Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/22/1994 03:00 PM House HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE March 22, 1994 3:00 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Rep. Cynthia Toohey, Co-Chair Rep. Con Bunde, Co-Chair Rep. Gary Davis, Vice Chair Rep. Al Vezey Rep. Pete Kott Rep. Harley Olberg Rep. Bettye Davis Rep. Irene Nicholia Rep. Tom Brice MEMBERS ABSENT None COMMITTEE CALENDAR HB 412: "An Act relating to facilities for the care of children; to child placement agencies; to maternity homes; to certain residential facilities for adults; and to foster homes for adults; and providing for an effective date." PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE *HJR 54: Relating to medical savings account legislation. PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE *HB 533: "An Act increasing the amount of local contributions that may be made to a city or borough school district under the foundation formula; and providing for an effective date." PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE *HB 521: "An Act relating to judicial review of decisions of school boards relating to nonretention or dismissal of teachers." HEARD AND HELD (* First public hearing.) WITNESS REGISTER PAT O'BRIEN Social Services Program Officer Division of Family and Youth Services Department of Health and Social Services P.O. Box 110630 Juneau, Alaska 99811-0630 Phone: (907) 465-2145 Position Statement: Testified in support of HB 412 DUANE GUILEY, Director Division of Education Finance and Support Services Department of Education 801 W. 10th St. Juneau, Alaska 99801-1894 Phone: (907) 465-2891 Position Statement: Testified on HB 533 CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, President National Education Association/Alaska 114 Second St. Juneau, Alaska 99801 Phone: (907) 586-3090 Position Statement: Testified in opposition to HB 521 CARL ROSE, Executive Director Association of Alaska School Boards 316 W. 11th St. Juneau, Alaska 99801 Phone: (907) 586-1083 Position statement: Testified in support of HB 521 LARRY WIGET Legislative Liaison Anchorage School District 4600 DeBarr Road Anchorage, Alaska 99508-3195 Phone: (907) 269-2255 Position statement: Testified in support of HB 521 (spoke via teleconference) RICHARD SWARNER Executive Director, Business Management Kenai Peninsula Borough School District 144 N. Binkley Soldotna, Alaska 99669 Phone: (907) 262-5846 Position Statement: Testified in support of HB 521 (spoke via teleconference) JIM SIMEROTH, Teacher Kenai Middle School 811 Auk St. #5 Kenai, Alaska 99611 Phone: (907) 283-4896 Position Statement: Testified in opposition to HB 521 (spoke via teleconference) JOHN HOLST, Superintendent Sitka School District P.O. Box 179 Sitka, Alaska 99836 Phone: (907) 747-8622 Position statement: Testified in support of HB 521 (spoke via teleconference) TOM EVERITT, Personnel Director North Slope Borough School District P.O. Box 169 Barrow, Alaska 99723 Phone: (907) 852-5311 Position Statement: Testified in support of HB 521 (spoke via teleconference) PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 412 SHORT TITLE: COMMUNITY CARE FACILITIES SPONSOR(S): RULES BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/28/94 2177 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 01/28/94 2178 (H) HES, FINANCE 01/28/94 2178 (H) -FISCAL NOTE (DHSS) 1/28/94 01/28/94 2178 (H) GOVERNOR'S TRANSMITTAL LETTER 03/14/94 (H) HES AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 106 03/14/94 (H) MINUTE(HES) BILL: HJR 54 SHORT TITLE: SUPPORT MEDICAL SAVINGS ACCT LEGIS BILL VERSION: SSHJR 54 SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) KOTT,B.Davis JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 02/07/94 2282 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 02/07/94 2282 (H) HES, FINANCE 03/11/94 2742 (H) B.DAVIS WITHDREW AS PRIME SPONSOR 03/11/94 2742 (H) COSPONSOR(S): B.DAVIS 03/11/94 2742 (H) KOTT WITHDREW AS FIRST COSPONSOR 03/11/94 2742 (H) PRIME SPONSOR: KOTT 03/18/94 2868 (H) SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE INTRODUCED-REFERRALS 03/18/94 2868 (H) HEALTH, EDUCATION & SOCIAL SERVICES 03/22/94 (H) HES AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 106 BILL: HB 533 SHORT TITLE: ALLOWABLE LOCAL EFFORT FOR SCHOOL FUNDING SPONSOR(S): HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 03/16/94 2835 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 03/16/94 2835 (H) HES, STATE AFFAIRS, FINANCE 03/22/94 (H) HES AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 106 BILL: HB 521 SHORT TITLE: JUDICIAL REVIEW:TEACHER TENURE DECISIONS SPONSOR(S): STATE AFFAIRS JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 03/09/94 2683 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME/REFERRAL(S) 03/09/94 2683 (H) HES, JUDICIARY 03/22/94 (H) HES AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 106 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 94-59, SIDE A Number 000 CHAIR TOOHEY called