Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/27/1995 07:05 PM L&C

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HB 217 - TEACHER EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS & RETIREMENT                             
 Number 151                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said the next bill before the committee is HB 217.              
 He asked Representative Ivan Ivan to give his sponsor statement.              
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN, Sponsor, said HB 217 was introduced to              
 allow the school districts some flexibility in dealing with rising            
 enrollments and increased costs associated with their education               
 system.  This bill would allow the school districts to lay off                
 teachers who have acquired tenure rights, but only if the school              
 district finds it necessary to reduce the number of teachers due to           
 declining enrollment or declining revenues.  The bill also                    
 increases the tenure from two years to four years and removes the             
 costly trial de novo portion of our statutes, which allows a school           
 district employee, who if not satisfied with the district-lead                
 investigation, to go to the court system to begin an entirely new             
 trial.  The district's investigation will stop unless (indisc.).              
 The deletion of trial de novo provides our educators the same                 
 protection as provided to other state employees.  The bill does               
 allow for mandatory advisory arbitration if the school board                  
 reaches a decision unfavorable to the teacher prior to appealing to           
 superior court.                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN said Sections 1-3 of the Committee Substitute             
 for House Bill 217, as it came out of the Judiciary Committee,                
 apply only to those teachers hired after the bill is signed into              
 law.  The remaining sections of the bill dealing with loss of                 
 tenure rights, layoffs and elimination of trial de novo go into               
 effect after the bill is signed and will have an affect on all                
 teachers.  Representative Ivan said he was available to answer                
 questions from the committee and also Mr. Wright, Legislative                 
 Assistant to Representative Ivan was also available for questions.            
 Number 191                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked if there would be other individuals                
 available to testify.  He would save his questions for later.                 
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said there were several people signed up to testify.            
 He said he would like to offer CSHB 217(L&C), version R, Kramer,              
 dated 4/25/95.  He asked his Administrative Assistant, Rod Mourant,           
 to come forward and articulate the changes which were made                    
 primarily in cooperation with the prime sponsor of the bill.                  
 Number 206                                                                    
 ROD MOURANT, Administrative Assistant to Representative Pete Kott,            
 said there were just a few changes between CSHB 217(JUD) version O            
 and the work draft CSHB 217(L&C), version R, dated 4/25/95, Kramer.           
 In the former version O of the Judiciary Committee, there was a               
 Section 3 which called for peer review, in the case of evaluation             
 and dispute of layoff.  The cost requirements in the peer review              
 section caused great concern for both the National Education                  
 Association (NEA) and PTA.  Likewise, both of those organizations             
 expressed concern over time away from the classroom on the part of            
 instructors to serve on a peer review committee.  Coupled with                
 that, again, is the expense of hiring substitute instructors while            
 they were serving on the committee.  For that reason, that section            
 has been deleted from version R.                                              
 MR. MOURANT said a small subsection in Section 5, page 3, line 31,            
 (f), was added that says a teacher in layoff status may choose                
 whether or not to treat the layoff as a termination for the                   
 purposes of receiving a refund of the balance of the teachers                 
 member contribution account in the Teachers Retirement System, AS             
 14.25.150.  That would allow an instructor who felt they needed               
 additional cash reserves to, in fact, avail themselves of the                 
 employee contribution amounts that are in their employee                      
 contribution account in the Teachers Retirement System.                       
 MR. MOURANT continued that a third change in the legislation is in            
 Section 6, page 4, which deletes the provision that was in the                
 Judiciary Committee version for mandatory advisory arbitration.               
 This would allow the teacher to take an appeal directly from appeal           
 to the superintendent directly to judicial review.  This                      
 accomplishes two things:  It is a big cost savings in not having to           
 hire an unbiased arbitrator to hear the case; and likewise, it                
 speeds the process up toward final resolution on a much quicker               
 basis.  He said those were the three major changes.  He pointed out           
 one correction that still needs to be made in this legislation,               
 which was an oversight by both the drafting attorney and himself,             
 is on page 2, line 10, still makes reference to the now deleted               
 appeal review section.  Therefore, item 3 on page 2, line 10 should           
 be deleted in its entirety.                                                   
 Number 268                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON mentioned that he has an amendment which                 
 addresses the concern brought up by Mr. Mourant.  He asked Mr.                
