Legislature(2013 - 2014)

04/23/2014 07:14 PM HB278

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07:14:41 PM Start
07:14:59 PM HB278
07:43:40 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                        HB 278-EDUCATION                                                                                    
7:14:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER announced  that the only order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.  278,  "An   Act  increasing  the  base  student                                                               
allocation  used  in the  formula  for  state funding  of  public                                                               
education;   repealing    the   secondary    student   competency                                                               
examination  and related  requirements; relating  to high  school                                                               
course credit  earned through assessment;  relating to  a college                                                               
and career readiness assessment  for secondary students; relating                                                               
to  charter  school  application  appeals  and  program  budgets;                                                               
relating  to  residential  school  applications;  increasing  the                                                               
stipend  for  boarding  school students;  extending  unemployment                                                               
contributions for  the Alaska technical and  vocational education                                                               
program; relating  to earning high  school credit  for completion                                                               
of   vocational  education   courses   offered  by   institutions                                                               
receiving  technical and  vocational  education program  funding;                                                               
relating to education tax  credits; making conforming amendments;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
[Before  the   committee  was  CSHB   278(FIN)am  and   SCS  CSHB
CHAIR  HAWKER stated  the  purpose  of this  meeting  will be  to                                                               
discuss  the open  or unresolved  items in  the House  and Senate                                                               
versions of HB 278.   He reported that significant discussion has                                                               
occurred between  and among the  caucuses and the committee.   He                                                               
related that  a final  solution will  ultimately come  before the                                                               
committee in the  form of a free  conference committee substitute                                                               
(FCCS)  for HB  278 once  the  resolution on  the remaining  open                                                               
items has been reached.                                                                                                         
7:16:39 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER summarized the accord  the Free Conference Committee                                                               
has reached thus  far, including that the  state will appropriate                                                               
$100 million  per year  in funding for  the education  budget for                                                               
each  of the  next  three  years.   This  funding  will be  split                                                               
evenly, with $150  million provided within the  BSA [base student                                                               
allocation]  and $150  million provided  funding outside  the BSA                                                               
[outside  the  foundation formula].    In  addition, some  direct                                                               
grants  will be  funded as  well as  specific targeted  programs.                                                               
The  aforementioned  $300 million  solution  will  provide a  BSA                                                               
equivalent increase of $348  in FY 15, $356 in FY  16 and $356 in                                                               
FY 17. In  addition to this funding increase to  the BSA, program                                                               
funding will increase by approximately  $13 million in FY 15, $11                                                               
million in FY 16,  and $11 million in FY 17.   The reason for the                                                               
slight  drop off  in  program funding  is due  to  the number  of                                                               
studies and  further research  into education  in the  first year                                                               
and other  one-time spending  that will  not continue  beyond the                                                               
first year, he said.                                                                                                            
CHAIR  HAWKER   directed  attention  to  the   committee  handout                                                               
entitled  "HB  278  Comparison,  dated  4/23/14,  7:11  PM,"  and                                                               
offered  to identify  whether the  House or  Senate language  was                                                               
adopted by the  Free Conference Committee for  insertion into the                                                               
proposed FCCS for HB 278.                                                                                                       
7:18:57 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER  directed attention to  [Section 2] to  the testing-                                                               
out  option.    The  House language  allowed  secondary  students                                                               
[grades  7-12]  to  test-out  for all  topics  but  the  Senate's                                                               
version limited  the testing-out  option to high  school students                                                               
and credit mastery  of core topics.   After extensive discussions                                                               
with  the caucuses,  the department,  and  school districts,  the                                                               
Free  Conference Committee  will  adopt the  House language,  but                                                               
will limit it to core topics only.                                                                                              
CHAIR  HAWKER said  the language  in  Senate Section  3, will  be                                                               
adopted,  which replaces  the exit  [HSGQE] exam  and will  allow                                                               
students the  ability to  take either the  SAT, ACT,  or WorkKeys                                                               
