Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/29/1995 03:10 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CO-CHAIRMAN CON BUNDE called the work session to order by asking all participants to identify themselves when speaking for the ease of the committee secretary. Members present at the call to order were Representatives Toohey, Bunde, Davis, Brice and Robinson. Members absent were Representatives Vezey and Rokeberg. Number 087 CO-CHAIR BUNDE then asked that all persons present introduce themselves including all representatives, witnesses and observers. Number 166 CO-CHAIR BUNDE requested that Representative Ivan's staff person, Tom Wright, outline the framework of the meeting regarding HB 217, including any title changes to it with the chance for input to follow. Number 200 TOM WRIGHT, Legislative Assistant to REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN offered that the title of HB 217 would have to be tightened up. Representative Ivan felt as though it was too open. Mr. Wright also referred to a hand-out received from Representative Hanley and the Anchorage PTA (Parent Teacher Association) regarding the negotiation process. Mr. Wright solicited suggestions for an amendment which would outline public negotiations between employer and employee. Number 267 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked whether or not Representative Ivan had any suggestions for a title change and Mr. Wright confirmed that Ivan did want to wait until after the work session in order to help with taking any direction one way or another. Number 310 CO-CHAIR BUNDE recognized a new participant. MARY ANN LITINGER with the State Board of Education introduced herself. CO-CHAIR BUNDE then asked for suggestions on how the work session should be conducted. Number 365 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE suggested that they go through the bill section by section. It was so decided. Also Co-Chair Bunde recognized another new participant, Mike Williams. Number 427 CO-CHAIR BUNDE summarized Section 1 of the bill. Initially, he pointed out that the original language in Section 1 deals with raising tenure from two to five years. With that he offered up the opportunity for discussion. Number 444 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE suggested as background to this section, there should be discussion about why tenure exists. Co-chair Bunde agreed and asked that Mr. Wright state why he thought that tenure should be increased from two to five years. He also asked that Mr. Rose and Mr. Marshall outline the purposes of tenure. Mr. Wright deferred to Mr. Rose as an AASB (Alaska Association of School Boards) representative, since he felt as though both their statements would probably be very similar. Number 520 CARL ROSE, Association of Alaska School Boards, stated that the AASB was not in favor of repealing tenure. He agreed that the tenure laws, as they currently exist, are not manageable for school districts, therefore, the bill should be amended. Two years is an inadequate period of time to assess whether a young person entering the teaching profession is given enough time to show satisfactory improvement before a decision is made about their career. Mr. Rose added that any amount of time in excess of two years is critical, the more time a new teacher has on the job training and professional in-service training improves their ability to perform in the classroom. Mr. Rose agreed that five years for tenure is an upper limit that the AASB would be comfortable with. Number 679 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asserted that there was a lot of concern about how much paperwork an administrator is required to submit in conjunction with new teacher assessments, much less having two years to process it and for them to get to the classrooms for proper observations. Representative Brice suggested discussing these extra burdens as part of the work session objectives. He also noted that in years past two years for assessment would have been adequate, but he could easily understand how with the increase in paperwork, this turn around time is no longer adequate. He asked what they could do on the state level to reduce that paperwork? Number 790 CO-CHAIR BUNDE pointed out that there are a lot of federal mandates which limit how much the state can do in regards to this issue. Representative Bunde reiterated the tenure issue as two fold: first, the need to give the administrators more time to do their job and second, the need to give more time to the teacher in order to develop their expertise and meet the requirements of certification and tenure. Number 819 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE pointed out that these issues were fairly complex and to hammer out a consensus in two hours seemed very unlikely. Number 843 CO-CHAIR BUNDE offered additional background information related to some of these issues. He noted there had been a movement to change teacher training to help enable more on the job experience before they become full fledged teachers. Number 872 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked how training differed from district to district. Number 885 CO-CHAIR BUNDE explained that training can vary from school to school. For example, at the University of Southeast they essentially have their new teacher candidates working as substitute teachers. He further stated that he hoped this was a goal the state could work towards as a kind of an apprentice year, which would help to expand an