Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

04/16/2019 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
08:59:51 AM Start
09:00:04 AM SB6
10:53:12 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
             SB   6-PRE-ELEMENTARY PROGRAMS/FUNDING                                                                         
9:00:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration of SB 6. He noted that                                                                
the committee had run out of time for public testimony at the                                                                   
first hearing. He  stated his intention to allow  time for public                                                               
testimony today and then to hold the bill in committee.                                                                         
9:00:35 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH, speaking as prime  sponsor, said he described the                                                               
bill at  the last hearing and  he wanted people to  have a chance                                                               
to hear  from the  public. He  did want  to reinforce  that early                                                               
education is absolutely essential. When  he met with the governor                                                               
last week,  the governor  asked him what  solutions would  make a                                                               
difference  in education.  The Department  of Education  material                                                               
that was  provided to the  committee indicates that when  they do                                                               
evidence-based early  education, when they require  higher levels                                                               
of  certification, when  they ensure  that  they collaborate  and                                                               
cooperate  with   culture  and  with  existing   early  education                                                               
programs, they find  that the outcomes for  kids are substantial,                                                               
whether  it is  urban or  rural  Alaska. The  successes by  third                                                               
grade in  terms of reading  skills and  by now even  eighth grade                                                               
are significant. He wants to  hear from the professionals and the                                                               
public. He  hopes over  the interim they  have an  opportunity to                                                               
fine tune the bill based on today's testimony.                                                                                  
9:02:04 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  said she missed  the first hearing. She  has read                                                               
that  early education  can be  helpful,  but it  balances out  in                                                               
later grades. If the teaching is  good, a child can catch up. She                                                               
asked  him to  comment on  that.  She has  wondered whether  some                                                               
children are not mature enough  for school. In Finland they don't                                                               
start school  until seven  or eight and  they do  fabulously. She                                                               
asked  if  they  should  think  about  flexibility  in  terms  of                                                               
children starting school later.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  BEGICH said  that in  regard to  the effects  fading, it                                                               
depends on  the studies and  the quality of  the prekindergarten.                                                               
With  evidence-based,   high-quality  prekindergarten   like  the                                                               
Oklahoma model  and the  other models they  used to  help develop                                                               
this bill, they  do not see the  fade effect as they  go on. They                                                               
are  showing that  in the  results for  the Alaska  Department of                                                               
Education and  Early Development (DEED). Those  results show that                                                               
the accelerated  differences are clear,  whether it is  Mat-Su or                                                               
the  Lower  Kuskokwim.  They  are   now  in  the  tenth  year  of                                                               
consistent pre-K  programming. The results are  retained, even in                                                               
the older age  groups. The Perry pre-K project  tracks pre-K kids                                                               
into adulthood and  a wide variety of indicators,  such as income                                                               
and criminal justice interactions, show  those kids do not become                                                               
wards of the state. The Finnish  model is complex and is not just                                                               
about  the  age  of  maturity. Alaska  has  a  unique  situation,                                                               
particularly in rural  Alaska, but also in Anchorage,  with a lot                                                               
of dual language  students. The majority in  the Anchorage School                                                               
District  is  actually a  minority  and  over 100  languages  are                                                               
spoken. His district  is the most diverse senate  district in the                                                               
United  States. They  are dealing  with  a lot  of dual  language                                                               
learners. The data in Alaska seems  to show that the earlier they                                                               
can  prepare students  the better  off  they are.  Those are  two                                                               
short  answers  to  those questions.  He  can  produce  different                                                               
studies  to support  his comments.  After  public testimony,  the                                                               
goal is  to hear more about  this. He would like  to request that                                                               
the  committee do  a  hearing  over the  summer  so  he can  more                                                               
directly  address  those  questions.  The  Finnish  model  works.                                                               
Finland has  a fairly  uniform language pool  and in  Alaska they                                                               
have  a  diverse  one.  He hoped  some  people  testifying  would                                                               
comment on that also.                                                                                                           
9:06:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS moved to invited testimony.                                                                                       
9:06:49 AM                                                                                                                    
STEPHANIE BERGLUND,  Chief Executive Officer,  thread, Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska, supported  SB 6.  She said  thread is  Alaska's childcare                                                               
resources and  referral network, a 33-year-old  private nonprofit                                                               
that works  to increase  access to  affordable and  quality early                                                               
care  and education.  Thread  supports  expanding quality,  early                                                               
childhood  education   services,  including  pre-K.   Decades  of                                                               
research demonstrates that pre-K makes  a difference, not just in                                                               
the short term  but in the long term as  children grow and become                                                               
employed and  contribute to  the strength  of the  economy. Early                                                               
and sustained  participation in quality early  education leads to                                                               
more children  graduating high school, higher  lifetime earnings,                                                               
reduced public  spending on remedial education  and services, and                                                               
lower  incarceration  rates.  This  is especially  true  if  they                                                               
invest in struggling schools  or target disadvantaged populations                                                               
to help  close the achievement gap.  When they work to  close the                                                               
achievement gap  before children start school,  they put children                                                               
in a more successful school trajectory.                                                                                         
MS. BERGLUND said that in 2016  a Texas study on its public pre-K                                                               
programs that  target at-risk  three- and  four-year-old children                                                               
found that children who attend  full-day pre-K programs scored 28                                                               
points  higher on  their standardized  third grade  reading exams                                                               
and had a  40 percent higher likelihood of reading  at a college-                                                               
ready pace. Programs with higher  investments yielded even better                                                               
results.  In 2017  in  Montana, students  enrolled  in the  STARS                                                               
Preschool showed  a 21 percent  overall increase in  their school                                                               
readiness.  Findings  published  in  December  2018  showed  that                                                               
students who participated in North  Carolina's More at Four pre-K                                                               
reduced the  likelihood of  repeating a  grade between  third and                                                               
eighth grade.  The findings  included a  36 percent  reduction in                                                               
special  education  placements.  Positive program  outcomes  were                                                               
consistent from  third to eighth grade,  reinforcing a continuity                                                               
of  positive  impacts. The  findings  show  that more  vulnerable                                                               
populations,   including  students   from  economically   diverse                                                               
backgrounds,  averaged  higher  scores  than  their  counterparts                                                               
without an early education foundation.                                                                                          
MS.  BERGLUND  said  that  in Alaska  their  pre-K  services  are                                                               
working. Children  participating in  pre-K are showing  growth in                                                               
cognitive, language, literacy, and  math development and the pre-                                                               
K  program is  meeting all  ten  benchmarks set  by the  National                                                               
Institute for  Early Education  Research. While  these benchmarks                                                               
demonstrate  high-quality,  the  current grant  reaches  a  small                                                               
number of children. Expanding  this high-quality, early childhood                                                               
education  through   SB  6  will   continue  to   promote  school                                                               
readiness, identify and provide  support for Alaskan children who                                                               
are  most at  need, maximize  parental choice  and continuity  of                                                               
care through  collaborative, mixed delivery systems,  and support                                                               
quality  activities.  Access  to  high-quality,  early  education                                                               
programs are  desperately needed  in the state.  Thread estimates                                                               
that there are only half of  the needed spaces for quality, early                                                               
childhood  programs.   By  expanding  pre-K,  they   can  support                                                               
families  with  more  choices by  creating  more  affordable  and                                                               
accessible  opportunities  for  children   to  learn  in  quality                                                               
settings. To  reap the  full benefits  of pre-K  investments they                                                               
must ensure  that the programs  are of high-quality.  Elements of                                                               
high-quality pre-K include highly  qualified, and where possible,                                                               
degreed  professionals who  are well  compensated with  benefits,                                                               
low  teacher-child   ratios  and  small  class   sizes,  parental                                                               
involvement,  minimum  hours  of contact  or  pre-K  instruction,                                                               
developmental  screening  and  early intervention  supports,  and                                                               
programming for smooth transitions to kindergarten.                                                                             
MS. BERGLUND said that thread supports SB  6 as a way to grow and                                                               