prior to high  school graduation.  Currently,  by regulation, the                                                               
WorkKeys has  been the  default exam;  however, this  change will                                                               
allow students  an option to  also select  either the SAT  or ACT                                                               
exam,  which is  consistent  with the  governor's  proposal.   He                                                               
pointed out  a number  of technical  sections were  adopted along                                                               
with  this provision,  including  Senate Section  54, which  will                                                               
allow  students who  has  previously been  denied  a diploma  for                                                               
failure to complete  the HSGQE to apply for  and retroactively be                                                               
issued a  diploma so long  as they otherwise meet  the graduation                                                               
CHAIR HAWKER related that the  Free Conference Committee accepted                                                               
$5  million  of the  funding  in  [Senate  Section 7A]  to  bring                                                               
Internet speeds  for eligible  schools up to  10 megabits.   This                                                               
funding will  be needed to  access a federal subsidy  program for                                                               
that activity.  The Free  Conference Committee did not accept the                                                               
[Senate Section 7B]  one-to-one personalized learning opportunity                                                               
grant program  or [Senate Section  7C] the  innovative approaches                                                               
to  learning  at this  time.    Certainly the  legislature  could                                                               
entertain these  grants in  the future,  but the  programs needed                                                               
additional work.                                                                                                                
7:21:58 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MEYER  remarked  that  the   House's  education  plan  was                                                               
originally  funded  at $75  to  $76  million  per year  with  the                                                               
Senate's  version set  at $125  million  per year  since it  also                                                               
included  reform  measures.   The  Senate  worked to  reduce  the                                                               
amount to  $100 million.   Senate  Sections 7A,  7B, and  7C were                                                               
three  items that  were also  considered.   Initially,  increased                                                               
funding for Internet  services was proposed at  $7.3 million, but                                                               
was  ultimately reduced  to $5  million. However,  the one-to-one                                                               
personalized  learning opportunity  grant program  could dovetail                                                               
with  the  capital budget  and  the  governor's digital  learning                                                               
initiative, he said.   He concurred that  the innovative approach                                                               
to learning grant  program needed more time to  better define the                                                               
7:23:21 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER directed  attention to Section 13  [House and Senate                                                               
version]  and  indicated  that  the  $500  one-time  per  student                                                               
charter  school grant  program was  adopted.   Also accepted  was                                                               
Senate Section 14, the allotment  rollover language, which allows                                                               
students  in  correspondence  study programs  to  rollover  funds                                                               
without  the funds  lapsing, recognizing  that any  unspent funds                                                               
will  lapse  back to  their  respective  districts when  students                                                               
leave the program.  He indicated  that with respect to the school                                                               
debt reimbursement in Section 20,  the 70/30 program was retained                                                               
but the  60/40 program,  previously altered  to a  40/60 program,                                                               
was ultimately adopted  as a 50/50 program in  recognition of the                                                               
state's  need  to  consider the  amount  of  educational  funding                                                               
support to  communities for school construction  and maintenance.                                                               
He characterized this measure as  a little "belt tightening," and                                                               
a compromise from the original bill.                                                                                            
CHAIR HAWKER directed attention to  Senate Section 23, noting the                                                               
adoption of  the increase  to the  residential school  stipend to                                                               
$2.25 million,  bringing the stipend  for residential  schools to                                                               
the level recommended by the  administration.  This was partially                                                               
funded in the past but is now fully funded, he said.                                                                            
7:25:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HAWKER turned  to Senate  Section 24  and emphasized  that                                                               
substantial  dialogue occurred  with  respect  to increasing  the                                                               
required local contribution by altering  the local mill tax levy,                                                               
but ultimately it was not accepted in this bill.                                                                                
7:25:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER  noted Senate  Section 26  was accepted,  which will                                                               
increase state  funding for the correspondence  study factor from                                                               
80  percent  to  90  percent  of the  BSA.    Further,  the  Free                                                               
