Legislature(2019 - 2020)CAPITOL 106

04/01/2019 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         April 1, 2019                                                                                          
                           8:03 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Harriet Drummond, Co-Chair                                                                                       
Representative Andi Story, Co-Chair                                                                                             
Representative Grier Hopkins                                                                                                    
Representative Chris Tuck                                                                                                       
Representative Tiffany Zulkosky                                                                                                 
Representative DeLena Johnson                                                                                                   
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative Josh Revak                                                                                                       
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 24                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to instruction in a language other than                                                                        
English; and relating to limited teacher certificates."                                                                         
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
HOUSE BILL NO. 75                                                                                                               
"An Act relating to funding for Internet services for school                                                                    
districts; and relating to the Alaska higher education                                                                          
investment fund."                                                                                                               
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB  24                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: LIMITED TEACHER CERTIFICATES; LANGUAGES                                                                            
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) KREISS-TOMKINS                                                                                    
02/20/19       (H)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/7/19                                                                                
02/20/19       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/20/19       (H)       EDC, L&C                                                                                               
03/29/19       (H)       EDC AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
03/29/19       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/29/19       (H)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
04/01/19       (H)       EDC AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
BILL: HB  75                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: INTERNET FOR SCHOOLS; FUNDING                                                                                      
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) RASMUSSEN                                                                                         
02/25/19       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/25/19       (H)       EDC, FIN                                                                                               
04/01/19       (H)       EDC AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE JONATHAN KREISS-TOMKINS                                                                                          
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  As prime sponsor, provided information on                                                                
HB 24.                                                                                                                          
KATHERINE GARDNER, Executive Director                                                                                           
Human Resources                                                                                                                 
Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) School District                                                                                      
Palmer, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 24.                                                                           
JENNIFER SCHMIDT-HUTCHINS, Principal                                                                                            
Fronteras Spanish Immersion Charter School                                                                                      
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 24.                                                                           
X'unei Lance Twitchell                                                                                                          
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 24.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE SARA RASMUSSEN                                                                                                   
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  As prime sponsor, presented HB 75.                                                                       
KRYSTEN WALKER, Staff                                                                                                           
Representative Sara Rasmussen                                                                                                   
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  On behalf of Representative  Rasmussen,                                                                  
prime sponsor of HB 75, reviewed the sectional summary.                                                                         
CHRISTINE O'CONNER, Executive Director                                                                                          
Alaska Telecom Association (ATA)                                                                                                
Wasilla, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 75.                                                                           
LISA PARADY, Ph.D., Executive Director                                                                                          
Alaska Council of School Administrators (ACSA)                                                                                  
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 75.                                                                           
PATRICK MAYER, Superintendent                                                                                                   
Yakutat School District; President                                                                                              
Alaska Superintendents Association; President                                                                                   
Alaska Council of School Administrators                                                                                         
Yakutat, Alaska                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 75.                                                                           
PATIENCE FREDERIKSEN, Director                                                                                                  
Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums                                                                                     
Department of Education & Early Development (DEED)                                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 75.                                                                   
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:03:27 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HARRIET DRUMMOND  called the  House Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at  8:03 a.m.   Representatives Tuck,                                                               
Zulkosky,  Johnson, Hopkins,  and  Drummond were  present at  the                                                               
call to order.   Representative Story arrived as  the meeting was                                                               
in progress.                                                                                                                    
         HB 24-LIMITED TEACHER CERTIFICATES; LANGUAGES                                                                      
8:04:06 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND announced  that  the first  order of  business                                                               
would be HOUSE BILL NO. 24,  "An Act relating to instruction in a                                                               
