Legislature(2017 - 2018)ADAMS ROOM 519

04/10/2018 09:00 AM FINANCE

Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
Download Video part 1. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                      April 10, 2018                                                                                            
                         9:08 a.m.                                                                                              
9:08:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Foster  called the House Finance  Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 9:08 a.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Neal Foster, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Paul Seaton, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Les Gara, Vice-Chair                                                                                             
Representative Jason Grenn                                                                                                      
Representative David Guttenberg                                                                                                 
Representative Scott Kawasaki                                                                                                   
Representative Dan Ortiz                                                                                                        
Representative Lance Pruitt                                                                                                     
Representative Steve Thompson                                                                                                   
Representative Cathy Tilton                                                                                                     
Representative Tammie Wilson                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Representative Les  Gara, Sponsor; Michelle  Sydeman, Staff,                                                                    
Representative  Les  Gara;  Monica Goyette,  Mat-Su  Borough                                                                    
School District,  Mat-Su; Jack Walsh,  Superintendent, Craig                                                                    
School  District,   Craig;  John   Conwell,  Superintendent,                                                                    
Unalaska   School   District,  Unalaska;   Scott   MacManus,                                                                    
Superintendent,  Alaska Gateway  School District,  Tok; Jeff                                                                    
Deeter, Board  Member, Alaska Gateway School  District, Tok;                                                                    
Mike  Hanley,  Superintendent,   Chugiach  School  District,                                                                    
Chugiach;   Sean  Egan,   Self,   Juneau;  Laural   Jackson,                                                                    
Superintendent,   Delta/Greely    School   District,   Delta                                                                    
Junction; Christie Hendrick,  Self, Juneau; Martin Stepetin,                                                                    
Self, Juneau;  Martin Stepetin, Self, In  Room; Mark Miller,                                                                    
Superintendent, Juneau School  District, Juneau; Jeff Short,                                                                    
Member,   Juneau  School   Board,   Juneau;  Dan   Carstens,                                                                    
President,   Alaska   Association    of   Secondary   School                                                                    
Principals,  Nikiski;  Amy   Lujan,  Alaska  Association  of                                                                    
School  Business  Officials;   Ralph  Watkins,  Hoonah  City                                                                    
School District, Hoonah.                                                                                                        
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
David  Brighton,  Kenai   Peninsula  Education  Association,                                                                    
Kenai; Deena  Mitchell, Self,  Anchorage; Josh  Keaton, Vice                                                                    
President,  Juneau  School   Board,  Juneau;  Deena  Bishop,                                                                    
Superintendent, Anchorage School  District, Anchorage; David                                                                    
Nees,   Self,   Anchorage;  Thomas   Claameyer,   President,                                                                    
Anchorage  Education Association,  Anchorage; Mary  McMahon,                                                                    
Alaska Association of Secondary Principals.                                                                                     
HB 339    INCREASE BASE STUDENT ALLOCATION                                                                                      
          HB 339 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
Co-Chair Foster discussed housekeeping.                                                                                         
HOUSE BILL NO. 339                                                                                                            
     "An Act relating to the base student allocation; and                                                                       
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
9:09:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LES  GARA,  SPONSOR, provided  a  PowerPoint                                                                    
presentation  titled   "Education  Matters:  It's   Time  to                                                                    
Increase the BSA" (copy on file).                                                                                               
MICHELLE   SYDEMAN,   STAFF,    REPRESENTATIVE   LES   GARA,                                                                    
introduced herself.                                                                                                             
Co-Chair Foster  asked committee  members to  hold questions                                                                    
until the end of the presentation.                                                                                              
Vice-Chair Gara  addressed Slides  2 through 4.  He believed                                                                    
that the FY19 discussion about  education boiled down to two                                                                    
issues:   early  funding,   without   which  teachers   were                                                                    
demoralized,   and  adequate   funding,  which   demoralized                                                                    
parents.  He said  that the  bill  would increase  education                                                                    
funding  by $100,  per  student, roughly  1.7  percent.   He                                                                    
asserted that  BSA funding had  been flat for the  past many                                                                    
years, funding had  decreased for some of  those years, most                                                                    
markedly  in  2016.  He  stated   that  the  department  had                                                                    
attempted to  use the  General Fund  balance to  survive the                                                                    
last few years and were  now being forced to consider severe                                                                    
cuts. He relayed  that many schools had  been using reserves                                                                    
to  make up  for  funding shortfalls  and  many were  nearly                                                                    
9:10:55 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara turned to Slide  5 and reported that funding                                                                    
was down about $17 million since FY 15.                                                                                         
Vice-Chair  Gara  continued  to  Slide 6,  "Why  Has  School                                                                    
Funding Declined Since FY 2015":                                                                                                
         $43 million added in FY 15 was deleted from the                                                                     
          budget in FY 16.                                                                                                      
         This was only partially offset by $50 BSA                                                                           
          increases in FY 16and FY 17, each of which added                                                                      
          $12.6 million.                                                                                                        
         Overall, funding through the BSA has fallen by                                                                      
          roughly $17million. When you add in changes due                                                                       
          to student counts &local contributions, the loss                                                                      
          since FY 15 is about $25 million.                                                                                     
9:11:35 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara  turned to Slide  8, which  highlighted that                                                                    
funding  was  down  $90   million  since  2015,  considering                                                                    
inflation. He lamented that another  year of flat funding to                                                                    
the Fairbanks  School District would  result in the  loss of                                                                    
50 positions; the district had  lost 231 since 2009. He said                                                                    