 Mourant if he had worked with the sponsor and if the sponsor was              
 comfortable with the changes that were being made in the committee            
 MR. MOURANT responded that was absolutely correct.                            
 Number 274                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved to adopt the work draft on HB 217\R,              
 dated 4/25/95.                                                                
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said a motion had been made to adopt CSHB 217(L&C),             
 dated 4/25/95.  He asked if there was objection.                              
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA objected.  He said the section that he liked            
 the most, which was the peer review, had been deleted.  He stated             
 he has always been an advocate of allowing teachers to be involved            
 in working with new teachers and helping to evaluate them.  He felt           
 teachers are a lot harder on themselves than administrators.  One             
 of the excuses made for not conducting evaluations is that the                
 administrators are overworked.  That may be, and that was one                 
 reason why he felt that teachers should be involved in policing               
 their own ranks.  He stated that other professional groups do this,           
 and believed it was probably the strongest thing that could be done           
 to improve the schools and the teaching profession.  He reiterated            
 he did not particularly like the way Section 3 was worded in the              
 original bill, but he did like the concept.                                   
 CHAIRMAN KOTT commented the initial peer review committee was a               
 membership of three teachers, and there was some concern voiced               
 regarding the funding for pulling those teachers out of the                   
 classroom.  It was not only the issue of taking them out of the               
 classroom, thereby not affording them the opportunity to teach the            
 children, but there was also the idea that there were no guidelines           
 or procedures identified for this evaluation process.  Who is going           
 to train these three panel members, would it be a roving panel,               
 would it be the same three members, do we train and continue to               
 retrain various teachers to be qualified in the peer review                   
 process.  It was his impression after listening to both sides, that           
 the best thing that could happen, unless it was fully funded, was             
 to go back to the status quo and take it out.  However, after                 
 listening to testimony, if it is the will of this committee to put            
 it back in, it can be done.                                                   
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said the Labor & Commerce Committee has an               
 asset that other committees didn't have; that's having a teacher on           
 the committee.  He asked if there was a teacher mentoring program             
 and if so, what would be the difference between that and peer                 
 review.  A teacher mentoring program has nothing to do with tenure            
 or tenure review; whereas, this peer review would be...                       
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA interjected specifically for evaluating for             
 tenure.  He added he was not aware of any statewide teacher mentor            
 program.  It is generally left up to the school districts to decide           
 if they want to do anything along those lines.  However, he felt              
 there should be one.  He commented that some of the new teachers              
 just coming out of college don't have the training and the coaching           
 to get their point across.  They need to be taught to come down to            
 the level of being able to teach children.  He said that he was               
 really speaking against the whole bill in a sense, in that this               
 isn't the problem.  He said two years or four years won't make any            
 difference.  Are you going to have people working with them, are              
 you going to train them anymore - nothing is going to change.  He             
 reiterated that nothing is going to change, this isn't the problem.           
 He said by the committee doing what was just said is also the                 
 problem.  Nobody wants to sit down and address the problems such as           
 money, etc.                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if Representative Kubina was maintaining his              
 objection to adopting the committee substitute.                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA replied no.                                             
 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there was further objection.  Hearing none,            
 CSHB 217(L&C), version R, dated 4/25/95 was adopted.                          
 CHAIRMAN KOTT noted there were people in Delta Junction waiting to            
 testify via teleconference.                                                   
 Number 377                                                                    
 WHITNEY AILLAUD testified via teleconference from Delta Junction,             
 and said HB 217 is nothing more than teacher bashing, under the               
 thinly veiled disguise of educational reform, considering the                 
 provision of increasing the service required for acquisition of               
 tenure from two to four years.  (Indisc.) school administrators are           
 forced to do their jobs and dismiss incompetent teachers quickly.             
