Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

04/04/2019 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
09:01:16 AM Start
09:01:27 AM Confirmation Hearing(s): University of Alaska Board of Regents Alaska Board of Education and Early Development
09:48:10 AM SB79
10:56:03 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= SB 79 VIRTUAL ED/TEACHER EXAM./COURSE EXAM. TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
<Items Below Added to Agenda>
+ Consideration of Governor's Appointees: TELECONFERENCED
- University of Alaska Board of Regents -
Darroll Hargraves - Postponed from 3/2/19
- State Board of Education & Early Development -
Tiffany Scott - Postponed from 3/2/19
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
          SB 79-VIRTUAL ED/TEACHER EXAM./COURSE EXAM.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:48:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   STEVENS  reconvened   the  meeting   and  announced   the                                                               
consideration  of  SB 79  and  his  intention to  have  committee                                                               
discussion,  take   public  testimony,  and  hold   the  bill  in                                                               
committee.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:48:29 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES   said  the  committee  heard   an  overview  and                                                               
sectional  of  the  bill  at  the March  26,  2019  meeting.  She                                                               
referred  to a  sheet with  summary points  in members'  packets.                                                               
This  bill is  the culmination  of  several years'  work by  some                                                               
members  of  the  committee,  particularly  Senator  Begich.  The                                                               
committee held  numerous joint meetings with  the House Education                                                               
Committee, bringing forward provisions  with consensus. Her staff                                                               
will  review  the six  major  aspects  of  bill. She  offered  to                                                               
address  some  possible  concepts   to  include  in  a  committee                                                               
substitute.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:49:59 AM                                                                                                                    
SHEILA  MORRISON, Intern,  Senator  Shelly  Hughes, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, Juneau,  reviewed a summary document,  relating that                                                               
the first two  points pertain to students  and improved outcomes,                                                               
the  second  two  relate  to the  importance  of  enough  quality                                                               
teachers, and the last two  points focus on cost savings measures                                                               
and  focus on  increased funding  in classrooms.  She paraphrased                                                               
the summary  titled, "SB 79  Virtual Ed  / Teacher Exam  / Course                                                             
Exam  Sponsored by  Sen.  Education  Transformation Act,  Summary                                                             
Points:                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
        • VIRTUAL EDUCATION Creates virtual education consortium                                                                
          in the  department to allow students  statewide to take                                                               
          online  classes  offered  by  other  school  districts.                                                               
          Gives districts the option to  join the consortium. The                                                               
          consortium  will  maintain  a database/menu  of  course                                                               
          offerings     with    course     descriptions,    video                                                               
          introductions of  teachers, video  instruction samples,                                                               
          and curriculum  samples. Teachers  will have  access to                                                               
          virtual teaching training  and professional development                                                               
          courses.  Allows  a district  to  charge  for a  course                                                               
          offered.  Districts that  join the  consortium will  be                                                               
          assessed  a  fee  to  support  the  operations  of  the                                                               
          consortium.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
        • COURSE CREDIT FOR OUT-OF-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES Allow                                                                      
          students to  receive credit  for activities  outside of                                                               
          school  for career  and  technical education,  physical                                                               
          education,  art,  and  music,  including  for  cultural                                                               
          activities, if the activities  meet the district course                                                               
          requirements.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. MORRISION paraphrased the next two sections, which relate to                                                                
teachers.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
        • RAISED BAR FOR TEACHER CERTIFICATION Requires teacher                                                                 
          certification  test scores  to be  increased when  they                                                               
          are lower than other states.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
        • RATIO REPORTING Requires each school district to                                                                      
          report  annually on  ratio of  administrative employees                                                               
          to  teachers to  students to  the department  and to  a                                                               
          district's local community.  Requires the department to                                                               
          report these ratios to the legislature.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. MORRISION paraphrased the next two sections related to cost                                                                 
savings and classroom funding.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
        • ROLLOVER SAVINGS LIMIT INCREASE Increases school                                                                      
          district fund  balance cap from 10%  of operating costs                                                               
          to  25% to  encourage efficiency  improvements. Savings                                                               
          derived  from cooperative  agreements  are outside  the                                                               
          25% cap for first three years.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
        • CONSOLIDATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT IN DEPARTMENT                                                                 
          Consolidates   the  administrative   support  for   the                                                               
          Professional  Teaching  Practices Commission  into  the                                                               
          department.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES reviewed the considerations for a potential                                                                      
committee substitute (CS) for SB 79. She paraphrased the summary                                                                
provisions.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
        • Virtual education working group: remove specificity of                                                                
