to have fingerprints done,                                                               
but welders generally are not.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF disagreed  with Mr.  Warwick on  that point.                                                               
There are  welders that work  in secure areas around  the country                                                               
that are required to be fingerprinted.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 0652                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  announced for the  record that  Representatives Wolf                                                               
and Kapsner have joined the meeting.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0676                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON asked  how  many [teachers]  in the  state                                                               
have unreadable fingerprints.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WARWICK   referred  the  members  to   a  list  highlighting                                                               
fingerprint   submissions  over   a   9-month   period  in   2003                                                               
[memorandum  dated  March  13,   2003,  Linda  Judd,  Supervisor,                                                               
Teacher   Certification,  Department   of  Education   and  Early                                                               
Development].  That  memorandum states that of  the 1,567 teacher                                                               
applicants,  42  applicants  resubmitted  their  fingerprints  at                                                               
least two times.  He pointed  out that during that 9-month period                                                               
these teacher applicants had three sets of prints rolled.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO asked if these prints are reviewed electronically.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WARWICK replied  that he  is  not an  expert on  fingerprint                                                               
technology.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO commented  that  DPS could  likely  respond to  that                                                               
question.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0740                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER  asked if school bus  drivers are required                                                               
to be fingerprinted.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. WARWICK responded that school  bus drivers are required to be                                                               
fingerprinted, and  pointed to Section  17 of the bill  [page 10,                                                               
lines 9 through 12].                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 0777                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  inquired  about the  new  technology  now                                                               
being used at airports where  green light scans fingerprints.  He                                                               
questioned whether this  method might be more  effective than ink                                                               
and paper.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  WARWICK replied  that he  has never  seen print  scanners in                                                               
airports so he cannot comment on its effectiveness.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0886                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
KATHRYN  MONFREDA,  Chief,  Criminal Records  and  Identification                                                               
Bureau,  Division  of  Statewide Service,  Department  of  Public                                                               
Safety,  testified on  SB  179 and  answered  questions from  the                                                               
members.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  asked for Ms.  Monfreda to  comment on the  issue of                                                               
fingerprints wearing out.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MONFREDA  explained that  fingerprints  do  wear out.    She                                                               
commented that  mechanics and bricklayers  have a  high incidence                                                               
of that.   She explained  that there are problems  with teachers'                                                               
fingerprints  also.   In  particular,  women's  fingers are  more                                                               
delicate than men's fingers and the  ridges seem to be finer.  It                                                               
is  easier  to  work  them  down  to  the  point  that  they  are                                                               
unidentifiable,  she said.    She  commented that  Representative                                                               
Wolf  was  correct that  it  can  be  any occupation  that  could                                                               
experience this  effect.  For example,  fishermen are susceptible                                                               
with drying  and cracking of  the hands.   Ms. Monfreda  told the                                                               
members that  people who deal with  a lot of paper  can also wear                                                               
out the ridges of their fingertips.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 1040                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON inquired  about the  electronic technology                                                               
that is currently  being used and asked if it  could address some                                                               
of these problems.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. MONFREDA  commented that there are  misconceptions about live                                                               
scan  machines.   She agreed  that generally  better fingerprints                                                               
can be obtained  from a live scan machine versus  rolling in ink.                                                               
However,  she  shared  that  several   of  the  teachers  in  the                                                               
Anchorage  area  have   come  into  the  office   for  live  scan                                                               
fingerprints  and  it was  found  that  the ink  actually  looked                                                               
better.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO asked if it is  possible to determine if a person has                                                               
filed  his/her  fingerprints  down  to  deliberately  defeat  the                                                               
system.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. MONFREDA  replied that it  is not possible  to tell if  it is                                                               
done  totally  intentionally  unless  the  fingertips  have  been                                                               
sliced with razors or something of  that nature.  She pointed out                                                               
that  if the  fingertips are  filed  down, the  ridges will  grow                                                               
back,  and  that  is  why the  Federal  Bureau  of  Investigation                                                               
