Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/09/1995 03:03 PM 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 February 9, 1995 3:03 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Representative Cynthia Toohey, Co-Chair Representative Con Bunde, Co-Chair Representative Gary Davis Representative Caren Robinson Representative Tom Brice MEMBERS ABSENT Representative Al Vezey Representative Norman Rokeberg COMMITTEE CALENDAR * HB 124:"An Act extending the termination date of the Board of Nursing Home Administrators; and providing for an effective date." HELD AT SPONSOR'S REQUEST UNTIL AN UNSPECIFIED DATE * HB 92:"An Act extending the termination date of the Citizen's Review Panel for Permanency Planning; and providing for an effective date." PASSED OUT OF COMMITTEE * HB 94:"An Act relating to the management of public schools by a private agency." HEARD AND HELD (* First public hearing.) WITNESS REGISTER MARVEEN COGGINS, Legislative Aide to Representative Cynthia Toohey Room 104 State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 465-4919 POSITION STATEMENT: Provided sponsor statement for HB 92. CECELIA KLEINKAUF, Attorney 900 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 710 Anchorage, AK 99501 Telephone: (907) 561-7113 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 92. CINDY DEVLIN, Administrative Assistant II Citizens Foster Care Review Panel Office of the Commissioner Department of Administration 900 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 710 Anchorage, AK 99501 Telephone: (907) 258-6104 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 92. CANDICE WHEELER, Social Worker II Citizens Foster Care Review Panel Office of the Commissioner Department of Administration 900 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 710 Anchorage, AK 99501 Telephone: (907) 258-6104 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 92. PAULINE HASUND, Citizen Volunteer 900 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 710 Anchorage, AK 99501 Telephone: (907) 258-6104 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 92. VERNETA WALLACE, Citizen Volunteer 900 West Fifth Avenue, Suite 710 Anchorage, AK 99501 Telephone: (907) 258-6104 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 92. SHARON BARTON, Director Division of Administrative Services Department of Administration 10th Floor State Office Building Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 465-5655 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified for the DOA concerning HB 92. ROBERLEY WALDRON, Deputy Commissioner Department of Administration 2200 Belmont Drive Anchorage, AK 99517 Telephone: (907) 338-4213 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in favor of HB 92. SHERRIE GOLL, Lobbyist KIDPAC P.O. Box 221156 Juneau, AK 99802 Telephone: (907) 463-6744 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified in support of HB 92. REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES Room 102 State Capitol Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 465-3743 POSITION STATEMENT: Read sponsor statement and provided testimony for HB 94. WILLIE ANDERSON, NEA Alaska UniServ Director NEA Alaska 114 Second Street Juneau, AK 99801 Telephone: (907) 586-3090 POSITION STATEMENT: Testified against HB 94. PREVIOUS ACTION BILL: HB 124 SHORT TITLE: EXTEND BOARD OF NURSING HOME ADMINISTRATORS BILL VERSION: SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) TOOHEY JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/25/95 133 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/25/95 133 (H) HES 02/09/95 (H) HES AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 106 BILL: HB 92 SHORT TITLE: EXTEND FOSTER CARE REVIEW PANEL SPONSOR(S): HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/18/95 69 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/18/95 69 (H) HES, FIN 02/09/95 (H) HES AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 106 BILL: HB 94 SHORT TITLE: PRIVATE MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS SPONSOR(S): REPRESENTATIVE(S) JAMES JRN-DATE JRN-PG ACTION 01/18/95 69 (H) READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRAL(S) 01/18/95 70 (H) HES, JUD, FIN 02/09/95 (H) HES AT 03:00 PM CAPITOL 106 ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-6, SIDE A Number 000 CO-CHAIR CYNTHIA TOOHEY called the Health, Education and Social Services Committee meeting to order at 3:03 p.m. Present at the call to order were Representatives Toohey, Bunde and Robinson. A quorum was not present. The meeting was being teleconferenced with Anchorage. HHESS - 02/09/95 HB 124 - EXTEND BOARD OF NURSING HOME ADMINISTRATORS CO-CHAIR TOOHEY announced that HB 124 was tabled indefinitely and would not be heard today. HHESS - 02/09/95 Number 102 HB 92 - EXTEND FOSTER CARE REVIEW PANEL MARVEEN COGGINS, Legislative Aide to Representative Toohey, discussed the sponsor statement: House Bill 92 would extend the termination date of the Citizens' Review Panel for Permanency Planning to 1997. This would be in accordance with the recommendation of the Division of Legislative Audit which completed an audit in September of 1993. The enabling legislation had bi-partisan support and passed both the House and the Senate unanimously in 1990. It established an external citizen's review process in order to ensure that children do not languish in out-of- home placements, but receive the benefits of a permanent home. The goal of the act was to reunite children with their families, but in those cases