Legislature(2015 - 2016)Anch LIO Auditorium
05/20/2015 11:00 AM EDUCATION
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HB 44-SEX ABUSE/ASSAULT/DATING VIOL PREV. PROGS [Contains discussion regarding the inclusion of language from HB 80, SB 89, and SB 102 into the proposed Senate committee substitute (SCS) for HB 44, Version G.] 11:02:38 AM CHAIR DUNLEAVY announced that the only order of business would be CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 44(FIN), "An Act relating to sexual abuse and sexual assault awareness and prevention efforts in public schools; and relating to dating violence and abuse awareness and prevention efforts in public schools." Left pending from the meeting on 5/19/15 was the motion to adopt as the working document the proposed Senate committee substitute (SCS) for HB 44, labeled 29-LS0258\G, Glover, 5/18/15. CHAIR DUNLEAVY, with regard to the proposed Senate committee substitute (SCS) for HB 44, referred to Section 23's proposed repeal of AS 14.03.075(a)-(c) and (e)(1) and AS 14.07.165(a)(5) and (b) - which together require students to undergo a college and career readiness assessment in order to obtain a high school diploma - and offered his understanding that this proposed repeal [originally in HB 80] was added to HB 44 as a cost- savings' measure. SENATOR STEVENS referred to the bill's proposed new AS 14.30.355 - addressing training programs for sexual abuse/assault awareness/prevention - and expressed a preference for passing only that provision. He also opined that since some school districts are currently providing sexual abuse/assault awareness/prevention training and absorbing the costs, that all school districts should do so. Offering his understanding that there are private entities willing to assist with such training programs, he expressed frustration over school districts that are unwilling to absorb the costs of providing this type of training. 11:07:28 AM CHAIR DUNLEAVY removed his objection to the motion made on 5/19/15 to adopt the proposed Senate committee substitute (SCS) for HB 44 - labeled 29-LS0258\G, Glover, 5/18/15 - as the working document. After ascertaining that there were no further objections, he relayed that Version G was before the committee. CHAIR DUNLEAVY reiterated that Section 23's proposed repeal of AS 14.03.075(a)-(c) and (e)(1) and AS 14.07.165(a)(5) and (b) - requiring students to undergo a college and career readiness assessment in order to obtain a high school diploma - was added to the bill as a cost-savings' measure. Repealing this requirement won't preclude students from undergoing such assessments, nor will it preclude school districts from helping students undergo such assessments. 11:10:58 AM CINDY MOORE, mentioning that her daughter Breanna Moore was killed last summer by her boyfriend in what Ms. Moore referred to as an incidence of dating violence, explained that she's been working with legislators to add to HB 44 the provision addressing dating violence/abuse; this provision, along with the provision addressing sexual abuse/assault, may be known as the "Alaska Safe Children's Act". She offered her beliefs that passage of these provisions would result in teachers having more time to teach instead of having to deal with the behavior problems sexually abused students exhibit; that their passage would not cost the State any money; and that other entities would pick up all the costs of the associated awareness/prevention training. With regard to victims of sexual abuse of a minor, she offered her beliefs that the first step toward recovery is knowing there are people in authority to talk to, and that passage of these provisions of the bill would ensure that students have that knowledge. In conclusion, she indicated disfavor with Version G of HB 44 because of the provisions that were added, and a preference for having CSHB 44(FIN) be the bill that moves from committee, because under it, it would be mandatory for school districts to provide students with sexual abuse/assault and dating violence/abuse awareness/prevention training. 11:15:02 AM BUTCH MOORE, mentioning that he is Breanna Moore's father, expressed disfavor with Version G of HB 44, and asked that CSHB 44(FIN) be the vehicle that moves from committee, both because of its limited focus and because under it, it would be mandatory for school districts to provide students with the aforementioned awareness/prevention training. He expressed concern that if Version G is the vehicle that moves from committee, the bill would no longer have sufficient support to pass because it now includes language from unrelated bills. 11:19:18 AM SENATOR LESIL MCGUIRE, Alaska State Legislature, noting that other iterations and previous versions of HB 44 have garnered broad bipartisan support, expressed concern that because Version G now includes language from unrelated pieces of legislation, it could put passage of the bill at risk or render it unconstitutional, particularly given that those unrelated pieces of legislation, in themselves controversial, were not included in the governor's call to special session. With regard to the bill's proposal to provide for sexual abuse/assault and dating violence/abuse awareness/prevention training in Alaska's schools, she pointed out that Alaska leads the nation in sexual assault and sexual abuse of a minor, and ventured that the bill's proposed Alaska Safe Children's Act is intended to empower victims and make Alaska a safer place to live. The language comprising the Alaska Safe Children's Act constitutes a good bill, one that should pass, she opined, and reiterated her