that  since 2003,  nearly  400  positions (teachers,  career                                                                    
counselors,  and  guidance  counselors)   had  been  cut  as                                                                    
classroom sized had  increased. He shared that  the same had                                                                    
happened  in  many  of  the  state's  larger  districts.  He                                                                    
related  that  Special   Education  enrollment  numbers  had                                                                    
increased,  as well  as  Intensive  Needs enrollment,  which                                                                    
greatly increase costs to districts.                                                                                            
9:12:41 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Gara shared  one teacher's  story  on Slide  13,                                                                    
which offered  several bullet points describing  a classroom                                                                    
size increase of 28 to  32, which had hindered the teacher's                                                                    
ability to fairly teach students  at an individual level. He                                                                    
shared   that  the   Juneau  budget   reductions  had   been                                                                    
significant; the  district faced a $3.5  million deficit for                                                                    
FY 19 and had lost nearly 100 positions. (Slide 14)                                                                             
9:13:19 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara  addressed Slide  15 and spoke  about Mat-Su                                                                    
facing  similar  cuts.  He  noted   that  the  district  has                                                                    
experienced an  increase in student  population but  had not                                                                    
been  able to  hire teachers  to meet  the increasing  need.                                                                    
Nome  impacts  were  on  Slide   16  and  included  cuts  to                                                                    
activities and  the elimination of summer  school. Kenai and                                                                    
Kodiak impacts on Slide 17  reflected bigger class sized and                                                                    
fewer options for students. He  lamented that these were the                                                                    
results of  an extended period  of flat and  reduced funding                                                                    
for schools.                                                                                                                    
9:14:17 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara  reviewed impacts to the  Lake and Peninsula                                                                    
School District on  Slide 18, where 20 school  days had been                                                                    
cut  from  the  school  year;  the  superintendent  of  that                                                                    
district  was   concerned  about   eventual  cuts   to  core                                                                    
services.  He said  that some  Bristol Bay  communities were                                                                    
starting  to combine  classes (Slide  19) in  the effort  to                                                                    
minimize the loss  of teachers. He opined  that many schools                                                                    
had to cut art and  music classes. He furthered that impacts                                                                    
in Sitka (Slide 20) class  sizes had increased while funding                                                                    
had remained  flat. He stated  that Wrangell High  School no                                                                    
longer provided 3 years of  foreign language, which impacted                                                                    
college applications.                                                                                                           
9:15:27 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara moved to Slide  22 and shared that a teacher                                                                    
of  the year  Sarah  Birrmanns was  considering leaving  the                                                                    
state, fearing  a bleak  future in  education in  Alaska. He                                                                    
warned that  cuts in education  would result in the  loss of                                                                    
the state's best teachers.                                                                                                      
9:16:07 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara turned  to slide 25 and stated  they had not                                                                    
figured  out  a way  to  solve  the fiscal  problem.  Adults                                                                    
needed  to  get  their  act together.  Some  of  the  school                                                                    
districts supporting the bill were on Slide 26:                                                                                 
     ? Anchorage                                                                                                                
     ? Fairbanks                                                                                                                
     ? Mat-Su                                                                                                                   
     ? Kenai Peninsula                                                                                                          
     ? Bristol Bay                                                                                                              
     ? Juneau                                                                                                                   
     ? Southwest Region                                                                                                         
     ? Lake & Peninsula                                                                                                         
     ? Cordova                                                                                                                  
     ? Hydaburg                                                                                                                 
     ? Kuspuk                                                                                                                   
     ? Iditarod                                                                                                                 
     ? Petersburg                                                                                                               
     ? Craig                                                                                                                    
     ? Sitka                                                                                                                    
     ? Aleutian Region                                                                                                          
     ? Delta/Greely                                                                                                             
     ? Haines                                                                                                                   
     ? Kodiak                                                                                                                   
     ? Chatham                                                                                                                  
Vice-Chair Gara turned to Slide  27, which listed additional                                                                    
organizations that supported the legislation:                                                                                   
     ? Alaska Association of School Boards                                                                                      
     ? Alaska PTA                                                                                                               
     ? NEA-Alaska                                                                                                               
     ? NAACP Education Committee                                                                                                
9:17:01 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative Wilson argued that  the increase would not be                                                                    
$100 per student across the  board but would depend on which                                                                    
school  district the  student was  in  and the  size of  the                                                                    
school. She  requested a  chart that  detailed how  the bill                                                                    
would impact each student in every district.                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara  would ask the  Department of  Education and                                                                    
Early Development (DEED) to provide the detail.                                                                                 
Representative  Wilson asserted  that smaller  schools would                                                                    
benefit, and larger schools would not.                                                                                          
Vice-Chair  Gara  would  request the  information  from  the                                                                    
Co-Chair Foster OPENED public testimony.                                                                                        
