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 they gave  an overview and sectional  of the                                                               
bill last time. They created a  sheet with summary points that is                                                               
in the  committee packet  that she wants  to review  because this                                                               
bill is  comprehensive. This has  been a  project of a  couple of                                                               
years with  some members of  the committee,  particularly Senator                                                               
Begich.  They   had  numerous  joint  meetings   with  the  House                                                               
Education  Committee.  They  brought   pieces  forward  that  had                                                               
consensus. Her  aide will  review the six  major aspects  of bill                                                               
and then Senator Hughes will address some possible concepts to                                                                  
include in a committee substitute.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:49:59 AM                                                                                                                    
SHEILA  MORRISON, Intern,  Senator  Shelly  Hughes, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, said the  first two points are about                                                               
students and improved  outcomes, the second two  are about having                                                               
good teachers and enough teachers,  and the last two points focus                                                               
on savings and getting more dollars into the classroom.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     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.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     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.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     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  committee                                                               
substitute:                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
        • 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  at the  last  hearing  had suggested  changing  the                                                               
language  about  adjusting  Praxis  scores. She  added  that  the                                                               
commissioner provided  a standard  definition of teacher  that is                                                               
used by the department.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said the  read by  nine piece is  a big  one. The                                                               
committee just  heard from Tiffany  Scott about  achievement gaps                                                               
in the state. Virtual education  primarily is for middle and high                                                               
school. At the other end, reading  by third grade is how to close                                                               
the achievement gap.  Educators are starting to  use online tools                                                               
to help struggling  readers. She never would want to  take away a                                                               
live teacher  from those young  students, or older  students, but                                                               
there are resources  online for younger ones. They  are trying to                                                               
close  achievement  gaps at  both  the  higher grades  and  lower                                                               
grades. She  encouraged the committee  to review the  language of                                                               
the draft legislation. It would  require districts to hold summer                                                               
camps. She  suggested that  it be changed  to "may"  because some                                                               
communities may not be able to  have summer camps. She would like                                                               
to  see language  that  addresses  that if  a  child cannot  move                                                               
forward  with  his  or  her  cohort because  of  reading  and  is                                                               
receiving intensive  instruction, the  child would stay  with his                                                               
or  her  cohort as  much  as  possible  if  doing fine  in  other                                                               
subjects. A  goal would be to  place the student with  his or her                                                               
cohort after getting to grade  level with reading. That should be                                                               
an option.  She hoped  school districts would  look at  this. She                                                               
spoke to  Dr Bishop and  they are implementing  a lot of  this in                                                               
the Anchorage School  District already. The goal is  to close the                                                               
achievement gaps across the state.  Children learn to read by age                                                               
nine  and then  they learn  by reading  after that,  so it  is an                                                               
essential skill.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:58:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH  said  that  the fiscal  note  requires  that  the                                                               
Department of Education and Early  Development (DEED) establish a                                                               
virtual education  consortium. He asked  if taking that out  as a                                                               
requirement would affect the fiscal note.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES said at the  last hearing the commissioner said he                                                               
wanted to work  on bringing the fiscal note down  for the working                                                               
group for  that first  year and through  fewer employees,  so she                                                               
expects the fiscal note to change.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BIRCH  asked  how  the  number  of  credits  earned  for                                                               
activities outside of the school  day would be determined and how                                                               
it would  be managed  if someone has  credits that  don't advance                                                               
their academic interests.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES replied that some  districts are already doing it.                                                               
The  course  would  have  to   meet  district  requirements.  For                                                               
example,  a  band course  requires  so  many  hours of  band.  If                                                               
someone is  in a community band  or taking lessons for  that same                                                               
number  of  hours and  the  district  determines that  meets  the                                                               
course requirement,  the student  could receive music  credit. It                                                               
would  be   district  by  district   and  have  to   meet  course                                                               
requirements.  It's a  good idea.  A lot  of valuable  things are                                                               
happening outside of the school building.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BIRCH noted  the provision  that increases  the limit  a                                                               
