Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

03/29/2019 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 74(EDC) Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
Moved SJR 9 Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
        SJR  9-CONST.AM: APPROP. BILL FOR PUBL EDUCATION                                                                    
9:22:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration of SJR 9.                                                                             
9:22:21 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COSTELLO,  speaking as  prime sponsor,  said that  she is                                                               
appreciative of  cosponsors Senator  Hoffman, Senator  Olson, the                                                               
chair,  and Senator  Begich, who  had to  temporarily remove  his                                                               
name due  to a conflict  of interest. In the  original testimony,                                                               
it became evident that it  is creating havoc for school districts                                                               
by passing education  funding later in the  session. Last session                                                               
the  legislature funded  education early,  forward funded  it and                                                               
added a total  of $50 million to education.  That was appreciated                                                               
by  the districts.  Another  issue in  testimony  is that  Alaska                                                               
needs certainty  for the economy.  That extends to  the education                                                               
community. At  the end of  the day students will  benefit because                                                               
their   teachers  will   be   there  for   the   long  haul   and                                                               
administrators will  not be in  this annual churning  of teachers                                                               
in the schools  because they have to, by law,  issue a pink slip.                                                               
This is  important legislation.  She wants to  put on  the record                                                               
that originally,  she had hoped to  put the bill in  statute, but                                                               
they were  told that putting it  in the constitution was  the way                                                               
to  go  because  one  legislature  is  not  allowed  to  encumber                                                               
another.  Therefore,  the  constitution  is a  clearer  and  more                                                               
secure place to have it.                                                                                                        
9:24:25 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH said  he  appreciates where  this  is headed.  His                                                               
concern  is about  compelling the  legislature to  commit such  a                                                               
significant amount of financial resources  by the 45th day of the                                                               
session. They  are fast  approaching 90  days now.  He recognizes                                                               
that the  school year starts  in September. He  supported forward                                                               
funding last year  to address this issue. He  is comfortable with                                                               
forward funding. A  two-year budget cycle would  be optimal. With                                                               
SB 26 and the POMV [percent  of market value] approach, they have                                                               
stabilized revenue  to help that  out. He is challenged  with the                                                               
idea  of  carving  out  such   a  significant  portion  of  their                                                               
resources.  Crime and  transportation are  important. There  is a                                                               
myriad of vital  issues. As important as education  is, they need                                                               
to balance  those all out. He  is concerned about stepping  it up                                                               
early in the  session. Forty-five days is in  February. The House                                                               
wasn't  organized until  the middle  of February.  The intent  is                                                               
good.  He is  concerned about  how it  might impact  their budget                                                               
development process.                                                                                                            
9:26:18 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  said it is  a real problem for  school districts.                                                               
She  has been  trying  to  think outside  the  box  for ways  the                                                               
legislature  can  fix  it  because  she  shares  Senator  Birch's                                                               
concern. Perhaps  they should convene the  legislature in October                                                               
or  November and  take  a Christmas  break.  She appreciates  the                                                               
sponsor's  intent  and  recognizes  that  it  is  a  problem  for                                                               
9:26:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  said that is  outside the box, but  he appreciates                                                               
the thought                                                                                                                     
9:27:09 AM                                                                                                                    
ELWIN BLACKWELL, School Finance  Manager, Department of Education                                                               
and  Early Development  (DEED) said  the fiscal  notes associated                                                               
with  the  resolution   are  zero  fiscal  notes.   There  is  no                                                               
expectation that  this would impact the  processes and procedures                                                               
of  the department.  They currently  develop these  budgets in  a                                                               
normal  time frame.  The resolution  would not  disrupt that.  It                                                               
just puts in upon the governor's  office to submit a separate, K-                                                               
12 education budget.  They already go through that  process as it                                                               
9:28:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS opened public testimony.                                                                                          
9:28:29 AM                                                                                                                    
JUDY ELEDGE,  representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska,  opposed SJR                                                               
9. She  said she is  a retired educator  who has received  a pink                                                               
slip  in the  past. She  is against  this being  a constitutional                                                               
amendment.  She   agrees  that   there  needs  to   be  something                                                               
different, but this  is a process issue which does  not require a                                                               
constitutional  amendment. It  can be  corrected by  changing the                                                               
date May 1,  when budgets must be given to  the department, in AS                                                               
14.14.060 to June 1. Constitutional  amendments must be used only                                                               
for great policy  changes, not a budget process.  She suggested a                                                               
pilot program of three years  of forward funding if all districts                                                               