language  other than  English; and  relating  to limited  teacher                                                               
8:04:23 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE    JONATHAN     KREISS-TOMKINS,    Alaska    State                                                               
Legislature, as prime sponsor of  HB 24, directed the committee's                                                               
attention  to  a  list  of schools  [included  in  the  committee                                                               
8:05:23 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at-ease at 8:05 a.m.                                                                                 
8:06:18 AM                                                                                                                    
KATHERINE   GARDNER,   Executive   Director,   Human   Resources,                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna  (Mat-Su)  School  District,  stated  that  the                                                               
district  is   home  to  immersion   charter  schools,   and  the                                                               
district's  support  for  HB  24  stems from  the  need  to  find                                                               
teachers, who  are not only  competent as teachers but  also have                                                               
"the requisite language  and cultural skills to  instruct in this                                                               
rich,  immersion  program."    She   said  the  teachers  in  the                                                               
immersion  program   are  qualified  instructors   whose  primary                                                               
language is  Spanish.   She stated, "Requiring  them to  take the                                                               
basic competency test doesn't really  assess that they're meeting                                                               
the minimum  educational standards  that we  have; it's  simply a                                                               
test  of their  mastery of  the English  language, which  we know                                                               
they  don't  possess."   Ms.  Gardner  said there  currently  are                                                               
alternate, nontraditional options  for certification for teachers                                                               
of  physical  education (PE)  and  special  education (Spec  Ed),                                                               
among others.  She said  immersion programs are similarly unique,                                                               
and the district has at least  as much or more difficulty finding                                                               
educators  with the  language abilities  to  teach the  immersion                                                               
programs  as it  does for  any of  the other  alternate programs.                                                               
She said the  district does not look for  individuals just fluent                                                               
in Spanish;  it also  looks for trained  teachers fluent  in both                                                               
language and  culture.  Ms.  Gardner clarified that  the district                                                               
has been successful  in finding these individuals  but is looking                                                               
for   "an   appropriate   path  to   certification"   for   these                                                               
individuals, which is what HB 24 proposes.                                                                                      
8:08:55 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HOPKINS whether  Ms.  Gardner  would ensure  that                                                               
[teachers employed  in the immersion  programs] are  well trained                                                               
and maintain their ongoing education.   He then asked whether the                                                               
Mat-Su  School District  has plans  for the  expansion of  "other                                                               
immersion language schools."                                                                                                    
MS.   GARDNER  answered   that   the   immersion  teachers   have                                                               
certification from other  countries or Puerto Rico  and have been                                                               
vetted.   She  indicated that  they meet  state requirements  for                                                               
certification but cannot  pass the basic competency  test.  Under                                                               
the provision of  HB 24, she said, the district  would expect the                                                               
Department  of  Education  & Early  Development  (DEED)  to  have                                                               
similar requirements  for these  teachers in terms  of continuing                                                               
education,   and  the   district   would   have  these   teachers                                                               
participate  with  all other  teachers  in  "a number  of  really                                                               
rigorous   professional    development   opportunities."       To                                                               
Representative Hopkins'  second question,  she said  the district                                                               
does not have any plans for expansion at this time.                                                                             
8:10:42 AM                                                                                                                    
JENNIFER    SCHMIDT-HUTCHINS,   Principal,    Fronteras   Spanish                                                               
Immersion Charter  School ("Fronteras"), testified in  support of                                                               
HB  24.   She said  the proposed  legislation would  allow school                                                               
districts to hire  native language speakers who  currently do not                                                               
hold a  teaching certificate or  are in the process  of obtaining                                                               
one.    She  said  Fronteras currently  has  a  Spanish  speaking                                                               
teacher who  has, for  three years,  been attempting  to complete                                                               
the third  and final  portion of  "the practice"  in order  to be                                                               
eligible for the Alaska teaching  certificate.  It is the reading                                                               
test that  is "holding her  up."  She  pointed out that  a person                                                               
[for whom  English is not the  native language] must read  all of                                                               
the  directions for  each  question of  the  practice in  his/her                                                               
nonnative  language, translate  the  question  from English,  and                                                               
formulate the answer,  which then must be  translated to English,                                                               
and  this  must  be  done   within  a  certain  period  of  time.                                                               
Additional  time can  be  requested but  at a  limit  of only  20                                                               
minutes.   She relayed  that the Fronteras  teacher is  a 13-year                                                               
veteran  teacher from  Puerto Rico.   There  have been  two other                                                               
teachers in the same situation:   one from Guatemala and one from                                                               
Columbia.   The teacher  from Guatemala was  forced to  return to                                                               
her home  country for two  years because  she could not  pass the                                                               
practice.   The teacher from Columbia,  who only had to  pass the                                                               
math portion of  the practice, decided to move  to another school                                                               