          consortium in bill and  require commissioner to convene                                                               
          working group  to determine its structure,  how it will                                                               
          function, district participation,  any teacher training                                                               
          requirements, class fee methodology, etc.                                                                             
        • Praxis adjustments to occur every 3 years rather than                                                                 
          "periodically" as currently stated in bill.                                                                           
        • Insertion of "classroom" prior to "teacher" in ratio                                                                  
          language. Inclusion of classroom teacher definition.                                                                  
        • Read by nine language  early child literacy. (Will                                                                    
         reduce achievement gaps and social promotion.)                                                                         
        • New method for acquiring student count for BSA                                                                        
          calculation:  instead of  average daily  attendance for                                                               
          dates  in October,  use  average  daily attendance  for                                                               
          school year. (Will decrease absenteeism)                                                                              
        • Expanded cooperative agreement language to include                                                                    
          shared services and  partnerships with other districts,                                                               
          other government  agencies, businesses,  and non-profit                                                               
          organizations. (Will free up dollars for classrooms.)                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said that the commissioner  recommended including                                                               
stakeholders from the Alaska Society  for Technology in Education                                                               
(ASTE) in  the Virtual  Education Working  Group. She  noted that                                                               
Jerry  Covey  previously  suggested   changing  the  language  by                                                               
adjusting  Praxis   scores.  She  added  that   the  commissioner                                                               
provided a standard  definition for teacher that was  used by the                                                               
department, which is in members' packets.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  directed attention to  the read by  nine literacy                                                               
provision.  The committee  just  heard from  Tiffany Scott,  BOE,                                                               
about achievement gaps in the  state. Virtual education primarily                                                               
was for  middle and  high school student.  However, the  need for                                                               
students to  learn to  read by  the third  grade is  necessary to                                                               
close the  achievement gap,  she said.  While some  educators are                                                               
beginning to  use online  tools to  help struggling  readers, she                                                               
cautioned  against  not  having   a  classroom  teacher  for  K-3                                                               
students or even older students struggling with reading.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
She reiterated the  goal was to try to close  achievement gaps in                                                               
both the higher  and lower grades. She directed  attention to the                                                               
language   in  the   draft  legislation,   which  was   based  on                                                               
legislation  used elsewhere.  For  example,  one provision  would                                                               
require districts  to hold summer  camps. She suggested  that the                                                               
language be changed  to "may" because it might not  work for some                                                               
communities.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:56:56 AM                                                                                                                    
She  suggested  adding language  to  address  situations for  the                                                               
students receiving  intensive instruction  who are doing  fine in                                                               
other subjects,  but struggle  to keep up  with their  cohorts in                                                               
reading. She recommended  that these students be  allowed to stay                                                               
with their cohorts  as much as possible. For  example, one option                                                               
would be  to keep  these students with  their cohorts  once their                                                               
reading  skills were  at grade  level.  She said  she hoped  that                                                               
school districts  would consider this approach.  She related that                                                               
Dr. Bishop has  indicated that the Anchorage  School District was                                                               
already implementing  many of these  concepts. However,  the goal                                                               
would  be to  close the  achievement gaps  throughout the  state.                                                               
When  children  learn  to  read   by  age  nine,  these  students                                                               
subsequently  "learn"  by reading,  so  reading  is an  essential                                                               
skill, she said.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:58:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH  said  that  the fiscal  note  would  require  the                                                               
Department  of   Education  and   Early  Development   (DEED)  to                                                               
establish  a  virtual  education  consortium.  He  asked  whether                                                               
removing  that requirement  would  positively  affect the  fiscal                                                               
note.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES answered that the  commissioner said he would like                                                               
to work  to reduce the fiscal  note for the working  group in the                                                               
first  year by  reducing the  number of  employees. She  recalled                                                               
that  the fiscal  note added  seven or  eight employees,  but the                                                               
commissioner  thought that  the  work could  be  done with  fewer                                                               
staff. She offered her belief that the fiscal note will change.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BIRCH  asked how credits earned  for activities conducted                                                               
outside of the school day  would be determined, in particular, in                                                               
terms of graduation  credits. He further asked how  that would be                                                               
managed so  students do not  have credits that would  not advance                                                               
their academic interests.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES replied  that some  districts were  already doing                                                               
allowing credits outside the school,  so long as the activity met                                                               
