Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/27/1995 07:05 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 substitute. 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 have. 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 bill. 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.