Legislature(2021 - 2022)ADAMS 519
04/19/2021 01:30 PM FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 169 "An Act making appropriations for public education and transportation of students; and providing for an effective date." 1:36:55 PM Co-Chair Foster OPENED public testimony. COREY AIST, TEACHER, ANCHORAGE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), testified in support of the legislation. He shared information about his teaching career in Alaska. He reported that the school year had been unlike any other and educators had continued to adapt as they supported students and families in online and face-to- face learning environments. He stressed the importance of the stability provided by the legislation. He shared that he had watched over the years as early career educators were sometimes laid off in May. During those times he had personally reassured younger colleagues that the state was likely to restore funding and that they would have a job in the fall. He reported that unfortunately many of those teachers had found jobs out of state. He stressed that recruitment was always a big issue. He remarked it was hard to lose committed, enthusiastic educators when there was an easy remedy. He noted the current remedy was HB 169. Mr. Aist spoke about the importance of stability. He stated that legislators' efforts could either support or hinder students' success. He thanked Representative Rasmussen for her suggestion of forward funding. He relayed educators were exhausted and it had been a tough year. He stated that the early forward funding would be a signal of support that the legislature played an important role in the effort. He thanked the committee and encouraged the advancement of the bill. 1:41:18 PM JANE GRAY, SELF, ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), shared that she had been a teacher in the Anchorage School District for 31 years. She echoed testimony from the previous speaker. She highlighted the disruptiveness caused by uncertainty of job security. She shared students and teachers got shuffled when principals were uncertain about what their staffing would be in the fall. For at risk students the situation was an additional trauma that could be avoided. She supported separating education funding from the operating budget and passing the bill early in order for teachers, students, and parents to know what to expect in terms of funding. She thanked Vice-Chair Ortiz for bringing the bill forward. 1:43:31 PM DON GRAY, FORMER MEMBER OF ALASKA BOARD OF EDUCATION, FAIRBANKS (via teleconference), testified in support of the legislation. He shared that he was a former member of the Alaska State Board of Education. He thanked Vice-Chair Ortiz for bringing the proposal forward. He thanked Representative Rasmussen for recommending the forward funding aspect of the legislation that would create additional stability. He thanked Representative LeBon for his support for early funding and for his service on the Fairbanks School Board in the past. He thought education funding should be kept separate from the more complicated operating budget. He stressed that the current times were challenging and without precedent. He remarked that the operating budget may be slowed down due to uncertainties about the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. He believed waiting for clarification would be detrimental to education. He emphasized that the state's responsibility for education was one of the few things in the state constitution. He reiterated his support for the bill and keeping education funding separate from the operating budget. 1:47:42 PM TIM DORAN, PRESIDENT, FAIRBANKS SCHOOL BOARD, FAIRBANKS (via teleconference), thanked committee members for the bill and their support of the bill. He was in favor of separating the education budget from the rest of the operating budget in order to provide funding certainty. He shared that Fairbanks had completed its draft budget and it was currently under consideration by the borough assembly for the local contribution. He reported that the school board had taken a conservative, cautious approach. He understood that the governor had indicated support for fully funding a flat Base Student Allocation (BSA). He stated that until the state budget was approved, there was a certain amount of uncertainty. He shared that early notification on the funding amount made a difference in terms of district planning. Mr. Doran reported that COVID-19 had been a major hit in the past year. The district was looking at COVID recovery in the next year and the more funding certainty it had for planning purposes, the better. He explained that the district had to let tenured staff know whether they would have jobs the following fall by May 15; non-tenured teachers had to be notified by May 20. He shared that the district had to start the process in the coming weeks. He elaborated on the process. He stated that Fairbanks ended up subsidizing transportation when it was not fully funded. The district did not have the option going into the next fiscal year. He heartily supported forward funding of education. He explained that it had been very beneficial to the district a couple of years back. He encouraged the passage of the bill. Co-Chair Foster recognized that Representative LeBon and Representative Thompson had joined the meeting. Co-Chair Foster CLOSED public testimony. Co-Chair Foster noted that the committee may return to the bill to address an amendment [note: the committee returned to HB 169 at 2:20 p.m.]. Co-Chair Foster handed the gavel to Co-Chair Merrick. 1:54:30 PM AT EASE 1:55:12 PM RECONVENED HOUSE BILL NO. 169 "An Act making appropriations for public education and transportation of students; and providing for an effective date." 2:20:03 PM Co-Chair Foster communicated there were no amendments to be considered. Co-Chair Merrick MOVED to REPORT HB 169 out of committee with individual recommendations. Representative Carpenter OBJECTED for discussion. He acknowledged the importance of the conversation on early funding of education. He stated that without a [budget] committee substitute (CS), the committee was further justifying the need to early fund education due to the lack of a budget. He thought the committee was holding the rest of the state budget hostage while it acted on one component of the budget. He believed it was highly inappropriate to send the bill out of committee without any context of how it would be received within the rest of the budget. He thought a conversation about early funding should be a part of the conversation within the context of the budget as a whole. Representative Carpenter stated it was a bad precedent to pick one component of the budget and send it forward for discussion. He highlighted that the previous year, most of the budget had been finished within 90 days. He stressed it was in the committee's power to finish the budget, which would avoid a discussion of early funding for education. He did not know what the delay was in terms of receiving a CS that would put education in context with all of the other important funding items for the coming year. He opined that piecemealing the budget was inappropriate, unprofessional, poor management, and set a bad precedent. He did not believe HB 169 should be sent from committee without seeing the rest of the budget. 