Legislature(2015 - 2016)BUTROVICH 205
04/15/2015 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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SB 89-PARENT RIGHTS: EDUCATION; SCHOOL ABSENCE 8:06:11 AM CHAIR STOLTZE announced the consideration of SB 89. [The work draft CS for SB 89, version 29-LS0735\G was adopted on 4/14/15.] Noting that public testimony was closed, he asked if any committee members had amendments to offer. 8:06:51 AM SENATOR COGHILL moved to report the committee substitute (CS) for SB 89 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. CHAIR STOLTZE objected for discussion purposes. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI stated that he was not expecting the bill to move during the current committee meeting. He said the bill is a pretty significant change to Alaska's law and there are some pretty significant problems with the bill. He said he was wondering if the committee could hear from the Department of Education. CHAIR STOLTZE said the committee will hear from the Department of Education. 8:07:51 AM SENATOR MIKE DUNLEAVY, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of SB 89, introduced himself. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked the following: On page 2, lines 13-17, there is a requirement for parental notification of not less than 2 weeks, but not more than 6 weeks before any activity, class, or program that includes content involving human reproduction or sexual matters. He asked if a penalty is involved if a teacher or school does not follow the strict notification timeline. SENATOR DUNLEAVY replied that currently there are no penalties in the bill. He specified that following the timeline is "expected" to be followed once the bill is passed into law. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI inquired if a teacher is prohibited from answering a student's question on date rape without first receiving a permission slip. SENATOR DUNLEAVY specified that the bill is an attempt at being reasonable, meaning there will always be questions that come up in the classroom with the teacher. He replied no, there would not be a situation where a child asks a question and the teacher says, "Hold that thought, we'll get back to you in two weeks." CHAIR STOLTZE welcomed him to depart from Senator Dunleavy to Superintendent Dunleavy and noted he is probably aware of existing reporting requirements. 8:10:00 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said language on page 2, lines 18-20, states that parents can remove children for any reason for religious holidays as defined by the parent. He asked if the parent needs to notify the school district as to what religious holiday they would be following. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that parents would notify the school so that absence is understood and allowed. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if a pagan holiday would be allowed as a religious holiday. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that the religious holiday is the parent's choice. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI addressed page 2, lines 21-22 as follows: The school district must provide the parent with an opportunity to review the content of an activity, class, performance standard, or program. He asked if the proviso gives parents the opportunity to review tests before being administered. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered no. He detailed that there will be no avenue to read an assessment and breach security. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI remarked that the way he reads the language is that parents would have the opportunity to review tests. He asked if clarifying language should be considered that excludes tests. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that there is no wording regarding testing. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked where "performance standard" is noted if that included tests. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered no. He specified that "performance standard" would include publicly listed standards for each of the courses. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked how long the parent has to review. SENATOR DUNLEAVY replied that the period of time for a parent to review has not been stipulated in the bill. He said the school board could decide on the local level. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if guidance should be provided on the length of time a parent has to review. SENATOR DUNLEAVY replied that the bill allows the school district to decide. 8:12:59 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI addressed page 3, Section 3, the Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) testified against the provision. He asked if Senator Dunleavy considered AASB's concerns. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered yes. He specified that the belief is the concerns of parents outweigh AASB's concerns. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said he contacted AASB the previous day and asked for information on what sort of survey questionnaires are being asked. He disclosed that AASB agreed to provide the information and asked that the committee not move the bill out prior to receiving the information. CHAIR STOLTZE noted that mail has been received on the issue. SENATOR DUNLEAVY remarked that he was the president of the Mat- Su schoolboard and was familiar with AASB's purpose in terms of what it advocates for. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked what the rationale was behind Section 3, page 3. 8:14:54 AM SENATOR DUNLEAVY responded that after discussions with many parents that any type of questionnaire should get permission from parents before their children are surveyed. He summarized that parents should be informed so that they can make informed decisions. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI addressed page 4, Section 6, and noted that the section was new where school districts may require physical examinations of teachers as a condition of employment. He asked if Senator Dunleavy could provide background information on the proviso. 