Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

03/26/2019 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
08:08:23 AM Start
08:08:46 AM SB79
08:52:12 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          SB  79-VIRTUAL ED/TEACHER EXAM./COURSE EXAM.                                                                      
8:08:46 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  announced the  consideration of  SB 79.  He stated                                                               
his intention to  introduce and discuss the bill and  hold it for                                                               
further review.                                                                                                                 
8:09:31 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES,  speaking as  sponsor,  said  SB 79  does  three                                                               
things. It  expands opportunities for students  through access to                                                               
courses and teachers  they wouldn't otherwise have  access to. It                                                               
is  trying to  improve the  quality  of teachers.  And it  proves                                                               
opportunities  for administrative  efficiencies.  They know  that                                                               
dollars  in   the  classroom   correlate  with   higher  academic                                                               
achievement.  If  they  can  find  efficiencies,  that  frees  up                                                               
dollars so they can be where they are needed to help students.                                                                  
SENATOR  HUGHES said  they are  all  concerned about  achievement                                                               
gaps.  There are  some pockets  of excellence  in the  state, but                                                               
they are  not grabbing  the hearts of  some students  and getting                                                               
them to the  finish line so that they can  be successful. She has                                                               
worked  on this  bill  for  two years.  They  want  to put  their                                                               
students in  the 21st  century so  that they  can compete  and be                                                               
successful on  a global  basis. A  portion of  the bill  is about                                                               
doing the best they can in the 21st century.                                                                                    
8:12:24 AM                                                                                                                    
SHEILA  MORRISON, Intern,  Senator Shelley  Hughes, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, said the  short title of the bill is                                                               
Virtual Education/Teacher  Exam/Course Exam, but they  will refer                                                               
to it as  the Education Transformation Act. It  creates a virtual                                                               
education consortium  to allow students  to take  virtual classes                                                               
offered  by other  school  districts. Teachers  will  be able  to                                                               
access  professional  development  courses   as  well.  The  bill                                                               
increases the  school district fund  balance cap from  10 percent                                                               
of operating costs to 25  percent. It increases the Praxis scores                                                               
to be  a certified teacher.  The raising  of scores would  not be                                                               
immediately  effective.  Another  portion   of  the  bill  allows                                                               
students to  receive credit for  gym, art, and music  classes for                                                               
similar   activities  outside   of  school,   including  cultural                                                               
activities. The  Professional Teaching Practices  Commission will                                                               
be required  to use administrative  support services  provided by                                                               
Department  of   Education  and   Early  Development   (DEED)  to                                                               
eliminate  some   duplication.  The   bill  also   addresses  the                                                               
requirement  for school  districts  to report  on ratios  between                                                               
administrative employees and teachers and students.                                                                             
MS. MORRISON presented the sectional:                                                                                           
     Section 1  Page 1, Line 8                                                                                                  
     Creates uncodified law for legislative findings regarding                                                                  
     virtual education, education spending, quality teachers,                                                                   
     and classroom instruction.                                                                                                 
     Section  2    AS  14.03.073(a)     Page  2, Lines  11  Makes                                                               
     technical   amendments  to   add   references  to   specific                                                               
     subsections within  these sections  due to a  new subsection                                                               
     added in Section 4 of this bill.                                                                                           
     Section  3     AS  14.03.073(b)    Page  2,  Line  18  Makes                                                               
     technical   amendments  to   add   references  to   specific                                                               
     subsections within  these sections  due to a  new subsection                                                               
     added in Section 4 of this bill.                                                                                           
     Section  4    AS  14.03.073     Page  2,  Line 25  Adds  new                                                               
     subsection (e),  requiring school districts to  allow course                                                               
     credit   for  career   and  technical   education,  physical                                                               
     education, music, or art classes  for an activity, including                                                               
     a cultural activity, outside of  school hours that meets the                                                               
     educational  or   physical  activity  requirements   of  the                                                               
     Section 5    AS 14.03.078(a)   Page 3, Line  2 Is amended to                                                               
     add  a  requirement that  the  Department  of Education  and                                                               
     Early Development (DEED) submit  the annual report that they                                                               