district can  retain in its fund  balance cap from 10  percent to                                                               
25 percent  of district  expenditures. District  expenditures for                                                               
education  are immense.  He just  got a  report that  hundreds of                                                               
millions are reserved. As someone  who has been involved in local                                                               
government  with  an  interest  in  how  much  money  the  school                                                               
district is  squirreling away  in a fund  balance that  could pay                                                               
for education, he asked what  is the justification for increasing                                                               
the amount  a school district  can retain  from 10 percent  to 25                                                               
percent, which is a big jump.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES  replied that  it  is  a couple  hundred  million                                                               
statewide for all combined totals.  It is to encourage efficiency                                                               
and  to allow  school districts  to  have more  during a  rougher                                                               
time. A district could be efficient  in order to have money for a                                                               
great instructional  program. She thought that  Senator von Imhof                                                               
was  interested  in this  piece.  It  encourages efficiencies  in                                                               
school districts and would be useful when dollars are low.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BIRCH said  that as  someone who  was involved  in local                                                               
government, they  need to see all  the piggy bank dollars  on the                                                               
table so  that everyone is on  an even playing field.  That gives                                                               
him  some  concern.  A  couple hundred  million  dollars  is  not                                                               
insignificant.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES responded  that moving that down to  15 percent or                                                               
removing it  altogether is  at the  discretion of  committee. She                                                               
would not want that to block the other great pieces of the bill.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
10:03:26 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  COSTELLO  said  that  Senator  Hughes  is  a  passionate                                                               
advocate  for  improving  results  in  education  and  is  always                                                               
thinking   innovatively.  Districts   do  already   offer  online                                                               
courses.  She  was  not  sure  whether  her  question  should  be                                                               
directed at Senator  Hughes or the department,  but the Anchorage                                                               
School District,  for example, has  an agreement  with Middlebury                                                               
College  for  language  classes offered  to  students  in  middle                                                               
school  and  high school.  She  asked  if the  virtual  education                                                               
consortium  would mean  that the  department would  also have  to                                                               
have conversations  with Middlebury  College, in addition  to the                                                               
local  districts,  or is  this  specifically  for online  courses                                                               
offered within  the capacity of  a school building,  for example,                                                               
teachers   with  local   schools  videoconferencing   or  writing                                                               
curriculum and  offering that online.  She is not sure  what this                                                               
looks like. She  has taught in three school  districts in Alaska.                                                               
One  question she  always  had was  what  support the  department                                                               
offers  to  teachers.  She  would  have  liked  access  to  other                                                               
teachers' lesson  plans. She used  to write  her own, and  she is                                                               
nationally recognized  for authentic  assessment. Just  the other                                                               
day she  saw one of  her former  students taking her  students to                                                               
the legislature  at the  Capitol. She thought  if she  could have                                                               
taken all  her lesson plans and  given them to the  Department of                                                               
Education,  they could  have  put  them in  a  format that  other                                                               
teachers in Alaska  could see. She knows that this  focus is more                                                               
on  bypassing the  teacher and  getting a  connection between  an                                                               
online class  in one  district with an  online class  in another.                                                               
She has  a few questions  about how that  looks because a  lot of                                                               
work  goes into  finding these  online classes  and communicating                                                               
that to students.  Since all this is  happening within districts,                                                               
she asked if  the department should be involved in  this when the                                                               
department  may  not  even  be   helping  Alaskan  teachers  with                                                               
lessons. There  could be other  things they could be  focusing on                                                               
to help improve  what is happening in the  classrooms. She wanted                                                               
to throw that  out there so that Senator Hughes  could answer any                                                               
of those questions.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS noted that the department was online.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES said that she  loved the question, especially from                                                               
someone who had experience. She  originally thought this would be                                                               
a database that  students could browse through,  but she realized                                                               
this could  also be wonderful  resource for  teachers themselves.                                                               
They  could  watch and  see  how  different teachers  teach.  The                                                               
database could be  used for the very thing  that Senator Costello                                                               
is talking about.  Those things could be passed on  and shared. A                                                               
teacher at Teeland  Middle School shares recordings of  how to do                                                               
math problems that are being  accessed around the country. As far                                                               
as the particular arrangement that  the Anchorage School District                                                               