district where  she has taken  the position of a  classroom aide,                                                               
even  though she  had three  years'  experience as  a teacher  in                                                               
Columbia.  Ms. Schmidt-Hutchins said  in each of these cases, the                                                               
university credits of the teachers  had been vetted and approved;                                                               
it  was only  the practice  that delayed  or prevented  them from                                                               
getting the Alaska teaching certificate.   She said the departure                                                               
of  these  teachers  is  a   loss;  enrolling  one's  student  at                                                               
Fronteras is a gift parents give  their children.  She said there                                                               
are other teachers  at Fronteras, who are fluent  in Spanish, but                                                               
what  "nonnative speakers"  lack is  cultural authenticity.   She                                                               
said  every  single teacher  in  the  district goes  through  the                                                               
certification   process,  including   classified   staff.     She                                                               
reiterated her support for the proposed legislation.                                                                            
8:15:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOHNSON expressed appreciation for what Fronteras                                                                
does, and she said it sounds like HB 24 would be good for the                                                                   
8:16:31 AM                                                                                                                    
X'UNEI  LANCE  TWITCHELL testified  in  support  of  HB 24.    He                                                               
relayed  that  he is  an  associate  professor of  Alaska  Native                                                               
Languages  [at  the University  of  Alaska  - Southeast]  but  is                                                               
speaking for himself.  He testified as follows:                                                                                 
     The state of  Alaska has made significant  steps in the                                                                    
     past  six  years in  terms  of  Alaska Native  language                                                                    
     revitalization,  but  we  are  still in  a  pattern  of                                                                    
     decline   regarding  the   health   viability  of   our                                                                    
     indigenous languages.                                                                                                      
     Last year  an emergency  declaration was  announced for                                                                    
     Alaska  Native  languages,  and  we  have  yet  to  see                                                                    
     changes  that  might  result  in  a  more  diverse  and                                                                    
     equitable environment in our  state.  Specifically, the                                                                    
     need  still exists  to move  the original  languages of                                                                    
     our state  to a  centralized and protected  location in                                                                    
     curricula across the  state, which is a  right that has                                                                    
     been   denied  indigenous   people  since   Alaska  was                                                                    
     declared a territory of the United States.                                                                                 
     I believe  this bill is  a step in the  right direction                                                                    
     and should  be adopted  and followed by  two additional                                                                    
     activities:  one, the formation  of a college of Alaska                                                                    
     Native languages  at the University of  Alaska with the                                                                    
     purpose of  protecting existing speakers,  creating new                                                                    
     speakers,  and  coordinating  with  the  Department  of                                                                    
     Education &  Early Development  to certify  and license                                                                    
     Alaska   Native  language   teachers;   and  two,   the                                                                    
     centralizing  of Alaska  Native languages  by including                                                                    
     them in Alaska standards for education.                                                                                    
     The  time  of  willful  ignorance  and  complacency  by                                                                    
     educators  and  administrators  of Alaska  schools,  of                                                                    
     elected  leaders  and  appointed  directors,  is  over.                                                                    
     What  is  good  for  Alaska Natives  is  good  for  all                                                                    
     Alaskans,  and  what  is good  for  Alaska  is  healthy                                                                    
     Alaska Native  languages.  This  means that we  can all                                                                    
     learn, we can  all admit that there  has been exclusion                                                                    
     and oppression,  and we can all  strive to collectively                                                                    
     be better.                                                                                                                 
     The laws we  have passed have said we  feel that Alaska                                                                    
     Native  languages  are  critical to  the  identity  and                                                                    
     health  of our  state.    We have  said  that they  are                                                                    
     important.   But what we  do on  a daily basis  has not                                                                    
     shifted  to put  those  values into  daily  life.   The                                                                    
     field to  enact these  changes is  certainly education.                                                                    
     In  2009,  Dr.   Michael  Krauss,  linguist,  professor                                                                    
     emeritus,  founder and  long-time  head  of the  Alaska                                                                    
     Native Language  Center, stated that  we stand  to lose                                                                    
     more indigenous  North American  languages in  the next                                                                    
     60  years  than  have been  lost  since  Anglo-American                                                                    
     contact.   That  is our  future  if we  continue to  do                                                                    
     things the same way we do now.                                                                                             
     But you, as  legislators, shape the law.   The laws, as                                                                    
     they  stand now,  privilege the  colonial language  and                                                                    
     result in  linguistic genocide.   That is  the default.                                                                    
     However, if we  shape them in ways that  push us toward                                                                    
     equity, then  we move towards  a future where  there is                                                                    
     less death and  more life.  Language health  is tied to                                                                    