requires multiple submissions.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 1155                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO pointed  out  that if  a person  were  going in  for                                                               
fingerprints at 2 p.m. then he/she could file them down at noon.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. MONFREDA agreed  with Chair Gatto.  She  suggested that there                                                               
needs to  be some  leeway for individuals  whose ridges  will not                                                               
grow back.   Ms. Monfreda  commented that  she and her  staff are                                                               
pretty  adept at  determining if  fingerprints  ridges will  grow                                                               
back.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  asked who takes the  fingerprints of teacher                                                               
applicants and  are these individuals trained  and experienced in                                                               
this process.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. MONFREDA replied that she  hopes these people are trained and                                                               
have  experience.   There is  nothing  in statute  that says  any                                                               
certification  is  required  to   do  fingerprinting.    The  DPS                                                               
provides training to  anyone who requests it.   Between 8 percent                                                               
and 10  percent of  the fingerprint cards  that DPS  receives for                                                               
applicant purposes are rejected for poor quality, she added.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF  commented  that the  justice  system  bases                                                               
entire  cases on  fingerprints at  a crime  scene.   He asked  if                                                               
there is different technology used  between background checks for                                                               
teacher  applicants  and  that  used  in  crime  labs  for  crime                                                               
investigations.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 1348                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. MONFREDA replied  that there is a difference.   She explained                                                               
that  a latent  fingerprint which  has been  lifted from  a crime                                                               
scene is  run blindly through  the FBI's 14,000,000 or  more pool                                                               
of fingerprints.   Fingerprints which are rolled  are run through                                                               
a smaller  pool of fingerprints  and are examined by  an operator                                                               
who looks at all ten fingers of the hand.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  WILSON   asked  what  the   procedure  is   in  collecting                                                               
fingerprints  for  teacher applicants.    She  commented that  in                                                               
[Wrangell] she assumes  teachers go to the police  station to get                                                               
fingerprinted.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 1458                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. MONFREDA commented  that she believes that  the Department of                                                               
Education and  Early Development (DEED) contracts  with companies                                                               
to run the prints.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 1496                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CYNTHIA    CURRAN,   Administrator,    Teacher   Education    and                                                               
Certification,  Department of  Education  and Early  Development,                                                               
testified  on SB  179 and  answered questions  from the  members.                                                               
She told the  members that DEED does not contract  with anyone to                                                               
do  fingerprinting.   The  department's  policy  is that  teacher                                                               
applicants  go to  a certified  fingerprint  roller.   Applicants                                                               
might go to the Department of  Public Safety from the state where                                                               
the  applicant  lives  or  he/she  might go  to  someone  who  is                                                               
licensed and bonded to do fingerprints, she added.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO explained that the  Human Resources Department in the                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna  Borough   School  District  have   been  doing                                                               
fingerprint checks as  part of its overall hiring  policy for the                                                               
past eight  years.  He said  that when the borough  has completed                                                               
its evaluation and has hired  individuals, there has not been one                                                               
time in those eight years that  a fingerprint has come back which                                                               
would have nullified the district's  decision to hire the teacher                                                               
applicant.  Chair Gatto asked if DEED has had the same results.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  responded that DEED  does background clearances  as a                                                               
statutory requirement  for teacher certification, so  in order to                                                               
have the  teacher certificate it  would be necessary  for him/her                                                               
to be  fingerprinted and complete  a background  clearance before                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna Borough  School District  would have  been able                                                               
to hire  the teacher.   She reiterated  that these  teachers have                                                               
already gone through a background  clearance if the teacher is an                                                               
initial applicant.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 1599                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO  commented  that  the bill  really  deals  with  the                                                               
authorization  of the  DEED to  extend  the time  [a teacher  may                                                               
continue to teach]  if the delay in returning  the fingerprint is                                                               
no fault of the applicant.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1635                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  commented  that  she  knows  there  is  a                                                               
backlog problem.   She asked  what number of  teacher applicants'                                                               
fingerprint background check are backlogged.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  replied that there  are 12  people who have  done the                                                               