has  with  a  college  regarding   language,  this  bill  doesn't                                                               
prescribe that districts  have to go through  the department. The                                                               
working group might want to  discuss that. They originally wanted                                                               
it to  be districts sharing  open slots in classrooms  with other                                                               
districts,  but   perhaps  a  college  that   teaches  particular                                                               
languages  could be  shared  with other  districts  as well.  The                                                               
purpose of the  working group is to allow  those conversations to                                                               
take  place, so  districts  can  figure out  what  would be  most                                                               
helpful.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  COSTELLO  asked  that  for  course  credit  for  outside                                                               
activities, whether  Senator Hughes  had contemplated  what would                                                               
happen if  this passes  and, using music  as an  example, parents                                                               
found other opportunities  for music. Senator Costello  is a huge                                                               
supporter  of music  in  schools. Her  children  are involved  in                                                               
junior youth symphony and band.  They prioritize that as a family                                                               
because it has  a huge impact on a student's  enjoyment of school                                                               
and their ability to find an  activity that keeps them in school.                                                               
The  research shows  that learning  an instrument  has tremendous                                                               
benefits in a  lot of areas. Part of the  reason for school bands                                                               
and  orchestras  is  for  students  to be  with  peers  for  that                                                               
experience.  The whole  culture of  music programs  at school  is                                                               
beneficial.  One of  her most  enjoyable moments  as a  parent is                                                               
watching  a  diverse  group  of   students  coming  together  and                                                               
performing  for an  audience. She  is concerned  that this  might                                                               
pull away  students whose parents  can pay for music  lessons and                                                               
then  perhaps  they  would lose  those  experiences  of  students                                                               
coming  together in  school. She  asked if  Senator Hughes  could                                                               
comment on that.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said a  number of  superintendents told  her they                                                               
already  do this  and it  has not  ended up  as Senator  Costello                                                               
described. It  supplements, so  that a child  who is  planning to                                                               
major in  music can have  more credit  than just band  and choir.                                                               
From  what she  has  heard, it  has  not been  a  problem. It  is                                                               
probably more the  exception of a student who wants  to free up a                                                               
period  to  take a  higher  math  class. If  they  hear  it is  a                                                               
problem, they can look at that as well.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   COSTELLO  said   in   regard   to  increasing   teacher                                                               
certification  test scores  when  they are  lower  than in  other                                                               
states,  she  learned  that in  the  classroom  grades  shouldn't                                                               
necessarily be based on the  performance of other people. She has                                                               
learned that grades should be  based on meeting the standards. An                                                               
entire class can  achieve an A. For example,  in aviation, pilots                                                               
must  prove that  they can  perform  to a  certain standard.  She                                                               
brings this  up because  instead of  determining that  a person's                                                               
ability to receive a teacher  certification is relative to others                                                               
across the  country, she  would rather  see that  there is  a set                                                               
standard. If this  were to pass, they will have  teachers who had                                                               
one  threshold to  become a  teacher and  a few  years later  the                                                               
standard  is going  to change.  In her  experience, the  standard                                                               
shouldn't  change.  If  they  did this  with  pilots  across  the                                                               
country, it  wouldn't make sense.  She always comes back  to that                                                               
because   to  her,   it  is   an  example   of  performance-based                                                               
assessment.  There  is  a  confidence  that  comes  from  someone                                                               
meeting  a  measurable standard  that  is  known  to be  what  is                                                               
needed. She  has a question  about the  fairness of one  class of                                                               
teachers  having one  standard and  another class  having another                                                               
standard. That is something they could discuss later.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  replied that she  hadn't thought of it  that way.                                                               
Perhaps they only  need one adjustment and not do  it every three                                                               
years. She believes that for high  school physics the score is 25                                                               
points or so  lower. If she has  a student who wants to  go on to                                                               
college, she  wants to know  that the physics teacher  knows what                                                               
he or she  is teaching. Maybe when the difference  is that great,                                                               
they  might want  to look  at adjusting  them. That  is something                                                               
they can  discuss. It could  be a one-time adjustment  when there                                                               
seems to be too great of  a difference, but she hadn't thought of                                                               
it in the way that Senator Costello brought up.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
10:14:48 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH said that in  his high school, students who wanted                                                               
to do an out-of-class experience had  to show the teacher that it                                                               