the meeting to order at 3:05 p.m., noted members present and announced the calendar. She indicated that there would be teleconference testimony beginning at 3:45 p.m. for HB 521. She brought HB 412 to the table. HB 412 - COMMUNITY CARE FACILITIES CHAIR TOOHEY asked Pat O'Brien to testify. Number 036 PAT O'BRIEN, Social Services Program Officer, Division of Family and Youth Services (DFYS), Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), testified in support of HB 412. She stated there had been amendments made to the legislation including additional cross-references drafted by Terri Lauterbach and the DHSS was comfortable with the legislation as written. She offered to answer questions. CHAIR TOOHEY indicated that the committee should have a copy of the committee substitute (CS) dated 3/16/94 version E. She then asked if there were any questions for Ms. O'Brien. Number 100 REP. OLBERG asked if the legislation would save the state money. Number 101 MS. O'BRIEN explained that savings is the focus of the bill. She stated that currently the DHSS has an overloaded licensing staff that has difficulty meeting expected standards for the ratio of licensors to the number of facilities they license. She said the DHSS does not expect to hire more staff, so the only option is to combine a number of varying standards into the statute that will ease the workload of the licensors. She further explained that both private agencies that perform licensing and licensing supervisors across the state support the effort as an important efficiency measure. REP. OLBERG asked if money will be saved because more people will not be hired. MS. O'BRIEN asserted that the DHSS will do more with the same resources or less. Number 143 REP. B. DAVIS asked if Chair Toohey wanted to hear further testimony. CHAIR TOOHEY said it was her intent to discuss the proposal and move it out of committee. REP. B. DAVIS made a motion to pass HB 412 out of committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. CHAIR TOOHEY, hearing no objections, declared that HB 412 was so moved. She then brought HJR 54 to the table. HJR 54 - SUPPORT MEDICAL SAVINGS ACCOUNT LEGISLATION Number 185 REP. KOTT made a motion to move the Sponsor Substitute for HJR 54 out of committee with individual recommendations. He stated that the joint resolution was a simple measure that requests Congress to review the tax codes and to make minor changes to support the medical account savings legislation. He indicated that the medical savings account is like an IRA account. He said the plan has been adopted in 15 other states and has been very effective. He explained that because the other states have income tax they are able to offer some relief to those that offer a medical savings program. He said Alaska does not have income tax and that is why the legislation requests Congress to change their tax codes accordingly. Number 259 CHAIR TOOHEY asked if the legislation relates directly with income tax. REP. KOTT said it would be beneficial to receive the full benefit of the resolution. He said for that to happen, Congress must adjust the tax codes for those who use the medical savings accounts. He said Alaska needs tax deferral status. He explained that because the account is similar to an IRA account there would be a 10% penalty for taking money from the account if the funds are not used for medical purposes. (Chair Toohey stated for the record that Rep. G. Davis arrived at 3:08 p.m., Representatives Brice and Nicholia arrived at 3:10 p.m., and Representative B. Davis arrived at 3:05 p.m.) Number 316 REP. VEZEY stated that the resolve of the resolution would be one of the most important steps in health care. He urged the committee to support the resolution. REP. B. DAVIS made a motion to move the sponsor substitute for HJR 54 out of committee with individual recommendations and attached zero fiscal note. CHAIR TOOHEY, hearing no objections, indicated that SSHJR 54 was so moved. She then took an at-ease from 3:14 p.m. to 3:16 p.m. Number 359 CHAIR TOOHEY brought HB 533 to the table and said it was not her intent to move the bill out of committee that day. She asked Duane Guiley to come forward to answer questions. HB 533 - ALLOWABLE EFFORT FOR SCHOOL FUNDING DUANE GUILEY, Director, Division of Education Finance and Support Services, Department of Education, testified on HB 533. He stated that the legislation would provide an opportunity for districts to assist in the budget process of running schools with locally contributed dollars without putting additional burden on the state of Alaska. He indicated that under current state statute, the maximum amount that a district can contribute is 23% of the current year's basic need as adjusted for the actual appropriation, or the prorated dollar amount of basic need. MR. GUILEY indicated that the reason for the cap is so that the state of Alaska stays in compliance with the federal test, in order to recognize $43 million of federal impact aid in the state