MONICA  GOYETTE,  MAT-SU  BOROUGH SCHOOL  DISTRICT,  MAT-SU,                                                                    
testified that  the budget for  her district of  47 schools,                                                                    
serving  19,000 students,  was  approximately $250  million,                                                                    
$232 million  for general operating expenses  and additional                                                                    
federal  grant funding.  She  said that  the  cost of  doing                                                                    
business  from year-to-year  increased  by  $7 million  each                                                                    
year. She  stated that flat  funding for FY 19  would result                                                                    
in reducing services  by $7 million. She  lamented that 2018                                                                    
had been  the first year  that the district had  been unable                                                                    
to  use  reserve funds  to  close  the fiscal  deficit.  She                                                                    
shared they had cut 87  employees. She shared that next year                                                                    
high  school class  sizes would  be 33  to 1  and elementary                                                                    
classes would  average at  25 to  1. She  stated that  a big                                                                    
achievement  of  the  current year  was  every  kindergarten                                                                    
class had been  under 30 students, with no  class aides. She                                                                    
spoke  about the  rising cost  of  healthcare -  it was  the                                                                    
largest  cost driver  at $40  million and  the district  had                                                                    
experienced a 25  percent increase in cost.  The health care                                                                    
cost  had compounded  the  issue of  funding  over the  past                                                                    
9:22:25 AM                                                                                                                    
JACK  WALSH, SUPERINTENDENT,  CRAIG SCHOOL  DISTRICT, CRAIG,                                                                    
shared that  his district  had a $7  million budget.  He had                                                                    
been  told  their  health  insurance  rates  would  increase                                                                    
between 8 and 11 percent. He  only had 35 teachers and would                                                                    
not  eliminate  teacher  positions,  but he  would  have  to                                                                    
eliminate one  administrative position  in the  coming year.                                                                    
He  understood  the  issue impacted  everyone  in  different                                                                    
ways. A  $100 increase to  the BSA would mean  about $85,000                                                                    
for his  district; it  would help with  the deficit.  He was                                                                    
losing a  federal grant of  $400,000 to support  reading and                                                                    
math  intervention for  students. It  was not  easy to  tell                                                                    
parents they had  just lost money and there  was no recourse                                                                    
to be taken.                                                                                                                    
Representative  Ortiz asked  whether the  federal grant  had                                                                    
been discontinued. He asked for detail.                                                                                         
Mr.  Walsh  answered that  the  federal  grant had  been  an                                                                    
Alaska Native  education grant. He  hoped in the  future the                                                                    
grant  would  return.  He lamented  that  there  were  fewer                                                                    
grants available to supplement the district's programs.                                                                         
9:26:34 AM                                                                                                                    
JOHN  CONWELL,  SUPERINTENDENT,  UNALASKA  SCHOOL  DISTRICT,                                                                    
UNALASKA,  shared   many  of  the   same  concerns   as  his                                                                    
colleagues. He  stated that  75 percent  of the  students in                                                                    
his district spoke languages other  than English in home and                                                                    
25  percent  spoke  no  English. The  district  had  to  cut                                                                    
approximately  10 percent  of its  teachers in  recent years                                                                    
including  the  art  teacher,  librarian,  and  others.  The                                                                    
district depended on the generosity  of the city for funding                                                                    
support. The increase  would go a long way  to help backfill                                                                    
deficits. He urged the committee's support for the bill.                                                                        
Representative  Ortiz  referenced  Mr.  Conwell's  testimony                                                                    
about students not that came  from homes speaking a language                                                                    
other than English.                                                                                                             
Mr.  Conwell replied  that approximately  70 percent  of the                                                                    
district's  student  came  from  homes that  did  not  speak                                                                    
English as a  first language, or at all. He  said 25 percent                                                                    
of  the  student  population had  been  identified  buy  the                                                                    
state's English  language assessment as  needing specialized                                                                    
Representative Ortiz spoke  to the loss of the  English as a                                                                    
second  language (ESL)  teacher.  He asked  whether any  ESL                                                                    
staff remained in the district.                                                                                                 
Mr. Conwell answered they had 1 ESL teacher remaining.                                                                          
Representative  Wilson asked  about the  school's graduation                                                                    
Mr. Conwell replied it was 100 percent.                                                                                         
9:30:08 AM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT  MACMANUS,   SUPERINTENDENT,  ALASKA   GATEWAY  SCHOOL                                                                    
DISTRICT,  TOK,  testified  in   support  of  the  bill.  He                                                                    
provided statistics about increases  in healthcare costs. He                                                                    
opined  that the  district could  not provide  healthcare to                                                                    
classified employees.  The district  was on the  road system                                                                    
and did  not have high  turnover, but it struggled  with how                                                                    
to provide  competitive benefits to employees.  The district                                                                    
had to  give a 2  percent raise  to teachers in  the current                                                                    
year because without  it they would not have  the ability to                                                                    
attract or retain them. He  shared he had attended job fairs                                                                    
and  reported  there  had   been  1,600  energetic  teachers                                                                    
looking for jobs  but that the state could  not compete with                                                                    
a starting salary  of $59,000. He lamented  that when people                                                                    
did  not have  a connection  to  Alaska and  the salary  and                                                                    
benefit package  was not high,  it was difficult  to compete                                                                    
with other states for quality teachers.                                                                                         
9:33:49 AM                                                                                                                    
JEFF DEETER,  BOARD MEMBER, ALASKA GATEWAY  SCHOOL DISTRICT,                                                                    
TOK, shared  that he  was a  graduate of  the school  in Dot                                                                    
Lake. He  provided detail about  the life of his  family. He                                                                    