 If HB 217 is enacted, good teachers will have to teach from their             
 (indisc.) while school officials can slack off and allow                      
 incompetents to remain on the job for four years.  He said other              
 sections in HB 217 are equally ridiculous, but was unable to                  
 address them because of the 60 second time period.  He urged the              
 committee to kill HB 217.                                                     
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA asked Chairman Kott asked if there was a                
 60 second time limit on testimony.                                            
 UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER said it was ordered with a one minute limit,             
 but it was at Chairman Kott's discretion.                                     
 CHAIRMAN KOTT responded he would allow up to three minutes, which             
 is standard practice for the House Labor & Commerce Committee.                
 MR. AILLAUD referred to the 3 percent reduction in funding. To                
 think that an entire school district's staff could be (indisc.)               
 because of the 3 percent reduction is absurd.  This opens the door            
 for all kinds of problems if there is a vindictive superintendent             
 and very good teachers who have served the community well, but                
 maybe have fallen from grace with the superintendent, would lose              
 their jobs because of this bill.  It would do nothing to help                 
 education in this state.                                                      
 Number 404                                                                    
 MARY BOHANAN, Teacher, testified via teleconference from Delta                
 Junction.  She said her children had gone through Alaska schools              
 and wanted to go on to become teachers in this state.  She asked              
 the committee members to not pass HB 217 or CSHB 217.  The issue of           
 laying off tenured teachers when there is a decrease in revenue               
 caused her much anxiety.  (Indisc.) fiscal or financial emergency             
 in a district be verified.  Will districts be asked to show a                 
 public record prior to laying off teachers, if they sought all cost           
 saving avenues before destroying us and the lives of this                     
 community?  According to this bill, 1 percent of $60,000 in this              
 district could cause many of us teachers to be laid off.  Is that             
 1 teacher, 8 teachers, 35 teachers?  Three percent or 10 percent              
 revenue -- what kind of numbers are we dealing with and how  do we            
 verify that these are actually cuts, because there are grants that            
 come in, local support that comes in.  What numbers are we really             
 talking about.  Is it just what the state provides?  She stated               
 this is a bad bill and asked committee members to hold it up so it            
 doesn't pass this year.                                                       
 Number 420                                                                    
 CARL ROSE, Executive Director, Association of Alaska School Boards,           
 said for the record they have agreed to some compromise language              
 that was originally embodied in CSHB 217(HES) and again in CSHB               
 217(JUD).  He said they originally asked for five years and the               
 compromise was four years.  They agreed on the peer review and                
 stated they supported the peer review.  He noted when they moved on           
 the issue of layoff and the discussion took place about how they              
 would verify, he went on record then and wanted to go on record now           
 that, "You have locally elected officials at the local level."                
 They are elected, they stand accountable at the election box, and             
 try to invoke a layoff with bogus information, and there will be              
 real trouble locally.  He said school board members don't educate             
 children; teachers do.  We, in fact, need more teachers, not less.            
 They do not control their revenue stream and the only means they              
 have to balance the budget is to manage.  Their lack of ability to            
 manage right now is curtailed greatly in a number of districts.  He           
 emphasized they supported the compromise legislation that addressed           
 advisory arbitration as a compromise from moving directly to                  
 judicial review.  They initially wanted subject area endorsements.            
 He thought the public would like to know that teachers in math are            
 endorsed in the area of math.  They'd like to know that teachers in           
 science were endorsed in the area of science.  They think they                
 compromised when they agreed to recognize secondary and elementary            
 qualifications or primary qualifications so they could address                
 qualifications before seniority.  He thought that was a major move.           