formula. He maintained that the bill proposes to raise the cap to the federal limit of 25%. He explained that the actual local contribution is not known until after the year is closed out and audits are received by the Department of Education (DOE). At that time, the DOE calculates the actual disparity amount and makes adjustments to school district's total state aid. He indicated that the DOE had just completed adjustments for the 1993 fiscal year in the month of March 1994. He said if the limit is raised to 25%, the state would be asking districts to retroactively return any excess local contribution to the municipality or borough after the year has ended and the money is expended. MR. GUILEY further explained that in the past the cap has been less than 23%. He said when the bill that created the current foundation formula passed in 1987, the cap was 21%. Based upon the request of local school districts, to raise that cap to allow for additional contributions, the bill was amended and raised to 23%. He indicated that if the cap is raised to 25%, there is additional capacity provided to districts throughout the state that would total $11,397,318. He said, "That again is the amount of additional capacity that would be afforded to local municipalities and boroughs, additional contributions to the budget, and staying within the 25% level." Number 453 REP. B. DAVIS asked for clarification regarding municipalities asking for rebates up to a certain amount. MR. GUILEY explained that the disparity standard controls the actual limit in order for the state to stay in compliance with federal law. He said once the audits are submitted, the process of confirming actual local revenues begins. He indicated that prior to that time the DOA works from the budgeted number. He said if a district actually contributes more than they are allowed under law, the DOA asks the district to refund local money. REP. B. DAVIS said she understood. Number 482 REP. BUNDE said he had heard that the 25% might cause some concern regarding federal regulation. He asked Mr. Guiley why 25% is a better level for the legislation. MR. GUILEY indicated that under current statute, the cap is at 23%. He said the DOE has already gone on record supporting an increase to as high as 24% and have indicated that under the current disparity calculation it is not problematic in relation to the federal regulation. By raising the limit to the full 25%, the state may be put in a situation where districts would be asked to retroactively return local dollars or put them out of compliance with state statute which would keep them from receiving any state aid. MR. GUILEY further explained that the choice a local school district has is to continue to receive the excess local dollars and forfeit 100% of their state aid or give back a minimal of excess local dollars that put them over the 25% cap should the legislation pass. He pointed out the bar graph schedule supplied in the committee bill packets and explained that it demonstrates the effects of the cap. He pointed out that the white bar indicates the four mill minimum contribution. He explained that the three exceptions to the rule are North Slope, Unalaska, and Valdez. He said their four mill contribution exceeds 35% of basic need and therefore a different cap applies to those districts. He indicated that the shaded bar represents the maximum allowable excess. He stated that the district of Hoonah contributes absolutely all they can to their local budget. He indicated that where there are black diamonds at the top of shaded bars, it represents the districts that would benefit from the legislation. He said those districts could choose to assist their schools with a greater amount of local contribution without fear of losing state aid. Number 556 REP. BUNDE stated that he supported the bill as it would encourage local support for school districts at a time when the state has to do more with less. He said federal regulation keeps the state from going beyond 25% and the state should allow and encourage districts to come as close to 25% as possible. CHAIR TOOHEY asked Mr. Guiley if the areas affected by the legislation would have to vote on the issue or would it be an automatic option. MR. GUILEY indicated that if the revenue is available to a municipality or borough, through their budgeting process they would provide an amount requested by the local school district. Under state statute, school districts must provide their request to the municipality by April 1. He said once the request is provided, the district has 30 days to act on it through their budget process. He indicated that the money may be available already to the local municipality without an increase tax revenue or other sources of revenue. If the money is not available, it might result in additional tax increases through sales tax, bed receipts, fish tax, federal forest receipts, or any other source of revenue to meet the need if they have the desire. Number 612 CHAIR TOOHEY