thanked the  committee for its  work during session.  He saw                                                                    
light at  the end  of the  tunnel due to  the work  that had                                                                    
been done  by the legislature.  He believed one of  the best                                                                    
things the  government could  do was  eliminate uncertainty.                                                                    
He supported  a BSA increase.  He spoke about  rising health                                                                    
insurance costs.  He contended that  an increase to  the BSA                                                                    
would level out with healthcare increases.                                                                                      
9:36:40 AM                                                                                                                    
MIKE  HANLEY,  SUPERINTENDENT,   CHUGIACH  SCHOOL  DISTRICT,                                                                    
CHUGIACH, shared  that Alaska's schools operated  in some of                                                                    
the  most difficult  conditions in  the country.  Alaska led                                                                    
the country for  rates of child abuse  and neglect, domestic                                                                    
violence and  substance abuse. He  shared that  his district                                                                    
brought in students  from other districts to  have access to                                                                    
programs in its  schools. The travel cost  alone was putting                                                                    
pressure  on the  district and  the programs  would probably                                                                    
have to be  set aside. He believed that this  was a tragedy.                                                                    
The  district was  not  able  to bring  the  kids  in as  it                                                                    
tightened  its own  belt.  He testified  that  the $100  BSA                                                                    
increase  was  a  very  smart  investment  that  would  have                                                                    
positive economic impacts.                                                                                                      
Representative  Guttenberg shared  a positive  experience he                                                                    
had  as a  legislator in  the classroom.  He explained  that                                                                    
sitting in  the classroom  to witness everything  first hand                                                                    
was  something that  districts should  continue offering  to                                                                    
Co-Chair  Seaton  spoke   about  the  increasing  healthcare                                                                    
costs.  He  asked whether  the  district  had a  program  of                                                                    
looking at avoidable costs to  keep teachers, employees, and                                                                    
dependents healthy.                                                                                                             
Mr. Hanley  answered the insurance company  provided healthy                                                                    
advice and excess to some programs but nothing specific.                                                                        
9:42:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SEAN EGAN,  SELF, JUNEAU, spoke  about pupil  teacher ratio.                                                                    
He  shared that  he had  two children  in the  Juneau School                                                                    
District and there were only 39  seats in his son's class of                                                                    
40 students.  He spoke about  the load on  English teachers,                                                                    
some teachers stopped  assigning writing assignments because                                                                    
they did  not have  time to  read all  the essays.  He spoke                                                                    
about welding classes that could  be eliminated; however, he                                                                    
reasoned  that if  they eliminated  the classes  there would                                                                    
not be  a future workforce  for building a gas  pipeline. It                                                                    
was necessary  to keep physics,  shop and other  courses. He                                                                    
asked the committee to increase the BSA.                                                                                        
Co-Chair  Foster noted  Representative  Kawasaki had  joined                                                                    
the meeting.                                                                                                                    
9:45:35 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  BRIGHTON,  KENAI   PENINSULA  EDUCATION  ASSOCIATION,                                                                    
KENAI  (via   teleconference),  spoke  in  support   of  the                                                                    
legislation.  The district  had  received  flat funding  for                                                                    
four years. The  district was looking at  spending even more                                                                    
of  the fund  balance,  which was  quickly disappearing.  He                                                                    
said that  the district had  to cut  over $8 million  in the                                                                    
last two  years. They were  looking at  combining elementary                                                                    
classes  in some  schools. His  son had  lost the  option to                                                                    
take  French.  He stated  that  most  elementary schools  no                                                                    
longer taught  art and that  teachers were trying to  do the                                                                    
best they could.  They were looking at  cutting the district                                                                    
wide art  coordinator. The past  year they had made  cuts to                                                                    
custodial staff  and teachers  had been  asked to  help with                                                                    
those duties. The district was  doing all it could to reduce                                                                    
costs. He lamented that high  healthcare costs were a burden                                                                    
on his district.                                                                                                                
9:49:07 AM                                                                                                                    
DEENA MITCHELL, SELF,  ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), spoke                                                                    
in favor of  the bill. She shared the need  for adequate and                                                                    
predictable  funding   to  allow   districts  to   plan  for                                                                    
spending. She  asserted that annual  cuts in  education were                                                                    
harmful  to students.  The  district was  looking  at a  $13                                                                    
million gap  in its budget  in the current year.  She stated                                                                    
that were  the bill to  pass, the district could  reduce the                                                                    
budget  gap   by  about  $9.1  million   because  the  local                                                                    
contribution  would be  increased. The  bill would  not fill                                                                    
the gap completely, but it would help considerably.                                                                             
Co-Chair  Seaton  asked  whether Anchorage  was  looking  at                                                                    
controlling  its  medical costs  by  going  out to  bid  for                                                                    
specialty work  out of state.  He wondered whether  they had                                                                    
found costs savings for members  to travel outside of Alaska                                                                    
for treatment.                                                                                                                  
Ms. Mitchell answered  that the district was  looking at all                                                                    
kinds  of possibilities  for savings.  She  shared that  the                                                                    
union  had  its  own  healthcare.  She  said  that  nonunion                                                                    
members  had  established  the  Vera  Health  Clinic,  which                                                                    
should result in savings.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair  Seaton  asked  for districts  to  follow  up  with                                                                    
similar methods and cost savings.                                                                                               
9:53:38 AM                                                                                                                    