     physical health  and increased rates of  success at all                                                                    
     levels  of education,  and  those  increased rates  are                                                                    
     what I  am advocating for  here today.  This  bill will                                                                    
     help us move in that direction.                                                                                            
MR. TWITCHELL said, "Gunalcheesh" [thank you].                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND  expressed  appreciation for  Mr.  Twitchell's                                                               
testimony and announced that HB 24 would be held over.                                                                          
              HB 75-INTERNET FOR SCHOOLS; FUNDING                                                                           
8:20:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND announced  that  the final  order of  business                                                               
would  be HOUSE  BILL NO.  75, "An  Act relating  to funding  for                                                               
Internet  services  for school  districts;  and  relating to  the                                                               
Alaska higher education investment fund."                                                                                       
8:20:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SARA  RASMUSSEN,  Alaska  State  Legislature,  as                                                               
prime  sponsor of  HB 75,  paraphrased a  portion of  the sponsor                                                               
statement,  which  read  in its  entirety  as  follows  [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
     Alaska's    constitution    clearly    establishes    a                                                                    
     requirement for  the state to  provide an  education to                                                                    
     all  its children,  regardless  of  where that  student                                                                    
     resides. However,  Alaska's test scores  and graduation                                                                    
     rates  are consistently  below  national averages.  Our                                                                    
     students deserve better outcomes.                                                                                          
     House  Bill  75  aims  to  improve  education  outcomes                                                                    
     across the  state by improving  access to  broadband in                                                                    
     schools,   including   those   in   our   most   remote                                                                    
     communities.  Improved internet  access means  students                                                                    
     and  teachers  will  be able  to  tap  into  additional                                                                    
     educational  resources  that  they would  otherwise  be                                                                    
     unable to access at slower speeds.                                                                                         
     In 2014, the Alaska State  Legislature passed a bill to                                                                    
     create  the  Broadband   Assistance  Grant  program  to                                                                    
     assist  school  districts  with the  cost  of  Internet                                                                    
     services  and  ensure  that   all  schools  achieved  a                                                                    
     download  speed of  10 Megabits  per second  (Mbps). By                                                                    
     raising the floor  from 10 Mbps to 25  Mbps, House Bill                                                                    
     75 will  more than  double the  number of  students who                                                                    
     can  access  distance  learning content  at  any  given                                                                    
     time, without any additional infrastructure.                                                                               
     It  is time  to update  the minimum  Internet speed  in                                                                    
     statute to align with the  increased bandwidth needs of                                                                    
     today's students.                                                                                                          
8:21:51 AM                                                                                                                    
KRYSTEN  WALKER,  Staff,  Representative Sara  Rasmussen,  Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  on behalf of Representative  Rasmussen, prime                                                               
sponsor of HB  75, reviewed the sectional summary,  which read as                                                               
follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                        
     Section 1:  AS 14.03.127 (a) Amends  AS 14.03.127(a) to                                                                    
     provide   that   schools  qualifying   for   discounted                                                                    
     Internet services under  the federal universal services                                                                    
     program are  eligible to receive  an amount  of funding                                                                    
     necessary  to  provide  a minimum  of  25  megabits  of                                                                    
     download per second.                                                                                                       
     Section 2:  AS 37.14.750(a)  Amends AS  37.14.750(a) to                                                                    
     provide that money in the  Alaska higher education fund                                                                    
     may be  appropriated to  fund school  Internet services                                                                    
     under AS 14.30.127.                                                                                                        
     Section 3:  AS 37.14.750  Adds a  new subsection  to AS                                                                    
     37.14.750,   providing   that   the   legislature   may                                                                    
     appropriate   any  amount   from   the  Alaska   higher                                                                    
     education fund  for school  Internet services  under AS                                                                    
     14.03.127  in  addition  to  the  amount  of  the  fund                                                                    
     available   for  grants   and  scholarships   under  AS                                                                    
8:22:33 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STORY  asked  the  bill sponsor  whether  she  is                                                               
committed to  using the higher  education funds as the  source of                                                               
revenue.  She expressed concern  that the fund also covers Alaska                                                               
proponent  scholarships  and  education  grants.   She  said  she                                                               
wonders if the  bill provisions could be funded  from the general                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN  answered that  she would be  willing to                                                               
look at other funding sources.                                                                                                  
8:23:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HOPKINS noted  there were $2 million  left over in                                                               
"e-rate funding,"  and he  wondered if that  money could  be used                                                               
toward HB 75.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN  responded that she would  need to speak                                                               
with the Division of Legislative  Finance to determine an answer.                                                               
