Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

04/19/2018 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
08:00:50 AM Start
08:01:08 AM HB339
08:56:50 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Testimony <Invited and Public> --
+ HB 339 INCREASE BASE STUDENT ALLOCATION TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
            HB 339-INCREASE BASE STUDENT ALLOCATION                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:01:08 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration of HB 339.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS noted  that lots of education bills  were in motion                                                               
near the end  of the session--HB 287, early funding  to solve the                                                               
pink slip  issue; SB  26, attaching more  money to  education; SB                                                               
216, dealing with  consolidation of schools; SB  104, $30 million                                                               
for curriculum;  SB 102, dealing  with the Internet; and  SB 185,                                                               
the retiree rehire bill.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LES GARA, Alaska  State Legislature, sponsor of HB                                                               
339. He  said the reality is  that education has become  the same                                                               
thing  that public  safety has  become and  even snow  plowing in                                                               
Anchorage. Streets are not cleared  better with fewer snow plows.                                                               
Communities are not protected better  with fewer police officers.                                                               
The Anchorage School District has  lost over 500 educators in the                                                               
last few years--teachers, counselors,  nurses, support staff, and                                                               
English-as-a-second-language teachers  at a  time when  Alaska is                                                               
becoming  more  diverse. Whatever  criticism  folks  have of  the                                                               
education system,  children cannot  be taught  in a  more vibrant                                                               
way   with  fewer   teachers,  bigger   class  sizes,   and  less                                                               
curriculum.  The  impacts have  ranged  from  the bigger  schools                                                               
losing  teachers and  counselors  to the  smaller schools  losing                                                               
school days.  The Lake and  Peninsula School District has  cut 20                                                               
school days.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:03:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA quoted  Nelson  Mandela:  "Education is  the                                                               
most  powerful  weapon we  can  use  to  change the  world."  The                                                               
question they have to decide is what level of education.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
He stated that HB 339 is a  modest increase of 1.7 percent to the                                                               
Base  Student  Allocation  (BSA)  from last  year.  It  will  not                                                               
replace all  the positions lost,  and in some districts,  it will                                                               
barely help  them keep  even. HB  339 would  increase the  BSA by                                                               
$100 to  $5,930. To keep  up with  inflation since 2009,  the BSA                                                               
would be $6,568. That is $500 more than proposed by HB 339.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:04:46 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA quoted  Juneau School District Superintendent                                                               
Mark Miller:                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     Over  the past  five  years, the  BSA  has been  nearly                                                                    
     flat. Over  that same time, my  operating expenses from                                                                    
     the general fund  have increased nearly 10  percent . .                                                                    
     . We have used our  general fund balance to survive the                                                                    
     last couple of  years . . . we are  now being forced to                                                                    
     consider severe cuts to try to fill a $3 million hole.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:06:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said  that  according to  the  Division  of                                                               
Legislative Finance,  education funding is $90  million behind FY                                                               
15 when adjusted  for inflation. He pointed out  that $43 million                                                               
added to education  funding in FY 15 was deleted  from the budget                                                               
in FY 16 and FY 17.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
He said  that Fairbanks is  facing an $8.2 million  shortfall for                                                               
2018-2019,  which  equates  to   50  full-time  equivalent  (FTE)                                                               
positions.  He quoted  Lisa Pierce,  Chief Financial  Officer for                                                               
the  Fairbanks School  District: "Have  sliced and  diced to  the                                                               
point that we are unable to  continue to make horizontal cuts. We                                                               
are looking  at program cuts  now." Fairbanks has  eliminated 231                                                               
positions  since  2009. The  state  should  not be  surprised  at                                                               
declining achievement numbers.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said  Anchorage  has lost  nearly  400  FTE                                                               
positions  since  2013, 216  of  which  were teachers.  Classroom                                                               
sizes have increased and will continue to do so.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:08:00 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES said  that Anchorage has lost  students. She asked                                                               
what the student loss has been and the impact of that.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  replied the loss  of teachers and  staff has                                                               
been  disproportionately   large  compared  to  the   decline  in                                                               