fingerprint submissions numerous times.   She explained that last                                                               
year the  DEED tried  to address  this issue  through regulation.                                                               
The  department believed  that two  submissions were  enough, but                                                               
there was concern  that an applicant might go to  someone who may                                                               
be less than reputable and the  department would not know.  It is                                                               
for that reason  that DEED requires that an  applicant would have                                                               
to  get  documentation  from  a   doctor  which  states  that  an                                                               
individual  could not  get readable  fingerprints due  to medical                                                               
conditions such as chemotherapy, amputation, or arthritis.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN  explained to  the  members  that when  an  applicant                                                               
applies  for  a teaching  certificate  and  his/her paperwork  is                                                               
processed and a  yellow postcard is sent to the  applicant.  That                                                               
postcard  is  proof to  school  districts  that the  teacher  has                                                               
applied for  certification and that the  applicant's fingerprints                                                               
and paperwork is  in the process.  Ms. Curran  pointed out that a                                                               
school district would  know that it could hire  the applicant and                                                               
that the only  thing that would hold up hiring  the person is the                                                               
background check.   She explained that in the state  of Alaska it                                                               
is not  possible to get the  background check back in  two weeks.                                                               
Ms. Curran  complimented the Department of  Public Safety because                                                               
in 2001  there was a huge  backlog and now the  background checks                                                               
move much  more smoothly.   She emphasized  that backlogs  are no                                                               
longer the  problem; the main issue  is for those who  cannot get                                                               
fingerprints.   When an  individual gets rejected  by the  FBI or                                                               
the Alaska  Department of  Public Safety upon  the advise  of the                                                               
Department of Law,  DEED issues a conditional  certificate.  That                                                               
certificate  would allow  the person  to teach  for another  four                                                               
months while  efforts are made  to clear the  fingerprints again.                                                               
She emphasized that it does not  solve the problem of the lack of                                                               
ridges  on the  applicant's  fingertips, but  DEED needs  another                                                               
submission in  order to  issue a  conditional certificate  so the                                                               
applicant is still in the process.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 1827                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked who  pays for the repeated submission                                                               
of fingerprints.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1907                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN replied  that the  teacher applicant  has to  pay the                                                               
fingerprint  roller   for  the  additional  fingerprints.     She                                                               
suggested  that  Kathryn Monfreda  in  the  DPS would  have  more                                                               
details on how  the fingerprints checks are done.   The DEED pays                                                               
for the background checks, she added.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked Ms.  Curran how many individuals have                                                               
had  the  background  check  and  it  has  been  found  that  the                                                               
applicant cannot teach [due to some criminal history].                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  explained that when a  person applies there is  a box                                                               
on  the  application that  must  be  checked  as to  whether  the                                                               
applicant  has ever  committed a  felony or  been arrested.   She                                                               
added  that [DUI]  (driving  under the  influence)  must also  be                                                               
included.  Ms.  Curran said that if those boxes  are checked then                                                               
the application  is sent to  the Professional  Teaching Practices                                                               
Commission  and an  investigation  is done  to  determine if  the                                                               
person  could   teach  in  Alaska.     She  commented   that  the                                                               
fingerprints are  still going  through the process.   There  is a                                                               
national  clearinghouse that  the state  belongs to  which tracks                                                               
teachers  who  have had  his/her  [teaching]  license revoked  in                                                               
another state  for criminal activity.   The department  can check                                                               
that  database  to ensure  the  applicant  is not  listed  there.                                                               
However,  if  something  is  found,   that  information  is  also                                                               
forwarded to the Professional Teacher  Practices Commission.  Ms.                                                               
Curran clarified  that DEED does not  have the power to  revoke a                                                               
teaching  certificate.     The  Professional   Teacher  Practices                                                               
Commission has that power.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1887                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  asked how many times  applicants have been                                                               
refused or rejected.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied  that DEED has not had any  applicants that it                                                               
could  not issue  a certificate.    There have  been cases  where                                                               
applicants do not  self-report, then there is a hit  from the DPS                                                               