better  sustain pre-K  services.  They encourage  that any  pre-K                                                               
services be  provided in communities  through a  diverse delivery                                                               
system.  That means  that pre-K  in Alaska  can be  strengthened,                                                               
with not only additional investments  but by allowing for service                                                               
delivery in  ways that best  meet individual community  needs and                                                               
that work to align and  expand existing early childhood education                                                               
services and support infrastructure.  This could include existing                                                               
community-based  programs   in  addition  to   school  districts.                                                               
Alaska's  quality recognition  and improvement  system, QRIS,  is                                                               
called  Learn  and Grow.  That  provides  a framework  to  ensure                                                               
quality  activities  and can  be  used  for all  early  childhood                                                               
education program types, including pre-K.                                                                                       
MS. BERGLUND said that in  addition to utilizing existing quality                                                               
early childhood education programs  for pre-K, they encourage the                                                               
committee to  consider full-day options. Studies  show that full-                                                               
day programs like those in  North Carolina may be more beneficial                                                               
than part-time programs.  Where they invested more,  they saw the                                                               
strongest  outcomes in  third  grade.  Full-day programs  provide                                                               
continuity   of   care   for    young   children,   they   reduce                                                               
transportation  needs between  care  settings,  and they  provide                                                               
what working families  need. Most families are  looking for full-                                                               
day support  so they  can work  and go to  school. Alaska  is not                                                               
alone  in investing  in  pre-K and  growing  their investment  in                                                               
early  education. Only  three states  have decreased  funding for                                                               
pre-K  in   the  last   two  years  and   over  40   states  have                                                               
significantly  increased  their investments.  High-quality  pre-K                                                               
needs   to  be   followed   by  strong   teaching  and   learning                                                               
environments in the early elementary  grades and funding for pre-                                                               
K should be aligned with  increased investments in young children                                                               
beginning in infancy and include  policies and alignment with the                                                               
elementary  grades   and  standards.  Quality   early  education,                                                               
including  pre-K,   needs  to  be   part  of   Alaska's  economic                                                               
infrastructure  as a  means  of creating  a  strong and  prepared                                                               
workforce.  The state  can  invest  now or  pay  more later.  The                                                               
evidence is clear that high-quality  pre-K programs are among the                                                               
most cost-effective  interventions they  can make  with long-term                                                               
CHAIR STEVENS asked  if she could give them facts  to support the                                                               
statement that pre-K leads to lower incarceration rates.                                                                        
MS.  BERGLUND replied  that she  would be  happy to  provide more                                                               
specific research.  When they have higher  graduation rates, they                                                               
see  more adult  success  in  terms of  job  security and  higher                                                               
earnings.  They have  more protective  factors and  resiliency to                                                               
avoid some of those public ills.                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS said  he would  like  that evidence  if she  could                                                               
provide it.                                                                                                                     
SENATOR BEGICH said  that is directly from  the Perry preschool's                                                               
study, which is the longest  single study. Those participants who                                                               
were in  the preschool when it  began are now in  their 40s. They                                                               
analyzed  employment  and  incarceration rates.  In  his  sponsor                                                               
statement he  refers to the  Perry preschool project. He  can get                                                               
an  updated  reference  to  the  Perry  preschool  study  to  the                                                               
SENATOR  HUGHES said  that Ms.  Berglund brought  up Montana  and                                                               
North Carolina. They  do have some preschool  programs in Alaska.                                                               
The results  in Montana  and North  Carolina are  impressive. She                                                               
asked  if they  had  any information  for  Alaskan students  that                                                               
showed how many points ahead they are in standardized tests.                                                                    
MS. BERGLUND  replied that can  be sought through  the Department                                                               
of  Education  and  Early  Development. She  did  not  have  that                                                               
information in  front of  her, but there  are gains.  Many school                                                               
districts have  that information about gains  in early elementary                                                               
grades from pre-K interventions.                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH  said that the committee  packets have information                                                               
about   DEED's  early   childhood  programs,   which  shows   the                                                               
differences  in   outcomes  for  the  Lower   Kuskokwim,  Mat-Su,                                                               
Anchorage, and Nome School  Districts. The information identifies                                                               
those changes  occurring in Alaska  with higher  level, evidence-                                                               
based  pre-K that  the  department has  been  promoting with  its                                                               
experimental process.                                                                                                           
9:17:15 AM                                                                                                                    
ABBY  HENSLEY, Executive  Director,  Best Beginnings,  Anchorage,                                                               
Alaska, supported SB  6. She said Best  Beginnings supports early                                                               
literacy  with  Imagination  Library and  parent  education.  Her                                                               
comments are  not focused on the  bill itself, but on  one aspect                                                               
of early  learning that takes  place in programs promoted  by the                                                               
bill.  There is  a lot  of  talk about  low scores  on state  and                                                               
national reading  proficiency assessments. If  a child is  a good                                                               
reader by  third grade, he is  more likely to graduate  from high                                                               
school, attend  postsecondary education or training,  stay out of                                                               
prison and off  welfare, and become a  productive citizen, adding                                                               
to Alaska's future rather than  taking from it. Some studies show                                                               
up to 70 percent of  people who are incarcerated are functionally                                                               
MS.  HENSLEY asked  how do  children become  productive citizens.                                                               
She asked  if they  realized that  the first years  of life  is a                                                               
time  of synaptic  exuberance.  A baby's  brain  makes a  million                                                               
synapses or neural connections every  second. That more that baby                                                               
is  played with  and  talked  with, sung  to,  and  read to,  the                                                               
stronger  the  baby's  brain  architecture  becomes,  laying  the                                                               
foundation for  learning. A few  years ago, the  American Academy                                                               
of Pediatrics  recommended for the  first time that  parents read                                                               
with  their   babies  from  birth.   Along  with   enhancing  the                                                               
development of  early literacy and language  skills, reading with                                                               
young children helps nurture the  relationship between parent and                                                               
child  and  build  social  and emotional  skills.  They  see  the                                                               
results of that when they looked at resiliency studies.                                                                         
MS. HENSLEY said  that reading is a learned skill  for humans. It                                                               
does not come  naturally. The first step in learning  to read has                                                               
to do  with vocabulary.  The more words  children know,  the more                                                               
sounds  and words  they recognize.  Vocabulary strengthens  every                                                               
aspect of learning to read. In  2015, the Society for Research in                                                               
Child  Development found  that  children who  had  a larger  oral                                                               
vocabulary  at  age two  were  better  prepared academically  and                                                               
behaviorally  for  kindergarten  with greater  reading  and  math                                                               
achievement and better self-regulation.                                                                                         
MS. HENSLEY  said that parents  develop children's  vocabulary by                                                               
talking to them, when there  is that back-and-forth conversation,                                                               
even with  babies. A  study in  Psychological Science  found that                                                               
pictures  books  are  a  richer   source  of  unique  words  than                                                               
conversation.  The research  has  found that  picture books  have                                                               
some  72  percent  more  unique  words  than  conversation,  thus                                                               
helping grow children's  vocabulary. Next in the  path to reading                                                               
is  phonological awareness,  the ability  to hear,  identify, and                                                               
manipulate sounds  in spoken words  and words and  sentences. The                                                               
emphasis is on  hearing the sound in spoken words.  The fact that                                                               
young children  can't hear these  sounds is not  always apparent.                                                               
That is  why developmental screenings  early on are  so critical.                                                               
Then there  is phonics, the  connection between the  letter sound                                                               
and the  letter that  makes the sound.  Finally, there  are print                                                               
concepts, such as knowing that  print carries a message and print                                                               
is read left  to right and from  top to bottom. To  learn to read                                                               
once they  get to school, children  need to have been  exposed to                                                               
books and reading in fun and pleasurable ways.                                                                                  
MS.  HENSLEY  said  that  in  quality  early  care  and  learning                                                               
programs,  children read  to  regularly from  a  wide variety  of                                                               
children's books.  This month more  than 18,000  Alaskan children                                                               
from birth  to age five  are having those  important experiences.                                                               
They  are building  vocabulary, they  are hearing  the sounds  in                                                               