She noted  another funding option  may be  a grant from  the Bill                                                               
Gates Foundation.   She indicated  that a grant could  be applied                                                               
for through a partnership with a local nonprofit organization.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE HOPKINS asked whether  the bill sponsor had spoken                                                               
with any school districts regarding HB 75.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE RASMUSSEN deferred to her staff.                                                                                 
8:24:37 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  WALKER said  the sponsor's  staff met  with the  Bristol Bay                                                               
School  District, which  was supportive  [of increased  access to                                                               
Internet],  and she  surmised that  other school  districts would                                                               
express the same support.                                                                                                       
8:25:04 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STORY  observed that  many e-rate funds  come from                                                               
user  fees, particularly  from cellular  user  services, and  she                                                               
said a  significant amount of  money would be coming  into school                                                               
districts  under HB  75.   She wondered  whether the  sponsor had                                                               
spoken  with  the Department  of  Education  & Early  Development                                                               
(DEED) and whether  the department is confident  that an increase                                                               
of e-rate  funds going to  school districts will not  affect "the                                                               
disparity test."                                                                                                                
MS.  WALKER  offered  her understanding  that  "the  department's                                                               
working on crunching those numbers."                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE STORY posited  that those numbers need  to be seen                                                               
to avoid using funds that result  in the disparity test not being                                                               
8:26:00 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON asked  how many  students the  additional                                                               
funding would serve.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  RASMUSSEN  answered  that   that  number  is  not                                                               
available;  however,  she  proffered that  [the  school  Internet                                                               
services funded  under HB  75] would  reach districts  across the                                                               
MS. WALKER pointed  out that included in the  committee packet is                                                               
a list  of schools  with fewer  than 25 Mbps,  and those  are the                                                               
schools that would qualify under HB 75.                                                                                         
8:26:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND offered  her understanding  that there  was "a                                                               
significant funding that lapsed" because  of the 10 Mbps maximum,                                                               
and she said  she knows school districts are  "looking forward to                                                               
being able to apply for this."   She inquired about a fiscal note                                                               
for HB 75.                                                                                                                      
8:27:19 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at-ease at 8:27 a.m.                                                                                 
8:27:36 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND  announced that  a fiscal  note was  "not quite                                                               
8:27:47 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK,  regarding   Co-Chair  Drummond's  previous                                                               
mention of the  lapse in funding, offered  his understanding that                                                               
it was $1 million that lapsed"  and he said he thinks there would                                                               
be "at  least a  million dollars  available for  the fund"  at 25                                                               
CO-CHAIR   DRUMMOND  offered   correction   in  terminology   and                                                               
expressed her  desire to form  a special committee  on technology                                                               
within the legislature.                                                                                                         
8:28:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND initiated invited testimony.                                                                                  
8:28:46 AM                                                                                                                    
CHRISTINE   O'CONNER,   Executive    Director,   Alaska   Telecom                                                               
Association   (ATA),  said   ATA  represents   telecommunications                                                               
providers  and is  "the landline,  long  distance, wireless,  and                                                               
broadband  provider  serving  Alaska."     She  stated  that  ATA                                                               
supports HB  75, which  will help  schools to  increase broadband                                                               
speed, thus providing access for  teachers and students to a wide                                                               
array  of  content and  educational  tools.    She said  ATA  has                                                               
reviewed the list of schools that  would benefit under HB 75, and                                                               
confirmed  that each  school can  be upgraded  to 25  Mbps.   She                                                               
indicated that  any necessary upgrades,  which would  be specific                                                               
to each site, would not be  expected to increase to the magnitude                                                               
as  would  placing  a  "middle   mile  section"  of  fiber  optic                                                               
infrastructure  or  launching  new   satellite.    She  expressed                                                               
appreciation for the  effort being made [under HB  75] to provide                                                               
schools with increased  access to broadband, and she  said ATA is                                                               
committed to  continually improving its network  and welcomes the                                                               
opportunity  to collaborate  with  teachers  and students  toward                                                               
accessing the tools needed.                                                                                                     
8:30:22 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  O'CONNOR, in  response to  Representative Johnson,  recapped                                                               
her comments regarding upgrades.                                                                                                
8:31:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK questioned  why  the  upgrades haven't  been                                                               
done already if it doesn't require "a higher rate."                                                                             
MS. O'CONNOR  answered that in terms  of not rising to  the level                                                               
of middle mile construction, her  understanding is that "the real                                                               
support coming in  the bill is for the  ongoing operational costs                                                               