the district requirements. For example,  a band course requires a                                                               
certain number of  hours. However, if students  were in community                                                               
bands  or took  lessons,  and the  district  determined that  the                                                               
activity mets the course requirements,  the student could receive                                                               
music  credits. She  characterized  this approach  as a  flexible                                                               
one. For example,  students on the varsity  basketball team could                                                               
use their gym training hours  to meet the physical education (PE)                                                               
requirements,  which  would  free   students  up  to  take  other                                                               
courses. She  envisioned that  these decisions  would be  made by                                                               
each   district   and  the   activity   must   meet  the   course                                                               
requirements.  She   remarked  that  many   valuable  educational                                                               
experiences happen outside of the school.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
10:01:05 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  BIRCH noted  [Section  7] would  amend  AS 14.17.505  by                                                               
increasing the  districts' unreserved fund balance  limit from 10                                                               
percent  to 25  percent  of district  expenditures. He  cautioned                                                               
that  district   expenditures  for  education  are   immense.  He                                                               
recalled that  one report showed districts  had reserved hundreds                                                               
of millions  of school  funding. He  expressed concern  about the                                                               
amount  of  money  school  districts  were  squirreling  away  in                                                               
unreserved  fund  balances that  could  better  be used  to  fund                                                               
education.  He  asked  for the  justification  for  districts  to                                                               
increase the percentage of their unreserved fund balances.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES answered  that the statewide combined  total was a                                                               
couple  hundred  million. The  reason  for  the increase  was  to                                                               
encourage efficiencies  and allow  school districts to  have more                                                               
funding  available   to  weather  rougher  economic   times.  For                                                               
example, a district  could achieve efficiencies in  order to save                                                               
its funds  for a great  instructional program. She  recalled that                                                               
Senator von Imhof brought this suggestion forward.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:02:46 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BIRCH  reiterated his belief that  the legislature needed                                                               
to see  "all the  piggy bank  dollars on  the table"  so everyone                                                               
would  be on  an  even  playing field.  He  noted  that a  couple                                                               
hundred million dollars was not an insignificant amount.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said the committee  has the discretion  to reduce                                                               
the amount or  even remove the provision. She  said she certainly                                                               
would not want  that provision to prevent passage  of other great                                                               
provisions in the bill.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
10:03:26 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  COSTELLO  commended  Senator   Hughes  as  a  passionate                                                               
advocate  who  seeks better  results  in  education and  promotes                                                               
innovative solutions.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
She  acknowledged  that  some   districts  already  offer  online                                                               
courses.  For  example,  the Anchorage  School  District  has  an                                                               
agreement with  Middlebury College  to offer language  classes in                                                               
middle schools  and high schools.  She asked whether  the virtual                                                               
education  consortium would  mean that  the department  could not                                                               
work with Middlebury College, or  if this specifically related to                                                               
online  courses  offered  within  a school  building.  She  asked                                                               
whether this referred  to courses teachers in  local school would                                                               
develop and videoconference or to  curriculum the districts would                                                               
write  and offer  online. She  offered her  own experiences  as a                                                               
teacher who  developed lesson plans. She  expressed concern about                                                               
the  level of  support teachers  receive from  the district.  She                                                               
said she  wishes DEED had  the benefit of  her lesson plans  in a                                                               
format that could be shared with other teachers in Alaska.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COSTELLO  related her understanding  that this  focus was                                                               
more about fostering a connection  between an online class in one                                                               
district with  an online class  in another. She remarked  that it                                                               
takes  significant   time  to  find   good  online   classes  and                                                               
communicate the  course work to students.  She questioned whether                                                               
the  department should  be involved,  since this  work would  all                                                               
happen  within   districts.  She   further  suggested   that  the                                                               
department could focus its time  and energy on helping to improve                                                               
what happens in classrooms.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS noted that the department was online.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES answered that  she initially envisioned developing                                                               
a database  for students  to use, but  she realized  these online                                                               
courses could also be wonderful  resource for teachers to observe                                                               
how  other teachers  teach.  She pointed  out  that the  database                                                               
could be similar to the  one that Senator Costello described. For                                                               
example,  a   teacher  at  Teeland  Middle   School  could  share                                                               
recordings of how  to solve math problems that  could be accessed                                                               
by anyone in the country.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
This  bill  would  not  require   districts  to  go  through  the                                                               