letters and  words, they  are connecting  sounds and  letters and                                                               
they  are  understanding print  concepts,  all  those aspects  of                                                               
getting ready to  read, right in their  homes through Imagination                                                               
Library. It  is more  than just  getting a  book in  the mailbox.                                                               
Eighty-one   percent  of   their  parents   say  that   receiving                                                               
Imagination  Library books  have  increased the  time they  spend                                                               
reading  with  their  children.  Eighty-seven  percent  say  that                                                               
reading  with  their  child has  brought  them  closer  together.                                                               
Eighty-four percent  say that their  child is more  excited about                                                               
reading now. Eighty-seven  percent say their child  is happy when                                                               
they are reading together. These  positive experiences with books                                                               
and reading are  reinforced in the kinds of  programs promoted by                                                               
this  bill. She  is passionate  about ensuring  that all  Alaskan                                                               
children have books and the  early literacy experiences they need                                                               
to become good readers. It is  really one of the best investments                                                               
in their future they can make.                                                                                                  
9:24:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS asked  what is happening with  early learning pre-K                                                               
with the governor's budget and the House budget.                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY replied that in  the governor's budget, virtually all                                                               
the funds  for early  learning have  been deleted.  That includes                                                               
the $2 million for pre-K program  grants that have gone to school                                                               
districts over  a number  of years; $1.2  million for  schools as                                                               
part of the  Moore settlement; $475,000 for  Parents as Teachers,                                                               
the  home visiting  program that  is in  a number  of communities                                                               
around the  state; $6.8  million for Head  Start, which  has been                                                               
the state matching portion for  the federal $40 million; $320,000                                                               
for Best Beginnings.  As a consequence, Head Start  says 138 jobs                                                               
would be  lost. Programming would  not be available  for hundreds                                                               
of children.   Twelve  to fifteen communities  may have  no early                                                               
childhood programs. The department  can provide information about                                                               
the consequences of cutting the pre-K grants.                                                                                   
MS. HENSLEY said that as far  as Best Beginnings, the $320,000 is                                                               
the  state investment  in  the  public-private partnership  since                                                               
Best  Beginnings began.  Imagination  Library is  set  up in  the                                                               
state very  differently from the  rest of the country.  The state                                                               
has been  held up as  model by the Dollywood  Foundation. Twenty-                                                               
eight  Imagination  Library  affiliates  are  supported  by  Best                                                               
Beginnings,  many   with  funding  but  all   with  training  and                                                               
technical assistance.  The resources  needed to  do that  are way                                                               
more than $320,000.  That is half the budget  of Best Beginnings.                                                               
The  value of  the books  provided by  Best Beginnings  and local                                                               
communities  that  also raise  money  for  the program  is  about                                                               
$2,908,000.  In  2018,  223,729   books  were  delivered  in  112                                                               
communities.  She has  heard people  say that  is something  that                                                               
parents should take responsibility for.  Parents do have the base                                                               
responsibility for their  children, but for this low  cost of $30                                                               
per child per year, from birth  to age five, families can have as                                                               
many  as 60  books  in  their home  libraries.  In other  states,                                                               
kindergarten  teachers  say  that kids  enrolled  in  Imagination                                                               
Library have more school readiness  but also common knowledge and                                                               
background  information because  they have  read the  same books.                                                               
That is very valuable to  the kindergarten teachers as they begin                                                               
to pull  a group of  children together. Another study  shows that                                                               
children  who   come  to  kindergarten  also   have  higher  math                                                               
CHAIR STEVENS asked what is in the House budget.                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY said  the House budget is the same  as the management                                                               
budget  for Fiscal  Year 19  with  the $2  million for  preschool                                                               
grant  program for  school districts,  the $1.2  million for  the                                                               
Moore schools, the $6.8 milli0n  for Head Start, the $475,000 for                                                               
Parents as Teachers,  and the $320,000 for  Best Beginnings. They                                                               
are pleased that the House saw fit to make those decisions.                                                                     
9:30:13 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH  said the  constitution  calls  for the  state  to                                                               
establish a system  of public schools without saying  K or pre-K.                                                               
So, frankly,  the judgement and responsibility  for funding those                                                               
outside of  the constitutional requirements  are vested  with the                                                               
legislature  and governor.  In  the Molly  Hootch  case, a  young                                                               
woman  said  they   are  entitled  to  an   education  under  the                                                               
constitution. One challenge he has  is they passed SB 26, percent                                                               
of  market value.  They  have  a finite  amount  of revenue.  The                                                               
judgement  call that  this body  will be  making is  a dollar  of                                                               
permanent fund dividend  money vs. a dollar  for public services.                                                               
He has a question about the  transition between age zero to five.                                                               
They all  hope that adults  have good parenting skills,  but that                                                               
is  not always  the case.  He  is curious  about her  perspective                                                               
about  screen time  and the  impact on  the pre-K  child. In  the                                                               
committee they  have talked about  distance delivery  and putting                                                               
educators  on  a  screen.  He asked  for  her  reflections  about                                                               
whether the state should support that or moderate that.                                                                         
MS. HENSLEY responded that the  whole notion of media screen time                                                               
and children has  been of great interest to her  for a long time.                                                               
She began to  work with public television and  young children and                                                               
parents and childcare  provides in 1994. She has kept  up on what                                                               
is  happening.  About  two  years ago  the  American  Academy  of                                                               
Pediatricians modified their position  on screen time. Previously                                                               
they had said, without basing it  on research, no screen time for                                                               
children under  the age  of two.  They have  now modified  to say                                                               
that screen time under the age  of two should be more interactive                                                               
with  a parent.  The  type  of screen  time  most beneficial  for                                                               
children  is FaceTime  with far  away grandparents,  for example.                                                               
When  there is  a  real person  talking to  the  child, there  is                                                               
almost the same interaction that  occurs when the person is there                                                               
in  person. But  they still  say  kids have  too much  unattended                                                               
screen  time.  A  section  on the  Best  Beginnings  website  has                                                               
resources and  help for parents  about this. A recent  study said                                                               
that e-books are probably better  for older kids. Print books are                                                               
of greater benefit for young  children than e-books. Children can                                                               
lose track of the story with an e-book.                                                                                         
SENATOR BEGICH  said that  based on  the work  of the  task force                                                               
that he  and Senator Stevens served  on, he has been  thinking of                                                               
early  education as  an opportunity  for developmental  screening                                                               
for  audio  and  visual  and  other  things.  He  asked  for  her                                                               
professional perspective on that.                                                                                               
MS. HENSLEY replied that one thing  they talked about in her work                                                               
with  ARISE [Anchorage  Realizing Indigenous  Student Excellence]                                                               
with the Cook  Inlet Tribal Council a few years  ago was that for                                                               
most children,  there was a  hearing screening at birth  and then                                                               
not again  until they entered school.  For a long period,  no one                                                               
would know if the child could  see or hear well. For phonological                                                               
awareness, child  must hear  the sounds in  letters and  words in                                                               
order  to learn  what they  are and  learn how  to make  sense of                                                               
that. If  no one  knows that  a child  can't tell  the difference                                                               
between  sounds p  and t,  then people  don't know  what type  of                                                               
interventions might  be needed. That  type of screening  would be                                                               
9:36:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH  said  that one  element  of  high-quality  early                                                               
education is  social interaction.  Part of  the Finnish  model is                                                               
doing a lot of work around  social interaction to prepare them to                                                               
fall  into  a  learning  environment. Early  education  is  about                                                               
developing reading and social skills, not screen time.                                                                          
MS.  HENSLEY said  that  one  of the  reasons  that the  American                                                               
Academy  of Pediatricians  recommends  reading  to children  from                                                               
birth  is  to develop  those  social,  emotional attachments.  In                                                               
Finland, formal  reading education  starts at age  7. There  is a                                                               
lot of  play-based education. Sometimes  that is lost  in America                                                               
where  the  first grade  curriculum  has  been pushed  down  into                                                               
