Legislature(2007 - 2008)BUTROVICH 205


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
              SB  76-TUITION FOR CERTAIN CHILDREN                                                                           
1:58:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR BETTYE DAVIS announced SB 76 to be up for consideration.                                                                  
SENATOR ELLIS, sponsor of SB 76,  said that the bill concerns the                                                               
collection of  education funds  for foster youth  who age  out of                                                               
the system  and who often do  not succeed in life  afterwards. He                                                               
said that Missouri has a  similar program that allows the funding                                                               
of education  accounts for  children leaving  foster care  at the                                                               
age of  18; SB  76 would  establish such a  program in  Alaska to                                                               
allow   churches,    individuals,   charities,    and   community                                                               
organizations to open accounts for  the purposes of these youths'                                                               
college  education. The  accounts  would be  managed through  the                                                               
University of Alaska (UA)'s college  savings account program. The                                                               
donations  could  be  used for  any  educational  endeavor,  from                                                               
vocational education to college.                                                                                                
He added that  many foster children have suffered  from abuse and                                                               
neglect,  and  their caretakers  cannot  be  expected to  provide                                                               
education  savings for  them.  The bill  will  help foster  youth                                                               
become more productive citizens.                                                                                                
CHAIR DAVIS said that she thinks  the bill will be successful and                                                               
she looks forward to helping it pass through.                                                                                   
MIKE  LESMANN,  Community Relations  Manager  for  the Office  of                                                               
Children's Services (OCS),  said that the OCS  is very supportive                                                               
of the bill. The Faith-based  and Community Initiatives Office of                                                               
the  DHSS is  also  in  support of  the  bill,  and together  the                                                               
offices   look   forward    to   developing   information-sharing                                                               
procedures  with  the UA  and  directing  monies donated  to  the                                                               
2:05:16 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COWDERY asked  what will happen to the money  if a foster                                                               
child doesn't use it.                                                                                                           
GABE   ACEVES,  Staff   to  Senator   Ellis,  replied   that  the                                                               
beneficiary name  on a given  account can  be changed if  a youth                                                               
decides not to use the money.                                                                                                   
2:06:35 PM                                                                                                                    
TERRA HORTON,  Faith Based and  Community Initiatives,  said that                                                               
as a social  worker she is aware of the  challenges facing foster                                                               
youth.  They are  at  a  higher risk  for  many  factors such  as                                                               
poverty, drug abuse,  homelessness, etc.; few are  able to pursue                                                               
their  desires  for  further  education,  financial  difficulties                                                               
being  the   major  deterrent.  This  bill   would  diminish  the                                                               
financial challenge  to these kids  and let them lead  more self-                                                               
sufficient, productive lives.                                                                                                   
2:09:31 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELLIS  thanked Ms.  Horton for  her participation  in the                                                               
2:10:03 PM                                                                                                                    
JIM  LYNCH,   Associate  Vice  President   of  Finance   for  the                                                               
University of  Alaska, said that  the UA  supports SB 76  and has                                                               
participated in drafting the bill to  see that it works in unison                                                               
with the college savings program.  He said that the importance of                                                               
a college  account creates or  intensifies aspirations  of foster                                                               
youth and  it is  an outstanding program  that has  no downsides.                                                               
The money can  be switched around between  beneficiaries and will                                                               
be invested as well.                                                                                                            
2:12:25 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELLIS  said that Mr.  Lynch helped with making  sure that                                                               
the legislation would work smoothly with the UA program.                                                                        
MR. ACEVES explained that a  provision in the bill makes children                                                               
in  long-term,  out-of-state  foster  care  the  highest  funding                                                               
priority. The department may establish  specific criteria as well                                                               
as the  donors, but the two  most important criteria are  the age                                                               
of the child and the length of their stay in out-of-home care.                                                                  
DAVIS asked  if a child  who ages out of  the system can  use the                                                               
funds at any point or they must do so immediately.                                                                              
MR.  ACEVES replied  that  the  funds are  good  until the  youth                                                               
reaches the age of 30.                                                                                                          
MR. LYNCH added that there  is no practical limitation within the                                                               
college savings program.                                                                                                        
2:16:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHIP WAGONER,  the Executive Director  for the  Alaska Conference                                                               
of  Catholic Bishops  (ACCB),  said that  the  bill is  important                                                               
because  the   government  cannot  do  everything   in  terms  of                                                               
providing  for youth;  the community  needs to  take some  of the                                                               
responsibility. The bill  will provide a needed  boost for foster                                                               
youth,  and  marketing  the  program  is  particularly  important                                                               
because people, corporations, and  non-profits need to know about                                                               
it to participate.                                                                                                              
CHAIR DAVIS remarked that Alaskans are known to be giving                                                                       
people, and the program will be successful. She added that the                                                                  
bill will be brought before the committee in the near future.                                                                   

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