- the  recurring costs - of  the support for the  increased fees,                                                               
most cases 90 percent of which  is covered through the federal e-                                                               
rate  program."   She clarified  that she  thinks the  reason the                                                               
upgrades  have  not  happened  previously   is  because  of  that                                                               
recurring cost.   In response  to a follow-up question,  she said                                                               
she does not  know what the cost  will end up being,  but it will                                                               
vary from school  to school and based on area  per provider.  She                                                               
said  through the  e-rate  process,  the school  will  put out  a                                                               
request for proposal  (RFP), asking for bids  from each provider,                                                               
and then choose the provider and rate.                                                                                          
8:33:36 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSON   directed  attention  to   the  document                                                               
included in the committee packet,  labeled "2017-2018 School Year                                                               
School  District  Bandwidth  Counts  less than  25  Mbps."    She                                                               
observed  that there  were no  schools  in the  Matanuska-Susitna                                                               
(Mat-Su)  area listed.   She  then asked  whether the  schools in                                                               
Anchorage that were on the list were charter schools.                                                                           
MS.    O'CONNOR   responded    that   Representative    Johnson's                                                               
observations  were correct.   She  added that  the Mat-Su  School                                                               
District has a robust fiber infrastructure.                                                                                     
8:34:43 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  HOPKINS asked  whether private  citizens, private                                                               
businesses, or other state buildings  would be able to "tap into"                                                               
the broadband increase that would take affect under HB 75.                                                                      
MS. O'CONNOR  answered that  it would be  possible to  extend the                                                               
network to other locations; however,  if the fiber is constructed                                                               
using e-rate funds,  there are specific rules on how  that can be                                                               
used for  other entities.   She added,  "But generally,  when you                                                               
have an  anchor institution that  allows you to  construct fiber,                                                               
that will help bringing availability to the surrounding area."                                                                  
8:35:59 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  STORY  expressed  she  thinks  [the  increase  in                                                               
broadband width]  would be valuable  for rural  school districts;                                                               
it would enable them to  incorporate desired innovations and help                                                               
with student  learning.  She said  it will be interesting  to see                                                               
"how these questions are answered and how we can go forward."                                                                   
8:36:34 AM                                                                                                                    
LISA PARADY, Ph.D., Executive Director,  Alaska Council of School                                                               
Administrators (ACSA), testified  in support of HB 75.   She said                                                               
she  is also  speaking on  behalf of  Norm Wooten,  the executive                                                               
director  of the  Association of  Alaska School  Boards, who  was                                                               
unable to testify today.  She  said there was a similar bill last                                                               
year that did not  make it all the way through  the process.  She                                                               
expressed  appreciation for  HB  75 and  the previous  discussion                                                               
regarding the previous lapse of  funding.  She indicated her hope                                                               
that the language  in HB 75 stating the minimum  of 25 Mbps would                                                               
prevent  that   from  happening   again.    She   emphasized  her                                                               
involvement  in  2015  bringing  forward a  grant  when  she  was                                                               
working in the North Slope  School District, and in the district,                                                               
there  were villages  with 1  or  2 Mbps.    A next  step was  to                                                               
connect  the  villages that  could  not  use [the  Internet]  for                                                               
instruction.  She mentioned effort to  bring all villages up to a                                                               
base  of 10  Mbps.   She  said she  recognizes that  today it  is                                                               
unlikely that there will be funding  to "connect the state all at                                                               
once."   She said that  "the last  time" she understood  the cost                                                               
would have been in  the range of $2 billion.   She said the grant                                                               
is critical  in raising the broadband  levels, in this case  to a                                                               
minimum of 25 Mbps.                                                                                                             
DR. PARADY read  a statement underlining the  highest priority of                                                               
the  council  as being  the  increase  of bandwidth  in  outlying                                                               
areas, as follows:                                                                                                              
     Alaska   students    need   and   deserve    the   full                                                                    
     transformative  power   of  technology   and  equitable                                                                    
     access to  online resources.   ... Teachers  and school                                                                    
     leaders of  Alaska, some  of whom live  in some  of the                                                                    
     most  remote  areas of  the  world,  require access  to                                                                    
     modern  technology  in  order  to  transform  learning,                                                                    
     create   efficiencies,   provide  online   ...   health                                                                    
     services,  and keep  pace  with  their peers  globally.                                                                    
     ACSA  supports continuing  the broadband  systems grant                                                                    
     and increasing the level  of state-funded bandwidth for                                                                    
     schools for a  minimum of 25 ... [Mbps].   This funding                                                                    
     leverages  federal e-rate  funds, at  approximately [a]                                                                    
     9:1  ratio, to  provide Alaska  students and  educators                                                                    