kindergarten.   They   are   concerned  that   the   kindergarten                                                               
curriculum will be  pushed down into pre-K. It  is important that                                                               
pre-K  programs and  standards are  very much  in line  with age-                                                               
appropriate  and developmentally  appropriate standards.  She has                                                               
some  concern that  they might  make things  even more  academic,                                                               
which hurts children rather than helps them.                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES said  that she  read to  her children  and taught                                                               
them to  read before  they entered  kindergarten, but  she didn't                                                               
start  to read  to  them  when they  were  newborn. Her  daughter                                                               
started reading to  her son when was  a few weeks old  and now he                                                               
is just over a year old. It  has been fascinating to see how much                                                               
he enjoys that time.                                                                                                            
CHAIR STEVENS [opened public testimony].                                                                                        
9:40:52 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID   NEES,  representing   self,  Anchorage,   Alaska,  raised                                                               
questions  about data  on the  effectiveness  of pre-K  programs.                                                               
They have  been doing pre-K  in Alaska  at least since  2001. The                                                               
McDowell Group  ARISE report  did a  good job  of looking  at the                                                               
data from  2010 to 2016.  The committee packet has  an incomplete                                                               
snapshot because it only includes  one year. There are many years                                                               
to look  at. Anchorage  has a consistent  gap between  the Native                                                               
and non-Native population.  Cook Inlet Tribal Council  has a good                                                               
approach, but  they are missing longitudinal  data. The committee                                                               
should  be asking  DEED to  produce  report a  report. They  hear                                                               
anecdotal  evidence   about  the  benefits,  but   Yupiit  School                                                               
District  is   consistently  one   of  worse   performing  school                                                               
districts  in  the state  and  has  92 percent  pre-K  enrollment                                                               
without  good  outcomes.  He  asked why  they  are  spending  $50                                                               
million  a year  in state  funding  on Head  Start if  it is  not                                                               
producing a result  they can look at. Other studies  say the lack                                                               
of a male in a household is  a better predictor of not doing well                                                               
in  school  and  being  incarcerated.   Statute  [4]  AAC  06.712                                                               
requires that  all children coming  into kindergarten  be tested,                                                               
but there is no  law about what to do with the  data. When he was                                                               
on the House  education task force five years  ago, the assistant                                                               
commissioner at the  time was looking at a  longitudinal study on                                                               
Head Start that was never  completed or published. They need that                                                               
MR. NEES  said that  there is no  constitutional mandate  to give                                                               
children any  kind of education  before grade seven. If  they are                                                               
going  to make  a choice  to invest  the money  in this  based on                                                               
anecdotal  evidence, then  they should  look for  some long-term,                                                               
actual evidence to determine if  students graduated, if they went                                                               
to college, if they are  incarcerated. Thousands of children have                                                               
gone through  the program, yet  they have  no data on  whether it                                                               
was  successful and  whether giving  away millions  of books  has                                                               
worked. Without  that, they have to  look at the main  driver. To                                                               
him it  seems one of  the main drivers is  that if they  run this                                                               
pilot program for  five years, school districts get  to count the                                                               
children in  their ADM  [average daily  membership] and  with the                                                               
multiplier  effect, the  further  away they  are from  Anchorage,                                                               
more  money  goes into  the  program.  The  bill has  merit,  but                                                               
without hard  data about whether  it is working--yes,  it employs                                                               
people, it  keeps people at nonprofits,  thread, Best Beginnings,                                                               
employed.  The committee  needs  to get  longitudinal data  while                                                               
looking at  that bill. DEED's  former commissioner  and assistant                                                               
commissioner started  the study  in 2014. They  need to  find the                                                               
data to have an analytical look at the $60 million investment.                                                                  
CHAIR STEVENS said he made some  good points for the committee to                                                               
follow up on.                                                                                                                   
9:46:56 AM                                                                                                                    
PATTY OWEN,  Director, Alaska Public Health  Association, Juneau,                                                               
Alaska,  supported  SB  6.  She said  the  Alaska  Public  Health                                                               
Association is  a statewide organization of  health professionals                                                               
and  other community  members dedicated  to improving  health and                                                               
well-being in Alaska  and is an affiliate of  the American Public                                                               
Health Association,  which is on  record as  supporting universal                                                               
preschool.  She came  to remind  people that  it is  an important                                                               
public health  issue. They consider  education as one  of primary                                                               
social determinants  of health,  along with things  like economic                                                               
status and  housing. Education strongly correlates  with a longer                                                               
life expectancy  and improved health  status. Early  education is                                                               
particularly important,  not just for school  readiness, but also                                                               
for  brain  development and  positive  social  and emotional  and                                                               
cognitive   development.  They   know   that  Adverse   Childhood                                                               
Experiences  have detrimental  effects  to young  people and  are                                                               
related to  diseases and other  adverse health outcomes  later in                                                               
life. Early childhood development  opportunities can help provide                                                               
protective  factors to  somewhat offset  those Adverse  Childhood                                                               
Experiences.  They   are  very  supportive  of   early  childhood                                                               
development  for improving  health and  education. When  she says                                                               
education, she does  mean quality early education  and quality K-                                                               
12 education.                                                                                                                   
9:49:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   BIRCH  said   there   has  been   a  pushback   against                                                               
vaccinations, which he does not  think is healthy. Because of her                                                               
affiliation, he is curious about  her thoughts about vaccinations                                                               
in general and  for public schools, where they have  lots of kids                                                               
herded together.                                                                                                                
MS. OWENS replied  that the public health community  is united in                                                               
supporting immunizations.                                                                                                       
CHAIR STEVENS  said they  have seen some  shocking things  on the                                                               
SENATOR   BEGICH   said   earlier   they   were   talking   about                                                               
developmental screening.  He is  thinking of adding  something to                                                               
the bill related  to that. He asked  if there is a  role that Ms.                                                               
Owens  could  play in  that  process  of developing  an  adequate                                                               
screening tool. Screening  came up in the task  force on dyslexia                                                               
and is something Ms. Hensley described.                                                                                         
MS. OWENS responded that she could  look into it. She thinks they                                                               
would be interested.                                                                                                            
9:51:39 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  BOYLE, representing  self,  Anchorage,  Alaska, asked  for                                                               
more  research about  the  efficacy of  pre-K  programs. He  said                                                               
everyone in  the state wants  what is best for  Alaskan children,                                                               
but  they must  proceed  carefully in  their  efforts to  improve                                                               
education  outcomes.  Before  they  spend money  on  a  perceived                                                               
problem, they  must evaluate  the efficacy  of pre-K  programs in                                                               
Alaska and across  the nation. He has read most  of the documents                                                               
in the  bill packet  and has some  concerns regarding  the cherry                                                               
picking  of research  to justify  universal pre-K  in Alaska.  He                                                               
strongly  recommends   that  committee   members  do   their  own                                                               
research, looking at both sides of  the debate, and then take the                                                               
most  reliable, gold  standard randomized  research to  decide if                                                               
pre-K is  the way to  go. Initially, it  may seem like  the right                                                               
thing  to do,  but pre-K  may have  unintended consequences.  The                                                               
greatest  may  be to  have  less  parental involvement  in  their                                                               
child's education.  When a  state is the  main provider  of early                                                               
education,  then the  parent is  absolved of  that responsibility                                                               
for early  education. They all  want parents to be  more involved                                                               
in  their kid's  education, both  pre-K  and K-12.  The state  is                                                               
replacing the parent as the teacher of the child.                                                                               
MR. BOYLE said  that in addition, the majority  of pre-K majority                                                               
studies  shows  no  difference  after  third  grade  between  the                                                               
control group and those children  who were enrolled in pre-K. The                                                               
most recent longitudinal study,  the Vanderbilt study, shows that                                                               
the control-group kids  had higher achievement than  those in the                                                               
pre-K  group.   Unbelievable.  The  Vanderbilt  study   was  gold                                                               
standard research which compared  two randomly selected groups of                                                               
children.  Even  the federal  government's  study  of Head  Start                                                               
demonstrated  that  there  were  no  significant  differences  in                                                               
student achievement after  third grade. He has  drilled down into                                                               
other  states'  pre-K programs.  The  state  of Alabama  has  the                                                               
highest rating  for a pre-K  program from the  National Institute                                                               
for  Early Education  Research. The  reading proficiency  rate in                                                               
the Montgomery public schools is  less than one percent according                                                               
to the  state standardized test. He  asked what the impact  of an                                                               
excellent pre-K program is and  what is the solution. He suggests                                                               
a  pilot   program  with  parents  actively   involved  in  their                                                               
children's  early education  that  teaches parents  how to  teach                                                               
their child phonics, reading, and  basic math. Parents want to be                                                               
involved,  but they  don't know  how to  do it.  He has  faith in                                                               
parents  and they  know  their kids  better  than the  government                                                               
does. Throwing more money at pre-K won't produce what they need.                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS asked  Mr.  Boyle to  inform  the committee  staff                                                               
about how to access the Vanderbilt study.                                                                                       
SENATOR BEGICH said  he wanted to remind the  committee that this                                                               
is not a bill to expand Head  Start. Their packets have a list of                                                               
studies, including a study of  the Arkansas Better Chance program                                                               
that  shows  the children  who  went  through the  Better  Chance                                                               
program  scored higher  on kindergarten  measures of  vocabulary,                                                               
math skills,  and understanding of  print concepts  than students                                                               
who did not.  There are a number of studies  for every state that                                                               
provides that  some form of  universal pre-K. "No  cherry picking                                                               
here, Mr. Chairman, just the facts," he said.                                                                                   
SENATOR HUGHES  said the committee  has talked about a  policy of                                                               
ensuring  that every  child reads  proficiently  by third  grade.                                                               
That would meet  the same goal that the sponsor  seems to want to                                                               
attain.  She  agrees with  Ms.  Hensley  about healthy  play  and                                                               
activities at a young age. She  is thinking of Finland where they                                                               
don't focus  on actual  phonics and the  letters until  age seven                                                               
and then the  kids do very well.  She did not know if  any of the                                                               
studies were from states with read  by nine efforts. They are not                                                               
seeing only  what preschool is doing  if there is also  a read by                                                               
nine  approach. They  haven't been  talking about  a child  being                                                               
ready to do  math. There has been a lot  about reading. She asked                                                               
if the state wants  to do both or focus on  reading by nine since                                                               
they  already have  kids  in grades  K-3. The  cost  factor is  a                                                               
concern. It  is about $11  million a year  based on what  they do                                                               
now. The  fiscal notes show  with the multiplier effect  once the                                                               
children are  added to  the BSA  [base student  allocation], they                                                               
are  talking about  a significant  number of  dollars. She  would                                                               
like the longitudinal  data from the Department  of Education, so                                                               
they know whether  it is working here. Districts  have been doing                                                               
their pre-K programs long enough for  them to have the data about                                                               
the impacts all the way through high school graduation.                                                                         
CHAIR STEVENS  said the department representatives  had to leave,                                                               
but the committee will pass on that they need that data.                                                                        
10:00:03 AM                                                                                                                   
BRIDGET  WEISS, Ph.D.,  Superintendent,  Juneau School  District,                                                               
Juneau,  Alaska, supported  SB 6.  She said  she wanted  to share                                                               
what is going on with a Juneau  project that has been dear to her                                                               
heart. As  a community, they  have spent a  lot of time  over the                                                               
last  few years  talking about  early childhood  and high-quality                                                               
childcare, so from  zero to five. They have  grave concerns about                                                               
the availability  and capacity for high-quality  childcare. Mayor                                                               
Weldon put together  a childcare task force. Dr. Weiss  is one of                                                               
seven,   including  assembly   members  and   community  members,                                                               
tackling that  and deciding as  a city, what can  they contribute                                                               
and what  should that look  like. In the Juneau  School District,                                                               
they  use  some local  dollars  and  some  from DEED.  They  have                                                               
partnered with  different Southeast  communities through  a five-                                                               
year STEPS grant for pre-K  that the Association of Alaska School                                                               
Boards is facilitating for them.                                                                                                
DR. WEISS said  that their questions about data  and tracking are                                                               
very  important. She  is hopeful  that  after her  first year  of                                                               
superintendency, when there  is a bit of calm in  July, that they                                                               
can  set the  course on  some of  that data  for themselves.  She                                                               
would ask  the committee, when  looking at the data,  to consider                                                               
that  there are  so many  variables. Educational  data is  seldom                                                               
scientific. For example, when they  are looking at their targeted                                                               
population  for   their  early   childhood  programs,   they  are                                                               
targeting their  most vulnerable  population. They  want students                                                               
who  are already  in economically  disadvantaged homes.  Juneau's                                                               
program  called KinderReady  hosts children  aged three  to five.                                                               
This year they  have three classrooms compared to  one last year.                                                               
About  60  percent of  the  students  in  each classroom  are  in                                                               
economically  disadvantaged homes.  One piece  they gain  through                                                               
that is  family engagement.  That is a  different slice  from the                                                               
testimony  they   heard  earlier  about  family   engagement  and                                                               
responsibility  for children's  education. She  would love  it if                                                               
every child in Alaska was in  a high-functioning home and all the                                                               
activities  around  their  children   were  a  priority  and  the                                                               
children came  to them ready.  The reality is they  have families                                                               
in crisis  across Alaska. Sometimes  due to  language challenges,                                                               
as Senator  Begich said.  Sometimes due  to economic  factors and                                                               
other trauma experiences.                                                                                                       
DR. WEISS said  that when they track that data,  they want to see                                                               
impact, but it  may be relational in comparison  to children from                                                               
families who  may not  have any  challenges. The  Juneau district                                                               
commits  13  classrooms to  preschool.  Seven  of those  are  for                                                               
special education programs, plus  the three KinderReady programs.                                                               
They  also  use  two  classrooms  to support  Head  Start  and  a                                                               
Montessori  classroom that  is a  blended pre-K  and kindergarten                                                               
classroom. It  is a strong  commitment. She  told a story  of how                                                               
her work  with Family Promise,  a program for  homeless families,                                                               
is a beautiful example of  the continuum that the most vulnerable                                                               
children     need.    There     are    many     layers--academic,                                                               
social/emotional,  self-regulation, and  parent engagement  at an                                                               
earlier  level where  they can  help guide  families who  may not                                                               
know  how to  read  to their  children and  how  to connect  with                                                               
schools. Many of their parents  have had traumatic experiences in                                                               
their  system.  They  don't  come running  to  the  district  for                                                               
support, but  if the  district can  meet a  need for  their kids,                                                               
they  enter the  district systems  earlier and  the district  can                                                               
start  influencing that  home piece.  There are  a lot  of moving                                                               
parts that do  make a difference. They can start  putting some of                                                               
those data pieces together.                                                                                                     
SENATOR BIRCH asked about the  situation regarding onsite daycare                                                               
in Juneau. He asked if  there is commercial or government support                                                               
for that because it is a component of zero to five.                                                                             
DR. WEISS  said they have  some, such as  for the Coast  Guard in                                                               
the federal building. They have  had closing day cares because of                                                               
the financial  challenges. That is  one thing the  childcare task                                                               
force is looking  at. After lots of discussion,  they are looking                                                               
at the  continuum from  zero to  age 5.  They are  being creative                                                               
about where to  look in Juneau to increase  capacity and quality.                                                               
One  earlier piece  came  up about  health  care screenings.  The                                                               
district  is  federally  required  to do  Child  Find.  They  are                                                               
obligated to pursue students who  have special needs if they have                                                               
not been  identified yet  and they  do that  in many  ways. These                                                               
experiences are  one way to get  at that. They also  partner with                                                               
the Association for the Education of Young Children.                                                                            
10:09:10 AM                                                                                                                   
POSIE  BOGGS,   Alaska  Reading  Coalition,   Anchorage,  Alaska,                                                               
supported SB  6. She  said that reading  starts in  infancy. They                                                               
support high-quality preschool and  early literacy screening. The                                                               
result is  to produce intervention  if needed. If they  had high-                                                               
quality early  literacy screening and preschool,  she wouldn't be                                                               
tutoring a ten-year  old to read nor would she  be teaching a 35-                                                               
year-old  had he  had early  screening  in preschool.  He is  now                                                               
learning  to read  with her  help, along  with an  online reading                                                               
coach. She would  like the committee to  consider early preschool                                                               
screening as a parental right.  Parents do not have the knowledge                                                               
to be aware  of what to look for. She  asked if parents naturally                                                               
know   about   phonological    awareness,   phonemic   awareness,                                                               
orthographic mapping, and other topics.                                                                                         
MS.  BOGGS said  that  regarding Senator  Hughes' comments  about                                                               
Finland, it  is important to know  that Finnish is easy  to learn                                                               
to read. One letter has one  sound. English has 26 letters and 44                                                               
sounds. It  is extremely  difficult. It  is considered  an opaque                                                               
language, not  a transparent language  such as  Finnish, Spanish,                                                               
or  Turkish.  They  must  start literacy  as  early  as  possible                                                               
because of  the nature  of English. The  first thing  Finland did                                                               
when it went from a poor education  system to one of the best was                                                               
to close every school of education  except the five best and then                                                               
standardized teacher  preparation courses. That fact  gets buried                                                               
with  the love  affair they  are having  with Finland.  That does                                                               
worry her. They give way too much credit to Finland.                                                                            
MS.  BOGGS said,  addressing Senator  Hughes  through the  chair,                                                               
that the other piece is that  they don't catch up. The NAEP shows                                                               
that 12th  grade reading  outcomes are just  as dismal  as fourth                                                               
grade reading  outcomes. If  they did  significantly catch  up as                                                               
the  years went  on, they  wouldn't be  experiencing the  cost of                                                               
illiteracy in  the nation. The  cost to industry is  $250 billion                                                               
because  they  don't  start  in   preschool  with  screening  and                                                               
intervention. For  information on  incarceration, she  asked them                                                               
to consult  U.S. Senator Cassidy  who lead the charge  on reading                                                               
and screening for  incarcerated people. He has all  the data they                                                               
will ever want.                                                                                                                 
10:16:19 AM                                                                                                                   
TIM PARKER,  President, NEA-Alaska, Fairbanks,  Alaska, supported                                                               
SB 6. He  said educators primarily work with kids  from ages five                                                               
to 18, but they  rely on what happens in the  pre-K zone in order                                                               
for the learning to happen.  The two are interlinked. NEA- Alaska                                                               
supports SB 6.  When he moved to Alaska almost  30 years ago, the                                                               
name of  the education department surprised  him. Everywhere else                                                               
it is the Department of Education,  but here it is the Department                                                               
of Education and  Early Development. This bill helps  to push the                                                               
state  in  that direction.  They  should  lean into  the  promise                                                               
reflected  in the  name. The  Alaska Education  Challenge is  the                                                               
driving  force  within  the professional  organizations.  At  the                                                               
center of that is an  excellent education for every student every                                                               
day. To get to that, they have  to focus on where kids are before                                                               
they enter their schools. One  commitment of the Alaska Education                                                               
Challenge  is  to  cultivate  safety  and  well-being.  It  is  a                                                               
recognition that Alaska  is not like other places  in the country                                                               
or world. They  need additional focus to make sure  some of their                                                               
most vulnerable students  are getting what they need  in order to                                                               
be able to learn what they want them to achieve.                                                                                
MR. PARKER  said that  learning doesn't start  at age  five. They                                                               
can't wait until children  are five to see if they  are in a safe                                                               
environment.   Those  environmental   influences  have   dramatic                                                               
effects  on how  students are  doing. Some  people mentioned  the                                                               
Alaska  Developmental  Profile,   which  their  600  kindergarten                                                               
teachers do  every year.  The results  are not  stellar. Teachers                                                               
look at 15  areas for incoming kindergarteners.  About 70 percent                                                               
of students meet  fewer than ten of those  benchmarks. That comes                                                               
from  DEED's study  from 2018.  The committee  had discussed  the                                                               
idea of return  on investment. The research  from Professor James                                                               
Heckman,  the  Nobel-winning  economist from  the  University  of                                                               
Chicago, points to a 13 percent  return on investment in the pre-                                                               
K area.  They should  be interested  as a state  in a  13 percent                                                               
return on  investment. The longer  the state waits, the  less the                                                               
return on investment.                                                                                                           
MR.  PARKER   said  the  quality   of  pre-K  is   important.  He                                                               
appreciates that Senator  Begich has put together  a large volume                                                               
of research in this area. When  someone says this study shows one                                                               
thing, it  is usually the  lack of  quality in that  program that                                                               
rises to  the surface  quickly. They have  to decide  whether the                                                               
pre-K program  the study  is looking at  is actually  of quality.                                                               
They have to go to DEED  and their professionals and say that the                                                               
state needs a program that  actually works and works with parents                                                               
and that fits Alaska. He said  to look to their professionals and                                                               
invest in Alaska's children.                                                                                                    
10:21:28 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS asked  Mr. Parker to provide the  Heckman report to                                                               
the committee  and noted  that the  committee would  have further                                                               
hearings after the interim.                                                                                                     
10:21:51 AM                                                                                                                   
PATTY MERITT, representing self,  Fairbanks, Alaska, supported SB                                                               
6 with  some recommendations. She  said she has been  a professor                                                               
at the University of Alaska Fairbanks  for over 40 years in early                                                               
childhood  education, but  she is  speaking for  herself. She  is                                                               
excited about this  bill. It is wonderful that  Alaska is looking                                                               
at  a universal  pre-K option.  She has  three concerns  with the                                                               
bill. The first  is about the qualifications of  the lead teacher                                                               
and other adults  in the classroom. Early  childhood education is                                                               
often misunderstood.  She made a  comparison to the  health field                                                               
and said most people don't  want a dental hygienist drawing blood                                                               
or a  phlebotomist to clean  teeth. People  recognize specialized                                                               
training  in the  health field  but not  in the  education field.                                                               
This bill refers  to six early childhood credits  for someone who                                                               
is already  certified. The training  and course of study  is very                                                               
different for someone to teach  K-12 compared to early childhood.                                                               
Most  K-12 teachers  have one  course in  child development  that                                                               
covers  years zero  to 18.  In early  childhood, they  have three                                                               
courses to cover  that range. Curriculum and  preparation is very                                                               
different. Assessment  in K-12 is standardized.  For preschool it                                                               
is  performance based  and uses  specialized observation  skills.                                                               
Early  childhood   training  focuses  on  child   guidance  while                                                               
training for  older kids  focuses on class  management. To  say a                                                               
type A certified  teacher could get six credits to  become a lead                                                               
teacher is a significant gap in the bill.                                                                                       
MS. MERITT said another concern is  that the bill is missing some                                                               
points  about  quality.  The  research   shows  that  ratios  are                                                               
critical. She would  like to see the bill address  group size and                                                               
ratios. Public  schools, due to  funding and space  problems, are                                                               
often working with large group sizes.                                                                                           
CHAIR STEVENS  asked her  to sum  up because of  the time  and to                                                               
send her written recommendations.                                                                                               
MS.  MERITT said  her third  point is  that what  is in  the bill                                                               
should be equitable  to what is required  for childcare licensing                                                               
standards. They don't  want some children in  childcare which has                                                               
to  meet 1  to  10 ratios  in  a private  setting  and then  have                                                               
children in a public  setting be in a setting of 1 to  15 or 1 to                                                               
10:28:27 AM                                                                                                                   
JUDY ELEDGE, representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska, opposed SB 6.                                                               
She said  that having  worked in education  in Alaska  since 1981                                                               
and in rural  and bush Alaska since 1997, she  sometimes wants to                                                               
scream during testimony because all  the things people are asking                                                               
for have  been done  and tried. That  is her  biggest frustration                                                               
when she  thinks about the amount  of money this is  costing. The                                                               
state  is not  addressing truancy,  which  is a  problem. In  her                                                               
experience, attendance  is even  worse in  pre-K. Since  2003 she                                                               
has  worked with  low-performing  schools as  part  of the  state                                                               
system of  support. She has  worked with  the lowest of  the low.                                                               
She was  a principal in  Copper River, which  was not one  of the                                                               
lowest, so she  has a varied background working on  the ground in                                                               
schools. At  this time when  they are cutting K-12  education, it                                                               
is  baffling  to  be  discussing   adding  pre-K  when  they  are                                                               
struggling in  K-3. Perhaps they  should be  discussing improving                                                               
what they currently do before adding additional grades.                                                                         
MS.  ELEDGE said  she supports  the read  by nine  effort because                                                               
they  have been  doing  early screenings  since  they brought  up                                                               
Roland  Good of  DIBELS from  the University  of Oregon  in 2001.                                                               
This was  a requirement that  was taken away from  the districts.                                                               
With [DEED Commissioner] Roger Samson,  several million was spent                                                               
on Alaska  reading, an online  course to ensure  teacher quality.                                                               
It went down  in flames as the teacher union  fought them because                                                               
they  did not  want to  be  told how  to teach  reading. She  has                                                               
worked in  schools where all  the students in grades  one through                                                               
five  were at  a kindergarten  level.  With a  strong program,  a                                                               
strong principal,  they turned  that school  around, but  it took                                                               
six years  to get  students to grade  level. Many  districts that                                                               
are low performing don't have the  capability to do this or there                                                               
are no consequences for them not  doing it. She did work under No                                                               
Child Left  Behind. She said someone  asked her why they  are not                                                               
making  districts  do what  they  need  to  do.  That is  a  good                                                               
question. They  know what needs to  be done. There is  nothing in                                                               
this testimony that they have not  done or do not know about. The                                                               
Department of  Education has limited  resources and  doesn't have                                                               
authority about what can or can't  be done. Her hope is that they                                                               
look  at K-3  reading. She  has had  students enter  kindergarten                                                               
well  behind where  they  should  be and  after  six weeks,  they                                                               
caught them up. This can be  done. She has done it. Their biggest                                                               
problem is  that when they mandate  what needs to be  done, there                                                               
is  a  huge  outcry of  "don't  tell  us  what  to do."  That  is                                                               
frustrating. She is  being honest today because  she has listened                                                               
to years and years of this testimony and nothing ever changes.                                                                  
10:33:08 AM                                                                                                                   
ESTHER PEPIN, representing self,  Naknek, Alaska, supported SB 6.                                                               
She said  she is the  early learning coordinator for  Bristol Bay                                                               
School District. As a recipient  of the pre-elementary grant, her                                                               
community has  been able  to provide  every four-year-old  with a                                                               
quality half-day  pre-K program  for the  last three  years. This                                                               
has  had   a  significant   impact  on   children's  development,                                                               
kindergarten   readiness,  and   development   of  a   culturally                                                               
responsive  education program.  With  the  continuation of  pre-K                                                               
funding,  they   are  hopeful  they  can   continue  exploring  a                                                               
sustainable  model to  ensure that  early learning  support is  a                                                               
priority for their community and  that their children's needs are                                                               
being met.  The pre-elementary grant is  not a one size  fits all                                                               
preschool program.  It is  a challenge  to ensure  that districts                                                               
are developing a  model responsive to their  community's needs by                                                               
developing a  model that  supports continuity  of care  through a                                                               
mixed  delivery  system. They  respect  the  educational role  of                                                               
parents and  elders and families  and their right  to participate                                                               
as their  child's first educators, not  just at home but  also in                                                               
the classrooms for early learning.                                                                                              
MS. PEPIN  said that continuity  of care means that  preschool is                                                               
not  a silo  learning experience  and continuity  includes Alaska                                                               
Native  ways  of knowing  and  a  Western education  system.  The                                                               
program  has   ensured  their  young   children  are   ready  for                                                               
kindergarten. Before receiving the  pre-K funding, their children                                                               
averaged 25 to  30 percent fully ready for  kindergarten based on                                                               
the Alaska  Developmental Profile.  The last  three years  it has                                                               
been from  67 and 100  percent fully ready  on the 13  goals that                                                               
kindergarten teachers  measure. They hope this  readiness will be                                                               
reflected in  future years when measuring  kindergarten readiness                                                               
and also when  measuring literacy and math skills  in third grade                                                               
and beyond. Funding has allowed  the school district to provide a                                                               
responsive  program that  meets  the social/emotional,  cognitive                                                               
and physical needs by providing  daily opportunities for inquiry-                                                               
based play.  It has allowed  them to provide and  train teachers,                                                               
select and implement  research-based inquiry curriculum resources                                                               
and  develop  a  rich,  support   environment  that  can  support                                                               
children  as they  begin  to develop  an  understanding of  their                                                               
world and the skills they need to  succeed in it. As a mother who                                                               
will have  a child in  preschool next  year, she hopes  that they                                                               
will have  access to support  his needs and  that he will  have a                                                               
rich environment to socialize in  and play with other children as                                                               
he  prepares  not  only  for  kindergarten  but  his  educational                                                               
career.  She  asked the  committee  to  hear  her concerns  as  a                                                               
representative not  only of her community  but communities across                                                               
the state.                                                                                                                      
10:37:11 AM                                                                                                                   
LAURA BONNER, representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska, supported SB                                                               
6. She  said SB 6 is  a good long term  investment. She submitted                                                               
written   testimony   last   month  about   the   benefits.   She                                                               
particularly  like Section  3  that creates  a  stair step  grant                                                               
program. This will help the  lowest performing districts improve.                                                               
Many of  those are in rural  areas with less access  to programs.                                                               
She  also likes  the  language in  Section  5 regarding  cultural                                                               
content  in  the local  communities  and  accommodations for  the                                                               
needs of  all pre-K  children and  their families,  regardless of                                                               
socioeconomics  circumstances.  This  bill speaks  to  four-  and                                                               
five-years  olds but  should include  three-year-olds. Her  adult                                                               
adopted daughter who has autism  was in a special education pre-K                                                               
program  at  the  age  of  three-and-a-half  because  of  testing                                                               
performed  by a  program for  infants and  children. She  did not                                                               
know  anything  about  autism.  Through  the  pre-K  program  she                                                               
learned how to help her daughter.  All this cost money, but early                                                               
investment  cost  less.  She  asked the  committee  to  find  the                                                               
revenue to fund this.                                                                                                           
10:39:29 AM                                                                                                                   
JENNIFER  SCHMITZ, State  Representative,  Alaska Association  of                                                               
Elementary School  Principals, Principal, Scenic  Park Elementary                                                               
School, Anchorage,  Alaska, supported SB  6. She said  the Alaska                                                               
Association  of Elementary  School  Principals strongly  supports                                                               
early  childhood.  She  has  been   an  elementary  principal  in                                                               
Anchorage  for the  past  13  years and  has  seen more  rigorous                                                               
standards and  changes in families'  overall fiscal  and personal                                                               
situations. She  taught kindergarten  her first year  of teaching                                                               
in 1990.  All but one of  her students that year  had attended at                                                               
least  one   year  of  preschool.   Today,  her  school   has  85                                                               
kindergarten  students and  12 of  those  students have  attended                                                               
some type  of preschool  program. Those who  were in  a preschool                                                               
are immediate  leaders in the  classroom. She and  her colleagues                                                               
have had  many conversations and  agree that they  remain leaders                                                               
long after kindergarten. Unfortunately,  quality programs are not                                                               
available  to  all  families.  They are  difficult  to  find  and                                                               
expensive. While the number of  students in high-quality programs                                                               
has decreased,  the standards for  what students are  expected to                                                               
do  in school  have increased.  When her  22-year-old son  was in                                                               
kindergarten,  it was  a half  day. They  played, learned  social                                                               
skills,  did  art  projects  and   had  rest  time  and  a  basic                                                               
introduction  to letters  and numbers.  Today, kindergarten  is a                                                               
full  day. Students  are  expected to  learn  all their  letters,                                                               
letter  sounds, letter  blends, story  structure, to  compose and                                                               
decompose numbers,  add and subtract  fluently to five,  and many                                                               
other skills. They have raised their  rigor, which is a good idea                                                               
to  compete nationally,  but they  have  decreased what  families                                                               
have access to prior to starting kindergarten.                                                                                  
MS. SCHMITZ  said that  every year,  many of  her kindergarteners                                                               
have never held  a pencil, no one  has ever read a  book to them,                                                               
many of  them have never heard  English at home. They  have never                                                               
had to sit in a circle, stand  in a line, learn their colors, and                                                               
many other things. Her teachers spend  much of the year being the                                                               
pre-K teacher  while also being  expected to be  the kindergarten                                                               
teacher. It  is difficult to get  them all where they  need to be                                                               
at the end of the year.  Unfortunately, some never catch up. Pre-                                                               
K gets  parents involved early.  They learn about  the importance                                                               
of reading  to young  children. As Ms.  Hensley said,  reading to                                                               
children at home  and talking and interacting with  them is vital                                                               
to getting kids on the right  track for reading. However, many of                                                               
their  young  parents,  without   early  childhood  programs  and                                                               
resources, don't  know how to do  this and the importance  of it.                                                               
She  asked  them to  support  the  bill  and adequate  and  early                                                               
funding for public education.                                                                                                   
10:43:11 AM                                                                                                                   
STEPHANIE  GISH, Discovery  Preschool, Juneau,  Alaska, supported                                                               
SB 6.  She said  neuroscience has confirmed  that the  first five                                                               
years of life  are crucial to human  development. Early childhood                                                               
experiences lay  the foundation for  the rest of  people's lives.                                                               
Infants are  active participants  in their  learning. It  is more                                                               
than just  preparing for kindergarten. Early  child educators are                                                               
trained  to  spot trauma  triggers  and  to build  resiliency  in                                                               
preschoolers.  Considering  Alaska's   statistics  on  abuse  and                                                               
neglect, early  learning programs could  be the only  place where                                                               
healthy  development of  executive  function  is being  fostered.                                                               
Continued lack of investment in  early education will continue to                                                               
produce dire  and costly results,  both social and  economic. The                                                               
lifelong effects of Adverse Childhood  Experiences (ACEs) place a                                                               
significant and  lifetime burden on  the state. High  ACEs scores                                                               
are correlated with  poor physical and mental  health, along with                                                               
the increased  likelihood of criminal behavior  and unemployment.                                                               
In short,  criminals are  made from children  who are  abused and                                                               
neglected,  children who  cannot access  healthy environments  or                                                               
attachments.  Lowering crime  rates in  Alaska starts  with early                                                               
childhood  education.  Adversity  does  not just  happen  to  the                                                               
impoverished. Childhood trauma happens  to far more children than                                                               
people realize and the results can last for generations.                                                                        
MS.  GISH said  that learning  begins  at birth  and an  infant's                                                               
brain triples in size by age  three. Their dense brains are eager                                                               
to learn more  about the world. The brain  cannot distinguish one                                                               
type of toxic stress from another.  They have the same impact and                                                               
capacity to impair health and  well-being for a lifetime. If they                                                               
honestly  want  to  make  a difference  for  current  and  future                                                               
Alaskans,  they  will pave  the  way  for high-quality  care  and                                                               
education   to   begin   in  infancy.   Programs   that   provide                                                               
developmentally  appropriate,  high-quality  continuity  of  care                                                               
will generate greater academic, social, and economic success.                                                                   
10:46:10 AM                                                                                                                   
KATHY CLARK,  representing self,  Homer, Alaska, supported  SB 6.                                                               
She said  she lived in  Talkeetna when they first  introduced the                                                               
primary program into  the elementary school for  three- and four-                                                               
year-olds. His teacher at his  daycare happened to be the teacher                                                               
who would be doing the  preschool program. That teacher talked to                                                               
her about  entering her son  into the preschool  program. Because                                                               
he entered  the program when  he was three-and-a-half  years old,                                                               
they discovered he  had dysgraphia, which made  a huge difference                                                               
in how  they approached his education.  If he had not  been given                                                               
the opportunity  to get into the  school system at an  early age,                                                               
it  might have  gone unseen  and  unnoticed. He  is a  successful                                                               
graduate  and  getting  his  contractor   license  at  21.  Early                                                               
education  is  not  only  important for  social  issues  but  for                                                               
learning disabilities.  A concern  she has  heard today  is about                                                               
the availability,  capacity, and quality of  childcare. In Homer,                                                               
if  they  lose their  Head  Start  programs and  early  preschool                                                               
programs, there would be only  one church that does childcare. It                                                               
would   be  cutting   off  an   entire  community   of  children.                                                               
Unfortunately, some  parents do  not have  the education  to even                                                               
sit  and read  with their  children or  do simple  math. This  is                                                               
horrible  for  these  parents  because   they  are  seeing  their                                                               
children left  behind in  a system  that left  them behind.  As a                                                               
concerned mom, she  would like to see this pushed  through. It is                                                               
10:48:38 AM                                                                                                                   
LISA SKILES PARADY, Ph.D., Executive  Director, Alaska Council of                                                               
School Administrators,  Juneau, Alaska, supported SB  6. She said                                                               
that Ms. Hensley,  Dr. Weiss, Principal Schmitz,  and others have                                                               
laid  the background  for the  importance of  this investment  in                                                               
early  learning.  The  Alaska Council  of  School  Administrators                                                               
(ACSA) 2019  joint positions statements  have early  childhood as                                                               
one of their highest priorities.  The members are fully vested in                                                               
the position statements. She read  the ACSA position statement on                                                               
early  childhood education,  "ACSA believes  equitable access  to                                                               
fully   funded,  sustainable   preschool   programs  provides   a                                                               
foundation   of  excellent   social,   emotional  and   cognitive                                                               
instruction  to  students.  Research  clearly  demonstrates  that                                                               
early intervention  and instruction  is one of  the best  ways to                                                               
increase student  achievement across all demographics  and create                                                               
the greatest  opportunity for all  students to  read proficiently                                                               
by third  grade. Early childhood  education should  be considered                                                               
as part of public school funding through the BSA."                                                                              
DR.  PARADY said  that the  ACSA and  their educational  partners                                                               
invested  in   a  public  opinion  poll   administered  by  Zogby                                                               
Analytics, a highly respected  international polling and research                                                               
company. The  poll was administered  so they could have  a better                                                               
understanding of  Alaska voters' perspectives, both  on pre-K and                                                               
K-12  public education.  The pre-K  question  was whether  voters                                                               
support or oppose  state funded public preschool.  The answer was                                                               
overwhelming--73.5  percent  of   Alaskan  voters  support  state                                                               
funded  preschool.  The  evidence  of public  opinion  is  clear.                                                               
Yesterday, the  Anchorage Daily News  published an  opinion piece                                                               
that  she,  along  with  her colleagues  Norm  Wooten  and  Sarah                                                               
Sledge, wrote.  She will  submit that  as written  testimony. She                                                               
agrees strongly  with the previously  callers that  the committee                                                               
should look into  the research on their own. They  will find that                                                               
investing in early childhood programs is one of the most                                                                        
critical investments they can make in the future success of                                                                     
their children and of their state.                                                                                              
SENATOR BEGICH disclosed that his wife is Sarah Sledge, the                                                                     
executive director for the Coalition for Education Equity.                                                                      
10:53:02 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS held SB 6 in committee.                                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
09_SB006_PreKfunding_Research_THREAD_FactSheet_2019.pdf SEDC 4/16/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 6
10_SB006_PreKfunding_Support_Emails Bundle15April2019.pdf SEDC 4/16/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 6