Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205
03/22/2017 08:00 AM EDUCATION
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SB 96-EDUCATION: SCHOOLS/TEACHERS/FUNDING 8:44:50 AM CHAIR HUGHES announced that the final order of business would be SB 96. She related that the committee has held a number of exploratory meetings intending to offer the best education possible to students in Alaska. Due to budget constraints, it is time for some "out of the box" thinking. The committee explored how to offer districts tools to do more with less and improve student offerings. She related that a teacher shared with her that "we don't need to reform education, we need to transform it." She said the achievement gap is startling and troubling. There are excellent schools and struggling schools. She said SB 96 attempts to improve education. She opined that every student matters and deserves the opportunity to access an excellent education. The bill provides new opportunities for instruction, but also ways to save money and be more efficient on the administrative end. She concluded that overall spending on education does not correlate with academic achievement, however, spending on classroom instructions does correlate with academic achievement. 8:45:32 AM JOSHUA BANKS, Staff, Senator Shelley Hughes, Alaska State Legislature, presented SB 96 on behalf of the Senate Education Committee, sponsor of the bill. He noted that they were working on some changes in the bill that were requested by Legislative Legal. He presented the sectional analysis: Section 1 (Pages 1-2): Creates uncodified law for legislative findings of the Alaska Education Transformation Act in regards to virtual education, education spending, and quality teachers and classroom instruction. Sections 2-3 (Page 2): Makes technical amendments to AS 14.03.073 to add references to specific subsections within this section due to a new subsection added in Section 4 of this bill. Section 4 (Pages 2-3): Adds a new subsection to AS 14.03.073 requiring school districts to allow credit for gym, music, or art classes for a student that participates in an activity that meets the educational or physical requirements of the course. Cultural activities may be used to obtain class credit. Section 5 (Page 3): Amends AS 14.03.120(a) to add a requirement to the annual report school districts must submit to the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED). Districts will need to include categories of administrative employees and the ratio of the employees in each category compared to the number of students in the district. MR. BANKS said a couple of changes proposed in Section 5 will require the district to post this report on their website or use alternative means in order to allow for the public to hold districts more accountable for administrative costs. 8:50:57 AM MR. BANKS continued: Section 6 (Page 3): Amends AS 14.09.030(b) to require DEED to conduct one inspection for each school bus rather than two each year. Section 7 (Page 3-4): Amends AS 14.14.110(a) to allow school districts to partner with businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state or local government agencies. This section also adds to the definition of "administrative services" to include student nutrition, student transportation, and health insurance pooling with the State plan. This section also adds to the definition of "educational services" to include teacher training and the use of technology to teach students such as the use of virtual education. He said the purpose of insurance pooling in Section 7 is a conversation starter and may be a vehicle to help districts with high health insurance costs. 8:52:32 AM Section 8 (Page 4): Amends AS 14.14.115(a) to allow school districts to partner with businesses, nonprofit organizations, and state or local government agencies to qualify for the one-time grant under this section. This section also increase the maximum grant amount and requires that the school district demonstrate how the grant will reduce costs for the district. 8:52:59 AM CHAIR HUGHES noted the presence of Representative Parish. 8:53:17 AM Section 9 (Page 4-5): Adds new subsections to AS 14.14.115 to give further directions for the cooperative grants under this section. • Subsection (d) requires that if two school districts enter into a cooperative grant, one must be a rural district. • Subsection (e) establishes that if a cooperative grant is used for health insurance pooling with the State, the grant can only be used to pay for the costs of transferring district employees to the State insurance plan. • Subsection (f) allows a school district to carry forward the savings realized during the first three years after a grant is awarded. The savings will not be counted towards the fund balance limit established in AS 14.17.505(a). • Subsection (g) defines "rural school district" as a regional educational attendance area or a small municipal school district defined in AS 14.11.025(c) as a district with less than 300 Average Daily Membership (ADM) and a district full value per ADM less than $500,000. 8:54:53 AM Section 10 (Page 5): Amends AS 14.17.450(a) to provide an exception to the School Size Adjustment (SSA) for schools that meet the qualifications in (g) of this section (Section 11). Section 11 (Pages 5-6): Amends AS 14.17.450 by adding a new subsection establishing that a school may not use the SSA under (a) of this section if it is below 80% capacity and if it is within 25 miles by road of another school in the same district that is also below 80% capacity. MR. BANKS added that they are working on adjusting this section due to unintended consequences. The intent is for schools to use their full capacity. For example, instead of having 10 schools at 60 percent capacity, the district would have 5 schools at full capacity in order to bring down fixed costs. 