met the  requirement. The burden  was on the students.  This bill                                                               
will  encourage  students  to  do that.  It  forces  students  to                                                               
contemplate the credit requirements  standards and how their work                                                               
relates  to   them.  The  Anchorage  School   District  has  done                                                               
challenge courses that required that  for decades. It got him out                                                               
of high school  early because he was able to  double up on credit                                                               
courses, but  he had to  prove it to  his teachers in  a rigorous                                                               
and difficult process.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH said the committee  members received a letter last                                                               
week from Melody Douglas, head  of ALASBO, the Alaska Association                                                               
of School  Business Officials,  that laid  out the  importance of                                                               
fund balances. It is important that  they be clear about why they                                                               
have fund balances,  the 200 plus million that  they talked about                                                               
earlier.  Teacher  salaries,  for  example, must  be  paid  on  a                                                               
regular basis. If funding for any  reason is held up at the state                                                               
level, they could  fail to do that. Just as  the legislature uses                                                               
the  Constitutional Budget  Reserve as  a cash  flow, those  fund                                                               
balances are required  by most accounting processes  to make sure                                                               
they  are  fundamentally  doing their  due  diligence  as  public                                                               
officials.  The increase  suggested by  Senator von  Imhof is  to                                                               
take  into  account  that massive  innovation  may  require  some                                                               
upfront costs, so there would be  some ability to allow that. The                                                               
corollary  is that  certain budgets  and  grant applications,  as                                                               
well as  bonded debt, require that  reserves be kept on  hand. He                                                               
wanted to be  clear about what the fund balances  are for. It was                                                               
recently  brought  up  that  if  they  just  sweep  up  the  fund                                                               
balances, they  can eat the  cost of proposed education  cuts. He                                                               
wanted  to point  out that  that would  be devastating  for these                                                               
school districts. He would encourage  everyone to read the letter                                                               
from Melody Douglas.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH said he wanted  to bring up concerns about reading                                                               
by age nine.  Chugach School District, for example,  uses a fluid                                                               
process instead of  a graded process, so retention  would not use                                                               
retention as  a factor. Two  days ago, Bob Griffin,  designee for                                                               
the State Board of Education,  mentioned the Finnish model, which                                                               
also uses  a flexible model.  If they  were to adopt  models like                                                               
that, then  the idea of  third grade retention doesn't  fit those                                                               
models.  They shouldn't  create brackets  that prevent  them from                                                               
coming up with innovative systems.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES  said  that  having  such  smart  people  on  the                                                               
committee can really  improve the bill. The chair  is guiding the                                                               
committee substitute process, but they  probably need to add some                                                               
kind of waiver, if they were  to adopt some of this language, for                                                               
the examples he gives.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BEGICH said  that  is  why they  are  bringing them  up,                                                               
because he  supports the legislation.  Like Senator  Costello, he                                                               
agrees that what teachers need  is supported curriculum. He noted                                                               
that  the  other  body  eliminated all  the  funding  for  former                                                               
Senator MacKinnon's  $19.5 million bill for  curriculum revision.                                                               
The bill  had three curriculum  positions for the  department. He                                                               
hopes  they  consider  those three  positions  in  their  process                                                               
because  as they  have said,  DEED  is notoriously  close to  not                                                               
meeting  its  support  requirements  under  the  constitution  as                                                               
perceived  through court  cases.  He is  hopeful  that they  will                                                               
retain those three positions so  that once this bill passes, DEED                                                               
can provide  curriculum support and  other support  necessary for                                                               
teachers.  That  wasn't a  question  but  a comment.  He  thanked                                                               
Senator  Hughes   for  considering   some  of  these   ideas  and                                                               
suggestions  and for  her amazing  work on  pushing forward  this                                                               
long-sought education revision.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said she  wants to  make sure  members understand                                                               
the last two points for  the committee substitute considerations.                                                               
Now they  use October dates  for the  student count for  the base                                                               
student allocation  (BSA) calculations.  This bill would  use the                                                               
average attendance  for the  entire school  year, not  just those                                                               
few dates in  October. It would encourage  districts to encourage                                                               
attendance year  long. They are  hearing, particularly  in places                                                               
with achievement  gaps, that  this is  a problem.  This is  not a                                                               
magic bullet  that will suddenly make  a student show up,  but it                                                               
will  create  a  culture  in  the  district  that  attendance  is                                                               
important year-round.  They work hard  to get the  students there                                                               