on the job training concept required by tenure. Number 927 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON felt as though five years is too long and wondered who determines how much training a teacher will get in their first two years. Number 950 MR. ROSE informed the committee that a lot of the training is mandated. There is some latitude, but normally it's decided at the local level and many times the types of service is dependent on the type of curriculum being offered. Many times the training is decided by the teaching staff. Number 969 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON then addressed the issue of supervision. Unfortunately, due to the changes of student numbers it seemed supervision of teachers is lacking. She asked if there was anything in the tenure law that spells out exactly how many times a teacher should be evaluated before a decision is made on whether or not they qualify for tenure? Number 1009 CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, National Education Association - Alaska, offered to address this question. In regulation, a non-tenured teacher is evaluated two times and there's a deadline as to when those evaluations are suppose to take place. There is a lot of control at each district's level relating to these procedures and each district has their own evaluation tools. Tenured teachers are evaluated each year. Number 1040 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said that it was her understanding teachers are not getting the supervision or the evaluations on time required by the tenure program. She asked if that perception is true or false? Number 1050 MS. DOUGLAS replied that there didn't seem to be a consistent evaluation program in place. Typically, when an administrator plans to visit a classroom, regardless of how the lesson turns out, there doesn't seem to be any follow up. If there was a system in place, when it came time to determine whether a teacher in question after two years should qualify for tenure, then maybe a plan of improvement could be implemented. Ms. Douglas alluded to the fact that a lot of suggestions have been made over the years to improve this procedure. Number 1103 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON then asked if this would be an area that needs a regulation. Number 1115 CO-CHAIR BUNDE offered that in Anchorage there's a program called "Focused," which allows that some teachers are given more focused attention and evaluation, including tenured teachers. He wanted to stipulate that administrators have a lot to do and it's difficult for them to get into the classroom. The question then becomes if they're too busy in two years, will they have time to evaluate after three, four or five years. He seemed to think that the odds are better with the more time that's allowed. Regardless of how many evaluations are conducted, the number of times does not guarantee quality, although a snap shot approach would definitely not be indicative of how potentially qualified a teacher is. Number 1173 SHIRLEY HOLLOWAY, Commissioner, Department of Education testified that the department tries to differentiate between evaluation and supervision in education. Evaluation is a process of determining whether a person will continue with their job and supervision is a process that's being used across the nation in schools to improve teaching. She pointed out that sometimes programs for evaluations and supervision are implemented by master teachers rather than administrators, so it's not an issue of administrators falling short, it's having a staff available and the funding to implement a program. Number 1220 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked what happens to a teacher who is not granted tenure. Do they just go from school to school and what happens to the emotional health of that teacher? Do they just give up and not try again? Number 1261 MR. ROSE responded by saying that, yes, some people have been hired and not granted tenure. The question is why? Many times for some school districts it becomes an issue of restricted revenue. Unless a teacher has expertise in a certain area they may not be retained because of the lack of funding. The latitude then becomes that of a tenured teacher. Number 1300 CO-CHAIR BUNDE reiterated the two reasons why someone would not be granted tenure: One, because the lack of funding; and two, because of incompetence. Number 1312 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if the rejection of tenure follows an individual seeking employment. Number 1340 STEVE MCPHETRES, Alaska Council of School Boards, noted that when a person interviews for a position and their employment record reflects a moving around every two years, then that does usually raise a red flag. Because there are only 52 school districts in Alaska, it is not uncommon just to get on the phone in order to obtain specific information from a superintendent about an individual. Mr. McPhetres did note that with the downsizing of school funds, more school districts are referring non-tenured teachers to possible vacancies in other school districts, as well as taking advantage of active recruitments when a vacancy exists. Number 1425 CO-CHAIR BUNDE wanted to stipulate that tenure is a valid idea and the question was raised how tenure differed with the EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) incentives which are common in all work places. Co-chair Bunde pointed out that Section 3 of HB 217 dealt with the loss of tenure rights, but he thought