students.  That is  a  reason that  class  sizes are  increasing.                                                               
Factoring in inflation, the amount  provided for each student has                                                               
gone down ten percent since 2009.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
8:09:12 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  suggested Senator  Hughes  ask  that question  of                                                               
Anchorage Superintendent Deena Bishop during invited testimony.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:09:25 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said  that  one year  career  and  guidance                                                               
counselors were  laid off  to prevent  teacher layoffs,  which he                                                               
found  alarming.  In  Anchorage,   enrollment  of  students  with                                                               
intensive needs  is up,  which is only  partially covered  by the                                                               
formula funding.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
He said the  estimated cuts with flat funding in  Anchorage is 91                                                               
more FTE teachers in FY 19 and 107  more in FY 20. He shared that                                                               
one  teacher told  him that  she was  having trouble  teaching 28                                                               
students in her  classroom and then the  classroom size increased                                                               
to 32.  She said  she cannot teach  individual students  who need                                                               
help.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:10:48 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said that Juneau  has had $11 million in cuts                                                               
since  2011 and  92 FTE  positions have  been eliminated.  Juneau                                                               
faces a $3.5 million hole for the coming year with flat funding.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
He said  that Mat-Su is  the opposite  but the same.  They cannot                                                               
keep up  the number of staff  needed for a growing  population of                                                               
students. They fell 87 positions behind  in FY 18 to maintain the                                                               
same  level of  education. Mat-Su  Superintendent Monica  Goyette                                                               
warned  that   "further  budget  cut  threaten   the  quality  of                                                               
education."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
He reported that Nome expects to  cut 10 positions next year. The                                                               
Kenai Peninsula and  Kodiak have been losing staff  and will lose                                                               
more staff next year with flat funding.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:13:05 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  shared  a  quote from  Lake  and  Peninsula                                                               
Superintendent Ty Mase:                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     Simply  put, with  each year  of flat  funding, we  are                                                                    
     offering   a  less   comprehensive  education   to  our                                                                    
     students. We have cut  our inefficiencies and niceties,                                                                    
     and  now it  is  simply core  services  that are  left,                                                                    
     services that honestly cannot be cut.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:14:07 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said  that in Sitka class  sizes may increase                                                               
up to 60  percent with flat funding. Their health  care costs are                                                               
substantial,  which is  not uncommon  for a  small district.  The                                                               
looming question for Sitka is how many teacher positions to cut.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:14:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA said the story  is the same around the state.                                                               
He shared a  quote from Sarah Birrmans, BP  Teacher of Excellence                                                               
2017.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Nine years ago, when I started teaching in Anchorage, I saw                                                                
     65 students a day. I was full-time. This year I see 108                                                                    
     students a day and I am a .6 part-time employee with no                                                                    
     insurance. My husband and I are both award-winning                                                                         
     educators. We are leaving in 2-3 years if things don't                                                                     
     improve. Teachers and students need relief. Please help.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA referenced  an  opinion piece  in the  day's                                                               
Anchorage Daily News from a teacher  who said she was leaving the                                                               
state because  of lack  of support  for education.  His neighbors                                                               
say they  don't know  if they  want to  raise children  in Alaska                                                               
without a commitment to public education.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:16:07 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  shared a  quote from  Jen Huvar,  a teaching                                                               
assistant in Anchorage.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     While budget cuts are felt to some degree every year, this                                                                 
     year they feel especially dramatic--like we've reached a                                                                   
     tipping point. Class sizes across core subjects now exceed                                                                 
     30 students in many cases. I was assigned to one science                                                                   
     class with 34 students . . . with tables and chairs for                                                                    
     only 30. The classes are simply too big for optimal                                                                        
     learning . . . or even adequate learning.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA reported that a high school student in                                                                      