in October,  but they  want them  to do  it year-round.  It would                                                               
help smooth  funding for special education  because when students                                                               
are only  there at  the beginning  of the year  and then  move to                                                               
another district,  the extra funding  for special  education does                                                               
not move with the student. This might make that fairer.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR   HUGHES  said   the  last   consideration  is   expanded                                                               
cooperative  agreement language.  Language regarding  cooperative                                                               
agreements  is in  statute  now. This  expands  that language  to                                                               
include  shared  services,  for example,  between  districts  and                                                               
government  agencies   and  nonprofits.  The  goal   is  that  as                                                               
districts  enter  cooperative  agreements, they  are  working  to                                                               
realize savings that  can be funneled back  into classrooms. They                                                               
are  not   requesting  additional   money  now   for  cooperative                                                               
agreement grants.  That might be something  the Finance Committee                                                               
might consider. At this point they  are just trying to expand the                                                               
language so  that if  there were ever  dollars allocated  for the                                                               
cooperative agreement  grants, it would include  this opportunity                                                               
for districts.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
10:23:09 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS opened public testimony.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
10:23:32 AM                                                                                                                   
JUDY ELEDGE,  representing self, Anchorage, Alaska,  supported SB                                                               
79. She said  she has worked in rural Alaska  with low performing                                                               
schools  since 1997,  sleeping on  the floors,  bringing her  own                                                               
food, and  she has  been very  dedicated and  on the  ground. She                                                               
brings a  different idea of  what is  going on in  education. She                                                               
supports  the virtual  classroom.  Their K-12  schools today  are                                                               
archaic. They have  one teacher trying to teach 12  grades. It is                                                               
impossible.  Districts hire  high  school  teachers because  they                                                               
feel that  they need someone  to teach high school  students. The                                                               
problem is  that in most of  those schools, there are  fewer high                                                               
school  students and  the little  guys have  no teacher  to teach                                                               
reading. If they really wanted to  change how things were done in                                                               
education  and help  reading,  they would  make  sure that  those                                                               
schools had good  primary teachers to teach reading.  That is not                                                               
happening. The  virtual classroom does  help free up  the teacher                                                               
to spend  time in  the lower  grades. That  is a  problem always,                                                               
even in a  multiage classroom of K/1/2. The  difference between a                                                               
kindergartner and a second grader is  all the world. And they may                                                               
or  may not  have a  good aide  in the  classroom or  someone who                                                               
shows up. That is something  that that would help immensely. That                                                               
one teacher cannot teach five  different subjects, so the virtual                                                               
classrooms  really opens  that door  and  the eyes  to the  world                                                               
outside.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  ELEDGE said  that she  supports  doing the  count all  year.                                                               
Their truancy  law is a  joke. She asked  if someone can  miss 50                                                               
days of school and be passed to  the next grade, why do they have                                                               
a  truancy law.  There are  no  consequences for  truancy in  the                                                               
state  of Alaska.  She  has  seen a  principal  trying to  retain                                                               
someone being  overruled by  the local  board. They  cannot blame                                                               
teachers for everything going on in the world today.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELEDGE  said the  education transitional  team looked  at the                                                               
read by  nine model. She supports  that because it is  very clear                                                               
and simple.  It is only  a few pages.  No Child Left  Behind said                                                               
that every  child would  read by third  grade. That  didn't work.                                                               
There were no  consequences. She has seen over  and over millions                                                               
spent  for school  improvement  and nothing  really  done or  not                                                               
continued. It  is a  major systematic  problem in  rural schools.                                                               
All of them are  aware of that. This bill is a  start to get them                                                               
to where they  want to be. These are the  schools she works with.                                                               
They can make a difference, but it takes time.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH  said he appreciated  her saying that it  does not                                                               
happen overnight.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELEDGE  replied there has to  be a plan to  bring everyone on                                                               
in the state.  There are a lot of school  districts and there are                                                               
a lot of  problems. "Let's don't be silly and  think we can solve                                                               
this in a year," she said.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:28:14 AM                                                                                                                   
LISA SKILES PARADY, Ph.D., Executive  Director, Alaska Council of                                                               
School  Administrators, Juneau,  Alaska, gave  her organization's                                                               
perspective  on SB  79.  She  said this  is  going  in the  right                                                               