8:56:29 AM CHAIR HUGHES requested that Mr. Banks explain the 3-year funding changes when a school merges with another school. MR. BANKS explained that they are working on an additional change in the bill to phase in a reduction of the Average Daily Membership (ADM) over three years when schools merge. 8:57:32 AM MR. BANKS continued: Section 12 (Page 6): Amends AS 14.17.505(a) to increase the limit that a school district is allowed to retain in its unreserved fund balance from 10% to 25% of district expenditures. This section also allows for savings realized from a cooperative grant under AS 14.14.115 to not count towards the 25% limit. Section 13 (Page 6): Amends AS 14.20.020(i) to require the State School Board to periodically adjust the minimum score needed to pass the Praxis exam so that Alaska has the highest testing standards for teacher certification. He pointed out that the state looks at the Praxis scores annually now. Section 13 ensures that the state look at other states to see whether Alaska is falling behind. 8:58:47 AM CHAIR HUGHES said in most areas of competency Praxis scores are comparable to other states except in a few courses, such as chemistry. 8:59:25 AM MR. BANKS further explained a proposed change in the bill - if the State School Board changes regulations to increase Praxis scores, the changes will not go into effect for a year. 8:59:59 AM He continued: Section 14 (Page 6): Adds a new subsection to AS 14.20.380 to require DEED to provide administrative services to the Professional Teaching Practices Commission (PTPC). He noted that this is already being done. 9:00:26 AM MR. BANKS continued: Section 15 (Page 6-7): Amends AS 14.20.460 to require the PTPC to use administrative support services provided by DEED. Section 16 (Pages 7-9): Creates a new section under AS 14.30 titled Virtual education consortium which also creates a new article titled Article 15. Virtual Education. The subsections that AS 14.30.760 consists of are: • Subsection (a) establishes the virtual education consortium under DEED. The consortium will have a database of virtual education courses available to all districts for students in grades 6-12. The consortium will also provide training for teachers instructing in virtual settings and professional development for all teachers in the state. A school district or third- party vendor may offer courses on the database if it is approved by DEED. • Subsection (b) will require DEED to review each course to ensure it meets state standards and is appropriate for students in grades 6-12. This subsection also requires that each course has the following information: the title, subject, and description of the course, the district providing the course, method of virtual education delivery, and samples of the course curriculum and teacher instruction provided in the course. 9:02:58 AM Subsection (c) requires the consortium to provide training for teachers before they are allowed to teach a course that is included in the database. A waiver may be granted if the consortium finds that the teacher has the experience and skills necessary to teach in a virtual setting. • Subsection (d) requires that the consortium provide professional development courses for all teachers in the state. Any district that has adequate broadband access to participate in the trainings shall require its teachers to participate in any necessary trainings. The consortium may also require participating districts to adopt the same in-service days for training. • Subsection (e) sets a fee structure for students that take a course offered virtually by a school district that is not the student's home district. The student's district shall calculate the fee by multiplying the base student allocation by the proportion of classes that the student is taking in the district offering the virtual course. The student's district shall pay this fee to the district offering the course. • In subsection (f), the consortium is allowed to charge a fee to any school district that offers a course in the database under (b) of this section. DEED will be able to set the fee in regulation and can adjust it as necessary annually. The fees must be set in such a manner that by June 30, 2020, the fees paid by districts will approximately equal any administrative costs of the consortium. 9:05:12 AM CHAIR HUGHES requested that Mr. Banks discuss the proposed change to (f). MR. BANKS said it is proposed that all participating districts pay a fee. 9:05:44 AM He continued: Subsection (g) allows the consortium to require districts that provide courses or have students taking courses through the consortium to adopt a shared calendar and a shared bell schedule for at least a portion of the school day. He noted that it is optional. Copper River School District has adopted a common calendar and common bell which have resulted in efficiencies. 9:06:42 AM He continued: Subsection (h) creates definitions for the terms: "asynchronous", "base student allocation", "blended", "host district", "synchronous", and "virtual education" or "virtual instruction". 