Wrangell cannot take three years of foreign language, which is                                                                  
required by some colleges. The student said, "Consequently, I                                                                   
take noninteractive, online courses and watch videos with no                                                                    
teacher engagement."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
He  said   educational  opportunities  lost  are   lost  forever.                                                               
Students cannot  come back to  repeat the fourth grade  once they                                                               
fix the budget  crisis. Academy opportunity is  simply lost. They                                                               
can afford to fix the fiscal crisis.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:17:54 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said  superintendents  and  many  education                                                               
organizations are  in support  of an  increase across  the state.                                                               
Districts  are sounding  the alarm  over flat  funding. He  heard                                                               
from colleagues  that flat  funding is even  funding and  that as                                                               
long as  education is not  cut, everything is okay.  Flat funding                                                               
is  a cut.  They will  lose  teachers, they  will increase  class                                                               
sizes, and  they will  lose curriculum.  They lose  programs that                                                               
keep kids interested in school.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
He  quoted Benjamin  Franklin, "An  investment in  knowledge pays                                                               
the best interest."  A student in Cordova said  that chemistry is                                                               
taught every other year. Because  of a full sophomore class load,                                                               
she could  not take it until  her senior year, which  impacts her                                                               
college  applications. They  need  a fiscal  plan,  but they  can                                                               
afford an  increase of  $100 to the  base student  allocation. It                                                               
will prevent more damage.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:20:16 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH brought  up HB 287, which the Senate  voted on and                                                               
the House concurred with. The bill  had the equivalent of $117 to                                                               
the BSA  in grants. He  asked Representative Gara to  explain the                                                               
difference between  funding education within the  BSA and outside                                                               
of the BSA.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:20:46 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  responded that  they needed  to look  at the                                                               
bill passed in 2014 to see  what happens when education is funded                                                               
outside  of  the base  student  allocation.  The promise  of  $30                                                               
million outside  of the BSA  in 2016 never happened.  The promise                                                               
of $25 million  in FY 17 was cut. The  2014 legislature could not                                                               
control  the  2015  and 2016  legislature.  They  cannot  control                                                               
future  legislatures. One-time  funding  is spent  inefficiently.                                                               
School districts  cannot spend as much  on hiring staff if  it is                                                               
only for  one year. They  can rely on and  plan for money  in the                                                               
BSA. The same dollar is worth more.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
8:22:47 AM                                                                                                                    
SANA  EFIRD, Deputy  Commissioner,  Department  of Education  and                                                               
Early Development (DEED), testified on  HB 339. She said they are                                                               
acutely aware of  the state's fiscal crisis,  but children cannot                                                               
wait. The administration is supportive  of an increase in the BSA                                                               
accompanied  by a  responsible budget  and a  sustainable use  of                                                               
fiscal  resources. Additionally,  Commissioner [Michael]  Johnson                                                               
will  be requesting  a lot  from  districts based  on the  Alaska                                                               
Education   Challenge  and   the  Every   Student  Succeeds   Act                                                               
accountability  plan.  A  BSA  increase   will  be  important  as                                                               
districts work  to meet  those expectations  to help  improve the                                                               
achievement of all students                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:24:35 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH said  he has spoken to the  commissioner about the                                                               
importance of  BSA because the  state cannot get to  these places                                                               
they need to  go unless there is predictability  represented by a                                                               
known  increase in  the  BSA. The  state cannot  get  to the  key                                                               
components unless  stabilization of school funding  is addressed.                                                               
He asked if that is a fair representation.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:25:22 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. EFIRD  said that is  a fair representation.  Districts cannot                                                               
base  long-term  planning on  a  one-time  appropriation. HB  339                                                               
would give  them the opportunity  for a five-year,  ten-year plan                                                               
to meet the needs of students.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
8:26:11 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH responded  that it is critical that  the signal to                                                               
school districts  is to  show an understanding  of what  they are                                                               