direction. Many  districts are moving this  way already. Whatever                                                               
they can  do to support this  in a thoughtful, methodical  way is                                                               
important. She  hopes that they will  take time to do  things the                                                               
right way. She asked the committee  to please lean on her members                                                               
to support  these efforts. Dr. Mary  Wegner in Sitka is  a member                                                               
of the  International Society for Technology  in Education, which                                                               
is  the  pinnacle for  this  type  of  education. She  should  be                                                               
included in  any process  as someone recognized  as a  leader for                                                               
the state  and nation.  There are many  skilled people  trying to                                                               
figure  this out  and putting  these in  place. There  is a  work                                                               
group trying to put feedback together  that is not ready to share                                                               
yet. They will do that in writing or at another hearing.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BIRCH  said  she  may   have  heard  discussion  of  the                                                               
unreserved  fund  balance increase  for  districts.  He asked  if                                                               
districts obligate and commit those  funds for their budget on an                                                               
annual basis when they hire  employees. They received a memo from                                                               
DEED  that indicates  the fund  balance  is in  the $200  million                                                               
range if aggregated  for all districts across the  state. That is                                                               
with a ten  percent limit on how much a  district can reserve. If                                                               
they  spend a  billion dollars  on  education, that  would be  25                                                               
percent of that. He asked if she saw a need for that increase.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  replied that she  would love to discuss  that offline                                                               
and bring ALASBO folks who  deal intimately with the facts around                                                               
fund balance.  It looks different  district by district.  To look                                                               
at that  number can be  deceiving. It  is for emergency  use, the                                                               
boiler  that  goes  out.  When  the  governor  said  that  school                                                               
districts  could  use  those balances  to  transition  under  his                                                               
proposed budget,  she was speaking to  the Juneau superintendent,                                                               
Dr.  Weiss, about  why  that  was not  feasible.  Dr. Weiss  said                                                               
Juneau could operate  for three days with its  fund balance. Many                                                               
districts are not  at the cap of ten percent  today. There should                                                               
be savings.  Any reasonable business  would want to  have savings                                                               
to  be prepared  for  things  like earthquakes.  This  is a  good                                                               
discussion. She  would like to  see if  they could bring  some of                                                               
their ALASBO  folks to go  deeper about the specifics.  They want                                                               
to dispel  the notion that  this is  a transition fund  to buffer                                                               
school districts against  the proposed budget. It  isn't. It just                                                               
flat  isn't.  It  is  exactly  what  it  is  supposed  to  be--an                                                               
emergency  fund.  The  committee  wants school  districts  to  be                                                               
stewards and accountable. That is  what they do with these funds.                                                               
Jim Anderson,  Chief Financial Officer  for the  Anchorage School                                                               
District, said they  are required by municipal charter  to keep a                                                               
certain  fund balance  to secure  a good  bond rating.  When they                                                               
talk about the levels in the  fund balances, they need to look at                                                               
those specific pieces by district.  ALASBO is the best to discuss                                                               
that.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BIRCH replied  that  three  days out  of  300  is a  one                                                               
percent  reserve.  He  understands  that  that  is  probably  not                                                               
enough, but there have been  concerns about voters turning down a                                                               
bond issue and a school  district building it anyway because they                                                               
have  the fund  balance. In  his view,  that is  disingenuous. He                                                               
understands the  different layers where a  municipality must have                                                               
a fund balance  to cover bond debt and the  school district has a                                                               
fund  balance. He  is  trying  to sort  that  out.  It popped  up                                                               
because of the proposed increase  from ten percent to 25 percent.                                                               
That is why he has questions.  He looks forward to continuing the                                                               
question offline.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS suggested  they stay on the issue  of fund balances                                                               
for a minute before going on to other issues.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES said she realized  that she misspoke. When Senator                                                               
MacKinnon  was serving,  Senator MacKinnon  brought that  idea to                                                               
her and  Senator von Imhof  was supportive  of it. She  wanted to                                                               
correct  that.  She hoped  the  department  took note  about  Dr.                                                               
Parady's comment  about Dr. Wegner  being a great person  for the                                                               
work group.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  said she wanted  to follow  up with Senator  Birch on                                                               
one thing. She did not  believe that districts can redirect funds                                                               
for anything other than what  was stated on the bond proposition.                                                               
She is  not sure about  the specific situation he  is addressing,                                                               
but as a general rule, she doesn't  think they can do that. It is                                                               
an important  discussion. She  thinks they  would all  agree that                                                               