or the FBI.  At that point  the applicant's paper work is sent to                                                               
the  Professional  Teacher's  Practices Commission.    After  the                                                               
commission's  review  of  the application  it  will  contact  the                                                               
applicant  and advise  him/her that  while his/her  certification                                                               
will not  be denied there is  notification that in the  future it                                                               
is  essential that  reporting whatever  the  hit was  on must  be                                                               
reported on renewal applications.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 1993                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER  asked what other  states are doing.   She                                                               
commented  that she  is sure  other  states are  facing the  same                                                               
dilemma.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied  that other states have  a different approach.                                                               
For  instance, Florida  has very  expensive technology  thanks to                                                               
Lockheed  Martin [Corporation]  where the  state is  able to  get                                                               
fingerprints done virtually  over night, she said.   Other states                                                               
do not  allow teachers  to apply  for certification  until he/she                                                               
has had  a background check.   She explained that  the background                                                               
check never comes to these  states' departments of education, but                                                               
the results  do.  In these  cases the teacher would  have to deal                                                               
with the department of public  safety.  Once the background check                                                               
has  been completed  the teacher  could  at that  time apply  for                                                               
certification, she added.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER  said that  Ms. Curran's answer  gives her                                                               
reason  for concern.   She  commented  that Alaska  is much  more                                                               
lenient.   Some would says  that Alaska  is viewed as  an end-of-                                                               
the-road  state.   Representative Kapsner  said she  is concerned                                                               
that Alaska  is getting teachers  who are not  self-reporting and                                                               
are  allowed  to  teach  for  months   on  end.    She  said  she                                                               
understands the  administrative problem  that this  presents, but                                                               
as  a   parent  of   small  children   she  is   very  concerned.                                                               
Representative Kapsner stated that one  teacher could do a lot of                                                               
damage in a community.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  agreed with  Representative Kapsner  and that  is the                                                               
reason for DEED's  concern regarding the additional  60 days that                                                               
are allowed in the  bill.  She commented that there  are a lot of                                                               
people who  know how to  play the system,  and no system  is ever                                                               
foolproof.   She told the  members that there is  another problem                                                               
DEED experiences where a teacher has  been in a classroom for two                                                               
months   and  waits   until  the   last  minute   to  apply   for                                                               
certification.  Ms. Curran emphasized  that statute says teachers                                                               
are required to have a teaching certificate before teaching.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 2145                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO asked  for clarification that the  additional 60 days                                                               
is discretionary.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN that is correct.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 2149                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER  asked who bears the  final responsibility                                                               
if there have been extensions to  a teacher who really should not                                                               
be in the classroom.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  replied that the  ultimate responsibility  for hiring                                                               
decisions  in a  district  rests with  the  superintendent.   She                                                               
noted that  superintendents are using  the statutes  dealing with                                                               
teacher certification when making hiring decisions.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 2185                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  commented that  most of the  teachers have                                                               
been  working in  other states.    Since the  department has  the                                                               
applicant's  name and  social security  number,  is a  background                                                               
check run  on that data  while waiting for the  fingerprint check                                                               
to return, he asked.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied that the  background clearance is based on the                                                               
fingerprint check at  this point.  The only time  a name check is                                                               
allowed  by  the  FBI  is   when  it  has  been  determined  that                                                               
fingerprint cards are unreadable,  she explained.  She emphasized                                                               
that unreadable  fingerprint determinations cannot be  based on a                                                               
technical error, [but  a for a medical reason].   After two tries                                                               
the FBI will do a name  check.  Ms. Curran further explained that                                                               
other  jurisdictions  do  not share  the  results  of  background                                                               
checks.    She  pointed  out   that  Montana  does  not  even  do                                                               
background checks.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  for  further  clarification on  the                                                               
database or clearinghouse Ms. Curran mentioned earlier.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 2322                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN replied  that Representative  Seaton is  referring to                                                               