     their access to the digital world.                                                                                         
DR.  PARADY stated  that  as  of 2017,  there  were an  estimated                                                               
51,000 students across the state  that still lacked access to the                                                               
bandwidth  needed to  support the  integration  of technology  in                                                               
classroom instruction,  and HB 75  would address  this statistic.                                                               
She said reliable access to  the Internet is a critical component                                                               
to learning, and  many students cannot access the  Internet.  She                                                               
emphasized the importance  of passing HB 75 to  provide equity in                                                               
connectivity.  She said rural  schools are the anchor centers and                                                               
often provide  the opportunity for  the community to  utilize the                                                               
school; therefore, providing broader  bandwidth would benefit the                                                               
8:43:50 AM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK   MAYER,   Superintendent,   Yakutat   School   District;                                                               
President, Alaska Superintendents  Association; President, Alaska                                                               
Council  of  School  Administrators, stated,  "Alaska's  students                                                               
need and deserve the full  transformative power of technology and                                                               
fair access to online resources."   He said digital content makes                                                               
up a great portion of  the district's curriculum, and the schools                                                               
increasingly use  digital content for supplemental  materials and                                                               
intervention  programs.    He related  that  the  Yakutat  School                                                               
District is  limited to 10  MB per second, which  severely limits                                                               
the  ability  to stream  higher-end  digital  content, and  as  a                                                               
result, the district  must make choices in which  content it will                                                               
be able  to utilize.  He  said this hampers students'  ability to                                                               
enroll  and  participate  in "dual  credit  opportunities."    He                                                               
stated that  this is an  equity issue, because "there  simply are                                                               
'have' and  'have-not' districts  in this  [state]."   While some                                                               
districts  can purchase  as much  bandwidth as  necessary, others                                                               
cannot.    He  referred  to the  2019  joint  position  statement                                                               
previously quoted by  Ms. Parady, and echoed that  ACSA stands in                                                               
support  of   continuing  the  broadband  assistance   grant  and                                                               
increasing the level of state-funded  bandwidth for schools, to a                                                               
minimum of 25 Mbps of download.                                                                                                 
8:46:09 AM                                                                                                                    
PATIENCE FREDERIKSEN,  Director, Division of  Libraries, Archives                                                               
and Museums,  stated that the  school guide program, at  10 Mbps,                                                               
has  been administered  by the  state library  for the  past five                                                               
years; therefore, she said she could  speak to the issue from the                                                               
point of  view of  an administrator.   She  said the  program was                                                               
easy to  administer once regulations  were in place in  the first                                                               
year.  There were many  questions from school districts about the                                                               
program.   She said  schools approached  her to  question whether                                                               
they  could have  more  than  10 MB  per  second; therefore,  she                                                               
expressed  concern regarding  the language  in HB  75 that  would                                                               
establish "a  minimum" of 25 MB  per second.  She  said she fully                                                               
expects  school  districts  will  be calling  to  ask  for  more,                                                               
because "'a minimum  of' implies that we can go  beyond 25."  She                                                               
said she  recommends the  committee amend the  bill to  delete "a                                                               
minimum of".   In terms of  funding, she said the  division would                                                               
manage the fund with whichever  method of funding the legislature                                                               
MS. FREDERIKSEN said  the division compiled a list  last month of                                                               
245 schools  that fall  below the  25 Mbps  mark.   She indicated                                                               
there  is a  fiscal note,  but she  surmised it  had not  made it                                                               
through a  final review.  The  fiscal note would show  that "this                                                               
is going to be about $9.8 million  of state funds per year."  She                                                               
said  the   current  program  at  10   Mbps  is  at  a   cost  of                                                               
approximately $1.2 million.   She explained the math  that led to                                                               
the fiscal note amount.  She  said currently there are 80 schools                                                               
receiving support  in order to  get to the  10 Mbps; HB  75 would                                                               
considerably broaden  that number to  get schools to the  25 Mbps                                                               
8:49:15 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY  asked Ms.  Frederiksen if she  thinks 25                                                               
Mbps should be the maximum.                                                                                                     
MS.  FREDERIKSEN  answered  the  proposed  legislation  seems  to                                                               
propose "a step up," and she opined  that "25 is fine."  She said                                                               
when  the 10  Mbps law  was instated,  approximately 140  schools                                                               
joined  the program.   Over  the  past five  years, schools  have                                                               
found they  can go beyond the  10 Mbps without state  support, so                                                               
they have  dropped out  of the  program.  She  said she  does not                                                               
know  who chose  the number  25.   She said  there is  a national                                                               
recommendation for 100 Mbps for  schools, so "this would at least                                                               
get us closer to the 100  MB."  She remarked, "Internet is always                                                               
a moving  target."   She outlined the  increases over  the years.                                                               
She stated,  "It's always going to  increase.  No library  and no                                                               