     provide to the legislature to  the school districts as well.                                                               
     The  DEED  report   will  need  to  include   a  summary  of                                                               
     categories  of  administrative  employees  for  each  school                                                               
     district  which includes  the  ratio  of the  administrative                                                               
     employees  in  each  category  compared  to  the  number  of                                                               
     teachers and to the number  of students in the district, and                                                               
     the  ratio  of the  number  of  teachers  to the  number  of                                                               
     Section 6    AS 14.03.078    Page 4,  Lines 5 Is  amended to                                                               
     add new subsections, requiring each  school district to post                                                               
     the  portion  of the  report  that  pertains to  the  school                                                               
     district  for the  public on  the district's  or community's                                                               
     website  or   through  another  easily   accessible  method.                                                               
     Defines the term "administrative employee".                                                                                
     Section 7    AS 14.17.505(a)    Page 4, Lines 13  Is amended                                                               
     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 8   AS 14.20.020(i)    Page 4, Line 21 Is amended 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                                                               
     among the 50 states.                                                                                                       
     Section  9    AS  14.20.380    Page  5, Line  6  Adds a  new                                                               
     subsection  to   require  DEED  to   provide  administrative                                                               
     support  services  to  the Professional  Teaching  Practices                                                               
     Commission (PTPC).                                                                                                         
     Section 10    AS 14.20.460    Page 5,  Line 9 Is  amended to                                                               
     require  the PTPC  to  use  administrative support  services                                                               
     provided by DEED.                                                                                                          
8:17:29 AM                                                                                                                    
     Section  11    AS 14.30     Page 5,  Line 23  Creates a  new                                                               
     section  titled "Virtual  Education  Consortium" which  also                                                               
     creates   a  new   article  titled   "Article  15.   Virtual                                                               
     Education". The  subsections of which AS  14.30.760 consists                                                               
     are the following:                                                                                                         
        • 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,   samples  of   the                                                               
          curriculum,  a video  introduction  by the  instructor,                                                               
          and if a synchronous course,  a video of the instructor                                                               
        • 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.                                                                                              
        • 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.                                                                                            
        • Subsection (h) creates definitions for the terms:                                                                     
          "asynchronous",  "base student  allocation", "blended",                                                               
          "host    district",    "synchronous",   and    "virtual                                                               
          education" or "virtual instruction".                                                                                  
     Section  12    Page 8,  Lines  2 Creates  uncodified law  by                                                               
     adding   a   new   section  regarding:   Virtual   Education                                                               
     Availability  Deadline of  this  Act on  or  before July  1,                                                               
     Section 13    Page 8, Line 7 Provides for  an effective date                                                               
     for Sections 5-12 of this  Act take effect immediately under                                                               
     AS 01.10.070(c).                                                                                                           
     Section 14   Page 8, Line  8 Provides for an effective date,                                                               
     except as  provided in sec.  13 of  this Act, this  Act take                                                               
     effect July 1, 2020.                                                                                                       
8:21:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS said that Section 4 reads "outside of school hours                                                                
that meets the educational or physical activity requirements of                                                                 
the course." He asked if it should read "professional."                                                                         
MS. MORRISON said yes.                                                                                                          
CHAIR STEVENS said they would make that change.                                                                                 
SENATOR HUGHES  said that persons  giving invited  testimony were                                                               
already  suggesting  ideas  for  improvement.  She  said  that  a                                                               
working group  to develop  ideas about  how the  consortium would                                                               
work would  be a good idea  so that school districts  could weigh                                                               
in and craft something that would work for their students.                                                                      
SENATOR HUGHES noted  the handout on the Praxis  scores. She said                                                               
the quality  of teachers is  important. That is just  one aspect.                                                               
There  are multiple  ways to  make sure  they have  good teachers                                                               
ready to go  in the classroom, but they realized  their scores in                                                               
a number  of content areas  lagged considerably when  compared to                                                               