department to  reach agreements  with colleges,  so it  would not                                                               
interfere with  the Anchorage School District's  arrangement with                                                               
Middlebury  College,  she said.  She  suggested  that this  topic                                                               
might be something  the working group could  further discuss. She                                                               
said  she initially  envisioned that  districts would  share open                                                               
slots in classrooms  with other districts. The  working group was                                                               
formed  to allow  districts  to  figure out  what  would be  most                                                               
helpful, she said                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:08:23 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR COSTELLO  asked the sponsor whether  she had contemplated                                                               
potential unintended  consequences of allowing course  credit for                                                               
outside  activities.  She said  she  strongly  supports music  in                                                               
school since  it can have  a huge impact on  children's enjoyment                                                               
of  school. Research  shows that  learning  a musical  instrument                                                               
provides tremendous benefits for  students. She expressed concern                                                               
that some parents  who can afford to do so  might pay for private                                                               
music  lessons   for  their  children  instead   of  having  them                                                               
participate in the school band  or symphony. She highlighted that                                                               
the whole  culture of music  programs in schools  is tremendously                                                               
beneficial because  students gain from working  collectively with                                                               
their peers. She recalled that  one of her most enjoyable moments                                                               
as  a parent  was watching  a  diverse group  of students  coming                                                               
together to perform music for an audience.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  argued that  it would not  have that  effect. She                                                               
related  that she  heard  from a  number  of superintendents  who                                                               
indicated that  many schools already  allow this  flexibility. It                                                               
has not resulted in what  Senator Costello described. Instead, it                                                               
supplements the music  program, so students who plan  to major in                                                               
music can obtain additional music  credits beyond band and choir.                                                               
From what she has heard, it  has not been a problem. She surmised                                                               
that it was  probably more of an exception for  a student to free                                                               
up a period  in order to take a higher  math class. She suggested                                                               
this issue could be addressed further if problems arose.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:11:47 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  COSTELLO expressed  concern about  teacher certification                                                               
test scores. She said she learned  that grades should be based on                                                               
meeting  the standards.  For example,  in  aviation, pilots  have                                                               
performance-based assessments. Pilots are  trained and must prove                                                               
their  ability  to perform  to  a  certain standard.  Instead  of                                                               
basing teacher  certification relative  to other  teachers across                                                               
the country,  it should be based  on meeting a set  of standards,                                                               
she said.  She questioned the  fairness of one class  of teachers                                                               
meeting one  standard and another class  meeting another standard                                                               
because  the  standards  change.  She  offered  to  discuss  this                                                               
further with the sponsor.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  replied that she  had not  thought of it  in that                                                               
way. She suggested that perhaps  the adjustment would not need to                                                               
be made every three years.  She recalled that high school physics                                                               
teachers in Alaska  were 25 points or so lower.  She said that it                                                               
is  important for  students who  want to  go to  college to  have                                                               
confidence  that   their  high  school  physics   teachers  fully                                                               
understands  the  physics being  taught.  She  agreed to  further                                                               
discuss this provision.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
10:14:48 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH  explained that in  his high school,  students who                                                               
learned  course  subject matter  outside  of  the classroom  were                                                               
required  to  prove their  competence  and  comprehension of  the                                                               
course material.  These students were  subject to a  rigorous and                                                               
difficult process  to show teachers that  the course requirements                                                               
were met,  he said. He  offered his  belief that this  bill would                                                               
encourage  students  to  do  that. It  would  force  students  to                                                               
contemplate  the  credit requirements  and  show  how their  work                                                               
relates  to  it,  he  said. The  Anchorage  School  District  has                                                               
offered students  the ability to  challenge courses  for decades.                                                               
In fact, he graduated from high  school early because he was able                                                               
to double up on courses, but he  had to prove it to his teachers,                                                               
he said.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BEGICH  referred  to an  issue  discussed  earlier  that                                                               
related to  districts' fund balances  that totaled  $200 million.                                                               
He directed  attention to a  letter members received  from Melody                                                               
Douglas,  the Alaska  Association  of  School Business  Officials                                                               
(ALASBO). The  letter explained the importance  of fund balances.                                                               
For example, teacher  salaries must be paid timely,  but if state                                                               
funding was delayed  for any reason, the districts  could fail to                                                               
meet payroll. Salaries  vary, with some salaries  paid year round                                                               