 MR. ROSE said there are three areas in the bill which concerns                
 them.  One is acquisition; two is layoff; and three is de novo.  In           
 the area of acquisition, they are asking for four years.  They are            
 asking for four years not to say they need four years to determine            
 whether a teacher is not worthy to teach.  If a teacher is not                
 satisfactory and they have realized that in one year, they are not            
 bound to keep them for four years.  They do want to ensure that new           
 teachers, new professionals who try to enter the profession, are              
 given enough time to get professional development, to get                     
 supervision, in-service training, to get experience before a                  
 decision is made prematurely that could alter their career.  They             
 are asking for more time to make a better decision.  Secondly, is             
 the area of layoff.  Presently, the law is silent on financial                
 shortfall.  He said you can nonretain a teacher if you have a                 
 decline in revenue - nonretain.  They think that nonretaining a               
 teacher is appropriate if a teacher is incompetent.  They think it            
 is appropriate if a teacher substantially does not comply with the            
 laws and regulations.  They think it is appropriate if a teacher is           
 found to be immoral.  They think it is inappropriate for financial            
 emergency.  Thereby, they think for financial emergency, whether it           
 be for student decline or revenue decline, there should be a layoff           
 provision created that protects seniority, that protects tenure,              
 that protects accrued leave, and not simply dismissed.  They think            
 it is fair and they think qualifications should be looked at for              
 rehire.  They think it is a quality issue.  If you look at                    
 qualifications first, you send a message to your job force that you           
 should look at qualifications.  In this case, it would be primary             
 and secondary, but eventually they hope to attain subject area                
 endorsements; thereby, multiple endorsements for a student or for             
 a teacher would be the measure of employment security.  They think            
 it is good for the work force; they think it is good for                      
 instruction.  They think it is good for employment security.                  
 MR. ROSE said on the issue of de novo, they have statistics that              
 will show that on average, a trial de novo to remove a teacher                
 could cost somewhere in the area of $100,000 for the entire                   
 process.  They think it is expensive and that money should be spent           
 in the classroom.  They think if they take an action that is                  
 unfavorable to a teacher, that teacher should have the opportunity            
 to go to superior court for a judicial review.  They think that if            
 called upon, to go to a second trial, it is very costly, a                    
 duplicate effort, and very expensive.  Mr. Rose said he thinks the            
 issue of 3 percent as a trigger - he opposes a trigger.  They would           
 agree to a trigger if it satisfies the committee, but he is opposed           
 to it.  He stated they are elected officials and if they do                   
 anything that is inappropriate, they should be removed from office.           
 He said he would guarantee that any school board that decides to              
 layoff teachers, when they have other areas of the budget that have           
 not been addressed, has real trouble.  These are elected officials,           
 they assume that responsibility for performance, but he said they             
 do not control our revenue, the legislature does; the city councils           
 do.  Mr. Rose said they stand responsible for the performance of              
 their schools and if the funding is inadequate, that responsibility           
 should be shared.                                                             
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said he would have assumed that the most                 
 important job that a school board member has or an administrator              
 has is teacher development and teacher assessment.  He asked Mr.              
 Rose to correct him if he was wrong and discuss those other                   
 responsibilities that might have a higher priority.                           
 MR. ROSE agreed with Representative Elton.                                    
 Number 487                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said given that, he doesn't understand what              
 the issue is between two and four years.  If the most important               
 chore that an administrator has or that a school board member has             
 are those two things, why should it take that long.  He said he               
 lived in a community where there are dozens, if not hundreds, of              
 people that would be willing to go to work, and if somebody doesn't           
 work out after two years, why can't we just dip into that pool of             
 people that would love to go to work in the Juneau School District.           
 MR. ROSE responded he believed they did that.  He said right now              
 because of the two year tenure law, it is an inadequate amount of             
 time to assess.  He commented the biggest pressure that school                
 districts face right now is that we spend too much money in                   
 administration.  Thereby, if we look across the state, statewide              
 we reduce administration, but we further increase the need for                
 teachers.  He was not saying they do a perfect job at evaluation.             
 Evaluation continues to be a problem.  There is a tendency to look            
 at the worst case scenario and over generalize.  He said he had               
 heard testimony that some people have not been evaluated in five              
 years.  Administrators adamantly disagree when they are asked.  He            
 said he thought we had a responsibility to ensure that teachers               
 have adequate amounts of time to gain experience, to gain                     
 confidence, and to gain supervision in a new profession before a              
 decision is made that alters their career.                                    