JOSH  KEATON, VICE  PRESIDENT, JUNEAU  SCHOOL BOARD,  JUNEAU                                                                    
(via  teleconference),  spoke  in  strong  support  for  the                                                                    
legislation. The  district was at  the bottom of  the barrel                                                                    
in terms  of cuts to  finances. He opined that  the district                                                                    
was  looking at  cutting  additional  teachers. He  stressed                                                                    
that the  quality of  education in the  state rested  in the                                                                    
legislature's hands. He urged the BSA increase.                                                                                 
9:55:20 AM                                                                                                                    
DEENA  BISHOP,  SUPERINTENDENT, ANCHORAGE  SCHOOL  DISTRICT,                                                                    
ANCHORAGE  (via teleconference),  spoke  in  support of  the                                                                    
bill.  She stressed  that Alaska  needed the  legislation to                                                                    
propel  the  state into  action.  She  spoke about  Alaska's                                                                    
rating as  last in  reading achievement.  She felt  that the                                                                    
state's low rating  would likely result in a  blame game but                                                                    
no accountability.  She stressed  the importance  of looking                                                                    
for  answers and  coming together  for  Alaska's youth.  She                                                                    
pointed out that  the revenue allotted for  education in the                                                                    
state was the highest in  the nation, yet outcomes were some                                                                    
of  the lowest.  She underscored  the importance  of working                                                                    
together to  change the outcomes.  She spoke about  the high                                                                    
costs    of   items    in   Alaska    including   education,                                                                    
transportation, and infrastructure. It  was a challenge that                                                                    
had to be embraced. The work  had to start with students and                                                                    
families  and  it  took resources.  She  spoke  about  other                                                                    
issues  such  as  high domestic  violence,  lack  of  mental                                                                    
health  care,  opioid  abuse,  and  other;  schools  were  a                                                                    
microcosm of the community.                                                                                                     
10:00:24 AM                                                                                                                   
DAVID NEES, SELF,  ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), testified                                                                    
against the  bill. He  spoke about  recent increases  to the                                                                    
BSA. He  stated that the money  to districts had gone  up in                                                                    
recent  years. He  said he  would provide  his testimony  in                                                                    
10:02:28 AM                                                                                                                   
LAURAL   JACKSON,    SUPERINTENDENT,   DELTA/GREELY   SCHOOL                                                                    
DISTRICT,  DELTA  JUNCTION,  shared that  her  district  had                                                                    
faced a $240,000  deficit and still faced  a $30,000 deficit                                                                    
after many cuts  had been made. She  stressed the importance                                                                    
of  the  bill.  She  stated   that  because  of  the  unique                                                                    
structure  of educators'  negotiated agreement  the increase                                                                    
in  health  insurance  would come  directly  from  teachers'                                                                    
salaries.  She  strongly  believed  that  the  increase  was                                                                    
necessary and that  it came down to  whether the legislature                                                                    
would act.                                                                                                                      
Representative Ortiz  thanked Ms.  Jackson for her  work. He                                                                    
spoke to  the problem of  unfunded mandates coming  from the                                                                    
state. He  asked whether she  saw that  as a problem  in her                                                                    
Ms.  Jackson   answered  that  the  mandates   hindered  the                                                                    
district's ability  to prioritize where and  how money could                                                                    
be spent in other areas.                                                                                                        
Representative  Wilson spoke  about local  contribution. She                                                                    
asked if there was a mechanism  that could be put into place                                                                    
that could help the district.                                                                                                   
Ms. Jackson answered that it  would depend on who was asked.                                                                    
She believed  mostly the  people of  Alaska were  willing to                                                                    
help pay  for public  education. From a  personal standpoint                                                                    
she said, "Tax me."                                                                                                             
Representative  Wilson stated  people  in unorganized  areas                                                                    
had   not  been   given  the   opportunity  to   voluntarily                                                                    
contribute to the formula.                                                                                                      
Representative Thompson asked understood  the Pogo Mine made                                                                    
a payment  in lieu  of taxes  that was  given to  the school                                                                    
district in Delta Junction.                                                                                                     
Ms. Jackson answered that the  payment in lieu of taxes went                                                                    
to the  city of  Delta Junction, which  was not  required to                                                                    
give  any of  the money  to the  school district.  She added                                                                    
that  Pogo   Mine  had   donated  to   some  extracurricular                                                                    
10:08:16 AM                                                                                                                   
CHRISTIE  HENDRICK, SELF,  JUNEAU, testified  in support  of                                                                    
the  bill. She  was a  parent of  two in  the Juneau  School                                                                    
District. She worked part-time to  have a strong presence in                                                                    
her  children's  lives  after school,  to  assist  in  their                                                                    
classrooms,  and  to  testify  today. She  noted  that  many                                                                    
parents did  not reserve  the same  luxury. She  shared that                                                                    
despite   the  teachers'   best  attempts,   often  it   was                                                                    
controlled chaos in classrooms.  She relayed that there were                                                                    
over 30 students in her  daughter's middle school classroom.                                                                    
She stated that  when learning did not happen  at school the                                                                    
burden  was on  the parents  at home.  She related  that she                                                                    
could do it,  but many parents were unable  to bolster their                                                                    
children's  education   at  home.  She  believed   that  the                                                                    
importance  of  education  could  not  be  understated.  She                                                                    
emphatically supported the BSA  increase and forward funding                                                                    
for education.                                                                                                                  
Vice-Chair Gara relayed  there was about 30  minutes left in                                                                    