the  ability to  save  when possible  is  appropriate. She  would                                                               
never want it to be misconstrued  that districts are able to save                                                               
a lot or districts are  squirreling away money. That is certainly                                                               
isn't the case in Alaska.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
10:36:57 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  BEGICH  said  he  also  wants an  answer  about  why  an                                                               
increase for the fund balance is needed.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS  said  they  would   be  glad  to  hear  from  the                                                               
department about fund balances if  any of the representatives had                                                               
any reflections on that.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  COSTELLO thanked  Dr. Parady  for testifying  because it                                                               
adds  so much  to the  conversation.  The bill  brings a  certain                                                               
vision on  a variety of  topics before the legislature.  They are                                                               
trying to discern which will have  the results that they want. In                                                               
1977, SB 35  passed and Governor Jay Hammond signed  it into law.                                                               
This  was the  bill that  gave clear  direction that  they are  a                                                               
state  of local  control.  Senator  Costello is  a  fan of  local                                                               
decisions for schools  being made by the people who  have kids in                                                               
the  schools and  know the  community. She  is always  looking at                                                               
education   bills  through   that   lens.  She   asked  what   do                                                               
superintendents  say  they need.  She  would  like to  have  that                                                               
discussion  about  what  they  would like.  She  feels  that  the                                                               
legislature has  never gotten to  that question because  they are                                                               
always arguing  about the  funding, which  is why  she is  a huge                                                               
supporter of getting that done early  so they free up the time to                                                               
have these  other discussions.  She asked  what Dr.  Parady would                                                               
say  about  what the  superintendents  are  asking for  from  the                                                               
legislature.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY  thanked Senator  Costello for  the question  and said                                                               
she would  like to reserve the  right, if possible, to  follow up                                                               
because that  is such an  important question. They have  talked a                                                               
lot about the need to  stabilize districts. That has something to                                                               
do with  funding and  but it also  has to do  with the  timing of                                                               
funding and  the ability  to sign  contracts in  a way  to secure                                                               
quality staff.  That piece  is important.  She thanked  her again                                                               
for  bringing forward  her  legislation  proposal. The  council's                                                               
joint position  statements do  a good job  of outlining  out what                                                               
they feel is  most important, such as  early childhood education.                                                               
If they want their students  to accomplish things by third grade,                                                               
they need  to invest  in their  learning and  make sure  they are                                                               
ready to learn when they  come to school. They appreciate Senator                                                               
Begich's efforts with  regard to SB 6. In education  they need to                                                               
recognize  that  students  come  to them  in  lots  of  different                                                               
packages. In  order for  them to  succeed, they  as a  state must                                                               
invest in that early learning.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
DR.  PARADY  said  this  list  is  so  long  she  would  like  to                                                               
contemplate it longer and encouraged  the committee to review the                                                               
joint  position  statements.  On  the other  end  is  career  and                                                               
technical education,  which is so important.  Students who engage                                                               
in career and technical education  graduate. They must build that                                                               
out  for  all students.  Extending  the  reach of  good,  quality                                                               
teachers and doing whatever they can  do to shore up their crisis                                                               
around quality teacher are important.  Senator Costello's bill is                                                               
major in doing that.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY reminded the committee  that the state has taken stabs                                                               
at this  through the  Alaska Learning  Network (AKLN),  which the                                                               
state  supported for  a long  time.  The state  had high  quality                                                               
classes available to students. They  have gone this route before.                                                               
It  was a  good  effort  that had  funding  taken  away and  then                                                               
collapsed. They are  at a point where they do  need to figure out                                                               
that piece, but  know it is for  the long haul and  there will be                                                               
bumps  in  the  road.  They  are  going  to  have  to  commit  to                                                               
increasing  bandwidth.  That  is  a  whole  other  part  of  this                                                               
dialogue.  The  House  and Senate  have  bills  to  incrementally                                                               
increase the  Broadband Assistance Grant  (BAG) to a  minimum of,                                                               
which is  important language, to 25  Mbps. They know that  is not                                                               
where they need  to be for connectivity for students,  but it may                                                               
be the  best they can do  this year and  they have to look  at it                                                               
every year. They  don't have $2 billion to wire  the whole state,                                                               
but they could do  this one. And the next year  they need to look                                                               
at  it  again   and  consider  what  they  can   continue  to  do                                                               