other states, as shown in the handout.                                                                                          
8:24:10 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL  JOHNSON, Ph.D.,  Commissioner,  Department of  Education                                                               
and Early  Development (DEED), Juneau, Alaska,  said that Senator                                                               
Hughes  had asked  him to  comment SB  79. It  includes important                                                               
policy  consideration  that  have   the  potential  of  providing                                                               
supports for  students, educators,  and school districts.  It can                                                               
serve  as another  component of  the  Alaska Education  Challenge                                                               
priority  areas of  equity and  closing the  achievement gap.  He                                                               
read  from the  bill,  "Access to  quality classroom  instruction                                                               
whether through  virtual education  or traditional  deliver modes                                                               
is important  to the success of  every student in the  state." He                                                               
is a particular fan of using  technology to extend the benefit of                                                               
great teachers  to more and more  students in the state.  One way                                                               
to  do  that  is  to  come alongside  districts  with  a  virtual                                                               
academy. He appreciates Senator  Hughes' willingness to work with                                                               
input  from stakeholders.  With input  from stakeholders  such as                                                               
those in the room and others,  he looks forward to seeing how the                                                               
bill,  as well  as other  bills that  have been  introduced, will                                                               
develop over this session and the next.                                                                                         
CHAIR STEVENS  said that Senator  Hughes announced  her intention                                                               
to  work with  stakeholders on  the consortium.  He asked  if the                                                               
commissioner thought that was something they should do.                                                                         
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON answered absolutely.                                                                                       
8:27:11 AM                                                                                                                    
JERRY  COVEY,  Ph.D.,  representing himself,  Anchorage,  Alaska,                                                               
said that he  is an education consultant based  out of Anchorage.                                                               
Senator  Hughes asked  him to  share his  insights. His  comments                                                               
will be rather general overall as he  is not up to speed on every                                                               
component of the bill. He  supports the bill strongly overall. It                                                               
contains good ideas.  He sees a lot of things  are already moving                                                               
in  that direction.  He  will  touch upon  a  few highlights.  He                                                               
referenced Section  4, which adds  credit options for  career and                                                               
technical  education courses  and music  and art.  Some districts                                                               
are moving  in that direction.  That is an appropriate  thing. It                                                               
is a  recognition that not  all good education occurs  within the                                                               
confines of the classroom. He  strongly supports that and is sure                                                               
superintendents  would   agree  with  that.  For   Section  5  on                                                               
reporting, as he understands it, there  is already a move in that                                                               
direction  as   well.  Regarding   transparency  in   Section  8,                                                               
providing more  transparency for  stakeholders is  an appropriate                                                               
thing  to  do,  with  the acknowledgement  that  local  districts                                                               
deploy their  resources as  they see  most advantageous  to their                                                               
students. He  is not sure  it is a valuable  comparison district-                                                               
to-district because each has unique circumstances and needs.                                                                    
DR. COVEY said  that he smiled when he read  about increasing the                                                               
fund  balance  in  Section  7.  That is  long  overdue  and  most                                                               
DR. COVEY said  that he had just read some  recent research about                                                               
the Praxis.  They are finding  that 46 percent of  people seeking                                                               
elementary  education certificates  across the  country pass  the                                                               
first time. The  reason they are not passing the  Praxis has more                                                               
to  do  with the  prework  before  they  get into  the  education                                                               
program. It  is appropriate to  look at increasing the  scores on                                                               
the  Praxis, but  it also  appropriate to  work closely  with the                                                               
university and high  schools to make sure that  the content areas                                                               
that  the Praxis  covers are  well addressed.  According to  this                                                               
research, a  lot of the  coursework that the Praxis  covers could                                                               
be covered in  the first two years of the  university program and                                                               
that  would increase  the test  takers' chances.  While they  are                                                               
supportive  of raising  the  bar and  having  a highly  qualified                                                               
workforce,  they can  take some  steps to  advance that  and help                                                               
this along. He  would be happy to share the  report that came out                                                               
a month ago.                                                                                                                    
DR. COVEY  said the other major  part of the bill  is the virtual                                                               
