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
-- Please Note Time Change --
*+ SB 79 VIRTUAL ED/TEACHER EXAM./COURSE EXAM. TELECONFERENCED
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  SHELLEY 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 tries to improve  the quality of teachers;  and it                                                               
provides opportunities for  administrative efficiencies. She said                                                               
dollars  in   the  classroom  correlates  with   higher  academic                                                               
achievement so finding  efficiencies will free up  dollars to use                                                               
where needed to help students.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   HUGHES  said   everyone   has   been  concerned   about                                                               
achievement gaps.  Certainly there  are pockets of  excellence in                                                               
the state,  but in other  areas the  students are not  getting to                                                               
the finish  line. She  said her concern  with this  situation has                                                               
led to the  work on this bill  over the last two  years. The idea                                                               
is to put Alaska  students in a position to do  the best they can                                                               
in the  21st century so that  they can compete and  be successful                                                               
on a global basis.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
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 she  will refer                                                               
to it as the Education  Transformation Act. She explained that 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 over  time.  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 the  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                                                                    
     [professional] activity requirements of the course.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     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 students.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     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 teaching.                                                                                     
        • 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, 2020.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     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 noted  that  the description  is  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" instead of "physical."                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. MORRISON said yes.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS said the committee 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                                                               
that is just  one aspect of determining the  quality of teachers.                                                               
is important and. 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  he believes                                                               
that  SB 79  includes important  policy considerations  that have                                                               
the potential  of providing support 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 said  he is a particular  fan of using                                                               
technology  to  extend the  benefit  of  great teachers  to  more                                                               
students  in the  state. One  way to  do that  is with  a virtual                                                               
academy. He  said he appreciates  that the sponsor is  willing to                                                               
work with  stakeholders and he  looks forward to seeing  how this                                                               
and  other education  bills  develop over  this  session and  the                                                               
next.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked if  he  was  comfortable with  the  sponsor                                                               
working with stakeholders on the consortium.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON answered absolutely.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:27:11 AM                                                                                                                    
JERRY  COVEY,  Ph.D.,  representing himself,  Anchorage,  Alaska,                                                               
said that  he is an  education consultant based in  Anchorage and                                                               
the sponsor  asked him to share  his insights on SB  79. He said,                                                               
overall, he strongly  supports SB 79. It contains  good ideas. He                                                               
said he  would touch upon  a few  highlights. He said  Section 4,                                                               
which  adds credit  options for  career  and technical  education                                                               
courses and  music and  art, is  appropriate. It  recognizes that                                                               
not  all  good  education  occurs  within  the  confines  of  the                                                               
classroom.  He  noted that  some  districts  are moving  in  that                                                               
direction  already.  He referenced  Section  5  on reporting  and                                                               
offered  his  understanding  that   there  is  movement  in  that                                                               
direction as well. He said the  provision in Section 8 to provide                                                               
more  transparency  for  stakeholders is  appropriate,  with  the                                                               
acknowledgement that  local districts  deploy their  resources as                                                               
they see most advantageous to their  students. He said he was not                                                               
sure  the  information  is  a  valuable  comparison  district-to-                                                               
district because  each school  district has  unique circumstances                                                               
and needs.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DR. COVEY said  he smiled when he read about  increasing the fund                                                               
balance in Section 7. That is long overdue and most appropriate.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
DR. COVEY said  recent research on the Praxis test  shows that 46                                                               
percent of  test takers pass  it the  first time. The  reason for                                                               
not passing has more to do  with the work the prospective teacher                                                               
did before entering the education  program than anything else. He                                                               
said 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  ensure that  the content  areas                                                               
that the  Praxis covers are  well addressed. According  to recent                                                               
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' chance of passing the first                                                               
time. He offered to share the  insightful report which came out a                                                               
month ago.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DR. COVEY  said the virtual  education consortium component  is a                                                               
great idea. It is a very  dynamic field. He said the best experts                                                               
are the  superintendents in the  districts so 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 and he                                                               
would distribute it to the members.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES noted  the requirement for the  State School Board                                                               
to  periodically adjust  the  minimum score  needed  to pass  the                                                               
Praxis exam and asked what interval he would recommend.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
DR.  COVEY replied  that every  three to  five years  would allow                                                               
time for universities and high  schools to incorporate changes to                                                               
address the causes or reasons  students are not passing the first                                                               
time.  He suggested  that superintendents  on  the working  group                                                               
could provide expert input on that as well.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  expressed appreciation  for the input  saying the                                                               
word  "periodically" was  definitely open  to interpretation.  It                                                               
would improve the bill to pin that down.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS asked what ROE means in the Praxis scores report.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
DR. COVEY replied that he did not know.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS commented  that perhaps  someone  from DEED  could                                                               
answer the question.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:34:10 AM                                                                                                                    
DEENA BISHOP,  Ph.D., Superintendent, Anchorage  School District,                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska, said she and  the Anchorage School Board agree                                                               
with  the first  sentence  in the  sponsor  statement that  says,                                                               
"Every  Alaska  student  matters   and  deserves  a  high-quality                                                               
education."  because it  speaks  to their  students' future.  She                                                               
said  fundamental skills  are paramount  and  will help  students                                                               
learn to learn throughout school and life.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:35:33 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH joined the committee.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