Conference Committee also accepted  Senate Section 27, to provide                                                               
additional funding for charter school  grants for the first three                                                               
years to support the initiation of charter schools.                                                                             
CHAIR HAWKER  directed attention  to House  Sections 20,  21, and                                                               
22,  with respect  to the  BSA.   The  Free Conference  Committee                                                               
adopted  an increase  of  $150  to the  BSA  the  first year,  an                                                               
additional $50  increase in  the second  year, and  an additional                                                               
$50 increase  in the third year.   Thus, the overall  effect will                                                               
be to increase the BSA by $150 in  FY 15, $200 in FY 16, and $250                                                               
in FY 17, he said.                                                                                                              
CHAIR  HAWKER  related that  the  Free  Conference Committee  has                                                               
expressed  an  interest  in a  comprehensive  study  of  Alaska's                                                               
education system.  He directed  attention to House Section 47 and                                                               
Senate  Section  55,  relating   the  Free  Conference  Committee                                                               
accepted the  House version  for a  salary and  benefits proposal                                                               
study.   Under  the  proposal, the  Department of  Administration                                                               
will  perform a  thorough  statewide exam  of  school salary  and                                                               
benefits  as  well  as  tenure   issues  and  come  back  to  the                                                               
legislature with statewide recommendations  for best practices on                                                               
all these issues, he said.                                                                                                      
7:27:20 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER  directed attention to  House Section 48,  to grants                                                               
outside the  BSA.   As previously  recapped, this  mechanism will                                                               
provide $100 million of funding  each year, split evenly over the                                                               
course of three years between  funding inside the BSA and funding                                                               
outside the  BSA [formula].   He related the total  grant amounts                                                               
of $42,953,000  in FY 15;  $32,243,000 in FY 16,  and $19,904,000                                                               
in  FY 17.    He explained  that the  decrease  in grant  funding                                                               
reflects  the  proposed   increase  to  the  BSA   for  the  same                                                               
timeframe, with  the BSA  increasing to $37.5  million in  FY 15,                                                               
$50 million in FY 16, and $62.5 million in FY 17.                                                                               
7:28:24 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KITO  III asked for  further clarification  on the                                                               
BSA for FY 15.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR  HAWKER  answered  that the  $37.5  million  total  funding                                                               
represents a $150 increase in the BSA.                                                                                          
7:28:43 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER  directed attention  to Sections  50-51, to  the two                                                               
studies  recommended by  the Senate  - the  District Cost  Factor                                                               
Study  and the  School Size  Factor  Study.   These studies  were                                                               
rolled  into  a  more  comprehensive  approach  to  evaluate  all                                                               
aspects of  education funding and spending,  including to further                                                               
review  the Department  of Administration's  salary and  benefits                                                               
and tenure proposals.   He related that these  studies will begin                                                               
immediately  this  summer  via  professional  services  contracts                                                               
issued by  the Legislative Budget  & Audit Committee (LB&A).   He                                                               
anticipated  that   the  29th   Legislature  will   evaluate  the                                                               
proposals and  make recommendations for all  aspects of education                                                               
and spending in the next legislature.                                                                                           
7:29:27 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HAWKER reported  that the  School Design  and Construction                                                               
Study in Senate  Section 52 was adopted and  will consider energy                                                               
efficient  and   cost  effective  designs  for   engineering  and                                                               
construction  school  facilities  statewide.   He  reported  that                                                               
Senate  Section 53  was  accepted, which  will  extend the  ANSEP                                                               
[Alaska Native Science and Engineering  Program] high school STEM                                                               
[Science, Technology,  Engineering and Math] program  for a pilot                                                               
program  in middle  schools that  will terminate  June 30,  2017.                                                               
Upon completion, this program also  requires a performance report                                                               
and an evaluation report, he said.                                                                                              
7:30:13 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER reported that the  Free Conference Committee did not                                                               
adopt the  House changes  to teacher  tenure [House  Sections 23-                                                               