stated for the record that she rescinded her statement that the bill would not be moved out of committee that day. REP. G. DAVIS indicated that some local taxes need tax payer approval and some assemblies and council have the authority to raise taxes without voter approval. He said it depended on what tax they want to obtain it from and how their ordinances read. REP. BUNDE observed that nothing in the proposal requires local taxes to be raised. He said it allows those that would like to assume more responsibility for their school district to do so. He reminded the committee that the state may not fully fund education this year and that local municipalities could assume some of that responsibility if they choose to do so. Number 640 REP. NICHOLIA asked what type of impact the formula would have on school districts, single sight school districts, and REAAs in rural areas. Number 645 MR. GUILEY stated that the proposal would provide an equal opportunity for all organized municipalities and boroughs to provide additional support to their school districts. He said there is no opportunity for local contributions regarding REAAs. He indicated that the state of Alaska funds basic need at 100% in the case of REAAs without a local contribution requirement. REP. NICHOLIA asked what impact the legislation would have on Galena or the Tanana city school district. Number 671 MR. GUILEY directed the committee's attention to the schedule included in the bill packets that indicates that Galena could contribute an additional $14,756 at a 1% increase which would be 24% total. He said under the proposal Galena could contribute an additional $29,512 if they are already at the cap. He said, currently, Galena is not at the cap so they do have additional contribution capacity within existing statute. REP. NICHOLIA asked Mr. Guiley if he has been in contact with Galena so they could comment on the formula. MR. GUILEY responded he had not been in contact with any specific district so that they might comment, but he indicated that attached to the sponsor statement is a schedule of what Galena currently contributes to the local school district. He asserted that under the existing statute, the total allowable excess is $360,000 over the required local effort, giving a total allowable contribution of $440,000 compared to the $253,000 that Galena currently budgets. He said Galena may not benefit from the statute because they are not currently contributing at the cap but may find themselves in that situation in the future. Number 711 REP. NICHOLIA stated that she had concerns regarding the legislation. She indicated that HB 533 was first introduced March 16, 1994, while she was attending a conference in Fairbanks. She said she had not had time to speak to her school districts about the bill. Number 721 REP. BUNDE reiterated that the legislation does not require local districts to do anything, it allows them to take responsibility if they wish. REP. VEZEY observed that there are not very many areas that will be affected by the legislation. MR. GUILEY clarified that the bill provides opportunity to districts that have the desire to contribute more. He said, "So those districts that are currently at the cap, or in the event if we have proration, the cap is applied to the prorated dollar amount. That would change the schedule somewhat and more districts would find themselves closer to that cap. So, especially in the event of proration, you may find more districts than what are indicated here in the position to take advantage of this legislation, should it pass." Number 758 REP. VEZEY asked if his observation is wrong, as he saw only three or four communities currently that would benefit from the bill. MR. GUILEY said Rep. Vezey is correct. He stated that historically Ketchikan, Kenai, Fairbanks, and Juneau have been the four districts that have repeatedly contributed very close to the cap. REP. G. DAVIS offered to Rep. Vezey that the legislation would allow those districts that are in "dire straits" to gain more funding. REP. B. DAVIS indicated that there may be only a few districts at the cap currently, but in the future other districts would have the opportunity to rise to that maximum, especially if state funding is cut back. She said, "Anchorage, for example, does not reach the cap that's set by, we reach the artificial cap that we have in our city, but not what's set here. But, that would give us an opportunity to do it should there be a need to do it." She reiterated that the legislation would be beneficial to other districts in the future. Number 805 REP. BUNDE made a motion to pass HB 533 out of committee with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note. CHAIR TOOHEY asked if there were any objections. REP. OLBERG objected. CHAIR TOOHEY called for the vote. Reps. Toohey, Bunde, G. Davis, Vezey, B. Davis, Nicholia, and Brice voted "Yea" and Rep. Olberg voted "Nay." Chair Toohey declared that HB 533 was so moved. (Chair Toohey handed the gavel over