the  National   Association  of   State  Directors   of  Teachers                                                               
Education and  Certification (NASDTEC).  She  explained that when                                                               
a teacher has  a license revoked or suspended  the teacher's name                                                               
and a code is placed into  that database.  While the state cannot                                                               
see the details  about the suspension or revocation  it does show                                                               
that there was  a reason for this action.   In Alaska a teacher's                                                               
suspension or revocation may not be  enough of a reason to deny a                                                               
teacher applicant a certificate.   This is another reason for the                                                               
background, she commented.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 2355                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO asked Ms. Curran if  it is an invasion of privacy for                                                               
someone in Montana to relay results of a background check.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN  responded that  she  is  not  sure, but  knows  that                                                               
information  is  not  shared.    One  example  where  fingerprint                                                               
background checks are not shared in  Alaska is when a teacher has                                                               
had to get fingerprint [background  check] done to get certified,                                                               
but is then required to be  fingerprinted again as a condition of                                                               
employment  by a  district.   The DEED  cannot share  its results                                                               
with the district, she emphasized.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 2390                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF said  that  he is  very  concerned with  the                                                               
thought  of a  pedophile working  within a  school district.   He                                                               
said  he  surmises  that  no  one  really  knows  the  number  of                                                               
applicants  nationwide  or  statewide  who  have  been  rejected.                                                               
Representative Wolf  stated he would  like to  know if this  is a                                                               
chronic problem.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN  agreed  with Representative  Wolf's  concern.    She                                                               
stated that  in her  perfect world  no one  would hire  a teacher                                                               
unless that  teacher held a  valid Alaskan  teaching certificate.                                                               
Then  everyone  would  know  that the  teacher  had  no  criminal                                                               
history, Ms.  Curran said.   Ms. Curran confirmed that  DEED does                                                               
not  have information  on  how  many people  are  rejected.   She                                                               
emphasized that  many of  the people who  are being  rejected now                                                               
are older  women, in their  60s and 70s,  who lack the  ridges in                                                               
their fingers because of all the paper they have handled.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 2530                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF shared  that  his 74-year-old  mother-in-law                                                               
has taught school  for 37 years in Los Angeles  and has never had                                                               
a problem with her fingerprints.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON commented that she  has a problem with this                                                               
bill.  She asked if the  12 teachers who have not completed their                                                               
background checks are actually teaching.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  responded that  maybe 3  or 4  of them  are teaching.                                                               
Many  of them  are retired  teachers who  have never  before been                                                               
fingerprinted in  the state  of Alaska  and in  order to  get the                                                               
retirement certificate, must now be fingerprinted.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 2608                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  commented  that  she sees  the  value  in                                                               
having  an  alternative  for  those  individuals  who  cannot  be                                                               
fingerprinted for some  reason.  She said that she  does not like                                                               
the  idea that  teachers  can be  in the  classroom  until it  is                                                               
decided   that    they   absolutely   should   not    be   there.                                                               
Representative  Wilson shared  that  for a  number  of years  she                                                               
lived in Tok and  worked at the clinic there.   It is amazing how                                                               
many people come that far and  would then just disappear into the                                                               
wilderness for whatever reason, she said.   It is important to be                                                               
very careful in  Alaska.  Even though 99.9 percent  of the people                                                               
that come  up here are  not hiding  anything, if one  person [who                                                               
shouldn't be there] slips through  a child could be affected, she                                                               
cautioned.   Representative Wilson  reiterated that she  does not                                                               
like  the idea  of a  provisional  certificate being  given to  a                                                               
teacher so he/she can go into  a school before a background check                                                               
is  complete.   She asked  for the  other members'  view on  this                                                               
portion of the bill.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2709                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  reminded the  members that  this bill  simply allows                                                               
for more time to get the  fingerprint check back.  He pointed out                                                               
that  there are  teachers in  the Anchorage  School District  who                                                               
have  been convicted  of possessing  illegal substances  that are                                                               
still in  the classroom.   This  bill is  not really  intended to                                                               