24].   Instead the Free  Conference Committee would  like teacher                                                               
tenure to be  thoroughly studied and reported  the legislature to                                                               
allow  the  legislature to  make  decisions  on how  to  approach                                                               
teacher tenure from a best-practices standpoint.                                                                                
CHAIR HAWKER said this concludes  the Free Conference Committee's                                                               
recommended changes.   He commended Chair Meyer  for a productive                                                               
negotiation process.                                                                                                            
7:31:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MEYER  also exchanged optimistic statements  with the House                                                               
Chair.   He said that  the proposed [FCCS for  HB 278] is  a good                                                               
compromise  bill, which  is acceptable  and in  accord with  both                                                               
bodies.  He  reiterated that the Senate's education  bill had set                                                               
overall funding at  $125 million and the  House's version totaled                                                               
approximately $75 million.  This  committee has met in the middle                                                               
at $100  million, with half inside  the BSA and half  outside the                                                               
BSA.   Although some Senate  members would have preferred  not to                                                               
increase BSA  funding since the overall  foundation formula needs                                                               
to  be addressed,  other members  preferred  that the  additional                                                               
funding should remain  outside the BSA.  Still,  a compromise was                                                               
struck and the bill contains  additional reform that will advance                                                               
educational practices in Alaska.   Further, the proposed [FCCS HB
278] will  provide parents  with more  options and  teachers with                                                               
adequate  resources.   He thanked  the Senate  members for  their                                                               
7:32:47 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  DUNLEAVY   acknowledged  that   the  agreement   in  the                                                               
committee's proposal  doesn't represent  all of  his preferences;                                                               
however, he said  the overall "package" will help  the state look                                                               
toward the future since  questions about sustainability certainly                                                               
exist.   Further, studies within  the proposal will  examine some                                                               
of the  issues and help  the state  make decisions on  an overall                                                               
approach to education  and delivery system in Alaska.   While the                                                               
current system may  not be sustainable, it doesn't  mean that the                                                               
state can't  have a robust  public education system,  although it                                                               
may ultimately  not look like  it does now.   For one  thing, the                                                               
current  educational system  is costly.   He  anticipated further                                                               
discussions on  other items,  including "common  core" standards,                                                               
concern about  implementation of  standards, and the  high school                                                               
graduation  assessment  [exit  exam] to  determine  whether  high                                                               
school  graduates are  prepared for  the future.   He  emphasized                                                               
that the  proposal contained  in the proposed  [FCCS for  HB 278]                                                               
will buy  the state time  to explore  the issues in  more detail.                                                               
He  cautioned members  not  to  be afraid  of  change since  some                                                               
changes will better serve students.                                                                                             
7:35:36 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HAWKER,  in response  to  Senator  Dunleavy's comments  on                                                               
"common core" standards,  advised that the proposed  [FCCS for HB
278]  contains  two House  provisions  related  to "common  core"                                                               
standards.   First, the proposed FCCS  for HB 278 will  contain a                                                               
provision  to prohibit  the EED  from spending  funds on  "common                                                               
core" standards  implementation for  K-12.  Second,  the proposed                                                               
bill will contain language to ensure  that the state may not cede                                                               
any measure of  autonomy or control over  education standards and                                                               
assessments.    This language  places  a  "firewall" between  the                                                               
state and  infiltration of the  "common core" standards  into the                                                               
state education system, he said.                                                                                                
CHAIR  HAWKER  acknowledged  that   House  members  have  diverse                                                               
opinions and all  members are not happy with all  elements in the                                                               
proposal.   Certainly, House members  had preferred  less overall                                                               
spending and more  spending inside the BSA than  outside the BSA;                                                               
however, the  Free Conference Committee  has reached a  very good                                                               
agreement.  He said, "One of  my watchwords is one always have to                                                               
be careful not to let the  perfect be the enemy of the possible."                                                               