DR. BISHOP said 13 years  of K-12 education that provides content                                                               
on  constructs will  not  last anyone  a  lifetime but  eLearning                                                               
enables every person to access  knowledge and understanding for a                                                               
lifetime. She  said virtual learning  can be a powerful  tool and                                                               
Alaskan districts have become more  knowledgeable about it in the                                                               
last  10  years. She  encouraged  the  committee to  establish  a                                                               
virtual learning  working group  to gather 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  the statement  she likes  most [in  the sponsor                                                               
statement]  is  that  the consortium  will  provide  professional                                                               
development in support  of teaching virtually. The  skills in the                                                               
classroom  can  easily  transfer to  virtual  learning.  However,                                                               
virtual  learning  must not  be  utilized  in  the context  of  a                                                               
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. SB  79 also asks for  Alaskans in                                                               
both  rural and  urban towns  to work  together for  all Alaska's                                                               
children through  a consortium. This will  bring school districts                                                               
closer  together,  providing  equity  for  students  through  the                                                               
availability  of  effective  teachers. 21st  century  success  is                                                               
built around  utilizing technology  to complement  and accelerate                                                               
learning and opportunity.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS asked  the sponsor if she was  comfortable with the                                                               
idea of a working group.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES answered  yes; the  excellent idea  of a  working                                                               
group came from the Anchorage  School District. The Anchorage and                                                               
Mat-Su  School Districts  have  been pioneers  in  this area  and                                                               
their expertise  will lend  itself to  DEED's development  of the                                                               
consortium.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:38:57 AM                                                                                                                    
DEBORAH  RIDDLE, Division  Operations  Manager, Student  Learning                                                               
Division, Department  of Education and Early  Development (DEED),                                                               
Juneau,  Alaska, said  the fiscal  note  for SB  79 is  primarily                                                               
related to  the consortium.  The personnel  services cost  to vet                                                               
and  organize the  proposed seven  member consortium  is $806,400                                                               
each  year and  the associated  costs are  $67,200, all  of which                                                               
would come from general funds.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES asked  Commissioner  Johnson if  he thought  this                                                               
investment that would return 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  around  the  state  so  any  investment  to  do  so  is                                                               
worthwhile. That is one of  the wonderful privileges of living in                                                               
2019. The department has already  started discussions and is more                                                               
than willing  to participate and  help lead those  working groups                                                               
to discuss  how this develops. He  said it may be  that there are                                                               
ways  to do  this  more efficiently  than  the current  proposal,                                                               
without letting  go of  the commitment to  extend the  benefit of                                                               
great teaching to as many kids as possible.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES asked  if he  thought SB  79 could  tie into  the                                                               
middle  college concept  so students  could  choose a  university                                                               
course.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:42:44 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  replied  he  sees that  as  a  possibility                                                               
because   some   districts    already   provide   students   with                                                               
opportunities for Advanced Placement  courses online through dual                                                               
credit  career  and  technical   education.  It  is  reality  for                                                               
postsecondary,  but  technology  has great  opportunities  to  be                                                               
beneficial on  other levels  as well.  He reminded  the committee                                                               
that  technology doesn't  replace a  teacher. Rather,  it extends                                                               
the  benefit  of  great  teaching to  more  kids,  pre-K  through                                                               
college.  He suggested  that making  the middle  college idea  as                                                               
robust as possible will include the use of technology.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  asked if he  thought it would  be a good  idea to                                                               
specifically  include   classroom  teachers   in  the   ratio  of                                                               
administrators to  students and  teachers that  districts provide                                                               
for the annual report that DEED assembles.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON replied he would  need time to think through                                                               
exactly what  that reporting would  be, but  he does think  it is                                                               
important for every  school to prioritize the  classroom. He said                                                               
he  agreed that  the  ratio  is important  but  the line  between                                                               
administration  and  classroom  teachers  is  not  always  clear.                                                               
Principals  are  very  important  to the  classroom  and  if  the                                                               
distinction is  too stark it may  hurt the classroom. He  said it                                                               
is   imperative   that    families,   communities,   legislators,                                                               
stakeholders,  and school  boards  have  information about  their                                                               
school  so they  can compare  it  to other  schools and  consider                                                               
alternate ways of doing something.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES noted  that the  two  education committees  heard                                                               
yesterday  from a  principal who  was filling  in and  teaching a                                                               
music  class. She  said  that is  the type  of  situation that  a                                                               
district could explain in their report.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS asked  the commissioner whether a  person who helps                                                               
students   who  have   hearing  issues   is  a   teacher  or   an                                                               
administrator.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON responded  that he would describe  that as a                                                               
teacher, but it's  more nuanced for school bus  drivers who teach                                                               
students  every day  to  be respectful  and sit  on  the bus.  He                                                               
opined that almost everyone involved  in public education has the                                                               
opportunity to teach students.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS  related a  story  about  a long-time  school  bus                                                               
driver in Kodiak that illustrates that point.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:48:44 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH said  the  fiscal  note says  the  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.   He  asked   the                                                               
commissioner if he  had a sense of how large  the unreserved fund                                                               
balance is  statewide; how  much is  currently retained;  what is                                                               
characterized as the unreserved fund  balance; and the purpose of                                                               
allowing the increase in the fund balance.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON said  he would  follow up  with information                                                               
about the amount  each district has in reserve.  He suggested the                                                               
sponsor speak to the reason for the increasing the reserves.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BIRCH said  the amount school districts  have in reserves                                                               
would be good information.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES said  the idea of raising the cap  is two-fold. It                                                               
increases flexibility and it encourages efficiencies.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:51:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS held SB 79 in committee.