to Rep. Bunde to preside over the remainder of the meeting.) Number 845 CHAIR BUNDE indicated that there would be teleconference testimony starting at 3:45 p.m. (Chair Bunde took a brief at-ease from 3:30 until 3:45 p.m. to accommodate teleconference testimony.) CHAIR BUNDE reconvened at 3:45 p.m. He brought HB 521 to the table and indicated that there would be teleconference testimony. HB 521 - JUDICIAL REVIEW: TEACHER TENURE DECISIONS Number 866 CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, President, National Education Association/Alaska (NEA/AK), testified in Juneau in opposition to HB 521. She stated the legislation would end the right of a dismissed, tenured teacher to obtain a trial de novo, or new trial, before a Superior Court judge and would only be allowed to ask a judge to consider whether the school board afforded the teacher due process. She further indicated that a teacher's right to a jury trial would be precluded. MS. DOUGLAS indicated that in 1975 the Supreme Court stated, "It is well known that the composition of many school boards is not such as to endow them with fact-finding expertise in matters of teacher nonretention." Also in 1977 the court observed that, "There is no question that a judicial body, often further removed from the political pressures involved in teacher nonretention dispute, will provide more objective perspective of the proceedings." MS. DOUGLAS further indicated that the bill would require judges to treat school board decisions in the same manner as judges treat decisions of such neutral, expert agencies as the Workers Compensation Board, the Professional Teaching Practices Commission, the Board of Fisheries and the Board of Game. She said those agencies are specialized bodies which have the "fact-finding expertise" which the Supreme Court has said school boards lack in matters of teacher nonretention. She also asserted that it is nearly impossible to obtain a fair hearing from school boards because they often "rubber stamp" the recommendations of administrators. Number 929 CHAIR BUNDE asked Ms. Douglas to leave her written testimony with the committee secretary. He asked for testimony from Carl Rose. Number 938 CARL ROSE, Executive Director, Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB), testified in Juneau in support of HB 521. He stated that he had provided the committee with a written statement as well as correspondence from member districts. He noted that during this time of financial difficulty the state has to look at how it conducts business and the costs that are incurred as result of decisions made. He stated that dollars targeted for the classroom are being spent in the legal arena regarding nonretention. He felt that if there is any question regarding due process or lack thereof, a Superior Court should examine the case. MR. ROSE further indicated that if an objective review is provided, and also a fair and impartial hearing is provided, there should be no reason for a new trial. A record and a body of knowledge is created at the local level regarding the case. He said if that hearing is unsatisfactory to a teacher, they have the right to request a new trial. The facts of that hearing will be the basis upon which those involved will prepare for a new trial. He felt the process puts the school districts at a disadvantage, expenses increase, and the burden of proof still lies with the school district. MR. ROSE asserted that the right to due process should be protected by law. But, he said he had great concerns if a case has to be retried after the facts have been brought forth by a hearing process. MR. ROSE directed the committee's attention to information included in the bill packets that relate various expenses that some school districts have incurred as a result of de novo trials. He reiterated that dollars should be going into the classrooms and not being diverted to pay for legal fees. Number 014 CHAIR BUNDE asked Mr. Rose if he felt school boards rubber stamp the recommendations of their administrators. MR. ROSE replied that administrators are hired for certain functions, including the recommending of nonretention in appropriate situations, and school boards, more than likely, will heed those recommendations. He further indicated that school districts usually seek legal counsel during the hearing process before problems are created. He also stated that he was aware of recommendations of nonretention that have come forward from administration and subsequently have not been taken under consideration by the local school board. CHAIR BUNDE asked if the issue was more about money than going to trial. He also said if the case is won in the first trial, chances are the facts won't change in the second trial and the district would prevail again. Number 052 MR. ROSE indicated that money is an issue and also that the burden of proof lies with the school district. He said, "the burden of proof is on the school district. And, if you go to two separate trials and you