it was reasonably accepted that tenure is a valid principle in education. How long do school systems in Alaska need to accomplish the purpose of tenure and how long are teachers required to be probationary, a period which allows them to prove their worthiness, but doesn't unfairly penalize them? Number 1511 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE pointed out that if they do extend tenure from two years to five years, what are they doing for consistency in evaluation for teachers who do bounce around from district to district? Number 1534 CO-CHAIR BUNDE cautioned that they didn't want to micro-manage too much how a district decides to adopt their evaluation procedure. Number 1546 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON also noted that sometimes a good teacher doesn't get tenure. She understood that after two years it was automatic that teachers qualify for tenure. Who determines who gets tenure? Number 1570 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked that the participants think about a reasonable probationary period of time between the existing two years and the requested five years to obtain tenure. Number 1596 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS responded with the suggestion of four years for tenure because after last year's debate, probation was set at the first day of the fourth year and he said that maybe now they should move it to the first day of the fifth year. Number 1617 CO-CHAIR CYNTHIA TOOHEY suggested five years for tenure. Having worked in private enterprize, she didn't think that anyone could train a person in two years and evaluate them fairly. Number 1637 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON pointed out that not all people would need training when hired by a school district. They might already have been teaching school for a number of years before coming to Alaska. Maybe some people who are fresh out of school might need more supervision, training and evaluation than someone who has already been tenured out of the state and someone who has a good record. Number 1665 REPRESENTATIVE GARY DAVIS added that two years is hardly enough time for a person to feel comfortable with their job, much less be evaluated. He felt as though four years was a good generic time frame on a bell curve. Number 1714 MS. DOUGLAS prefaced her statement about probation by saying that this bill was so encompassing, it addresses among other things the quality of education and the desire to have the best teachers teaching our kids. Is it about getting rid of tenured teachers in light of limited finances? Number 1743 CO-CHAIR BUNDE addressed Ms. Douglas' concerns by stating that the bill is about giving school districts flexibility in light of less money. Number 1754 MS. DOUGLAS went on to add that the requirements for a new teacher are becoming more strenuous in terms of the number of hours student teachers are required to be in schools. This she supports. She would even support a fifth year education program for people. If it's a good program they would already have been in a classroom for at least two years of training before they'd be in a classroom as a new hire. After two years if it's someone that the district wants to invest in, then a third year can be added as a probation requirement with a year of improvement built in. Ms. Douglas pointed out that if it's a question of funding, she had a problem with that because a new teacher is hoping to establish themselves as a part of a community. If they're bounced around from one place to the next for a four year period and they move again, is it fair to expect that person to go through another five years of probation? Number 1944 CO-CHAIR BUNDE made the point that a five year tenure could become a vehicle for avoiding payment to a teacher who has acquired experience and is at a higher pay scale. Theoretically, a person could be fired before they'd met their tenure requirements and a new hire could then be recruited. This would save money for the district. While the teacher is in a probationary status it is much easier to get rid of them, than if they were already tenured. Number 1950 VERNON MARSHALL, NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, ALASKA stated that they were dealing with an economic issue when considering HB 217. He's often said that this bill is an issue of economy rather than an issue of professionalism. He suggested that maybe the issue is more about funding education, rather than the debate of laying off a teacher because of the economy. If schools had more money, the issue of tenure becomes less of a problem in the future. There is a need to fund programs regardless of tenure to meet the demands of an ever changing classroom. Mr. Marshall also added that there needs to be emphasis placed on preparation programs for new teachers and that maybe a fifth year curriculum needs to be addressed. Number 2033 CO-CHAIR BUNDE reiterated that it's a given there won't be any additional money slated for education in the foreseeable future and that this bill will not take on teacher re-certification. Mr. Bunde then asked for particular information such as, how many one and two year teachers are let go in Alaska per year and how many have been let go in the last five years. He asked if there was any way to find out if a teacher's termination was due to lack of finances. Number 2063 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY again pointed out that this is not an issue of teacher qualification, but is more about