education consortium. That is a great  idea. It is a very dynamic                                                               
field  with  many  moving  pieces.   The  best  experts  are  the                                                               
superintendents. Engaging them in a  taskforce or workgroup would                                                               
be appropriate and provide the best results.                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS asked him to share the report on the Praxis.                                                                      
SENATOR   HUGHES   said   Dr.   Covey  pointed   out   the   word                                                               
"periodically"  in  the Praxis  section,  that  the State  School                                                               
Board would  adjust the score  "periodically." She asked  what he                                                               
would recommend as a time interval.                                                                                             
DR. COVEY  answered a minimum of  three years. If they  are going                                                               
to  make  changes,   they  need  to  give  the   system  time  to                                                               
incorporate those  changes and produce  some results.  The latest                                                               
research on what is causing people  not to pass the Praxis on the                                                               
first attempt  suggests a  cause. To address  a cause,  they must                                                               
allow time for  the universities and high schools to  make a move                                                               
to address  that need. He  would also  think that they  would get                                                               
expert  input from  superintendents  in the  working group  about                                                               
that as well. He would say generally three to five years.                                                                       
SENATOR  HUGHES   replied  that   the  word   "periodically"  was                                                               
definitely open to input. It would  be an improvement to pin that                                                               
down in the bill.                                                                                                               
CHAIR  STEVENS asked  Dr.  Covey  what ROE  means  in the  Praxis                                                               
scores report.                                                                                                                  
DR. COVEY replied that he did not know.                                                                                         
CHAIR STEVENS  said that it appeared  to be some kind  of average                                                               
and  that  perhaps  the  department   could  help  him  with  the                                                               
8:34:10 AM                                                                                                                    
DEENA BISHOP,  Ph.D., Superintendent, Anchorage  School District,                                                               
Anchorage,  Alaska,  read  from  the  sponsor  statement,  "Every                                                               
Alaska student  matters and  deserves a  high-quality education."                                                               
She  said the  Anchorage School  Board  and she  agree with  that                                                               
vision. This bill  speaks to their students' future.  They are in                                                               
the 21st century and learning is  quite different than it was for                                                               
the  people  in  the  room.  Fundamental  skills  are  paramount,                                                               
providing the grounding for learning throughout school and life.                                                                
8:35:33 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH joined the committee.                                                                                            
DR. BISHOP  said that  skills will help  students learn  to learn                                                               
throughout  a  lifetime.  However,  13 years  of  K-12  education                                                               
providing content on constructs will  not last anyone a lifetime.                                                               
Information  growth is  exponential in  the technological  world.                                                               
eLearning  will  enable  every person  to  access  knowledge  and                                                               
understanding  for  a  lifetime.    Virtual  learning  can  be  a                                                               
powerful tool in the state. In  the last ten years, the knowledge                                                               
around  virtual knowledge  has grown  in  Alaskan districts.  She                                                               
encourages the body  to provide a virtual  learning working group                                                               
to gather the expertise from around  the state and get input from                                                               
those with  boots on the  ground to come up  with recommendations                                                               
for policy decisions.                                                                                                           
DR.  BISHOP said  that she  likes most  the statement  to provide                                                               
professional  development   in  support  of   providing  teaching                                                               
virtually. The  skills in  the classroom  can easily  transfer to                                                               
virtual  learning.   However,  they  must  not   utilize  virtual                                                               
learning in  the context of  the Carnegie unit or  the parameters                                                               
of  the  traditional classroom  learner  to  gain credit.  Online                                                               
learning is  about the  anywhere, anytime, any  pace, and  is not                                                               
bound  by   time  and  a   seat.  Whether  virtual   learning  is                                                               
synchronous,  asynchronous, and/or  blended, all  these practices                                                               
speak  to  individual learning,  which  is  key to  21st  century                                                               
skills.  Students can  meet their  dreams with  the influence  of                                                               
virtual learning. This bill also  asks for Alaskans in both rural                                                               
and  urban  towns to  work  together  for all  Alaska's  children                                                               
through a  consortium, which will  bring school  districts closer                                                               
together,  providing equity  for  students  with their  effective                                                               