where reunification was not in the best interest of the child, the process would more expeditiously place the child in a secure, permanent home. It is estimated that about 500,000 children pass through state foster care in any given month throughout the U.S. During the 1970s, congress became aware that children were being removed from their families frequently, sometimes unnecessarily, to be placed in foster homes or institutions. Once removed, children were seldom reunified with their biological family. Children who could not return to their families lingered in temporary care, rather than being provided with permanent, adoptive families. Thousands of children were caught for years in foster care drift, removed frequently from one foster family to another. Crowded court calendars and understaffed child welfare agencies were contributing to an increase in the number of children and the length of time spent in substitute care. Among solutions proposed by child advocacy organizations were the comprehensive implementation of permanency planning casework and foster care placement monitoring through regular case reviews. A resource was identified to help monitor the situation: citizen volunteers. There are now citizen review panels in 25 states, including Alaska. In Alaska, the Department of Administration (DOA) originally made a decision not to implement the panels. It has only been since FY94 that DOA is implementing pilot panels in Anchorage, so there is not yet adequate information to analyze the panel's effectiveness. External citizens' reviews have only been on-going as a model project since mid-December 1993. Although functional for just a short period of time the panel has submitted two annual reports to the legislature. Earlier in 1993, the Division of Legislative Audit did an audit regarding the upcoming sunset date for the Citizens' Review Panel. The result of the audit was the recommendation to extend the sunset date to 1997. This would allow the Anchorage project sufficient time to gather data to determine the panel's effectiveness. Effectiveness can be measured by the length of time children remain in foster care, and by the savings associated with children no longer being part of the foster care system. According to the reports, public acceptance of the external review process has been excellent. The office has received numerous calls from parents requesting their child be reviewed by the citizens' review panels. Foster parents have stated they appreciate being a part of the external review process. The office has been able to provide assistance to Native village councils regarding some procedures. This bill has the support of the Alaska Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the National Association of Foster Care Reviewers. It has been shown that not only can children spend less time in out-of-home placements, but cost-savings can result. Number 300 MS. COGGINS then introduced members of the audience who were in support of HB 92. Present were Roberley Waldron, former Deputy Commissioner, Department of Administration; and Patty Swenson, Member, Citizens Foster Care Review Panel. On teleconference in Anchorage were Cecelia Kleinkauf, Cindy Devlin and Candice Wheeler with the Citizens Foster Care Review Panel. Number 345 REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON asked who from the DOA currently manages the program. She stated that originally, the intent was there was to be an executive director of the program. MS. COGGINS said since Roberley Waldron is no longer with the DOA, the person in charge is Sharon Barton, also of the DOA. Number 388 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY stated for the record that Representative Tom Brice joined the meeting at 3:08 p.m. A quorum was now present. Number 426 CECELIA KLEINKAUF, Attorney, with a Master in Social Work (MSW), testified from the Department of Administration in Anchorage. As both a social worker and an attorney, she has had the privilege of working with the DOA, under contract, to help set up and establish the Foster Care Review Panel in Anchorage. MS. KLEINKAUF said the need for foster care review and external foster care review emanates from a federal law passed in 1980, which was the Federal Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act. That federal law requires that when children go into foster care, a case plan is developed for them and the child and the plan are periodically reviewed at six-month intervals. Number 493 MS. KLEINKAUF said while the Division of Youth and Family Services (DFYS) takes the child into custody and is given statutory power to develop the initial case plan, the need for an external review of child welfare case plans is well documented across the country. This is both for an objective look at what is happening to a child in foster care and also to address the need for an outside review system in order to make sure that individual children don't get lost in the overburdened system and linger too long in foster care. MS. KLEINKAUF stated that the whole purpose of an external review is to provide a citizen or an independent to review children who are in foster care. This is toward the goal of having them achieve a permanent home in the most timely manner. The permanent home may be with their own family, in a long-term guardianship situation or perhaps in an adoptive home. Number 567 MS. KLEINKAUF said the review panels consist completely of trained volunteers, which is how the panels are constructed in all states. The