whereas others  are paid for  nine months,  he said. Just  as the                                                               
legislature uses the Constitutional  Budget Reserve Fund for cash                                                               
flow,  the   districts'  fund  balances  are   required  by  most                                                               
accounting processes  to make sure the  districts were performing                                                               
their due diligence as public officials.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
He  clarified the  reason  for the  increase  [to the  districts'                                                               
unreserved fund  balance limit from  10 percent to 25  percent of                                                               
district  expenditures]  suggested  by Senator  von  Imhof  would                                                               
recognize  that massive  innovation  might  require some  upfront                                                               
costs. The corollary is that  certain grant applications and bond                                                               
debt  require reserves  be kept  on hand.  He recalled  on recent                                                               
suggestion  implied that  if the  unreserved  fund balances  were                                                               
swept  up,  it  could  offset the  proposed  education  cuts.  He                                                               
offered   his  belief   that  taking   that  approach   would  be                                                               
devastating for  school districts. He encouraged  members to read                                                               
the letter.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:17:46 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH expressed  concern on the read  by nine provision.                                                               
He suggested  that it might  not be effective for  districts that                                                               
use a  fluid process instead  of a  graded one. For  example, the                                                               
Chugach School  District uses  a fluid process,  but it  does not                                                               
use retention  as a factor, so  there would be no  way to measure                                                               
it. He  recalled that Bob  Griffin, appointee to the  State Board                                                               
of Education, previously mentioned  the Finnish model, which also                                                               
uses a  flexible model,  he said.  If the state  were to  adopt a                                                               
model  like  the  Finnish  one,  the concept  of  a  third  grade                                                               
retention would  be less effective  because it would not  fit the                                                               
model. He cautioned  that the committee keep its  options open as                                                               
it  seeks  innovation and  not  to  create "brackets."  It  could                                                               
prevent  districts from  using innovative  systems,  such as  the                                                               
Finnish model, or  the system used by  former Commissioner Hanley                                                               
in the Chugach School District.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES  remarked  that  the  bill  can  be  improved  by                                                               
suggestions from  members. She suggested  that the  committee may                                                               
wish to consider some type  of waiver to address Senator Begich's                                                               
concern  if the  language is  adopted in  the proposed  committee                                                               
substitute.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:19:13 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH said  he raised the issue because  he supports the                                                               
bill. He  echoed Senator Costello's  comments that  teachers need                                                               
supported curriculum.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
He noted  that the  House recently  eliminated the  $19.5 million                                                               
funding  for former  Senator MacKinnon's  approach to  curriculum                                                               
revision. He said  he was confident that the  incentives were not                                                               
needed.  However,  in  the process,  the  department  lost  three                                                               
curriculum  positions,   which  he  hoped  the   committee  would                                                               
consider restoring. The  DEED is notoriously close  to failing to                                                               
meet  its  support requirements  under  the  Constitution of  the                                                               
State of  Alaska, as evidenced  through court cases, he  said. He                                                               
offered  his belief  that with  three  curriculum positions,  the                                                               
DEED  could   provide  curriculum   support  and   other  support                                                               
necessary for  teachers. He thanked  Senator Hughes for  her work                                                               
on these long-sought education bill.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES referred to the last two bullet points.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
        • New method for acquiring student count for BSA                                                                        
          calculation: instead of average daily attendance for                                                                  
          dates in October, use average daily attendance for                                                                    
          school year. (Will decrease absenteeism)                                                                              
        • Expanded cooperative agreement language to include                                                                    
          shared services and partnerships with other districts,                                                                
          other government agencies, businesses, and non-profit                                                                 
          organizations. (Will free up dollars for classrooms.)                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
The  districts  currently  use  specific  dates  in  October  for                                                               
student  counts to  determine the  base student  allocation (BSA)                                                               
calculations.  SB 79  would use  the average  attendance for  the                                                               
entire school year. The districts  work hard to encourage student                                                               
to  attend  school in  October,  but  the  goal is  to  encourage                                                               
attendance  year-round,  she  said. Absenteeism  can  affect  the                                                               
counts in  some districts, especially in  places with achievement                                                               
gaps,  she said.  She acknowledged  that  this change  was not  a                                                               
"magic  bullet"  that  would  suddenly  make  students  show  up.                                                               
However,  it  could  create  a  culture  in  schools  that  would                                                               
emphasize the importance of year-round  attendance. It could help                                                               
smooth  funding  for special  education.  In  instances in  which                                                               
students  attend one  school at  the beginning  of the  year, but                                                               