2:23:09 PM Representative Josephson believed HB 169 was a good bill. He remarked that he had been in Juneau for special session in the past in most months of the year. He underscored the possibility the legislature could be in Juneau in June without a budget. He had experienced the situation several times. He stated the statutory non-retention letters required the education funding carveout [from the rest of the budget] in order to preserve continuity for educators, administrators, and staff. He referenced the [budget] CS and believed it was understood that the legislature wanted a say on how $1.1 billion [in federal funds] was appropriated. He believed it was part and parcel the reason for some delay. He noted that the governor had just released his own version of the bill. He asked why the legislature should be ahead of the governor. He stated that the money would have to be spent in one fashion or another and he believed it made perfect sense to do so via HB 169. 2:24:59 PM Representative Rasmussen thought the bill was appropriate. She recognized the timing was slightly wonky due to the 30- day delay with organization [in the House]. She stated that with Alaska ranking close to the bottom in many student outcomes, she did not believe the state could afford to risk losing any more good teachers due to fiscal uncertainty and pink slips going out unnecessarily. She highlighted the constitutional and statutory obligation and formula for funding K-12 education. She remarked that the issue was not up for a lot of debate until the statutory BSA law was changed. She had not seen any bills introduced in the current session that would change the formula. She opined that until the legislature did something else, HB 169 was incredibly appropriate and the right thing to do for teachers and students. She spoke about the need for stability and retention of talented teachers. She pointed out that teachers could go other places with more certainty. She believed it was not professional for the state to put districts in the position of sending pink slips to staff every year. She supported the bill. Co-Chair Foster recognized Representative Edgmon had joined the meeting. Representative Wool supported the bill. He shared that before he had run for the legislature, the issue of pink slips and delays had come up for his district. He remarked that because the district did not receive funding at the right time it had been forced to send out pink slips. He noted it was done frequently. He believed it was unprofessional. He stressed the importance of holding onto valued teachers. He had heard many stories of teachers leaving. He referenced public testimony earlier in the day about teachers receiving pink slips. He remarked that some teachers endured the situation several times but after awhile they decided it was enough. He believed the bill communicated that the legislature valued teachers and valued them enough to put them out front of the budget process. He agreed education should be and was in the budget and was mandated by the constitution. He remarked that for various reasons the budget was not passed in a timely manner, which was not in any one individual's control. He supported getting the education funding out ahead. He stated the funding was fairly formulaic with a BSA and predicted number of students. He noted it could be adjusted later. He believed the legislature should get the majority of the funding out immediately to avoid the sending of pink slips. He stated that teachers had enough trouble and stress in the past couple of years. He underscored that adding more stress was preventable. He supported moving forward with the legislation. 2:28:55 PM Representative Edgmon apologized that he had been in another meeting. He believed it should be mandatory for the legislature to pass the education budget early every year. He believed eight out of ten teachers in Alaska came from out-of-state. He detailed that the absence of a budget put teachers in a position where they did not know if they had a job and they had to decide whether to relocate back to their home state or elsewhere. He strongly supported the bill. 2:29:50 PM Co-Chair Foster voiced his support for the legislation. He stated that early funding of education had been done in the past. He highlighted that the bill followed the formula and did not make any increases. He understood the argument that education funding should be put in context of the larger budget. He believed the argument for including education funding with the rest of the budget would be stronger if the legislature was making increases. He reasoned that because no changes were being made, the benefit of early funding outweighed the cost. He referred to the statutory deadline for layoff notices. Additionally, there was the extraordinary circumstance of the forthcoming federal ARPA funding the legislature had to determine how to incorporate in the operating budget. He stated that the situation had slowed the process down. He did not believe schools should have to feel the brunt of the situation. Representative Carpenter remarked that the hearing on the previous bill [SB 19] indicated an increase in funding for SESA [Special Education Service Agency]. He reasoned it meant the legislature was increasing funding for education. He did not know whether other areas in education would be increased because he did not have a budget to reference. He understood that forward funding or early funding of education improved the ability of subordinate or follow-on agencies to do their budgets; however, the committee did not have a budget to reference for context. He asked when the committee would see a [budget] CS. He underscored that someone was making a decision to put federal funding on top of state funding in a budget. He assumed it was the reason for the delay. He remarked that an alternative was to have two separate bills. He thought one bill with state and federal funding combined would be hard to understand. Co-Chair Foster replied that he had hoped to have a CS before the committee the previous Monday. He shared that the Legislative Finance Division had relayed it could provide some suggestions on what the legislature could do in using some of the ARPA funds. He elaborated that the governor had ended up rolling out his bill that had come out earlier in the day. He stated there were many complexities in the process and he had told people it would not be easy. He was trying to make the best out of a difficult situation in terms of getting a CS out as soon as possible, while trying to determine how to manage the ARPA funds. 2:33:21 PM Representative Rasmussen believed the SESA funds fell outside the BSA and pupil transportation funds. She stated her understanding that HB 169 was the statutory required formula for the BSA and pupil transportation only. Vice-Chair Ortiz believed the SESA funding was not related to the funding formula bill before the committee. Co-Chair Foster agreed. He spoke to Representative Carpenter's point. He stated that the SESA funding did not increase the BSA formula. He explained that the release of a CS had been slowed down by the effort to include some of the ARPA funding. 2:35:18 PM Representative Carpenter WITHDREW his OBJECTION. There being NO further OBJECTION, it was so ordered. HB 169 was REPORTED out of committee with ten "do pass" recommendations and one "no recommendation" recommendation. 2:35:59 PM AT EASE 2:36:07 PM RECONVENED Co-Chair Foster reviewed the schedule for the following morning.