address that  issue.  What this  bill says is that  for perfectly                                                               
legitimate reasons  a person could  not get a  fingerprint check.                                                               
Alaska has a problem getting teachers, he commented.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO  shared  that in  Matanuska-Susitna  Borough  School                                                               
District  if a  teacher  passes the  district's background  check                                                               
there  has been  instance where  the fingerprint  check has  come                                                               
back  with  a  hit.   He  commented  that  the  Matanuska-Susitna                                                               
Borough School  District's background  check is so  thorough that                                                               
DEED's is almost unnecessary.  He  asked Ms. Curran how many hits                                                               
there have  been on teacher applicants.   He said that  this bill                                                               
really deals  with good  people who  cannot get  their background                                                               
checks completed because of poor  fingerprints.  If an individual                                                               
is capable of getting through the  system, he said he is not sure                                                               
this committee is capable of dealing with that.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  asked if he  is referring  to people with  a criminal                                                               
history.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 2813                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO confirmed  that he  is asking  how many  people were                                                               
missed in  a background  check, but  identified in  a fingerprint                                                               
check.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  replied that  [DEED views]  the fingerprint  check as                                                               
the background check.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO  commented  that  Matanuska-Susitna  Borough  School                                                               
District does more than that.  Phone calls are made, he added.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  asked if he is  referring to people who  already hold                                                               
Alaska teaching certificates.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  clarified that  he is referring  to people  who have                                                               
taught in other states; who go to  the job fair; and then call to                                                               
say  that they  are interested  in a  job in  Alaska.   The human                                                               
resources  department will  accept the  individual's application,                                                               
proceed with  a background  check including  fingerprinting, hire                                                               
them, and  have him/her in  the classroom teaching  while waiting                                                               
for  the results  of  the fingerprint  background  check.   Chair                                                               
Gatto pointed out that the  results of the background check could                                                               
kick the  teacher right out  of the  classroom, but that  has not                                                               
happened.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN responded  that in order to be  teaching in classrooms                                                               
in Alaska  a teacher must  have an Alaskan  teaching certificate.                                                               
The  fact that  a teacher  possesses a  certificate from  another                                                               
state  does   not  automatically   qualify  an  applicant.     An                                                               
application must  be made to the  state of Alaska for  a teaching                                                               
certificate, she  added.   Ms. Curran commented  that she  may be                                                               
misunderstanding what Chair Gatto is saying.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  asked if  any state  offers reciprocity  on teaching                                                               
certificates.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN responded that Alaska  is probably the most reciprocal                                                               
state in  the union at this  point.  Alaska will  grant a teacher                                                               
who  passes  the criminal  background  check  a type  Q  teaching                                                               
certificate.  She explained that  it is a preliminary certificate                                                               
which is  valid for one  year and  is based on  endorsements from                                                               
out  of state.   The  one-year  certification is  good while  the                                                               
teacher takes the Praxis I  which is a statutory requirement, and                                                               
when  DEED  receives [passing]  test  scores  the certificate  is                                                               
extended  for two  more years.    Ms. Curran  clarified that  the                                                               
certificate is  good for three  full years if the  teacher passes                                                               
the basic  competency test.   She emphasized that many  states do                                                               
not accept endorsements and an  applicant would have to meet that                                                               
state's  standards as  soon as  possible.   Alaska's requirements                                                               
include  Alaska studies,  multi-cultural classes,  and the  basic                                                               
competency test, she explained.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 2940                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER commented that she  is okay with this bill                                                               
going  out  today  because  she   understands  that  this  is  an                                                               
administrative issue.  She said,  however, that whatever the cost                                                               
is to  obtain the technology  used in  Florida it sounds  like it                                                               
would be worthwhile to protect Alaska's children.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 04-17, SIDE B                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2943                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  commented  that  she  is  aware  of  the                                                               
teacher  shortage in  Alaska  and  does not  want  to impose  any                                                               
hardships on that  system.  She emphasized that she  is still not                                                               
comfortable with the legislation, but understands the dilemma.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  asked if she understands  correctly that a                                                               