basically lay out your strategy at a hearing level, safe to say that the opposition gets to prepare a case for you and meet you in a separate, new trial. I think there is a disadvantage. The school board is bound, but they can't change the list of particulars. When you state your list of particulars and your reasons for nonretention, you can't change those." MR. ROSE further indicated that there is a "chilling effect" on administrators after a tremendous amount of money has been spent and quite a bit of time has passed due to a de novo trial and the district does not prevail. He stated that administrators are fearful to pursue another nonretention case for fear it will not "stick" over the course of time. Number 082 CHAIR BUNDE asked for teleconference testimony. Number 083 LARRY WIGET, Legislative Liaison, Anchorage School District, testified via teleconference in support of HB 521. He stated that the testimony he was giving was provided by the executive director of Labor Relations, Lee Wilson. He said the current provisions of AS 14.20.205 grant Alaskan teachers a measure of security unheard of in other employment arenas. That security makes it very difficult for the school districts to remove any teachers "whose performance insults public expectations and inhibits student growth." MR. WIGET indicated that teachers who have been judged unfit for duty by school boards, after lengthy and formal evidential hearings, have the option to begin the process all over again in Superior Court. He said the second trial typically occurs more than a year after the hearing before the school board, thus increasing the difficulty and cost of securing testimony from witnesses who may be out of the state or country. He stated that recently the Anchorage school district first spent $20,000 to prevail before a hearing officer and then was forced to expend an additional $100,000 only to achieve the same result in Superior Court. He further explained that all witnesses had to testify again and that all arguments, all discovery, and all briefs were recreated and submitted to the judge. MR. WIGET asserted that HB 521 would protect teachers by giving them access to court review of an administrative judgement. He said in order for a decision made by a hearing officer to be overturned by a court, the appealing party is required to demonstrate that a substantial error in fact or law was made, hence the burden of proof rests clearly on the appellant. He further reiterated that HB 521 will prohibit completely unwarranted second evidentiary proceedings in Superior Court. TAPE 94-59, SIDE B Number 000 CHAIR BUNDE asked if there were any questions for Mr. Wiget. REP. TOOHEY, for clarification, asked Mr. Wiget if there is no other collective bargaining unit in the state that allows for a de novo trial. MR. WIGET said it was his understanding that HB 521 would put teachers on equal footing with other state represented employees. REP. TOOHEY felt that Mr. Wiget's position was reasonable. Number 024 CHAIR BUNDE referred to the scenario Mr. Wiget spoke of where a school district paid an additional $100,000 for a new trial. He asked if the school district prevailed. MR. WIGET said yes. CHAIR BUNDE asked for teleconference testimony from Kenai. Number 038 RICHARD SWARNER, Executive Director, Business Management, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, testified via teleconference in support of HB 521. He stated that the Kenai school district had recently undergone a de novo trial for nonretention of a tenured teacher at a cost of $74,000. He indicated that the cost is an exorbitant yet "normal price" for the additional process. He asserted if HB 521 had been law at the time of the second trial, the costs would have totaled $20,000 to $25,000. He felt the legislation would be a cost containment measure and would maintain a teacher's right to due process. Mr. Swarner further indicated that there are also additional costs incurred as administrators must devote more time for preparing for and participating in a de novo trial. MR. SWARNER directed the committee's attention to a letter in their bill packets from SHARON RADTKE, Executive Director, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, to CARL ROSE. He said the correspondence further details the testimony of Mr. Rose and Mr. Wiget. He strongly urged the passage of HB 521. CHAIR BUNDE asked, if the Kenai district had a more effective tenure review process, would it have been necessary to take the teacher to court? MR. SWARNER said that was a difficult question to determine. He said the district does not take teachers to court very often. He indicated the last court case was in the early 1980's and the cost was approximately $50,000. He stated that in the most recent court case, the district did not prevail and asserted that they would take the case to the Supreme Court which will cost another $20,000. CHAIR BUNDE asked for further testimony. Number 131 JIM SIMEROTH, Teacher, Kenai Middle