He offered his belief that what  has been accomplished is what is                                                               
7:36:57 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GATTIS acknowledged that  the proposal spends more                                                               
money  than initially  was considered;  however,  there are  many                                                               
great things in  the proposed [FCCS for HB 278].   She said isn't                                                               
a huge proponent  of studying matters; however,  she thinks these                                                               
studies  are long  overdue.   She related  correspondence studies                                                               
are important  in her  district and she  is pleased  some charter                                                               
school  provisions  are  included  in  the  proposal  since  many                                                               
parents want  charter schools.   Finally, she offered  her belief                                                               
that  the proposed  [FCCS for  HB 278]  indicates that  the state                                                               
strongly supports public education.                                                                                             
7:38:06 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KITO  III commended  the Chair  and his  staff for                                                               
keeping the committee  informed.  He also agreed  that the caucus                                                               
would have  appreciated additional  BSA increases;  however, $100                                                               
million [for each of three  years] is fairly substantial funding.                                                               
He  expressed  concern  about the  potential  loss  of  teachers,                                                               
hoping  not  many teachers  would  be  laid  off.   He  expressed                                                               
further  concern  that the  one-time  funding  is not  being  put                                                               
through the formula.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  KITO  III  remarked  on  the  existing  education                                                               
system.   Statewide  studies  have  shown the  state  has had  an                                                               
increase in  poverty levels in  the state  from 31 percent  to 46                                                               
percent.   Thus,  a significant  number of  students have  higher                                                               
needs in  our schools.   Despite the increase in  poverty levels,                                                               
schools  have experienced  an increase  in student  scores.   For                                                               
example,  students might  not be  reading at  the right  level in                                                               
fourth  grade,  but by  eighth  grade  are  reading at  level  or                                                               
better.   This might  mean that  the state  is falling  behind in                                                               
early education and pre-kindergarten,  he said, so examining pre-                                                               
kindergarten funding will be important.   Although the funding is                                                               
approximately  $100 million  in increased  spending, in  terms of                                                               
the  $5.8  billion operating  budget  and  a substantial  capital                                                               
budget,  these are  small amounts  that will  allow the  state to                                                               
adjust and  prioritize education in  the system.   He appreciated                                                               
the work  the Chair  and other  members have  put forth  to reach                                                               
this proposal.                                                                                                                  
7:40:12 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR DUNLEAVY pointed out that  local school districts, school                                                               
boards,  parents,  and other  groups  will  ultimately be  making                                                               
determinations  on spending  and  decisions  on salaries,  hiring                                                               
teachers, or starting pre-kindergarten programs.                                                                                
7:41:01 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MEYER thanked the governor  for proposing the initial bill.                                                               
The  bill  was  taken  up  in  both  bodies  and  the  conference                                                               
committee  blended the  House and  Senate  views.   He hoped  the                                                               
respective bodies of  the legislature will support  the [HCCS for                                                               
HB 278] when it comes to the  floor.  He thanked Chair Hawker and                                                               
all  parties  involved  in  the process,  including  staff.    He                                                               
specifically  thanked David  Teal,  Suzanne  Armstrong, and  Edra                                                               
Morledge for their assistance.   He said that the Free Conference                                                               
Committee could not have operated without good staff.                                                                           
CHAIR HAWKER  joined in  expressing thanks  to participants.   He                                                               
acknowledged  that his  staff, Juli  Lucky,  Rena Delbridge,  and                                                               
Cecile Elliott, are invaluable.                                                                                                 
7:42:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER announced that the  next meeting will be recessed to                                                               
a time  certain.   He advised that  the proposed  free conference                                                               
committee  substitute  (FCCS)  for  HB  278  is  currently  being                                                               
drafted and will be reviewed and distributed.                                                                                   
7:43:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HAWKER recessed  the meeting until 10:00 a.m.  on April 24,                                                               

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