teachers.  The  future  of  Alaska's children  is  key  to  their                                                               
success. The success  of Alaska's children is  their success. And                                                               
21st  century success  is built  around  utilizing technology  to                                                               
complement and accelerate learning and opportunity.                                                                             
CHAIR STEVENS  clarified that Senator Hughes  is comfortable with                                                               
the idea of working group.                                                                                                      
SENATOR HUGHES  replied yes. The  idea of the working  group came                                                               
from the Anchorage School District.  It is an excellent idea. The                                                               
Anchorage  and Mat-Su  School Districts  have been  pioneers with                                                               
working  on this.  Their expertise  would lend  itself to  DEED's                                                               
development of the consortium.                                                                                                  
8:38:57 AM                                                                                                                    
DEB RIDDLE, Division Operations  Manager, Department of Education                                                               
and  Early Development  (DEED), Juneau,  Alaska, said  the fiscal                                                               
note is mostly  around the consortium piece.  DEED proposes seven                                                               
positions for  this. The personnel  services for the  vetting and                                                               
organizing  of the  consortium is  $806.4 [thousands  of dollars]                                                               
for  each  of  the  years,  with  an  associated  cost  of  $67.2                                                               
[thousands of dollars]. That would all come from general funds.                                                                 
SENATOR  HUGHES said  she  had a  question  for the  commissioner                                                               
about the fiscal  note. In lean times, they like  bills that have                                                               
a low to  no fiscal note. This  is not low or zero.  She asked if                                                               
he thought  this is an investment  worth making and would  give a                                                               
return of better learning for students.                                                                                         
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  replied   that  he  is  a   fan  of  using                                                               
technology  to  extend the  benefit  of  great teachers  to  more                                                               
students and any  investment they can make to  extend the benefit                                                               
of great teachers  to more kids around the state.  That is one of                                                               
the  wonderful  privileges  of  living in  2019.  They  have  the                                                               
ability,  capability, and  opportunity to  do that  in ways  they                                                               
haven't  had  in  the  past,  so he  absolutely  thinks  so.  The                                                               
department  has  already started  discussions  and  is more  than                                                               
willing  to participate  and help  lead those  working groups  to                                                               
discuss how  this develops.  As the bill  develops and  they work                                                               
with stakeholders,  it may be that  they find ways to  do it more                                                               
efficiently than  with this  first run through  and make  it more                                                               
affordable without  letting go  of the  commitment to  extend the                                                               
benefit of great teaching to as many kids as possible.                                                                          
SENATOR HUGHES  said they had  the chair's bill about  the middle                                                               
college  concept  and access  to  university  courses. She  asked                                                               
whether the commissioner saw that  tying into this in that online                                                               
university  courses  could  be  embedded  into  the  database  so                                                               
students could choose a university course.                                                                                      
8:42:44 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON replied  that he saw that  as a possibility,                                                               
but he  also sees  that as  a reality.  It is  already happening.                                                               
Districts  are  providing  students  opportunities  for  Advanced                                                               
Placement  courses online  and dual  credit career  and technical                                                               
education. It is  reality for postsecondary, but  for other bills                                                               
that have  been introduced, like for  pre-K education, technology                                                               
has great  opportunities to  be beneficial on  that end  also. As                                                               
they  have seen  in other  parts of  society, technology  doesn't                                                               
replace a  teacher. It extends  the benefit of great  teaching to                                                               
more and more  kids, pre-K all the way through  college. He would                                                               
suggest  that  making  the  middle  college  idea  as  robust  as                                                               
possible will include the use of technology.                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES  said someone  suggested  that  the bill  specify                                                               
classroom  teachers   as  opposed  to  teachers   that  might  be                                                               
functioning  in another  role in  the requirement  to report  the                                                               
ratios of  administrators, teachers,  and students. She  asked if                                                               
the commissioner  thought that was  a good idea.  She appreciates                                                               
Jerry Covey's  comment that  every district  is unique.  If there                                                               
are unique circumstances, districts  could explain the numbers in                                                               
the ratio. She  asked if it would be a  good idea to specifically                                                               
include classroom teachers in that ratio.                                                                                       