move  to   another  district,  the  extra   funding  for  special                                                               
education  does not  move with  the student.  She suggested  that                                                               
this might be a fairer approach.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said the  provision about  cooperative agreements                                                               
would expand the  language in statute to  include shared services                                                               
between  districts, governmental  agencies,  and nonprofits.  She                                                               
explained  that  the goal  was  to  funnel cooperative  agreement                                                               
grant savings back into classrooms.  She clarified that this does                                                               
not  request additional  money for  cooperative agreement  grants                                                               
although the Senate Finance Committee may decide to consider it.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
10:23:09 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS opened public testimony.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
10:23:32 AM                                                                                                                   
JUDY ELEDGE, representing herself,  Anchorage, stated support for                                                               
SB 79  and the virtual classrooms.  She said that since  1997 she                                                               
has worked  in rural  Alaska in low  performing schools.  She has                                                               
been dedicated, has  slept on school floors, and  brought her own                                                               
food.  She  offered  her  belief  that  she  brings  a  different                                                               
perspective to what happens in  schools. She characterized the K-                                                               
12 education  as archaic. She  described the situation  where one                                                               
teacher tries  to teach all  K-12 grades as impossible.  She said                                                               
that the  districts hire  high school  teachers, who  place their                                                               
emphasis  on teaching  high school  students, even  when most  of                                                               
these  schools  have  fewer high  school  students.  The  virtual                                                               
classroom can  help free  up teacher  time so  it could  be spent                                                               
teaching in  the lower  grades. These schools  need to  have good                                                               
primary  teachers to  teach  reading in  order  for education  to                                                               
improve.  Schools  should also  have  good  teacher aides,  which                                                               
would  help  immensely,  she said.  The  virtual  classrooms  can                                                               
really open that door and students' eyes to the world outside.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELEDGE offered her support  for using student counts averaged                                                               
for  the full  school  year. She  characterized  the truancy  law                                                               
enforcement as  nonexistent. Someone can  miss 50 days  of school                                                               
and still  pass to the next  grade. She also offered  her support                                                               
for the read  by nine model, because it is  clear and simple. She                                                               
said that the "No Child  Left Behind" policy required every child                                                               
to read by third  grade, but it did not work  since there were no                                                               
consequences. She offered her belief  that the rural schools have                                                               
major systematic problems,  but SB 79 could start  the process to                                                               
improve them. She  said the bill could make a  difference, but it                                                               
will take time.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
10:27:37 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH  said he appreciated  her saying that it  does not                                                               
happen overnight.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELEDGE confirmed that the  problems in districts could not be                                                               
solved in one year.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
10:28:14 AM                                                                                                                   
LISA SKILES PARADY, Ph.D., Executive  Director, Alaska Council of                                                               
School Administrators (ACSA),  Juneau, said that SB  79 was going                                                               
in  the  right  direction.  She said  that  many  districts  were                                                               
already  working   on  distance   learning.  She   suggested  the                                                               
districts  should  implement  these   changes  in  a  thoughtful,                                                               
methodical  way  to  ensure  it  is done  right.  She  asked  the                                                               
committee  to urge  administrators  to support  the efforts.  She                                                               
suggested  that  Dr.  Mary  Wegner,   who  is  a  member  of  the                                                               
International  Society for  Technology  in  Education, should  be                                                               
consulted  since  she could  provide  valuable  resources in  the                                                               
process. She has  been recognized as a state  and national leader                                                               
in  distance education.  A number  people have  formed a  working                                                               
group  to  work  on  the   issue.  She  offered  to  share  their                                                               
recommendations in writing or at a future hearing.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BIRCH  referred to the committee's  earlier discussion on                                                               
the  unreserved fund  balance increases  for districts.  He asked                                                               
whether districts  obligate and commit  funds on an  annual basis                                                               
when the  districts hire their employees.  The committee received                                                               
a  memorandum  from  DEED  that  indicated  the  unreserved  fund                                                               
balance was  $200 million statewide.  He asked whether she  saw a                                                               
need for that increase.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  answered that she  would like to hold  discussions on                                                               
this, along with ALASBO, since  the group was intimately familiar                                                               
with the unreserved fund balance.  She pointed out that it varies                                                               
by  district, but  the figures  can  be deceiving.  In fact,  the                                                               
unreserved fund balance purpose is  for emergency use, such as if                                                               
the  boiler  fails  and  needs  to be  replaced,  she  said.  The                                                               
governor suggested that school districts  could use fund balances                                                               