the meeting and if others  wanted to testify they could sign                                                                    
up.  He asked  about parents  considering leaving  the state                                                                    
because of a lack of the commitment to education.                                                                               
Ms. Hendrick answered that she  had friends who had left the                                                                    
state temporarily  who had  been appalled  at how  far ahead                                                                    
students  elsewhere   were.  She  said  that   parents  were                                                                    
considering relocating  from Alaska  in pursuit of  a better                                                                    
education for their kids.                                                                                                       
10:13:05 AM                                                                                                                   
MARTIN  STEPETIN,  SELF, JUNEAU,  spoke  in  support of  the                                                                    
bill. He brought  his small daughter with him  to the table.                                                                    
He  did  not support  additional  cuts  or flat  funding  to                                                                    
education,  the  Office  of Children's  Services,  or  other                                                                    
children's  services.  He  stressed that  flat  funding  was                                                                    
comparable to  a budget cut.  He stated  it was sad  to lose                                                                    
teachers and teachers  did not get paid  enough. He provided                                                                    
detail  on his  kids in  the  education system.  He said  he                                                                    
would be willing  to pay higher taxes to  fund education. He                                                                    
asked the committee to pass the bill and support education.                                                                     
Representative  Guttenberg  thanked  Mr.  Stepetin  for  his                                                                    
10:15:50 AM                                                                                                                   
MARK   MILLER,  SUPERINTENDENT,   JUNEAU  SCHOOL   DISTRICT,                                                                    
JUNEAU,  shared that  he  had tried  to  cut the  district's                                                                    
budget with "a  scalpel and not a chainsaw."  He stated that                                                                    
the district had tried to do  more with less, but now it was                                                                    
doing less with  less. He testified that 1 in  5 students in                                                                    
Juneau had  an individualized education plan  (IEP). He said                                                                    
that very little school funding  was discretionary, most was                                                                    
mandatory. He  provided details about  the elimination  of a                                                                    
middle school study program. He  stated that auto shop would                                                                    
likely be  eliminated the following  year. He  lamented that                                                                    
the  district's   technology  implementation   that  allowed                                                                    
students to do more  online collaboration and learning would                                                                    
be cut in  the next year. The district could  only afford 50                                                                    
percent  of   the  necessary  textbooks  to   implement  the                                                                    
curriculum  for 2019.  He relayed  that  the increase  would                                                                    
allow  the  district  to  do more;  the  increase  would  be                                                                    
Representative Kawasaki  queried how  the cuts  had impacted                                                                    
the   middle   school   and  high   school   extracurricular                                                                    
Mr. Miller answered  that one of his first  actions had been                                                                    
to cut  all funding to  travel for students. He  shared that                                                                    
he only way to travel from Juneau  was on a ferry or to fly.                                                                    
He relayed that the expense was significant.                                                                                    
10:19:28 AM                                                                                                                   
Representative  Grenn asked  whether minimum  qualifications                                                                    
had changed for teacher hire.                                                                                                   
Mr.  Miller  answered  that  they   had  not  changed  their                                                                    
qualifications, but there had  been more open positions that                                                                    
went  unfilled. He  said that  the consequence  of that  was                                                                    
filling the position  with a substitute or  to contract some                                                                    
services  in the  Lower  48  telephonically. Currently,  the                                                                    
fill  rate for  substitutes  was often  as  low 50  percent,                                                                    
meaning that  1 out  of 2  of the  classrooms that  needed a                                                                    
substitute went without a teacher.                                                                                              
Representative  Grenn   asked  what  the  lack   of  teacher                                                                    
substitutes did to the quality of education.                                                                                    
Mr. Miller answered that it  could mean a student sitting in                                                                    
a room  staring at a wall  versus being taught by  a quality                                                                    
Vice-Chair Gara  asked for  the number  of positions  cut in                                                                    
the past few years.                                                                                                             
Mr. Miller  answered that administrative positions  had been                                                                    
cut by 33 percent, and 18 percent of teachers.                                                                                  
Vice-Chair Gara  asked whether the  district was at  a point                                                                    
where  flat funding  would impact  academic achievement  and                                                                    
student's ability to get into college.                                                                                          
Mr. Miller answered  that the districts had cut  back as far                                                                    
as possible  and had used  every dollar of end  fund balance                                                                    
available. He  said that the  end fund balance for  2018 was                                                                    
likely to  be between  $500,000 and $750,000  out of  an $80                                                                    
million budget,  which would fund  less than 2  school days;                                                                    
The district was  broke. He lamented that all  that could be                                                                    
done was to cut back  on teachers, staff, and students would                                                                    
receive fewer educational opportunities.                                                                                        
10:22:52 AM                                                                                                                   
Vice-Chair  Gara stated  that  several  other districts  had                                                                    
gone through the buffer of  their reserves. He asked whether                                                                    
future  flat funding  of education  would  have more  severe                                                                    
impacts to education.                                                                                                           
Mr. Miller replied in the affirmative.                                                                                          
Representative  Ortiz asked  about  teacher recruitment.  He                                                                    
asked about unfilled positions in Special Education.                                                                            
Mr. Miller answered that there  had been one position filled                                                                    
during  the second  semester.  He said  he  was sending  the                                                                    
Special Education  director to  Michigan the  following week                                                                    
to recruit candidates from that area.                                                                                           