facing to  get to solutions  that some senators in  the committee                                                               
have identified.  For distance learning,  it doesn't help  if the                                                               
legislature does broadband grants and  the schools don't have the                                                               
capacity to integrate that into programs at the school level.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:27:01 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES  commented that  since  she  has lived  in  rural                                                               
areas, she has  a real concern and heart for  rural students. She                                                               
wondered when  they last looked  at the foundation  formula, 2004                                                               
or 2006.  She could tell  from the slide presentation  that urban                                                               
schools are being  hit substantially, and rural  schools are very                                                               
challenged   with  recruitment.   The  last   time  the   formula                                                               
foundation  was  opened  up,  there was  an  increase  for  rural                                                               
schools because of the recruitment  issue, but that hasn't solved                                                               
that problem. She is a firm  believer that they need to come into                                                               
the  21st  century  model for  education.  The  Alaska  Education                                                               
Challenge is going  down the correct path. To  her, urban schools                                                               
seem to  be taking  a disproportionate  hit. She  wonders whether                                                               
it   time to look at the formula  overall. That is a big task and                                                               
there is no time for it this session.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
She asked  where the department stands  on that. They need  to do                                                               
some  rebalancing. Alaska  is second  in the  nation per  student                                                               
spending. It is  a large state with extra expenses,  but the NAEP                                                               
(National Assessment  of Educational  Progress) results  are very                                                               
troubling. It may surprise people, but  she would like to see the                                                               
formula   corrected  and   then  adjusted   for  inflation.   The                                                               
legislature needs  to address  health care  costs. One  rural and                                                               
one  urban district  told  her that  18 to  20  percent of  their                                                               
funding goes  to health  care. One district  was expecting  an 11                                                               
percent  premium increase.  Another  was expecting  a 15  percent                                                               
increase.  That is  millions of  dollars that  could go  into the                                                               
classroom.  She  would  like  to  see  teachers  paid  more.  She                                                               
believes in the Finland model  of elevating teachers, on par with                                                               
doctors and attorneys. They need  to regard teachers that way and                                                               
expect excellence. Her main concern  is about whether the formula                                                               
should be looked at and whether DEED has a position on that.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:31:28 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. EFIRD responded  that she does not have  an official position                                                               
from the commissioner, but she  has heard the commissioner say he                                                               
would  welcome  an  opportunity for  a  conversation  around  the                                                               
formula.  Every  district  faces its  own  individual  challenge.                                                               
Alaska is  proud of local control,  but they need to  look across                                                               
the districts and see how they  are fairly accounted for and help                                                               
each achieve the goals it wants for its students.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
8:32:22 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  said he was in  the legislature 12 years  ago when                                                               
they opened up the foundation formula.  The big issue at the time                                                               
was  area cost  differential, which  he thought  they dealt  with                                                               
properly. He agreed that it is time  to open it again. It takes a                                                               
great deal  of effort from  both houses,  but it is  an important                                                               
issue that needs to be revisited.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
8:32:43 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH  referred  to the  Augenblick  study  [Review  of                                                               
Alaska's  School Funding  Program prepared  for the  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature  by Augenblick,  Palaich  and  Associates] from  four                                                               
years ago.  The study concluded  that the foundation  formula was                                                               
fundamentally  sound,   but  it   contained  a   disincentive  to                                                               
consolidation.  A first  step in  looking  at the  formula is  to                                                               
review  the Augenblick  study to  see what  it suggests.  It gave                                                               
some  warning  signs as  well.  It  is  worth reflecting  on.  He                                                               
thought  it   also  addressed  the   issue  of   geographic  cost                                                               
differential.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:34:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  noted that  the  committee  moved SB  216,  which                                                               
allows districts  to consolidate  schools if  they choose  to. An                                                               
incentive is offered so they don't lose money.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SANDRA  DAWS,  Chief  Financial  Officer,  Kodiak  Island  School                                                               