Alaska going into an economic slump. She added that more fiscal control is needed in order to pay for Alaska's schools, to have the best education for the money available. Number 2092 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked about standards for administrators as a comparison when it comes to evaluating teacher performance for tenure. What about administrators? He alluded to them as being no better than cockroaches. Number 2135 MR. MCPHETRES responded to Representative Brice's concerns. He made some comments concerning liquidation of assets to accommodate other districts to help make up for limited funding. He continued to address the issue of tenure for administrators by pointing out that if an administrator has a type A and B certificate, they are subject to the tenure clause just as much as a teacher is. If an administrator has only a type B certificate they have zero tenure, which means they are more at risk than a teacher. Number 2194 ROBERT GOTTSTEIN, Alaska State Board of Education, took issue with the notion that the state of Alaska doesn't have enough money to provide the best education for their children. He asked how they could make education worthy enough, worth contributing to, so that there are enough dollars to fund it. The use of the rationale that oil revenues are declining does not necessarily mean that there are no resources in the state to make sure all our children have an opportunity for an adequate education. He made the point that we need to make education worthy enough to get more funding. Number 2253 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS said he felt that if this bill had been created because of a lack in funding, the discussion about tenure should be dismissed. If the bill was created to make up for a lack of money, it could be perceived that the intent of the bill is to break tenure to save money. Representative Davis agreed with the suggestion that providing a good education is priority, rather than looking at it from a money point of view. The legislature provides money to school districts, but it doesn't have the authority to tell the schools how to run their programs from a budget perspective. He also addressed the issue of a new hire trying to make tenure within a particular school district and seemed to be cautioning against treating them any differently than a nurse or a city manager trying to cement themselves in a community. TAPE 95-30, SIDE B Number 049 CO-CHAIR BUNDE stated that he's received many faxes from school districts throughout the state that say because money is becoming increasingly short that everyone needs to be more flexible and that's why they support HB 217. This is an indication that many Alaskans see this bill as an economic issue. He also asked the people present, whether or not a time period of three to five years was an acceptable requirement for tenure. He pointed out that a three to five year period allows the administrator more time to make an assessment and allows the teacher more time to prove themselves. Number 129 MS. DOUGLAS accepted this conclusion as long as there would be changes in the way evaluations are done. She also responded to some of Representative Davis' comments regarding how teachers are given a different status than other professionals when trying to acquire tenure in a particular community, but she noted that if the state of Alaska values it's children and if they want the very best teachers, then they should provide more security for new hires who move to a new community. Ms. Douglas felt as though the first question people ask about in a perspective community is, "how good are the schools?" She believed there is a correlation between economics and good schools. She suggested that maybe this constitutes creating a different standard when accessing turn over of newly hired teachers as compared to other professionals. Ms. Douglas summed up her comments by saying that the National Education Association of Alaska had asked Mike Bradner to give his historical perspective on tenure and that this statement was included in their packet. Number 260 MR. MARSHALL referred to a position which had already established in regards to tenure some time back. It provided for evaluations after the first and second year within a three time frame overall for tenure. He felt as though there are career teachers who are not "dead wood," and doing a great job. He added that these tenured teachers can be valuable mentors to teachers in the first and second year. He added that to set a limit on the amount of years for tenure does not necessarily guarantee whether a teacher is going to do a good job or not. He suggested that teachers should be granted tenure after two years. If after the first year or two of mentoring and after evaluations from administrators, if a person needs a third year in order to achieve success then the professional side has been served. On the economic side he believed districts would continue to pink slip people in the first and second year. Mr. Marshall also used the example of teachers in the bush community who could theoretically move around from one community to the next without becoming tenured. He believed there is value though in fostering stability in the school force. Number 510 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE added that the basic issue of educational funding is that if the state of Alaska doesn't fund the schools, then they won't have a bright future in Alaska. He said his biggest concern about increasing tenure