concern that Version G's inclusion of language from three unrelated bills could prove problematic. In conclusion, she asked the committee to reconsider its actions in adopting Version G, and instead have CSHB 44(FIN) be the version that moves from committee. SENATOR MCGUIRE, in response to comments and questions, offered her understanding that the same private entities that are currently providing and/or paying for sexual abuse/assault awareness/prevention training in some of Alaska's schools could also provide and/or pay for dating violence/abuse awareness/prevention training. Also, options are being sought for those schools districts that are still concerned about the cost of providing sexual abuse/assault and dating violence/abuse awareness/prevention training. The provision that makes training discretionary rather than mandatory, as in Section 16 of Version G, will help address those concerns. Furthermore, the language allowing parents to excuse their children from such training, and from receiving associated notifications, was included in order to address concerns about the right of parents to determine what their children are being taught. Characterizing HB 44's proposed Alaska Safe Children's Act as constituting a good, stand-alone bill that should pass in order to provide a safety net for Alaska's children, she again reiterated her concern that it could prove problematic to include language from three unrelated controversial bills that were not part of the governor's call to special session. 11:41:35 AM SENATOR MCGUIRE, in response to further comments and questions, indicated that she had some concern regarding the provisions of Version G that propose to repeal the requirement that students undergo a college and career readiness assessment in order to obtain a high school diploma, because such assessments can often highlight for students new career/education opportunities. SENATOR HUGGINS remarked, however, on the potential cost-savings of $525,000 that could result from repealing that requirement. Furthermore, students would still be able to undergo college and career readiness assessments at their own expense, and assessment-fee waivers are available for students [meeting certain criteria]. CHAIR DUNLEAVY concurred, offered his understanding that the requirement has only been in place for a year, and again reiterated that its proposed repeal was added to HB 44 as a cost-savings' measure. SENATOR MCGUIRE, in response to comments regarding Version G, once again reiterated her concern that it could prove problematic to include language from three unrelated controversial bills that were not part of the governor's call to special session. SENATOR GIESSEL disagreed. 11:53:57 AM SHEILA PETERSON, Staff, Senator Mike Dunleavy, Alaska State Legislature, on behalf of Senator Dunleavy, and in response to questions, relayed that Legislative Legal and Research Services has indicated that should the bill pass and then undergo a court challenge, it is not yet known how the court might rule on the question of whether all of the bills now included in Version G of HB 44 comply with the governor's call, regardless that they might all address public education. CHAIR DUNLEAVY asked if Legislative Legal said Version G was unconstitutional. MS. PETERSON replied that he did not. In response to a further question, she said that the fiscal note for Version G of HB 44 is still forthcoming, and that it is expected to be a zero fiscal note. CHAIR DUNLEAVY mentioned that cost-savings was a prime consideration in developing Version G, and characterized the inclusion of language from HB 80 - repealing the requirement that students undergo a college and career readiness assessment in order to obtain a high school diploma - as therefore good. In response to comments and questions regarding the accountability of Alaska's public-education system, he offered his understanding that college and career readiness assessments, though briefly taking the place of "exit" exams, were never designed to measure academic performance in high school. 12:04:53 PM LES MORSE, Deputy Commissioner, Office of the Commissioner, Department of Education and Early Development (EED), added that an "accountability system" for schools is, and would still be, in place. With regard to student accountability, once the bill passes and undergoing a college and career readiness assessment is no longer required, students will be able to obtain a diploma simply by meeting their own high school's graduation criteria, and the State has already set minimum-credit requirements for graduating. College and career readiness assessments merely get students thinking about and preparing for their future after high school, and don't assess students' basic skills, and neither those assessments nor the [since repealed] "exit" exams address accountability with regard to whether Alaska's public schools are doing a good job, he concluded. 12:18:52 PM SENATOR HUGGINS moved to report the proposed Senate committee substitute (SCS) for HB 44, labeled 29-LS0258\G, Glover, 5/18/15, from committee with individual recommendations and forthcoming fiscal note(s). There being no objection, SCS CSHB 44(EDC) was reported from the Senate Education Standing Committee. CHAIR DUNLEAVY, in closing, characterized SCS CSHB 44(EDC) as a very good bill that would go a long way towards addressing sexual assault, sexual abuse of a minor, and domestic violence crimes in Alaska; and expressed favor with the provisions to the bill that address parental rights. SCS CSHB 44(EDC) was reported from the Senate Education Standing Committee.