school has enough Internet at any one given time."                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY  asked if  Ms. Frederiksen  is suggesting                                                               
that "a minimum of" might result in ambiguity in statute.                                                                       
MS. FREDERIKSEN answered, "Exactly, it would be ambiguous."                                                                     
8:51:25 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HOPKINS  asked whether  the $9.1 million  would be                                                               
for  operations  and  maintenance  of the  fiber  optics  or  for                                                               
capital expenditure.                                                                                                            
MS. FREDERIKSEN answered  that a school applies for  an e-rate at                                                               
a certain level, for example 25  Mbps, and then it starts getting                                                               
bids from  providers.  She said  prior to e-rate, which  began in                                                               
1995, [schools] paid for their own  Internet.  From 1995 to 2014,                                                               
schools paid  for their Internet  in combination with  federal e-                                                               
rate funds, which cover 86 percent.   Then the School Bag program                                                               
started,  which made  a third  funding stream,  such that  e-rate                                                               
funds pay 86 percent, and the  schools and the School Bag program                                                               
split the remaining  14 percent.  She said this  does not pay for                                                               
infrastructure at the schools or  with the providers; the funding                                                               
goes directly toward payment of Internet bills.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE HOPKINS  asked how HB  75 would affect  the Online                                                               
With Libraries (OWL) program.                                                                                                   
MS. FREDERIKSEN answered that these are separate programs.                                                                      
8:53:58 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND  opened public  testimony  on  HB 75.    After                                                               
ascertaining  no  one  wished  to   testify,  she  closed  public                                                               
8:54:04 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE STORY asked whether, if  "a minimum of" remains in                                                               
the  bill language,  districts with  more than  25 Mbps  would be                                                               
able to access funds.                                                                                                           
MS. FREDERIKSEN said the division's  understanding of the 10 Mbps                                                               
in statute  is that  it helps  school districts  "get up  to 10."                                                               
She said  some of the  districts have asked  if they can  get the                                                               
help to  get to the  10 Mbps and  then "go as  far as we  want to                                                               
go."   She  said the  way the  division interprets  the law,  the                                                               
answer to that question  is no, "this was to get  to school to 10                                                               
Mbps straight  forward."  She  added that  if the school  had the                                                               
money  to go  beyond  that,  then it  did  not  need the  state's                                                               
support and  would be "on their  own."  She explained  the reason                                                               
some schools have dropped out of  the program is because the cost                                                               
of Internet has dropped.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE ZULKOSKY  asked if the aforementioned  fiscal note                                                               
was drafted based on "up to 25" Mbps.                                                                                           
MS. FREDERIKSEN  answered that the  division looked at  the exact                                                               
number of schools that were under  25, and that was the basis for                                                               
the 245 sites needing to get up to 25.                                                                                          
8:56:41 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK  offered  his understanding  that  the  $9.8                                                               
million  fiscal note  would  get  the districts  up  to 25  Mbps;                                                               
however, if the ["a minimum of"]  language is left in HB 75, that                                                               
will not necessarily increase the fiscal note.                                                                                  
MS.  FREDERIKSEN clarified  that administering  the program  with                                                               
the "a  minimum of" phrase left  in the bill would  be difficult,                                                               
because  school districts  have a  desire to  go beyond  25 Mbps.                                                               
That is  why the division  recommends the language be  changed to                                                               
reflect a limit of 25 Mbps.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK  concluded  that  the  desire  is  to  bring                                                               
[school  districts] up  to  the  25 Mbps  mark,  but suggested  a                                                               
question  for the  committee to  answer  is whether  it wants  to                                                               
"simultaneously hold people back from going any further."                                                                       
8:58:22 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND  said she agrees.   She said she does  not want                                                               
to limit [school districts], especially  in light of hearing that                                                               
the recommendation for  the minimum nationally is 100  Mbps.  She                                                               
opined that the  committee needs to discuss the  matter to figure                                                               
out "now that would work."                                                                                                      
8:58:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND announced that HB 75 was held over.                                                                           
8:59:12 AM                                                                                                                    
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Education Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 8:59 a.m.                                                                 

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB075 Additional Documents-Districts Under 25mbps 2017-2018.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Additional Documents-FCC-Household Broadband Guide.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Additional Documents-EducationSuperHighway - Alaska Snapshot 2018.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Additional Documents-FY19 Internet Costs by School.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Additional Documents-FY2015-FY2018 School BAG Statistics.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Additional Documents-FY2019 Districts and Schools Awarded BAG Funds.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Additional Documents-School BAG Flyer.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Sectional Summary 3.18.19.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Committee Packet.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 Sponsor Statement 3.18.19.pdf HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75
HB075 ver A 3.18.19.PDF HEDC 4/1/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 75