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  replied that  he would  need time  to think                                                               
through exactly  what that  reporting would  be. It  is important                                                               
for  every  school to  prioritize  the  classroom. The  ratio  is                                                               
important,  but there  is not  always a  clear line  between what                                                               
they call  administration and what they  call classroom teachers.                                                               
The fact is that principals  are very important to the classroom.                                                               
If  they draw  too  stark of  a  distinction between  identifying                                                               
principals and  classroom teachers,  that may hurt  the classroom                                                               
because principals are important  to maintaining great classrooms                                                               
and supporting  teachers. Having said  that, it is  imperative to                                                               
provide  families,  communities, legislators,  stakeholders,  and                                                               
school boards  information about their  schools so that  they can                                                               
compare that  to other schools and  see if someone else  is doing                                                               
something they  may want  to consider. Any  time they  can report                                                               
information in a way that is helpful is a good thing.                                                                           
SENATOR  HUGHES  said  that at  the  joint  Education  Committees                                                               
meeting yesterday,  they heard from  a principal who  was filling                                                               
in and teaching  a music class. Those are things  that a district                                                               
could explain as they do the report.                                                                                            
CHAIR  STEVENS  brought  up  the example  of  teachers  who  help                                                               
students  with  hearing  difficulties.  They  are  not  classroom                                                               
teachers, but they  are not administrators. He  assumes there are                                                               
other positions like that. Where  they draw that line is crucial.                                                               
He asked the  commissioner whether a teacher who  is dealing with                                                               
a kid who has hearing issues is a teacher or an administrator.                                                                  
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  responded that in his  description, that is                                                               
a teacher, but  he would give a shout-out to  school bus drivers.                                                               
They teach  every day. They teach  kids to be respectful  and sit                                                               
on  the bus.  Almost everyone  involved in  public education,  if                                                               
they embrace the opportunity, has the opportunity to teach kids.                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS  said that is a  good point. He recently  found out                                                               
that  a long-time  school bus  driver in  Kodiak retired.  He ran                                                               
into her  once years  ago. "And she  said, "Oh,  you're Matthew's                                                               
father, and  I was thinking, 'Wow,  she is the teacher  as well.'                                                               
You're right," he said.                                                                                                         
8:48:44 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BIRCH  said the fiscal  note says that in  addition, this                                                               
bill amends  AS 14.17.505 by  increasing the limit that  a school                                                               
district  is allowed  to retain  in its  unreserved fund  balance                                                               
from 10 percent  to 25 percent of district  expenditures. That is                                                               
significant to him. He was wondering  if they have a sense of how                                                               
big  the  unreserved  fund   balance  is  statewide.  Twenty-five                                                               
percent of  district expenditures could be  a significant number.                                                               
He asked  how much is  retained right now, what  is characterized                                                               
as  the unreserved  fund  balance,  and what  is  the purpose  of                                                               
allowing the increase in the fund balance.                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said  he could provide to  the committee how                                                               
much  each  district   has  in  reserve.  He   would  think  that                                                               
increasing reserves would be to  provide more flexibility, but he                                                               
would let Senator Hughes speak to that.                                                                                         
SENATOR BIRCH said  the amount school districts  have in reserves                                                               
would be good information.                                                                                                      
SENATOR HUGHES said that raising the  cap was a discussion from a                                                               
few years ago. Now, in tougher  times, it may be difficult to get                                                               
to  that  balance,   but  the  idea  is  two-fold.   One  is  for                                                               
flexibility. Another  is to encourage efficiencies,  so that they                                                               
have the flexibility to do  something they think would be helpful                                                               
to students. It is like rollover  minutes. If someone knows a big                                                               
month is coming up with a lot  of phone calls, they might want to                                                               
rollover those minutes. It is  that concept. She would be curious                                                               
about the amount now. As the  belt is tightened, it might be more                                                               
difficult for  districts to realize  those rollover  savings, but                                                               
it would give districts more flexibility.                                                                                       
8:51:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS held SB 79 in committee.