District,  supported  HB  339.  She  said  Kodiak  Island  School                                                               
District  has 2,400  students. The  past  year they  have seen  a                                                               
large  reduction  of  $2.1 million  for  salaries  and  supplies,                                                               
including eighteen teaching positions  and classified staff. They                                                               
have asked their  borough for an additional $1  million for their                                                               
FY  19 budget,  which  could lead  to a  mill  increase when  the                                                               
community is  facing a  challenge with  the fishing  industry. If                                                               
they  not able  to get  additional  funding, they  will cut  more                                                               
teachers  and classified  staff and  delay building  maintenance.                                                               
Larger  class sizes  put  a  lot of  stress  on everybody.  Their                                                               
superintendent,  Larry LeDoux,  says these  cuts have  faces that                                                               
they see  every day. The cuts  affect the students with  the most                                                               
needs. They  see more  hunger and more  stress in  their students                                                               
than  ever before.  They have  done tremendous  things to  reduce                                                               
costs.  Almost the  entire district  has  been moved  to a  high-                                                               
deductible plan. By 2020, the  entire classified staff will be on                                                               
a  high-deductible  plan.  An  increase  in the  BSA  will  be  a                                                               
$500,000 increase  to Kodiak in  FY 19. Keeping  quality teachers                                                               
is the most important variable for student success.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
8:38:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  announced that he  will lose the  committee quorum                                                               
at  5  till  9.  A  lot  of people  have  signed  up  for  public                                                               
testimony. Since  there won't  be enough time,  he urged  them to                                                               
send emails or letters.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:38:45 AM                                                                                                                    
MONICA GOYETTE,  Ph.D., Superintendent,  Matanuska-Susitna School                                                               
Borough,  supported HB  339. She  said Mat-Su  is a  large school                                                               
district of  19,000 students with  a $250 million  budget. During                                                               
three years  of flat funding they  have had $8 million  in salary                                                               
increases,  and their  insurance premiums  over three  years have                                                               
gone up 35  percent. They share that burden  with employees. With                                                               
these increases  over three  years with  flat revenue,  they have                                                               
had to  cut eight  percent of staffing,  which is  significant in                                                               
light of  enrollment going up  by 3  percent. This is  a widening                                                               
gap.  Mat-Su has  the highest  PTR [pupil-teacher  ratio] in  the                                                               
state.  High school  core classes  have 35  to 40  students. They                                                               
kept all kindergarten  classes under 30 this fall  with no aides,                                                               
which  is   incredibly  challenging.  Their  poverty   rates  and                                                               
students  with  disabilities  have increased.  Flat  funding  has                                                               
resulted in significant decreases for them.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:41:52 AM                                                                                                                    
DEENA  BISHOP, Ph.D.,  Superintendent, Anchorage  School District                                                               
(ASD),   supported  HB   339.  She   said   Alaskans  need   this                                                               
legislation. They need to come  together for education. Anchorage                                                               
has  experienced shifting  demographics  and population  changes.                                                               
They had a  decrease of 1,000 students the last  five years. That                                                               
has meant decreasing funding, but  expenses don't go down at same                                                               
rate. During the last five  years, the district has made staffing                                                               
cuts  of  394  FTEs,  mostly classroom  teachers.  ASD  education                                                               
programs and  innovation methods are scaleable.  Staffing follows                                                               
students  and  resources  follow  students. This  year  they  are                                                               
reducing  by 48  teachers, counselors,  and administrators.  Last                                                               
year it was  90 certificated staff. Exponentially  the losses are                                                               
increasing  greater  than  the   loss  of  students.  With  their                                                               
negotiations, if anyone  gets paid more, that  means fewer people                                                               
in  that  unit. The  last  four  negotiated contracts  have  zero                                                               
increases. State funding  through the BSA is not  keeping up with                                                               
costs.  Anchorage  pays  100  percent   of  the  allowable  local                                                               
contribution. They support their  schools. It takes every Alaskan                                                               
working together  to provide the  best education for  every child                                                               
in every  school every day.  She said Lower  Yukon Superintendent                                                               