to transition to his proposed budget.  She said she would like to                                                               
dispel the notion that this fund  was a transition fund to buffer                                                               
school districts against  the proposed budget because  it is not.                                                               
For  example, the  Juneau  superintendent,  Dr. Weiss,  indicated                                                               
that the Juneau School District  could one operate for three days                                                               
with  its fund  balance. Further,  Jim Anderson,  Chief Financial                                                               
Officer, Anchorage  School District,  indicated that the  ASD was                                                               
required by municipal charter to  maintain a certain fund balance                                                               
to maintain its  good bond rating. She  suggested the legislature                                                               
must review the fund by district.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:34:15 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BIRCH said  a one percent reserve is  probably not enough                                                               
but there have  been concerns voiced about voters  turning down a                                                               
bond  proposition and  school districts  building anyway  because                                                               
there is  money in the  reserve. He said  he was still  trying to                                                               
sort through the issue and looked forward to the discussion.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS suggested  the committee  continue to  discuss the                                                               
issue of fund balances for before going on to other issues.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said she misspoke  when she credited  Senator von                                                               
Imhof with  bringing the idea  forward. It was  Senator MacKinnon                                                               
who made  the suggestion  and Senator  von Imhof  voiced support.                                                               
She also  expressed hope  that DEED took  note and  would consult                                                               
Dr. Wegner.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  referenced Senator Birch's  comment and said  she did                                                               
not believe  that districts  can redirect  funds for  any purpose                                                               
other than what  was stated on the bond  proposition. She offered                                                               
her belief that  it is appropriate to save  whenever possible but                                                               
didn't  want  that  misconstrued  to  mean  that  districts  were                                                               
"squirreling away  money." That  is certainly  isn't the  case in                                                               
Alaska, she said.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:36:57 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH echoed  Senator Birch's concern saying  he did not                                                               
know the reason for an increase to the fund balance.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS said that the committee  would be glad to hear from                                                               
the department about fund balances.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  COSTELLO commented  that  the committee  was working  to                                                               
discern  whether  the  bill achieves  the  desired  results.  She                                                               
reminded members that in 1977  Governor Jay Hammond signed Senate                                                               
Bill  35 which  gave  clear direction  that  Alaska wanted  local                                                               
control. She  said she preferred  local decisions for  schools to                                                               
be made by  the people who have children in  the schools and know                                                               
the community. She expressed an  interest in what superintendents                                                               
need. She  expressed frustration that the  legislature never gets                                                               
to that question because it  is always arguing about the funding.                                                               
She said she supports early education  funding to free up time to                                                               
hold  other discussions.  She asked  Dr. Paraday  to weigh  in on                                                               
what superintendents need.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  said she  would like time  to consider  the question.                                                               
She offered  her belief  that superintendents  frequently discuss                                                               
the need  to stabilize  districts, in  terms of  overall funding,                                                               
but also  the timing of it  so districts can hire  quality staff.                                                               
She  noted  that  the  council's  joint  position  statements  do                                                               
outline their  priorities, such as early  childhood education. If                                                               
districts  want  their students  to  accomplish  things by  third                                                               
grade,  the legislature  needs to  invest in  education and  make                                                               
sure children  are ready to  learn when students come  to school.                                                               
She said  superintendents appreciate Senator Begich's  efforts on                                                               
SB 6. In order for students  to succeed, the state must invest in                                                               
that early education.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY encouraged the committee  to review the joint position                                                               
statements.  She  also  acknowledged that  career  and  technical                                                               
education  was  important.  Students  who engage  in  career  and                                                               
technical education graduate.  The state must build  that out for                                                               
all students. Extending  the reach of good,  quality teachers and                                                               
doing whatever  the state can  do to  shore up its  crisis around                                                               
quality teachers is important and Senator Costello's bill helps.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY reminded  the committee that the state  worked on this                                                               
through  the  Alaska  Learning Network  (AKLN)  but  the  program                                                               
collapsed  when   funding  was  cut.  She   emphasized  that  the                                                               
legislature  must commit  to increasing  bandwidth and  while the                                                               
bill  to incrementally  increase the  Broadband Assistance  Grant                                                               
(BAG)  to a  minimum  of 25  Mbps does  not  provide for  student                                                               
connectivity needs,  it may  be the  best that  the state  can do                                                               
this year.  The state does not  have the $2 billion  necessary to                                                               
wire the whole state, but it  can be done incrementally to better                                                               