Representative  Ortiz  asked  how  many  positions  remained                                                                    
Mr. Miller answered that they  had filled all the positions,                                                                    
many had been unfilled for a portion of the year.                                                                               
Representative Ortiz  asked about  a connection  between the                                                                    
ability to  have certified  staff and  the level  of federal                                                                    
Mr. Miller  responded that federal dollars  helped fund more                                                                    
expensive educational  needs. He  relayed that  the severity                                                                    
of  disabilities  that  needed accommodation  were  becoming                                                                    
increasingly severe.                                                                                                            
10:25:45 AM                                                                                                                   
Vice-Chair Gara  asked whether there was  anything the state                                                                    
was doing to make recruitment more difficult.                                                                                   
Mr.  Miller answered  that the  problem  was nationwide.  He                                                                    
believed that  the current generation did  not view teaching                                                                    
as  a   viable  profession,  which  he   attributed  to  the                                                                    
increased  demands placed  on teachers  and the  decrease in                                                                    
10:26:42 AM                                                                                                                   
JEFF SHORT,  MEMBER, JUNEAU SCHOOL  BOARD, JUNEAU,  spoke in                                                                    
support  of  the bill.  He  relayed  that  he had  paid  the                                                                    
initial income  tax and had been  happy to do it.  He stated                                                                    
that he had also paid the  past school tax. He revealed that                                                                    
her would gladly  pay both taxes again, at  higher rates, if                                                                    
it would mean adequately  funding education. He implored the                                                                    
committee to  pass the  $100 BSA  increase. He  reminded the                                                                    
committee that they  had taken a 10 percent  cut over recent                                                                    
years  due  to  increases  in  inflation.  He  reminded  the                                                                    
committee that Alaska was not  a poor state; the problem was                                                                    
solvable. He stressed that if  the problem was not fixed the                                                                    
state would face long-term negative economic impacts.                                                                           
Vice-Chair  Gara asked  for examples  of effective  programs                                                                    
that had been cut.                                                                                                              
Mr.  Miller   cited  the   middle  school   Advancement  Via                                                                    
Individual Determination  (AVID) program  as an  example. He                                                                    
added that the pupil to  teacher ratio in middle schools had                                                                    
increase to an unsustainable level.                                                                                             
10:29:51 AM                                                                                                                   
DAN  CARSTENS, PRESIDENT,  ALASKA  ASSOCIATION OF  SECONDARY                                                                    
SCHOOL  PRINCIPALS, NIKISKI,  testified  in  support of  the                                                                    
bill. He believed  that the education system  was not broken                                                                    
but  fractured. He  thought that  the  continued erosion  of                                                                    
education funding would exacerbate  the problem. He spoke of                                                                    
having to shift  students around in order  to compensate for                                                                    
lack  of  teachers. He  said  that  sometimes teachers  were                                                                    
asked  to teach  classes  that they  were  not qualified  to                                                                    
teach. He  lamented the two  openings for  Special Education                                                                    
teachers in his school and  expressed fear that he would not                                                                    
be able to  fill them. He said that the  increase to the BSA                                                                    
would allow for a real valuation of teachers and educators.                                                                     
Representative  Grenn  asked  whether  Mr.  Carstens  was  a                                                                    
Mr. Carstens answered in the affirmative.                                                                                       
Representative  Grenn   asked  how  the   salaries  impacted                                                                    
Mr.  Carstens  answered  that  the  culture  in  his  school                                                                    
fostered  a positive  morale; however,  the  outlook on  the                                                                    
valuation  of the  work that  teachers do  was negative.  He                                                                    
spoke about  the high cost of  living in Alaska. He  did not                                                                    
want a statewide strike and  hoped that steps would be taken                                                                    
to place a higher value on education in the state.                                                                              
Representative Grenn  asked what was maintaining  the morale                                                                    
in his school.                                                                                                                  
Mr.  Carstens  answered  stability. He  believed  that  good                                                                    
leaders  could inspire  positivity.  He  stated that  morale                                                                    
killers  were not  valuing teachers  and having  large class                                                                    
10:34:34 AM                                                                                                                   
Representative  Kawasaki asked  what a  good student/teacher                                                                    
ratio looked like at the secondary level.                                                                                       
Mr.  Carstens answered  that  the mid-20s  would  be a  good                                                                    
place  to  start. He  explained  that  he generally  had  60                                                                    
students  that needed  to take  Algebra 1  and he  struggled                                                                    
with choosing  between two classes  of 30, or  three classes                                                                    
of  20. Without  the additional  BSA he  would be  forced to                                                                    
choose two classes of 30.                                                                                                       
10:35:26 AM                                                                                                                   
AMY LUJAN, ALASKA ASSOCIATION  OF SCHOOL BUSINESS OFFICIALS,                                                                    
spoke in support  of the bill. She commended  all the school                                                                    
districts  in  the  state  for   working  to  provide  their                                                                    
students  with  quality  education  during  tight  financial                                                                    
times.   She stressed that  it was  not possible to  go back                                                                    
and take third  grade again. She stressed  that the increase                                                                    
was  a  worthwhile  investment.   If  the  funding  was  not                                                                    
provided, Alaskan's  would realize that their  children were                                                                    
in a  class of  30; it  would be apparent  in the  fall. She                                                                    
warned that education had been  underfunded and it would not                                                                    
be  possible   to  keep  up  with   cost  increases  without                                                                    
additional funding.                                                                                                             