Rob Picou says, "We need to have one heartbeat. All of us."                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:46:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  noted that over  30 people have asked  to testify.                                                               
He  will not  get to  everyone. He  asked them  to send  in their                                                               
testimony.  He reminded  everyone that  the state  has over  a $2                                                               
billion-dollar hole  in the budget.  Several bills are  in motion                                                               
as  they speak:  HB 339  that is  before the  committee; HB  287,                                                               
early funding  to eliminate the  problem with pink slips;  SB 26,                                                               
which would  add one time funding  of $30 million outside  of the                                                               
BSA,  equal  to  $117  to  the  BSA;  SB  216,  school  buildings                                                               
consolidation incentive; SB 104,  $30 million for curriculum, $10                                                               
million for  three year; SB  102, Internet assistance  for school                                                               
districts; and SB 185, the retiree rehire bill.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:47:59 AM                                                                                                                    
NOAH  WILLIAMS, Representing  Self, supported  HB 339.  He shared                                                               
that he is  a senior at Juneau-Douglas High  School. He displayed                                                               
the laptop he  uses as a web developer. It  was really expensive,                                                               
painfully expensive, but as a  web developer, he cannot afford to                                                               
not have the right tool. Any  person who uses tools will give the                                                               
same  answer,  whether   it  is  a  wrench  for   a  mechanic  or                                                               
antireflective glasses for  a pilot. They cannot  buy cheap tools                                                               
and expect  they won't  fail. They cannot  pay for  cheap schools                                                               
and  expect students  will  not  fail. An  increase  to the  base                                                               
student allocation is necessary. Flat  funding is actually a cut.                                                               
Even the  amount in  HB 339  won't go far  enough. They  miss the                                                               
unknown unknowns, the  potential for expansion. One  that he sees                                                               
is that  coding and  computer science are  not part  of education                                                               
today. Students do not have  the opportunities they could have to                                                               
expand into one  of the fastest growing  vocations. He concluded,                                                               
"Please don't buy cheap tools or cheap schools. Help us out."                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:50:43 AM                                                                                                                    
KAREN BARNARD, Representing Self, supported  HB 339. She said she                                                               
went  to  school in  Anchorage  and  was  in youth  symphony  and                                                               
sports. These  provided positive peer  pressure and kept  her out                                                               
of trouble. They also had  school nurses and counselors and small                                                               
classes.  Small classes  win because  they  engage the  students.                                                               
Forty-four  percent of  students in  Alaska come  from low-income                                                               
families. Suicide  and the opioid  epidemic indicate  that people                                                               
are  self-medicating.  Cutting   counselors  contributes  to  the                                                               
epidemic.  The Kodiak  High School's  World Bridge  Team won  the                                                               
NASA  World Wind  Europa Challenge  two years  in 2015  and 2016.                                                               
They won  because of  small classes,  mentors, and  projects that                                                               
are relevant. They  need small classes. She ended  by saying stop                                                               
cutting teachers,  restore the teachers  that have been  cut, and                                                               
have classes of 15 to 20, not 31 in high school.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
8:54:04 AM                                                                                                                    
GENE  RANDALL, Representing  Self,  supported HB  339. He  shared                                                               
that he  has taught in  Alaska for the  last 13 years.  He worked                                                               
with the  B.E.S.T. (Behavior Education  Support Team)  program in                                                               
Juneau. Recently  the state had  bad news about  students overall                                                               
and  some  of their  scores  being  low [National  Assessment  of                                                               
Educational Progress],  but there  are successes to  be reported.                                                               
In  2016, in  his program  at  Thunder Mountain  High School,  he                                                               
helped a  team of paraeducators  support special  education teens                                                               
and students with behavioral problems.  That year, 100 percent of                                                               
Alaska Native  students graduated at Thunder  Mountain, which was                                                               
unprecedented. Many were  in the program. In 2017,  his last year                                                               
of teaching, the  students in his program had a  100 percent pass                                                               
rate of all their classes.  Without the support of B.E.S.T, those                                                               
teens would not have been successful.  So many parents came up to                                                               
him  or the  paraprofessionals to  thank them  for helping  their                                                               
students graduate. He urged the committee to support HB 339.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:56:28 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS held HB 339 in committee.