 Number 514                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON commented he had said earlier in relation to             
 another bill, that anecdotal experience is very dangerous; however,           
 he was trained as a journalist.  He started out as a reporter and             
 ended up an editor.  If someone came to him with a premise that               
 "I'm sorry, you shouldn't get rid of me for four years as a                   
 reporter because the most important job that an editor has is good            
 reporters.  If you don't have good reporters, you get phone calls             
 from readers.  If you don't have good teachers, administrators                
 probably get phone calls from parents."  If an editor can make a              
 decision within three months of whether a person is going to make             
 it as a reporter based on that kind of feedback from angry readers,           
 Representative Elton said he is having a difficult time accepting             
 the argument that an administrator that is doing his/her job, can't           
 make a decision based on feedback from angry parents as quickly as            
 an editor can make a decision on a reporter.  The development of a            
 reporter is the editor's top job.  Why should it take four years?             
 Number 530                                                                    
 MR. ROSE said if you have an excellent teacher, it could be true;             
 four years may be too long.  If you have a bad teacher, that                  
 decision can be made much sooner.  But if you have marginal                   
 teachers, what about them?  He said that is what they are faced               
 with.  They just want the time to make a good decision.                       
 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON responded that if he had a marginal reporter,            
 he would go out and get a better one.  That is a decision that                
 parents of students would want an administrator to do.  They don't            
 want a system that goes on for four years protecting a marginal               
 teacher when there are plenty of people out there knocking on the             
 door for jobs that could be a better job.  He didn't think the                
 people waiting in the Juneau School District are marginal teachers.           
 MR. ROSE pointed out the standard under certification right now for           
 removing a teacher is incompetence.  What we desire is excellence;            
 the standard for removal is incompetence.  He felt that standard is           
 low.  He said if we had the time to ensure that the best teachers             
 are given tenure and granted tenure, because there are                        
 extraordinary benefits to tenure, that is what we would like to               
 Number 544                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if administrators would rather sit down           
 and work these things out with teachers or (indisc.).                         
 MR. ROSE said teachers.                                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA asked if Mr. Rose had commented that one of             
 their biggest problems is they spend too much on administration.              
 MR. ROSE clarified that is what they are criticized for.  That has            
 become the standard and every school district that he was aware of            
 that has reduced their administration considerably.  He noted that            
 testimony heard last week indicated the Mat-Su School District has            
 reduced their administration in the last years by 50 percent;                 
 they've increased students by 1200.  Mr. Rose emphasized they are             
 trying to reduce administration; meanwhile the regulations,                   
 statutes, and requirements need to be met.                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA said he wasn't criticizing Mr. Rose, he                 
 thought Mr. Rose was admitting their administration costs were too            
 high.  He said he misunderstood Mr. Rose's remark.                            
 MR. ROSE said they are accused of that.                                       
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA said he has firsthand experience in talking             
 with teachers and administrators who have admitted they don't have            
 time for evaluation.  He has experienced getting his evaluation on            
 his last day and being asked to sign it.  The person who prepared             
 the evaluation had not been in his classroom the entire year, other           
 than to run in and deliver a message.  He knows it has happened               
 with nontenured teachers.  He asked why there isn't statements in             
 these bills that say a teacher has a right to know when they are              
 not doing something right or not meeting the standard.  They have             
 a right, whether it is peers or administrators, in there with them.           
 He inquired if it was in regulation that people are supposed to be            
 evaluated.  What happens when the rules aren't followed?                      
 MR. ROSE said he wished there were administrators present to speak            
 for themselves; however, when they talk to administrators they                
 explain what their role and responsibility is or the administrators           
 explain what their role and responsibility is, they tell us they              
 are administrating and they struggle especially in multi-site                 
 districts to be able to comply with all those regulations.  He said           
 for noncompliance, your funds are withheld.  He thought that was              
 the only compliance measure there is in the Department of                     
 Education.  He said they ask for those evaluations before they                
 consider the review of tenure.                                                
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA commented that on two difference occasions,             
 there were nontenured people that teachers recognized were not up             
 to par, and they worked with the administrators to ensure this                
 person didn't have any stigma, talked about things they could                 
 improve, they got a letter that wasn't a glowing letter but it was            
 something where they could go get more experience - not ruin their            
 career.  He stressed that people need to work together.                       