from two to five year is that it could create a risk of fostering arbitrary personal decisions about particular teachers. Number 587 MS. HOLLOWAY asked how the state could possibly deal with the best interest of children in the face of declining revenues, if in fact that happens. She said that it's counterproductive to pit different parts of the educational system against one another. Principals and superintendents are teachers too and they have the best interests of children at heart just as teachers do. She hoped that everyone could keep their remarks to the topic at hand. Number 630 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY made the point that everyone cares about the children, but she feels as though someone needs to worry about the teachers and the communities that are paying these bills. There needs to be more input from the people who are paying for these children services. She added that this is just part of a big cycle. Number 665 MS. HOLLOWAY clarified that it's not the principals or the superintendents that are bad people. She pointed out that it's allocation of money they're talking about and there shouldn't be any name calling going on. Number 781 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked that the committee move onto Section 3. The perception from the general public is that tenure means a lifetime, but there are ways for a teacher to loose it. He pointed out that Section 4 indicates the traditional ways to loose tenure. The new language proposed to this section reads, "A teacher on lay- off status doesn't loose tenure rights during lay-off period." This legislation attempts to secure tenure even if someone is laid off. Co-chair Bunde said he was not comfortable with how this section reads. Once again he used the example of a tenured teacher being laid off because they would cost more to keep. He proposed starting with lay-offs of people who don't have seniority. Under this scenario a re-hire would have to be spelled out very clearly. Number 935 MR. WRIGHT pointed out that the reason this language was left in the regulation was because DOE was not sure how to address it either. Number 957 MR. ROSE pointed out that Sections 3 and 4 are in reverse. He pointed out that if someone is a felon or if someone is immoral decisive action can be taken, as well as, when someone is not complying or incompetent. He further stated, that because of declining enrollment, it's not fair to treat a professional as you would a felon. Mr. Rose thought that it was appropriate to change the law to establish three criteria areas when dealing with non- retainment: Incompetence, substantial non-compliance and immorality. Mr. Rose added that when program needs are assessed, a department should promulgate regulations which deal with subject area endorsements. He did point out that subject area endorsements will be a problem in rural Alaska until a body of qualified talent is established. Mr. Rose felt as though secondary endorsements alone are too low of a standard to use for secondary instruction. He used the example of when a district is faced with hiring back a gym teacher to teach math just because they have seniority. The bill was intended to address financial downturn in a fair way. He noted that if a district has to lay people off they should recognize re-hire rights and protect earned tenure rights. He summed up his comments by stating that teachers should be re-hired based on qualifications first and then by seniority. Number 1125 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY agreed with Mr. Rose and felt as though his approach as outlined would eliminate a lot of tenure problems. Her primary concern with getting rid of tenure or elongating it is from a financial perspective. When a tenured teacher is rehired, is the district required to pay them their same wage? Number 1176 MR. ROSE said he doesn't envision the bill as doing that. He thinks that there is a threshold of what the citizens of Alaska will tolerate. Number 1192 CO-CHAIR BUNDE offered his perspective regarding this question. If a tenured teacher is re-hired back into the school district, this person should be paid the same wage as when they were laid-off. Co-chair Bunde then recognized some new participants to the work session, Ed Gilley, the superintendent of schools in Adak and also Corky Caldwell who was a former commander in Adak. Number 1283 MR. MARSHALL offered that the application of Section 4 hinges on what is done in Section 5. He then proceeded to apply it to a worse case scenario with the example of an in-place health teacher within a district that decides they want to hire a math teacher instead. In practice, the health teacher can be fired, regardless of tenure. Mr. Marshall felt as though this section is far too broad. He noted that if this bill was to pass and all the provisions were applied, in essence, there would be no teacher tenure. He added that under this scenario the teacher is not insubordinate, nor immoral and not incompetent. He cautioned against creating rules that can be arbitrarily applied. Number 1419 CO-CHAIR BUNDE moved to item one, Section 5 (1), which dealt with teacher lay-offs in lieu of decreased attendance or school revenue. He asked if anyone would disagree with the premise that because of decreased enrollment in schools, teachers should be laid off. Number 1446 ED GILLEY, SUPERINTENDENT spoke to this issue. He had just laid off some teachers and had let some students go too. Through attrition some of the teachers took other