9:06:57 AM MR. BANKS continued: Section 17 (Pages 9-12): Deletes a reference to AS 23.10.065(b) in AS 23.10.055(a) (Alaska Wage and Hour Act) which is repealed in Section 23 of this bill. Section 18 (Page 12): Deletes the reference to AS 37.14.110(c) which is repealed in Section 24 of this bill, and rearranges the reference to AS 37.14.160. Section 19 (Page 12): Deletes language in AS 37.14.130 that requires the Public School Fund Advisory Board to prepare accounting specifically for the principal and income of the Public School Trust Fund. Section 20 (Pages 12-13): Deletes language in AS 37.14.160 relating to separate accounting of the principal and income of the Public School Trust Fund. This section also requires the Department of Revenue (DOR) to determine each year the monthly average market value of fund for the last three fiscal years. 9:08:23 AM MR. BANKS continued: Section 21 (Page 13): Creates a new section in AS 37.14 to allow the Legislature to appropriate 4.75% of the market value established with the changes made in Section 20 of the bill. The funds may be used to support public education in Alaska and to cover the administrative costs of the fund. He described a proposed change to Section 21. No more than 4.75 percent can be appropriated and the legislature may not appropriate more than the income earned by the fund. The intent of the changes is to avoid any possibility of the legislature appropriating from the principal of the fund - a violation of Trust law. Section 22 (Pages 13-14): Amends AS 37.14.170 to allow the commissioner of DOR to invest the Public School Trust Fund in order to provide increasing returns from capital appreciation. Section 23 (Page 14): Repeals AS 14.20.470(a)(7) so that the PTPC is no longer able to appoint an executive secretary. This section also repeals AS 23.10.065(b) and (c) which requires an employer to pay a public school bus driver at a rate two times the Alaska minimum wage, and which allows for wage adjustments to only occur when a contract begins or is renewed. 9:10:08 AM Section 24 (Page 14): Repeals AS 37.14.110(c) which sets how the commissioner of DOR will calculate the net income of the Public School Trust Fund and AS 37.14.140 which requires that net income from the fund only go towards funding public education. MR. BANKS said they are looking at removing the repeal of AS 37.14.140(c) because the changes made in Section 21 regarding limiting how much the legislature can appropriate from the Trust Fund, will deal with any legal problems. Section 25 (Page 14): Creates applicability language for the repeal of AS 23.10.065(b) and (c) so that this bill will only effect contracts made on or after the effective date of this bill. 9:11:20 AM MR. BANKS stated that they will be deleting Sections 26 and 27 because there is no longer litigation. Section 26 (Page 14): Creates a conditional effect establishing that changes made to the Public School Trust Fund will only go into effect if a final judgment is made regarding combining the income and principal of the Public School Trust Fund and that such action will not violate trust law. The commissioner of DEED shall notify the Lieutenant Governor and the revisor of statutes when the final judgement has been entered. Section 27 (Page 14): Creates an effective date for Sections 18-22 and 24 to be the day after the commissioner of DEED notifies the revisor of statutes that a final judgment has been made regarding the Public School Trust Fund. Section 28 (Page 14): Creates an effective date for Sections 1-17, 23, and 25 to be June 30, 2017. 9:12:42 AM MR. BANKS offered to answer questions. He noted several people were available for questions. CHAIR HUGHES thanked him for his work. 9:13:06 AM SENATOR BEGICH brought up a technical point on Section 28. He said the effective date and other references would have to be changed due to the proposed changes. He thanked Mr. Banks for his hard work. SENATOR BEGICH drew attention to Section 11 on page 6 and cautioned against three things: combining two schools that are under capacity resulting in one school over capacity; building one school for communities that have a right to their own schools, and lacking a clear definition of "road". 9:15:39 AM SENATOR BEGICH asked whether there is a grandfather clause included with the Praxis exam change for teachers who are currently certified. MR. BANKS said there would be a grandfather clause. 9:16:19 AM SENATOR BEGICH asked for clarification on the fee on page 8 (e) and (f). MR. BANKS said the intent is that a school district can choose not to take the full fee and there would be a ceiling for the fee. CHAIR HUGHES added that the fee could be zero to the full amount. SENATOR BEGICH suggested changing "shall" to "may" in line 22. 9:17:28 AM SENATOR BEGICH suggested clarifying the issue of the double minimum wage bus driver repeal in AS 37.14.140. He thought there was ambiguity about that issue and how it relates to the use of the Trust Fund. MR. BANKS replied that they have requested Legislative Legal to delete that portion. SENATOR GIESSEL appreciated the sponsor's hard work. 9:19:15 AM CHAIR HUGHES clarified that the repeal of AS 37.14.140 would not prohibit a district from continuing to pay twice the minimum wage. SENATOR BEGICH asked about changing bus inspections from two times a year to one time a year. He wanted assurance that public safety was not at risk due to the change. MR. BANKS explained that one inspection is required; two or more are optional. 9:20:57 AM SENATOR BEGICH commented on the constitutional issue related to the Public Schools Trust and noted the Kasayulie litigation has been suspended and that issue is off the table. 9:21:34 AM CHAIR HUGHES said they are open to further discussion on the bill. She asked when the new CS is expected. MR. BANKS thought it would be ready tomorrow. CHAIR HUGHES noted that DEED would have a chance to address the bill. CHAIR HUGHES held SB 96 in committee.