teacher  can  come to  Alaska  from  another state,  provide  [an                                                               
application  and]  fingerprints,  and  then  receive  a  one-year                                                               
temporary teaching  certificate.   If the teacher  is hired  by a                                                               
school  he/she can  go into  the classroom  while the  background                                                               
check is being done.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
Number 2886                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  replied that in  her perfect world the  teacher would                                                               
have  done  all of  that  prior  to  being  hired by  the  school                                                               
district.   Ideally  the results  of the  background check  would                                                               
already be  done and the  district could  be assured that  it was                                                               
hiring someone  who has a  spotless record.   Unfortunately, many                                                               
times  [applying for  the teaching  certificate  and getting  the                                                               
fingerprint  background  check] is  the  last  thing the  teacher                                                               
does.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked why a  school would hire someone when                                                               
the background check is not complete.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN responded that the  district believes the candidate is                                                               
right person  for the job.   The district probably has  looked at                                                               
the credentials and made sure  that the person meets the criteria                                                               
in what is  needed.  She explained that the  background check for                                                               
many districts is a formality.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 2827                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO  commented that  not  every  person that  fails  the                                                               
background  check is  a pedophile.   He  said that  there may  be                                                               
people who  had serious  problems while  going through  a divorce                                                               
and did not pay [alimony].  In  a case like that the person could                                                               
still be  a perfectly  capable classroom teacher.   He  asked Ms.                                                               
Curran if the background check  focuses on whether the individual                                                               
has  done  something to  harm  children  or  if he/she  has  been                                                               
convicted of doing illegal things.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied  that the background check  looks for criminal                                                               
activity.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO commented that the  background check could trigger on                                                               
many things, but it does not  mean the individual is an incapable                                                               
teacher.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN agreed with Chair Gatto assessment.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  said he may  know teachers  who have done  things in                                                               
their  past  and who  freely  admit  it,  but the  individual  is                                                               
watched closely, does well, and is well thought of.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied  that is the reason  the Professional Teachers                                                               
Practices  Commission reviews  applications  of  those who  self-                                                               
report  or when  a  background check  comes  back which  reflects                                                               
criminal  activity.     An  investigation  can  be   done  and  a                                                               
determination can  be made as  to whether a  teaching certificate                                                               
should be revoked or denied.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON   asked  if  anyone  is   at  the  meeting                                                               
representing the Professional Teachers Practices Commission.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied that she is on the board.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 2737                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked Ms.  Curran  if  she would  provide                                                               
instances of  criminal activity and the  subsequent determination                                                               
as to whether an individual could  teach school.  For example, if                                                               
a person were convicted of drunk  driving would he/she be able to                                                               
teach school.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2715                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.   CURRAN   responded   that  when   Teacher   Education   and                                                               
Certification gets a  hit or a self-report  then that applicant's                                                               
name  and  paperwork  goes  to  the  executive  director  of  the                                                               
Professional Teacher's  Practices Commission.   She  is empowered                                                               
by  the  commission to  do  an  investigation which  may  include                                                               
calling another  state's equivalent  commission to find  out more                                                               
information.   She explained that when  an applicant self-reports                                                               
the   individual  needs   to   attach  supporting   documentation                                                               
regarding the offense  so that a determination can be  made as to                                                               
whether it  rises to the  level that requires  commission review.                                                               
Ms. Curran  commented that 98.6  percent of the time  the offense                                                               
does  not rise  to the  level of  seriousness that  would require                                                               
commission  review.    The executive  director  does  advise  the                                                               
commission of her  findings and recommendation that  it would not                                                               
merit denying a certificate.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN explained that the  commission hears the serious cases                                                               
where action needs  to be taken against a teacher.   For example,                                                               