jobs, but he stressed that if a program is to be maintained, the quality of teachers hinges on specialization in subjects. Number 1557 MR. ROSE pointed out that it used to be that if enrollment was down, revenue was lost and now the law is not clear on this point anymore. Number 1562 CO-CHAIR BUNDE threw out the following example, what if a school had the same amount of students, but half the amount of money? Is that justification for letting some teachers go? Number 1589 MR. MARSHALL responded to this example by stating that he didn't have any problem with the conditions as outlined in the previous discussions, but what does declining revenue really mean? Is the revenue budgeted or actual? Should teachers be laid off in advance of budget cuts which are slated to take place in the next school year? Number 1622 CO-CHAIR BUNDE agreed that declining revenue would have to be defined more, but at what point should teachers be laid off? How much does the budget decline before lay offs take place? Number 1710 SHEILA PETERSON, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, Department of Education responded to the language outlined in item (b) under Section 5 of HB 217, where the department adopts regulations to establish procedures for lay-off, length of time, etcetera. As far of any of the details outlined in this section, Ms. Peterson said the DOE (Department of Education) had not had a chance to analyze it. The DOE had discussed before the state board how difficult the task of deciding a fair amount of time to lay off teachers and rehire would be. This section would probably be thrown in at the very last and would have to be handled cautiously. Public input would be necessary. Number 1749 ED GILLEY, Adak Superintendent of Schools, said it was crucial to keep teachers informed as to what changes would be taking place under budget constraints for morale purposes. He gave a detailed account as to how he handled budget cuts and lay offs in Adak when he was forced to. Number 1872 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE voiced his concern that too much focus is given to teachers under budget constraints rather than looking at other positions in a school district that might be affected. Number 1945 MR. MARSHALL referred to Section 3, line 10 of HB 217 which deals with tenure rights. His organization is concerned with what defines a lay-off. If an interruption in service takes place with a tenured teacher, as the bill reads now they might not be considered a tenured teacher anymore. Number 1999 MR. ROSE asked that the performance of school board members be scrutinized more closely. Number 2053 CO-CHAIR BUNDE moved to section six of HB 217 and asked if everyone understood the definition of a de novo trial. Co-chair Bunde outlined the precepts of such a trial and stated that the school districts hate it. It costs a lot of money. Co-chair Bunde offered the suggestion that in lieu of a de novo trial, maybe the process of arbitration could be instituted, and if this was not sufficient, then either party could take the case to court. Number 2138 HEATHER FLYNN pointed out that usually a teacher uses a de novo trial when they've been fired. How is a firing arbitrated? Number 2168 CO-CHAIR BUNDE answered by saying that the teacher has some level of appeal. If they're fired because of incompetency then that can be disputed. Then Bunde used a worse case scenario where a school board member is out to get a teacher for personal reasons and the teacher is fired because of incompetency. Would this be a situation where arbitration would be helpful? TAPE 95-31, SIDE A Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON replied to this hypothetical situation. She noted that if arbitration is looked at as a money saver, it's not realistic. In the long run, if the parties go to court, there are arbitration costs on top of trial costs. Number 088 MR. ROSE clarified that in a de novo situation there are not really two trials, the first session is a hearing with evidence introduced and a hearing officer renders a decision. If the decision is not favorable to the teacher, they have a right to go to superior court. Under the de novo law the next hearing is like a new trial. Anything established in the previous hearing cannot be referred to. In the case of any other state employee in superior court, the previous record is examined to see if their due process rights have been abridged. The record in this instance can be reviewed. The atmosphere and circumstances surrounding the non-retention in a de novo situation has to be recreated. This increases the possibility that the teacher will be re-instated at tremendous expense because it's difficult to re-create the initial circumstances of a firing. Sometimes a problem like this will not be resolved for four or five years. Number 380 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE asked what percentage of non-retention situations go to a de novo trial. Number 390 MR MARSHALL responded by saying that in one small Alaska community they spent $100,000. Thirty-six percent of that money had been spent on NEA member defense. The bulk of their litigation was spent on action of local unions against districts on labor issues. A total of $36,000 was spent on member defense, which includes hearings before school boards, costs for retaining an attorney or on superior court litigation. ADJOURNMENT Number 487 CO-CHAIR BUNDE asked for additional feedback from all the participants regarding HB 217 and adjourned the meeting at 4:48 p.m.