10:37:36 AM                                                                                                                   
RALPH   WATKINS,  HOONAH   CITY  SCHOOL   DISTRICT,  HOONAH,                                                                    
testified in  support of  the legislation.  He said  that he                                                                    
acted   as   the   superintendent,   principal,   technology                                                                    
director,  and middle  school teacher  for his  district. He                                                                    
opined that  he did not  want to  subject his students  to a                                                                    
subpar  education. He  stressed  the  importance of  funding                                                                    
education in  the state. He  detailed the various  ways that                                                                    
his district  had worked to  find efficiencies  and savings.                                                                    
He said that the way  his district was currently functioning                                                                    
was unsustainable but there was  no money to hire additional                                                                    
teachers.  He  said his  school  has  a 33  percent  Special                                                                    
Education population and no Special Education teacher.                                                                          
Representative Wilson  asked whether SB 185  would allow the                                                                    
district to hire a teacher for special education.                                                                               
Mr. Watkins answered absolutely. He  said that there were 15                                                                    
retired teachers in Hoonah that  would love to come back and                                                                    
teach, it  would allow the  school to fill the  position and                                                                    
the middle school position.                                                                                                     
Representative  Ortiz asked  whether it  was relatively  new                                                                    
that  the superintendent  had teaching  responsibilities and                                                                    
was also the principal.                                                                                                         
Mr.  Watkins  answered it  was  new  and out  of  necessity.                                                                    
Alaska currently had 4 superintendent principals.                                                                               
10:41:59 AM                                                                                                                   
THOMAS    CLAAMEYER,    PRESIDENT,    ANCHORAGE    EDUCATION                                                                    
ASSOCIATION,  ANCHORAGE (via  teleconference), testified  in                                                                    
support of the bill. He  was hopeful the improving economics                                                                    
would  allow  the  legislature   to  increase  the  BSA.  He                                                                    
stressed   that  kids   were  suffering   and  were   losing                                                                    
educational  opportunities  necessary   for  a  well-rounded                                                                    
education.  The   budget  cuts  were  wearing   on  everyone                                                                    
involved  in   education.  He  provided  examples   of  high                                                                    
classroom  sizes. He  noted that  job opportunities  outside                                                                    
Alaska were high. He hoped  the legislature would help offer                                                                    
kids  the  education they  deserved.  He  stated that  early                                                                    
funding of  education would provide stability  in the school                                                                    
budget planning process.                                                                                                        
Co-Chair  Seaton  asked   whether  the  Anchorage  Education                                                                    
Association  was   exploring  travel  for   medical  options                                                                    
outside Alaska.                                                                                                                 
Mr. Claameyer  answered that  members received  their health                                                                    
insurance through the Public Education  Health Trust and had                                                                    
been participating in Bridge Health,  where quality care was                                                                    
provided  outside  the  state, and  in-state  contracts  for                                                                    
providing   aftercare.  He   furthered   that  the   members                                                                    
participated  in TelaDoc  for minor  health issues.  He said                                                                    
that  members also  participated in  the Aetna  network with                                                                    
preferred  providers  negotiating  lower  rates  within  the                                                                    
network. He stated  that the trust had  initiated a wellness                                                                    
program  that  offered  incentives for  members  seeking  to                                                                    
proactively  reduce  their  healthcare incidents  by  living                                                                    
healthier lifestyles.                                                                                                           
10:48:30 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Seaton  wondered about a  report on the  success or                                                                    
cost savings of the various programs.                                                                                           
Mr. Claameyer would follow up with the information.                                                                             
10:49:14 AM                                                                                                                   
MARY  MCMAHON, ALASKA  ASSOCIATION  OF SECONDARY  PRINCIPALS                                                                    
(via   teleconference),   testified   in  support   of   the                                                                    
legislation.  She expressed  concern about  teacher turnover                                                                    
rates in Alaska. She stressed  that it was possible to solve                                                                    
the education  funding problem if  everyone worked  toward a                                                                    
common goal.  She stressed  that public  education was  in a                                                                    
desperate place.                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair  Gara   spoke  about  the  lack   of  prospective                                                                    
teachers  at  job  fairs.  He  asked  whether  the  lack  of                                                                    
commitment  shown to  teachers was  impacting the  declining                                                                    
number of prospective teachers.                                                                                                 
Ms. McMahon answered  absolutely. Her son had  elected to go                                                                    
a different career  route because of the  lack of commitment                                                                    
shown to education.                                                                                                             
Co-Chair  Foster noted  there was  an amendment  deadline of                                                                    
9:00 a.m. the following day. He discussed housekeeping.                                                                         
Co-Chair Foster CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                        
HB  339  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
10:53:54 AM                                                                                                                   
The meeting was adjourned at 10:53 a.m.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Copy of BSA Calculator FY19 (004).pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Letters of Support from School Administrators, School Boards and Teachers April 3 2018.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Articles 3.22.18.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Support.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Letters of Support from School Administrators, School Boards and Teachers March 26 2018.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Sponsor Statement April 5 2018.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Letters of Opposition March 26 2018.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Sponsor Statement 3.23.18.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Letters of Support from Members of the Public 3.22.18.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Sectional Analysis 3.23.18.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 339 Letters of Support from Organizations 3.26.18.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 339
HB 221 - Amendment 1.pdf HFIN 4/10/2018 9:00:00 AM
HB 221