support the type of programs suggested in this bill.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY said the legislature  and the Alaska Council of School                                                               
Administrators must thoughtfully figure out how to move forward.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
DR.   PARADY  said   the  districts   have  lost   many  of   its                                                               
superintendents because  the job  has gotten more  difficult. The                                                               
experience  level  across the  state  has  declined. Dan  Walker,                                                               
Lower  Kuskokwim   School  District  (LKSD)  is   an  example  of                                                               
longevity  in leadership,  she said.  His ongoing  leadership and                                                               
his  leadership  team have  focused  on  making a  difference  in                                                               
student  graduation   rates.  LKSD,  the  largest   rural  school                                                               
district, does not  have a school in the lowest  10 percent. That                                                               
is  significant.  Those  are  the kind  of  progress  points  the                                                               
districts need work on. The  LKSD has sustained focus and ongoing                                                               
leadership  and  the  district   pours  enormous  resources  into                                                               
retention of  their teachers and  into growing their own.  As the                                                               
committee has  said, that is  a pocket  of prosperity. LKSD  is a                                                               
model for rural schools, but  it comes with solid leadership over                                                               
time. The  districts do not  experience that success in  the rest                                                               
of the  state. She suggested  the legislature  and administrators                                                               
need  to  understand what  happens  in  successful districts  and                                                               
replicate it in other districts .                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:45:31 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES said  that she appreciated her  comments. She said                                                               
the state must  give students statewide access  to great teachers                                                               
and that SB 79 would help.  One thing that surfaced in the Senate                                                               
Finance Committee  is a correlation between  career and technical                                                               
courses  and academic  achievement  in core  subjects, she  said.                                                               
While  virtual  education might  not  allow  students to  put  on                                                               
goggles and participate in welding, it that will come, she said.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY said she appreciated  the comments about local control                                                               
because districts know best what their children need.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
10:47:25 AM                                                                                                                   
WILLY   KEPPEO,  representing   himself,   Quinhagak,  said   his                                                               
community on  the coast of  the Bering Sea  is part of  the Lower                                                               
Kuskokwim   School  District.   He  said   that  he   views  this                                                               
differently because he  is not a part of the  system. He has been                                                               
watching  LKSD  for 30  years.  He  has  three children  and  his                                                               
youngest attends Mt.  Edgecumbe High School because  she wants to                                                               
go  to college.  She wanted  to have  a job  like her  sister. He                                                               
suggested that LKSD needed a  total forensic audit. Even when the                                                               
superintendent  changes, the  new one  enters a  system that  has                                                               
been  in place  for so  many  years that  the new  superintendent                                                               
cannot change  anything. The district  is lucky if  teachers stay                                                               
for two years. He questioned why  the system can't be set up like                                                               
the army  where the teachers  would sign contracts for  a certain                                                               
number of  years in exchange  for paying for their  education. He                                                               
remarked that  life in  the villages  was a  completely different                                                               
lifestyle. He  offered his belief  that district  spending needed                                                               
to be curtailed, because the waste is unbelievable.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
He  offered his  belief  that consolidating  schools  was a  good                                                               
idea.  For example,  parents in  Quinhagak would  prefer to  have                                                               
their children go  to school in Bethel rather  than attend school                                                               
in Mt.  Edgecumbe in  Southeast Alaska.  It is  costly to  fly to                                                               
Sitka and  parents could  visit students  more easily  in Bethel.                                                               
Students want the opportunity to  take courses, such as shop, but                                                               
it  is not  feasible  for  districts to  offer  these classes  in                                                               
schools with  only a few students.  He said he hoped  the outcome                                                               
of SB  79 would be change.  He acknowledged that he  did not have                                                               
solutions  to the  problems. However,  the  legislature needs  to                                                               
know the funding available in  the districts, so he recommended a                                                               
forensic audit.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR   STEVENS  said   the  committee   takes  public   comments                                                               
seriously. He recalled  Senator Hoffman raised the  same issue in                                                               
the  Senate  Finance Committee,  in  terms  of lifestyle  in  the                                                               
villages,  such  that teachers  relocating  from  cities such  as                                                               
Boston will choose not to stay for long.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:55:12 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS held SB 79 in committee.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES said that she  planned to visit offices to explore                                                               
waivers for the literacy, the fund balances, and Praxis scores.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
10_SB079_Ed Tranformation Act_Support_Cmte Meeting Points_04_03_2019.pdf SEDC 4/4/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 79
11_SB079_SB079_Ed Transformation Act_Research_Definition of a Teacher.pdf SEDC 4/4/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 79
12_SB079_SB079_Ed Transformation Act_Research_Read By 9.pdf SEDC 4/4/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 79
SEDC_ConfirmationHearing_Profiles_Board of Education_02April2019.pdf SEDC 4/4/2019 9:00:00 AM
Confirmation - Board of Education - April 4, 2019
SEDC_ConfirmationHearing_Profiles_Board of Regents_02April2019.pdf SEDC 4/4/2019 9:00:00 AM
Confirmation - Board of Regents - April 4, 2019