incrementally to  better support  the type of  programs suggested                                                               
in this bill.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY said, "You should  never ask me that question, Senator                                                               
Costello, because I could talk to  you all day long about what we                                                               
need. I  do appreciate you asking  it because at the  end of day,                                                               
we do all need to work together  to figure out how we're going to                                                               
do this  for our  students. Everyone  recognizes that  choice and                                                               
opportunities and doing things in a  different way is in front of                                                               
us and we  need to figure out thoughtfully how  to go forward and                                                               
we are at your service to do so."                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
DR. PARADY said the job  of superintendents has gotten harder and                                                               
harder.  They  have  lost  most  of  their  superintendents.  The                                                               
experience level across the state  has declined. She can count on                                                               
two  hands the  number of  superintendents who  are still  in the                                                               
positions they were in when she  started. Dan Walker at the Lower                                                               
Kuskokwim School  District (LKSD) is  an example of  longevity in                                                               
leadership. His  ongoing leadership  and his leadership  team and                                                               
their programs that  they have focused on for years  are making a                                                               
difference for  those kids  in their  graduation rate.  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  they  need  to  be looking  at,  but  LKSD  has                                                               
sustained  focus and  ongoing leadership  and they  pour 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.  They are  not experiencing  that in                                                               
the  rest  of the  state.  There  are  lots  of pieces.  If  they                                                               
recognize there  are no silver  bullets and  there is a  lot they                                                               
must do in  concert, they can get there. They  need to understand                                                               
what successful districts are doing,  replicate that, and support                                                               
other districts in getting there.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:45:31 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES said that she  appreciated her comments. They need                                                               
to be in  it for the long  term this time. They won't  be able to                                                               
turn back, especially  with the teacher shortage.  They must give                                                               
students statewide access  to great teachers. If  a great teacher                                                               
in Kodiak, for example, has  empty seats, a village student would                                                               
have  access to  it. That  is  going to  be crucial.  One of  the                                                               
things that surfaced  in Senate Finance is  a correlation between                                                               
career  and technical  courses and  academic achievement  in core                                                               
subjects. They may not be  there right now with virtual education                                                               
as  far  as students  putting  on  goggles and  participating  in                                                               
welding, for  example, but that  will come. Looking at  the types                                                               
of  video games  available now  shows that  even the  career tech                                                               
piece will become achievable in a village setting.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
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  self,  Quinhagak,  Alaska, said  his                                                               
community on  the coast of  the Bering Sea  is part of  the Lower                                                               
Kuskokwim School District. He looks  at it differently because he                                                               
not part of  the system. He has been watching  LKSD for 30 years.                                                               
He has three  kids. His youngest kid is at  Mt. Edgecumbe because                                                               
she wants to go  to college and have a job  like her sister. LKSD                                                               
needs a  total forensic audit.  They can  change superintendents,                                                               
but they walk into  a system set in place for  so many years they                                                               
cannot  change anything.  They  are lucky  if  teachers stay  two                                                               
years. He  asked why  they don't  do it like  the army  where the                                                               
teachers would sign  a contract for a certain number  of years in                                                               
exchange  for  having  their  education paid  for.  Life  in  the                                                               
villages  is  a  completely different  lifestyle.  He  questioned                                                               
district  spending.  The  waste  is  unbelievable.  Consolidating                                                               
schools is a  good idea. Parents in Quinhagak would  like kids in                                                               
Bethel instead of at Mt. Edgecumbe.  It takes a fortune to fly to                                                               
Sitka. They  could visit  them more easily  in Bethel.  Kids want                                                               
shop  class, but  they can't  do  it when  there are  only a  few                                                               
students in  a school.  It needs  to change. That  is what  he is                                                               
hoping what will come out of  this. He does not have solutions to                                                               
the problems,  but they  need to  know how much  money is  in the                                                               
districts  that they  are  not  seeing, so  a  forensic audit  is                                                               
needed.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS said  they take  comments seriously.  Yesterday in                                                               
the  Finance  Committee  Senator  Hoffman spoke  about  the  same                                                               
issue, about the difficulty of  the lifestyle for teachers flying                                                               
in from, say Boston, who do not stay very long.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
10:55:12 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS held SB 79 in committee.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES said she would  be visiting offices to explore the                                                               
waiver idea for the literacy  piece, the fund balance, 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