8:16:02 AM BETHANY MARCUM, Staff, Senator Dunleavy, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, answered that there is no state requirement for school districts to conduct physical exams for teachers. She detailed that should a school district decide to require a physical exam, the section allows the school district to require the examination. She added that the school district would not be required to pay for the physical exams. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked to clarify that the purpose of the section is not to allow school districts to discriminate against those who may have physical disabilities. MS. MARCUM answered that school districts requested to have their burden reduced regarding state requirements like physical exams. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI addressed Section 7 and said the section states the following: A school district may not permit an abortion services provider or an employee or volunteer of an abortion services provider to offer, sponsor, furnish course materials, or provide instruction relating to human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases. He asked if the school district is required to perform a background check to ensure that people who are volunteering in the classroom or offering instruction are not volunteers for abortion services providers. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered no. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if there is a penalty if a volunteer of an abortion services provider is allowed to teach one of the classes. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that there is no penalty to the school district if unknowingly there was an individual in an official capacity that taught the class. He detailed that there are no background checks to determine if somebody was related to an abortion service provider. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if the proviso would apply to those who have financially contributed to abortion services providers. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that the intent of the bill is not to do what Senator Wielechowski described. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if a parental classroom volunteer who happens to be a volunteer at an abortion services provider would be banned from the classroom. 8:18:24 AM SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that the intent of the bill would not ban the individual that Senator Wielechowski described. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if a school nurse who happened to be a volunteer for an abortion services provider would be able to provide instruction relating to human sexuality. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that the school nurse's capacity would be that of an employee and not as an individual acting as a representative or activity presenter on behalf of an abortion service provider. He specified that the bill would not preclude the individual in being employed by the school district. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI noted that the bill does not have a penalty or require a background check. He asked to verify that a school district that repeatedly allows a volunteer from an abortion services provider to offer a class would not face a penalty or punishment. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered as follows: I think in a court proceeding they would say that is a leading question. If there is an individual that is hired in an official capacity, has been vetted by the school district, whether they would be a nurse or classroom, and their primary purpose or function is to teach the content and adopt the curriculum of the school district or to perform the duties as adopted by the school district, this bill would offer no penalties for that individual. CHAIR STOLTZE stated that his hope is the questions will be not to affirm a statement but to really ask a question. 8:20:32 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI noted that some hospitals offer abortion services in emergencies, primarily in the case of the life of the mother. He asked if the bill's definition of abortion services provider includes the hospitals that he described. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that the hypothetical hospitals that Senator Wielechowski alluded to could possibly be covered by the bill. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if the Alaska Regional Hospital or the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital performs emergency abortions, would volunteers from Alaska Regional or VA hospitals be permitted to provide instruction. CHAIR STOLTZE asked to verify that the instruction pertains to sexuality. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that a person would not be allowed if the individual has a direct association with an abortion provider and their purpose is to educate children on human reproduction and human sexuality. 8:22:17 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI stated that he has heard concerns that performance standard reviews could be affected if more than 5 percent of parents opt out of testing. SENATOR DUNLEAVY presumed that Senator Wielechowski was alluding to federal funding where sanctions are possible if assessments are less than 95 percent. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked what the potential sanctions are. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that there could be a loss of federal funding through Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if a loss of funding would occur on a school, district, or statewide level if 5 percent of parents from a particular school decided to opt-out their children from testing. SENATOR DUNLEAVY replied that Senator Wielechowski's question cannot be answered because to his knowledge, the loss of funding through sanctions has not been tested. 8:24:21 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked how much federal funding does the state receive for education. SENATOR DUNLEAVY answered that based upon the types of programs, federal funding ranges from $60 million to $220 million. He specified that federal funding is in the $60 million range for the state's instructional or title grants. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if the state could be losing funding. SENATOR DUNLEAVY replied that since the advent of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, a state could lose everything, but the sanction has not been tested. He noted that the recent iteration of ESEA by the U.S. Department of Education was a unilateral change that was done without Congress and its constitutionality has been questioned. CHAIR STOLTZE asked that a representative from the Department of Education & Early Development address the committee. 