agreed to keep their funding  at the same level. Constitutionally                                                               
mandating that K-12  education be funded first  reduces the power                                                               
of  appropriation  for the  legislature.  How  arrogant to  think                                                               
education is the most important thing  in the state when there is                                                               
also public  safety and health  and social services. It  locks up                                                               
almost  one-fourth of  the budget  for the  state of  Alaska. She                                                               
asks what  incentive is  there for school  boards to  stop giving                                                               
pay raises and benefits with no  way of knowing how they will pay                                                               
for  them three  or  five  years later.  She  is concerned  about                                                               
unintended consequences if  education gets a bigger  piece of the                                                               
budget pie early on.  That is unfair. It could be  done by law or                                                               
pilot programs.  There are creative  ways of stepping  outside of                                                               
the box, but she cannot support a constitutional amendment.                                                                     
9:31:06 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID BOYLE,  representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska,  opposed SJR                                                               
9.  He said  this constitutional  amendment is  a solution  for a                                                               
problem caused by  the legislature and local  taxing entities. AS                                                               
14.14.060 states  that school districts  shall submit  the school                                                               
budget for the  following school year to the  borough assembly by                                                               
May  1  for approval  of  the  total  amount.  So the  state  has                                                               
proposed  a deadline  for the  local taxing  entity to  approve a                                                               
school district's budget,  but the state legislature  is not able                                                               
to provide  a budget for the  school district to base  its budget                                                               
on. Because the legislature cannot get  its work done on time, it                                                               
puts the school  districts in a terrible bind. This  is a process                                                               
issue, a  calendar issue, and  does not require  a constitutional                                                               
amendment to  correct. It can  be corrected by changing  the date                                                               
in the  statute from  May 1 to  sometime in  June. Constitutional                                                               
amendments must only  be used for big policy  changes, not budget                                                               
process issues.  SJR 9  would severely  limit the  flexibility of                                                               
the legislature  in its  appropriation of funds  to all  areas of                                                               
the budget. If  this constitutional amendment were  to pass, then                                                               
K-12 education would  be first in line for funding  and would not                                                               
have  to  compete for  funding  on  an  equal basis  with  public                                                               
safety, transportation, and health  and social services. It could                                                               
be possible  that K-12 would get  a large increase in  funding to                                                               
the detriment of other vital state needs.                                                                                       
MR.  BOYLE   said  that  constitutionally  mandating   that  K-12                                                               
education  be  funded  first reduces  the  legislative  power  of                                                               
appropriation  where there  is  a  give and  take  among all  the                                                               
competing  interests. If  this constitutional  amendment were  to                                                               
pass,  then other  special constituencies  may  want their  needs                                                               
placed  in the  Alaska constitution  to  be funded  early in  the                                                               
legislative session. They have heard  about the pink slip circus.                                                               
Pink slipping  is a tool that  school districts use to  play mind                                                               
games   with  parents   and  students,   legislators,  and   most                                                               
importantly, teachers.  They wreak  havoc with  teachers' futures                                                               
where  there is  no need  to do  this. They  pay managers  in the                                                               
school districts big bucks to  make the tough decisions. Now they                                                               
need to start  earning their pay. School districts  can use state                                                               
money however  they want.  They can  use transportation  money to                                                               
buy playground  equipment. Money for intensive-needs  students at                                                               
13 times  the average daily  membership is not directed  to those                                                               
students  who  need the  resources.  In  education all  money  is                                                               
fungible.  The legislature  needs to  earmark money  for specific                                                               
requirements.  Putting K-12  funding in  the Alaska  constitution                                                               
will not improve student achievement  or ensure that public funds                                                               
are spent wisely.                                                                                                               
9:36:45 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS closed public testimony.                                                                                          
9:36:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  noted that SJR 9  had a referral to  Judiciary and                                                               
then to Finance. He solicited a motion.                                                                                         
9:37:09 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES moved  to report SJR 9, Version  S, from committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                  
[CHAIR  STEVENS  found   no  objection  and  SJR   9  moved  from                                                               
9:37:18 AM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
9:38:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS reconvened the committee.                                                                                         
SENATOR COSTELLO  said she appreciated individuals  calling in to                                                               
testify. Judy  Eledge is  one of her  constituents and  she found                                                               
some  of  her ideas  interesting.  She  is definitely  listening.                                                               
David Nees  often calls  into the  committee and  she appreciates                                                               
that he  does follow  what the legislature  is doing  and commits                                                               
quite a  bit of his  personal time to  review bills. It  is great                                                               
that the  public is following  what the legislature is  doing and                                                               
is part of the process.