 MR. ROSE reiterated they did support the peer review.                         
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said there were three individuals wishing to testify            
 from Kenai/Soldotna.                                                          
 Number 613                                                                    
 JIM SIMEROTH testified via teleconference from Kenai-Soldotna.  He            
 stated he has 31 years experience as a teacher in the Kenai                   
 Peninsula Borough School District.  He commented that HB 217 was              
 detrimental to public education.  School districts do not need four           
 years to let incompetent or ineffective teachers hang around until            
 something is done about them.  In his opinion, that makes the                 
 problem worse.  He commented he had a lot of problems with the peer           
 review committee.  First, he was not sure he would want to be on a            
 committee that would evaluate another teacher.  Teachers are hired            
 to teach students and one of the duties of an administrator is to             
 evaluate teachers.  He said the issue that should be addressed is             
 effective evaluation, not tenure.  In regards to mandatory advisory           
 arbitration, he felt that was simply a contradiction of terms.  If            
 it is mandatory, it should count for something; not be advisory.              
 The last issue he wanted to address was abolishing the de novo                
 trial.  He felt that went against the (indisc.) principle; that is            
 that people must be treated in a fair and just way.  This bill                
 allows administrators to unfairly dismiss a teacher and then never            
 really have to explain what the real reason was.  He thought the              
 districts (indisc.) to the de novo trial simply because (indisc.)             
 they lose those.  They usually lose those because some unfair,                
 unjust decision has been made.  He urged the committee to not pass            
 this bill.                                                                    
 Number 634                                                                    
 TRENA RICHARDSON testified via teleconference from Soldotna.  She             
 said she is a 22-year employee of the Kenai Peninsula School                  
 District.  In general, she thinks HB 217 is overall a terrible                
 TAPE 95-48, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 001                                                                    
 MS. RICHARDSON continued...which cost the district additional                 
 dollars or they could be compensated by the (indisc.) for the                 
 additional work they are being asked to do.  This is going to cost            
 the school district a lot of money, and where is that money going             
 to come from.  School districts' budgets are already stretched past           
 their limits.  Districts all over the state have been cutting                 
 budgets this year, increasing class size, cutting programs, etc.              
 She said the legislature is talking about not fully funding                   
 education right now, so how can they justify strapping districts              
 with a peer review committee, which is just another unfunded                  
 mandate with no (indisc.).  (Indisc.) that the legislature this               
 year could spend as much time identifying new resources and funds             
 than they have on bills such as HB 217 (indisc.) employee groups,             
 the state would probably find that there would be less of a funding           
 crisis because there would be so much of that funding available.              
 She urged the committee to not put any more unfunded mandates on              
 the school districts.                                                         
 Number 028                                                                    
 DON OBERG testified via teleconference from Kenai, that he had some           
 real reservations about the idea that this would be a cost saving             
 measure.  As he understood earlier testimony, (indisc.) judicial              
 review is very expense.  He suggested the committee might look at             
 what it might cost for an (indisc.) hearing.  He was sure it would            
 result in attorneys for the school district and possibly for the              
 teacher.  Then there would be advisory arbitration.  He said, as              
 you know arbitration is nonexistent.  Then there would be a                   
 (indisc.) hearing again to determine if the arbitration (indisc.--            
 talking amongst committee members).  He urged the committee to look           
 at the possible expenses before they make a decision.                         
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said it is the intent of the chair to recess to the             
 call of the chair.  Committee members were summoned to the House              
 floor, as there was a call placed on the House.                               
 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA raised an objection.  He commented that given           
 the time of day, they would be debating tort reform on the House              
 floor which would take several hours to get through, and he                   
 wholeheartedly objected to having committee meetings in the middle            
 of the night when this is a subject that people want to testify on.           
 CHAIRMAN KOTT said it was not his intent to call the committee back           
 tonight if they are on the House floor after 10:00 p.m.                       

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