8:26:19 AM SUSAN MCCAULEY, Director, Division of Teaching & Learning Support, Alaska Department of Education & Early Development, Juneau, Alaska, revealed that there is a potential loss of funding for all title programs where a state law permits students to opt out of federally and state mandated assessments. She specified that the U.S. Department of Education is concerned that participation under the mandated 95 percent threshold may mask student performance. He disclosed that total funding for Alaska's title programs is $96.8 million. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if Ms. McCauley had other concerns with any other parts of the legislation or did she support the legislation. CHAIR STOLTZE inquired if Ms. McCauley's statement addressed a concern or some issues. 8:28:34 AM MS. MCCAULEY replied that the department's primary concern is with the potential federal funding implications from state legislation that permits opting out. She asserted that her statement does not question a parent's right to advocate what they feel is best. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if there are other implications from the bill that the committee should be made aware of. MS. MCCAULEY remarked that the state's accountability system for student learning is based largely on the result of the state assessments. She detailed that the state assessments drive improvement plans for schools and districts. She asserted that a domino-effect could occur if participation falls under 95 percent where the state does not receive a good indication of how schools and districts are doing. 8:30:23 AM CHAIR STOLTZE asked if asserting parental rights is the piece of the puzzle that collapses everything. MS. MCCAULEY answered that she would not characterize the opt- out implications the way Chair Stoltze did. She explained that student learning growth from year to year and current mechanisms of school accountability are largely based on student performance on state mandated assessments. CHAIR STOLTZE noted that the conversations he has had with educators is that testing is one of the most wasted activities in their classrooms. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if the testing is mandated by state or federal law. MS. MCCAULEY answered that that assessments are mandated by both. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked to verify that state law could be changed to say "no testing." MS. MCCAULEY answered yes. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI remarked that the committee could consider the "no testing" option. He asked to verify that the state could decide not to test and say that it does not want the federal government's $96.8 million. 8:32:23 AM MS. MCCAULEY answered that current federal law requires assessments to be administered to all students. She concurred with Senator Dunleavy that potential consequences are a bit untested. CHAIR STOLTZE commented that the state will have to look at all of its relationships with the federal government. He asked if the department is looking at the cost-benefit from federal enticement. MS. MCCAULEY replied that a daily tension exists in the line between funds that hopefully do good things for students, particularly students with challenges, and the state's system of education done in a manner that the state wants to do. 8:34:38 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if Ms. McCauley is concerned with the requirement on page 2 to provide parent notification not less than two weeks, but not more than six weeks prior to discussions on human reproduction or sexual matters. He remarked that showing the movie "Gone with the Wind" where people are kissing could be defined as human reproduction or a sexual matter. MS. MCCAULEY replied that school districts are probably better equipped to respond to how parent notification timelines have impact on their processes. She noted that many districts have chosen to have parent notification processes in place because notification is considered to be a good practice for educational topics that parents may wish to not have their children participate in. She said the districts that do not have notification processes in place will consider the new requirement burdensome, for others the requirement won't be different from current practices. 8:36:18 AM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if the current law allows parents to withdraw their children from classes, programs, or activities. MS. MCCAULEY replied that currently there is no state law that requires or prohibits parents from withdrawing their children. She noted that some districts do allow parents to withdraw their children. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI stated that to his understanding, school districts currently allow parents to withdraw their kids for issues that they are concerned with. He asked if a problem exists that the Legislature needs to fix. MS. MCCAULEY stated that she is not informed in a manner that can answer Senator Wielechowski's question. She reiterated that there are districts that have processes that would comply with the language in the bill. SENATOR HUGGINS said he is proud to disclose that he had three children that graduated from Alaska school systems. He opined that the most important component for success of a child is parental involvement. He asked where Ms. McCauley would rank parental involvement on her scale as a professional. MS. MCCAULEY answered that she agreed with Senator Huggins that parent involvement has an enormous impact on student learning, achievement, and success. CHAIR STOLTZE asked where Ms. McCauley would rank parent involvement on her scale. MS. MCCAULEY answered that parental involvement would be right at the top. SENATOR HUGGINS commended the bill sponsor for introducing legislation that will reinforce the bonding between the system, teacher, parent, and student. CHAIR STOLTZE announced that he will remove his objection. He asked if any committee member would like to reassert an objection. 8:40:41 AM CHAIR STOLTZE announced that hearing no objections, CSSB 89(STA) moved out of the Senate State Affairs Standing Committee.