child molestation,  possession of  drugs, or moral  turpitude are                                                               
causes for revocation.  She  pointed out that contract violations                                                               
may be cause for suspension.  Ms.  Curran went on to say that due                                                               
process  goes forward  with an  investigation, finding,  hearing,                                                               
and the commission makes a determination.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON asked  Ms. Curran how long she  has been on                                                               
the commission.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN replied  that she  has been  on the  commission since                                                               
March  2001  and  is  on  her   second  term.    In  response  to                                                               
Representative  Wilson   question,  Ms.  Curran  said   that  the                                                               
commission  has revoked  four teacher  certificates in  that time                                                               
period.   She emphasized that  some teachers voluntarily  give up                                                               
their  certificates  because  they   are  aware  that  they  have                                                               
committed a crime where the certificate will be revoked.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  asked how many were  given up voluntarily.                                                               
How many  were taken  away; and  of those, how  many were  in the                                                               
classroom teaching at the time of revocation.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2515                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN responded that all  of the teachers whose certificates                                                               
were revoked  were at one  point teaching  in the classroom.   In                                                               
some instances  the individual school districts  may have removed                                                               
the teacher from the classroom  and put him/her on administrative                                                               
leave so that the teacher would  not be in the classroom once the                                                               
crime had  been committed,  she explained.   Then  the commission                                                               
takes the action against the  certificate.  Ms. Curran emphasized                                                               
that  districts have  the  power  to remove  a  teacher from  the                                                               
classroom.   Of  the  eight that  committed  crimes the  district                                                               
removed the teachers from the  classroom and the case was brought                                                               
to the Professional Teacher's Practices Commission.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO  pointed out that  the next committee of  referral is                                                               
the  House   Health,  Education  and  Social   Services  Standing                                                               
Committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 2467                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  commented that she surmises  that of those                                                               
individuals that  Ms. Curran mentioned  those examples  would not                                                               
fit  this bill  because the  individuals were  teaching when  the                                                               
crime was committed.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  replied that  is correct.   The cases  mentioned were                                                               
teachers who  had already  passed DEED  background check  and the                                                               
district background check, she added.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO asked if DUI applies.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied that she does not know.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO asked how long a certificate is good for.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  replied that a  regular type A certificate,  which is                                                               
Alaska's standard teaching certificate, is  valid for a period of                                                               
five years  and is renewable  upon verification of  employment or                                                               
proof of completion of requirements.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO stated that this bill has a lot of merit.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 2352                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to  report CSSB 179(FIN)  version V,                                                               
out  of   committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  the                                                               
accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 2321                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  objected.    She  asked  if  all  schools                                                               
require background  checks and does  Ms. Curran believe  that the                                                               
schools follow through.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 2301                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN  responded  that  the  larger  districts  require  an                                                               
additional background check even  after an applicant has received                                                               
a  teaching certificate.    It is  done  because something  could                                                               
happen  between the  time a  certificate is  obtain and  when the                                                               
teacher is  employed.  She said  that the schools do  not conduct                                                               
the background check; it is done  at the district level.  Not all                                                               
schools do background checks, Ms. Curran commented.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON   shared  that  her  husband   [who  is  a                                                               
superintendent of schools] does  very thorough background checks.                                                               
She asked if generally the larger  districts to the check and the                                                               
smaller ones do not.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  CURRAN replied  that she  does  not know  how many  district                                                               
actually do additional background checks.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 2218                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON withdrew her objection.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2215                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO announced  that there  being  no further  objection,                                                               
CSSB 179(FIN) was reported out  of the House Special Committee on                                                               
Education.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects