Legislature(2017 - 2018)SENATE FINANCE 532
04/10/2017 01:30 PM FINANCE
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|SB102 || SB103 || SB104|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 102 "An Act relating to funding for Internet services for school districts; and relating to the Alaska higher education investment fund." SENATE BILL NO. 103 "An Act establishing the Alaska education innovation grant program; eliminating the Alaska education grant program and the Alaska performance scholarship program; redesignating the Alaska higher education investment fund as the Alaska education innovation grant fund; and providing for an effective date." SENATE BILL NO. 104 "An Act relating to the duties of the state Board of Education and Early Development; and relating to school curriculum." 1:45:03 PM BRITTANY HUTCHISON, STAFF, SENATOR ANNA MACKINNON, offered an overview about why the suite of bills were being introduced. She asserted that SB 102, 103, and 104 had been crafted out of the need for major improvements in Alaska's educational system. She said that the needs addressed in the legislation were threefold: the prioritization of K-12 education as a constitutional responsibility, the improvement of outcomes for Alaskan students, and providing for efficient and streamlined delivery of education processes and procedures. 1:46:50 PM Ms. Hutchison provided a sponsor statement for SB 102: The goal of this legislation is to improve educational outcomes for Alaskan students. The graduation rate for high school in Alaska for 2016 is 76%. Of the amount of students who go to the University of Alaska, 52% of incoming Alaska freshman need remediation classes. Our children and workforce deserve better. This bill seeks to improve outcomes by providing students with additional internet access and increased opportunity for virtual education, even in the most remote places in Alaska. This will provide access to the best teachers in our state to teach in multiple areas of our state, via the internet. It is the Legislature's primary constitutional requirement to provide for an education system in Alaska. It is time to refocus and prioritize our state money on improved deliveries of education. SB 102 will provide assistance to districts with high technology costs and technological disadvantages, by increasing the minimum requirement of megabits per second from 10 to 25. It will direct monies from the higher education fund to increase the amount of Broadband Assistance Grants (BAG) that the state can pay to school districts and will allow schools the flexibility to direct additional dollars to the classroom. Currently, 137 schools, in 29 school districts, receive a BAG award. SB 102 will bring 197 schools up to the new floor of 25Mbps and provide funding to help those schools reach 25Mbps. The total cost of internet services in FY16 was approximately $92.6 million. The Federal E-Rate program discount covered approximately $79.1 million. The School BAG awards covered $3.4 million. School Districts across the state only had to pay a cumulative sum of approximately $10 million in FY16. The value of E-Rate and BAG for our schools is tremendous. This bill will leverage between 70- 90% federal dollars. For every state dollar, we receive about $7 from the federal government. I urge your support of this legislation to help improve educational outcomes for Alaskan students. Ms. Hutchison relayed that the bill would not provide funding for infrastructure, personal computers, microphones, or software. 1:48:35 PM Ms. Hutchison discussed the sectional analysis for SB 102 (copy on file): Section 1 AS 14.03.127(a) Increases the floor of internet download speed from 10 megabits per second (Mbps) to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for every school in Alaska. Section 2 AS 37.14.750(a) Puts into statute that the legislature may pay for internet services through the Higher Education Fund. Section 3 AS 37.14.750 Conforming language that allows the legislature to pay for internet services through the Higher Education Fund. 1:49:01 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon OPENED public testimony. JACK WALSH, SUPERINTENDENT, CRAIG SCHOOLS, CRAIG, testified in support of the bill. He believed that the expanded internet access would help to provide additional vocational programs. 1:50:46 PM TONY HABRA, HAINES BOROUGH SCHOOLS, HAINES, spoke in support of the legislation. He noted that the internet access in Haines was good, but that it would be beneficial to connect with other districts that currently had limited access. 1:52:10 PM TIM PARKER, PRESIDENT, NEA ALASKA, JUNEAU, spoke in support of the legislation. He lamented the proposed 5 percent cut to education funding. Co-Chair MacKinnon reminded the testifier that the bill before the committee was SB 102. Mr. Parker spoke to SB 102. He stated that additional broadband was definitely needed, but that there were some fiber optic cable issues as well as satellite data transmittal struggles. He stressed that a long term fiscal solution to the budget crisis was necessary to provide stable, forward funding for Alaska schools. Co-Chair MacKinnon understood that Mr. Parker supported SB 102. Mr. Parker stated that he was in support of the bill. He said that slow running computers were detrimental to classroom learning. He opined that teachers had to have two lesson plans in place: one that used the computer, and another for when the computer did not work. 1:56:59 PM DAVID BRIGHTON, KENAI EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, KENAI, spoke in support of SB 102. He spoke of the Alaska Performance Scholarship. He said that his son would not be able to go to college without the scholarship. Co-Chair MacKinnon requested that testifiers keep their comments to the bill before the committee. 1:59:10 PM Senator Micciche clarified that the committee would be hearing public testimony for the other bills on the agenda. 1:59:55 PM JEFF HEBARD, FAIRBANKS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, FAIRBANKS, expressed support for the bill. He was concerned about the funding source. Co-Chair MacKinnon stressed that individual public testimony would be taken for each bill. Mr. Hebard urged support for local control of decision making for school funding issues. He testified against SB 103. He lamented the various struggles faced by students in Alaska's school system. He argued that educators could not build necessary relationships with students when classrooms were overcrowded. 2:02:58 PM Vice-Chair Bishop asked whether Mr. Hebard wanted broadband to be optional. Mr. Hebard answered in the affirmative. Co-Chair MacKinnon surmised that the school districts would pick up the cost of the broadband. Mr. Hebard responded that he was encouraging that the decision making be at the local level. 2:03:30 PM LISA PARADY, ALASKA COUNCIL OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, JUNEAU, testified in support of the bill. She stressed that expanding internet speed in rural Alaska was a critical piece in moving forward with virtual learning. She believed that the effort to maximize federal dollars was prudent. 2:06:25 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon remarked that Senator Olson had been the original carrier of a broadband assistance bill for communities outside of the Railbelt. 2:07:13 PM AT EASE 2:07:36 PM RECONVENED ALYSE GALVIN, GREAT ALASKA SCHOOLS, JUNEAU, testified in support of SB 102. She acknowledged the importance of broadband in rural Alaska, but added that actual teachers in classrooms was the ultimate goal of her organization. 2:09:41 PM AT EASE 2:11:38 PM RECONVENED PJ FORD SLACK, SUPERINTENDENT, HOONAH CITY SCHOOLS, HOONAH, spoke in support of the bill. She thought it was very important to achieve connectivity to other schools in real time. She hoped that the legislature could offer support in talking to local providers about providing support for infrastructure. 2:13:02 PM Vice-Chair Bishop asked whether her district would be able to build the infrastructure necessary to implement the legislation. Ms. Ford Slack replied that her district would not be able to afford the necessary cable without help from providers. Co-Chair MacKinnon commented that the bill did not offer cable, satellite, or other amenities. She clarified that only addressed existing schools that had the capacity to step up to 25 megabits. She said that there were projects in motion that could provide additional infrastructure that would provide tie-ins for other communities. 2:14:47 PM Senator Micciche asked for a clarification on the dollar amount for the first leg of infrastructure in Ms. Ford's district. Ms. Ford Slack replied $6.6 million for the first leg of cable. Co-Chair MacKinnon hoped that the administration could provide the numbers for schools that needed additional help. 2:15:13 PM Senator von Imhof queried the distance of the first leg of cable. Ms. Ford Slack was unsure about the amount of miles, and clarified that the route was from Juneau to Hoonah. That route was the shortest leg before going out to Pelican or up to Yakutat. Senator von Imhof referred to the sponsor statement. She believed that the state should take advantage of the federal match dollars. She thought that the bill could be more effective by including fiber optic cable. 2:17:02 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon shared that there was an "Alaska Plan" crafted by the federal delegation currently in process that would provide support for infrastructure advancement. 2:17:28 PM PAUL KENDALL, SELF, ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), expressed frustration for the public testimony process and the decline of the moral foundation in the state. 2:21:35 PM Co-Chair MacKinnon CLOSED public testimony. PATIENCE FREDRIKSON, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF LIBRARIES, ARCHIVES AND MUSEUMS, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND EARLY DEVELOPMENT, testified in favor of the legislation. 2:22:46 PM SB 102 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. 2:23:28 PM Ms. Hutchison commented that the Alaska Telephone Association had written that the current technology and infrastructure was able to deliver 25 megabits, per second, to all schools in the state. The bill would not require any additional infrastructure.