School, testified via teleconference in opposition to HB 521. He stated that the legislation would take away a basic right of a teacher to a fair trial. He asserted that not all school boards are unbiased in their decisions. Due process does not always ensure fair treatment. He said if cost is an issue, it has been his experience that costs incurred by a school district are the result of some type of inadequate administrative procedures. Number 171 CHAIR BUNDE asked for testimony from Sitka. Number 172 JOHN HOLST, Superintendent, Sitka School District, testified via teleconference in support of HB 521. He stated that those who are in opposition presume that there is a lack of due process. He said, "that couldn't be further from the truth." He indicated that there is no intention on the part of any school board or administrator to "do away" with due process provisions. Currently, the system is duplicative and adds unwarranted costs to the process. He asserted that no strength is added to due process by allowing de novo trials. Due process is protected under HB 521 and any teacher can ask a Superior Court judge to determine whether or not their rights have been violated. MR. HOLST said the Sitka School District is currently involved in a case that has been remanded from the Supreme Court back down to the Superior Court. The district thought the case had been decided a few years ago. He indicated that a letter included in the committee bill packets outlines the costs to the district as well as their insurance carrier. MR. HOLST further stated that there are tremendous costs involved in the initial development of a nonretention case and that it can take up to 70% of an administrator's time. He felt the protections afforded to tenure teachers under current statute "are about as iron-clad as they could be without even adding the de novo trial." He strongly urged the passage of HB 521. Number 261 CHAIR BUNDE said he assumed that Mr. Holst is not a teacher. Number 262 MR. HOLST said he is the superintendent of the Sitka School District. CHAIR BUNDE asked for testimony from Barrow. Number 265 TOM EVERITT, Personnel Director, North Slope Borough School District, testified via teleconference in support of HB 521. He stated that he had spent seven years in the Anchorage School District as a director of labor relations handling any type of case having to do with the dismissal of teachers. He said he began a career in collective bargaining in 1965 and understands due process from working "both sides of the fence." He asserted that the legislation in no way takes away teacher due process. He indicated that the hearings held by school boards are very much like legal proceedings where witnesses are sworn under oath and testimony and legal representation is allowed. He said the procedure is conducted exactly as if it were in a court room. He said in the case of a de nova trial it is the exact process again. MR. EVERITT related a case that had just been completed where the board brought a hearing officer to Barrow to oversee the board as to ensure that the proceedings were handled in "a very legal way." He said the hearing officer wrote the decision for the board and the procedure was conducted according to all legal processes. He indicated that the case went to a de novo trial and the district's expense was $126,000. The district is still awaiting the decision. He guessed that whatever the decision will be, the case will go to the Supreme Court. MR. EVERITT supported the concept of a judge reviewing the records of the hearing before the school board and determining whether or not the process was carried out in a proper and legal manner as to avoid the de novo trial completely. He also supported the right to due process. MR. EVERITT related another case where a teacher was terminated for incompetence. He stated that $29,000 in attorneys fees were spent in preparing for the case. He then indicated that the insurance company which represented the district settled with the teacher for just under $60,000. He said the insurance company had just finished paying $126,000 for the previous case and felt it would be easier and cheaper to pay the teacher than to go through another trial. He asserted that the district was fortunate that it had insurance coverage, but indicated they fully expect to be cancelled by the insurance company as a result of two very large claims. He said the district now would be wholly responsible for all legal expenses. Number 389 CHAIR BUNDE asked Mr. Everitt if he was related to John Everitt. MR. EVERITT said no and that he had never met him when he was in the Anchorage school district. Number 390 CHAIR BUNDE asked for further testimony. There was none. He then indicated that there had not been enough testimony from teachers on the issue. He said he would keep the legislation under advisement until he ascertained the general position of teachers. Seeing no further business before the committee CHAIR BUNDE adjourned the meeting at 4:12 p.m.