cases for review come to the Citizen Review Panel, via the Superior Court, when the child first comes into state care and temporary custody of the DFYS. MS. KLEINKAUF explained out of that court referral, panels are established to look at why the child is now under state care. The panels look carefully at preventive efforts and the reasonable efforts made to keep the child out of foster care, and what reasonable efforts have been made to return the child to its home or a permanent situation as quickly as possible. Number 635 MS. KLEINKAUF continued that toward that end, the Review Panel meets with parents, a DFYS representative and perhaps with the child, the foster parent, the guardian and all the interested parties related to the child, to try to look at the overall plan and see what effort is being made toward establishing a permanent situation for the child. The recommendations developed by the panel are available to all the parties involved with that case. MS. KLEINKAUF concluded by saying that former Deputy Commissioner Roberley Waldron could speak on some more specific review instances as well as the annual report prepared for the legislature. Number 736 CINDY DEVLIN, Administrative Assistant II, Citizens Foster Care Review Panel, Office of the Commissioner, DOA, recounted that she first joined the Review Panel program in October, 1993. This was when a lot of the program's groundwork had been laid by the Advisory Committee through working with Ms. Kleinkauf and Deputy Commissioner Waldron. MS. DEVLIN said since then, she has been working in the development and the continued improvement of the program. Most recently, the program has been working toward combining their efforts with the DFYS to coordinate their Title IV-E reviews. The DOA program has a very good working relationship with the DFYS review staff. CO-CHAIR BUNDE left the meeting to attend another meeting. Number 790 CANDICE WHEELER, Social Worker II, with a Master in Social Work, Citizens Foster Care Review Panel, Office of the Commissioner, DOA said that she had over 25 years of experience with children in out- of-home placement. Foster care and adoption are her areas of expertise. She has been working with the Citizens' Review Program since it began 14 months earlier. It has been an interesting and sometimes heart-wrenching experience for her. It saddens her to think that this program may be lost. Her staff is finding that 86 percent of children they review are still in out-of-home care 12 to 18 months later. MS. WHEELER said the panel is finding that in this program, victims can be made visible. Social misery can be put on the agenda of those with power. The question they ask everyday is, "Who is speaking for the children?" DFYS has mandated to reunite children and families and that is excellent as far as it goes. However, some children have been in and out of home care for 12 to 18 months. Many children in the program are babies, or two years old, or six years old. These children need to have a step made to get them into permanent placement. MS. WHEELER continued that a male parent, being interviewed by the panel, recently admitted he was a "dope fiend" and an alcoholic, and this man is a "high-powered attorney paid by the State." Who is advocating for the children? That is the job of the Citizens' Review Panel. And that is why she would like to see the program continue. Number 878 PAULINE HASUND, Citizen Volunteer, Citizens Foster Care Review Panel, said that she had been a foster parent for nine years. She is no longer a foster parent, since that is a requirement for membership on the panel. She wanted to be on the panel because she wanted to help ease the load on the social workers. She knew that outside input and help in placing these children in permanent homes would be welcomed. The social workers have worked with the panel members very well. MS. HASUND has given two days each month to the panel as a volunteer. But she has also given many more days, each month, at home crying while she reads case records. She wishes she could take these children home and provide for them herself, but that is not possible. She urged the HESS Committee members to extend the funding for the Citizens' Review Panel because it helps everyone concerned, the court system, social workers and, above all, the children. Number 979 VERNETA WALLACE, Citizen Volunteer, Citizens Foster Care Review Panel, also had previously been a foster parent in the state of Alaska for 21 years. She has done a lot of volunteer work within the community as well. Having worked with the DFYS and seeing how overloaded the social workers are her main concern is for the children. From her perspective, the panel has been very helpful and has been making strides. There has also been a lot of growth within the panel over the years. She strongly urged the HESS Committee members to continue the funding for the program. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY assured Ms. Wallace that funding is not an issue for the HESS Committee today. That issue will be addressed by the Finance Committee, which is the next committee of referral. Number 1083 SHARON BARTON, Director, Administrative Services, Department of Administration, explained that she has only dealt with the Citizens' Review Panel since December, when she was placed in her current position upon the departure of Roberley Waldron. The DOA has been both pleased and frustrated with the administration of this program over the last 14 months. The DOA's position on the bill is neutral. If it is in the interest of the legislature to continue the program, the DOA would be pleased to administer it. Number 1120 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Ms. Barton if there is an executive director position for the Citizens' Review Panel, or if Ms. Barton is simply responsible for the program. MS. BARTON replied that was one of the frustrating parts about administering the program, especially during a transition period. When the funding level was set, a few years ago, at $125,000, the DOA tried to figure out how they could get the most reviews done for that amount of money. It was decided that amount did not allow for an executive director position and Roberley Waldron took on that position in addition to her position as Deputy Commissioner. Ms. Waldron provided the program with direction as if she was an executive director. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if the original budget for the program was $500,000, what happened to all the money that was there, and why wasn't it used to create an executive director position. Number 1210 ROBERLEY WALDRON, former Deputy Commissioner, Department of Administration, said that former Commissioner Mala of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) and former Commissioner Keller of the DOA met and came to an agreement. Commissioner Mala said that if there was a problem in the issue of foster care and permanency placement which needed to be addressed, he wanted the opportunity to try and work within the DHSS. Therefore, they agreed the Citizens' Review Panel Program would not be implemented. MS. WALDRON said at that time, there was an administrative assistant hired. So money had also been spent for supplies and some office space. This amounted to about $47,000 in Ms. Waldron's estimation. That money lapsed back into the general fund because the DOA found other work for the administrative assistant. The legislature reappropriated the unspent funds, and those funds were vetoed by former Governor Hickel on the recommendation of the Commissioners of DHSS and DOA. This recommendation was given, again, on the reasoning that the DHSS would like to fix any perceived problem internally. Number 1286 MS. WALDRON continued that the DOA began to get calls from legislators which asked why the program was not being implemented. The legislators reminded the DOA and the DHSS that the program was legislation and threatened to sue the departments. One person with a great interest in the implementation of the program was former Representative and Senator Virginia Collins. Another interested person was former Representative Fran Ulmer, now Lt. Governor of the state of Alaska. MS. Waldron said two years passed with no funding. The following year the program received $125,000, and this year the program has $104,500. The executive director could not be hired with that amount of money, so when the DOA began to implement the program, Ms. Waldron's idea was to use the members of the administration who should have been in the statewide panel as an advisory panel. She decided she would act as the executive director since she would have the agency in her office so the most reviews could be accomplished for the amount of money allotted. That is what happened. MS. WALDRON said that however, she was fortunate to have a very capable social worker, Candice Wheeler. Ms. Wheeler began to run the program and the advisory board was there to have staff meetings, conduct reviews and deal with problems. Ms. Wheeler has been a major driving force in getting the foster care review panels working. Number 1371 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON stated that she was simply curious about the funding, and saddened by the fact that former Senator Collins worked hard at getting the program through and receiving funding, and the program and funding were subsequently lost. Representative Robinson said it will be very difficult to get the needed funding back to effectively serve the children. Number 1404 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if there was anything left of the $125,000 provided for the last fiscal year. MS. WALDRON said "no." The program was implemented that year. Currently, they have $104,500, which means they will have to stop doing reviews immediately unless other funding is provided. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked Ms. Waldron if it could be requested that the program be continued without funding. MS. WALDRON stated that would be impossible. Even though there are about 19 wonderful citizen volunteers who give up to two days each month to the program, the volunteers do not have the legal access into the files where DOA workers go and extract the information they use. The program does require staffing. It also requires a trained expert to lead the citizen panel and to write the recommendations. Number 1473 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked Ms. Waldron about the minimum amount of funding on which the Panel could function. MS. WALDRON answered that if the program was continued as is, with two social workers working as review panelists, it would take about $170,000. It would be better if one more social worker could be added. They could do many more reviews with one more social worker. Ms. Waldron encouraged the HESS Committee members to pass HB 92 and not to substitute the Citizens' Review Panel with some other plan. The current plan is the one which needs to go forward. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY assured Ms. Waldron that her intention was to continue with the current program. Number 1528 REPRESENTATIVE TOM BRICE asked Ms. Waldron what kinds of costs will be incurred if children in foster care are bounced from home to home in the absence of some organization that develops permanency plans. It is the understanding of Representative Brice that the most expensive part of foster care is within the first month when setup costs, moving costs and administrative costs are incurred. Those costs tend to drop considering the length of time the child stays in a home. MS. WALDRON replied that foster parents are paid a monthly amount for the care of foster children. The costs really do not diminish over time. REPRESENTATIVE BRICE thought that when a child is moved, there is some up front money to help defray costs. Ms. Waldron answered that she did not have the knowledge to respond to that question effectively because that money comes from the DFYS and not the DOA. Number 1560 MS. WALDRON continued that children are moved regularly for different reasons. They recently reviewed a two-year-old who has been in 14 different foster homes. Representative Brice said that was ridiculous. He believed there are financial savings depending on how long a child is kept in one place. MS. WALDRON said the real financial savings are seen when the child is placed permanently, and Representative Brice strongly agreed. He said that the Citizens' Review Panel helps to establish those permanent homes. In addition, the costs of moving children from place to place does not take into account the toll this takes on the children. This cost is of greater importance than can be counted in dollars. Number 1630 SHERRIE GOLL, Lobbyist, Alaska Women's Lobby, represented KIDPAC, a children's advocacy organization. She testified in support of HB 92. She said that permanency planning is very important for the HESS Committee members to understand. The social workers at DFYS do a very good job. The division is very under funded and the case loads are very high. The children who are in state custody and the Alaskan children in need of aid can use every bit of help they can get. MS. GOLL said the Foster Care Review Panel is a wonderful program and it would have been great if it had received adequate funding. Ms. Goll remembers when former Senator Collins, who was, at that time, a representative, developed the program. The program was going to cost $500,000, which was very minimal because the program was supposed to be statewide. MS. GOLL continued that currently, there is one pilot project in Anchorage, where the heaviest case load is. It is very important that the program be continued. She referred HESS Committee members back to last year's annual report to show how much citizens can accomplish by placing a little bit more light on the cases of kids who are in foster care. This can result in the permanent placement of a child. When case loads are high, such alternatives can often slip by. Number 1705 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY called a brief at-ease at 3:32 p.m. until another HESS Committee member arrived to make a quorum. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY called the meeting back to order at 3:35 p.m. She announced that Representative Gary Davis had joined the meeting and a quorum was again present. Number 1714 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Ms. Barton about the current budget. MS. BARTON said that the $104,500 allotted for this year's budget allows them to continue the program and keep the staff until March 15. At that time, the staff will be laid off. Ms. Barton said that supplemental funding will be necessary to carry the program through the rest of the fiscal year. MS. BARTON stated that the $170,000, asked for next year, allows for a three person staff. The DOA has also disbanded the deputy commissioner's office, in Anchorage, which had shared lease costs with the program. Therefore, the Review Panel would have to be funded for its continuing lease costs. The additional money in the budget is one time money used for computers and furniture. MS. BARTON said currently, the furniture being used for the program offices is on loan from Roberley Waldron. The computers currently being used are very out of date. Number 1788 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if the extra money needed was in the emergency supplemental. Ms. Barton answered it was not in any supplemental fund request, emergency or otherwise. Number 1811 REPRESENTATIVE BRICE moved that HB 92 be passed from the HESS Committee with individual recommendations, and the accompanying fiscal notes. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if it was appropriate for the HESS Committee to also move a note or personally speak with whomever is in charge of the supplemental budget to ask about the possibility of supplemental funding for the program. REPRESENTATIVE BRICE said two different issues were being discussed, although they are related. It would be appropriate for the HESS Committee to write a letter if that was the will of the committee. Individual legislators can also write a letter requesting that additional funding be considered for the program. Whether or not it is appropriate that the request is part of HB 92, Representative Brice was not sure, but he didn't think so. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY agreed that she didn't think it was appropriate. She stated that the outcome was uncertain because of the financing. Co-Chair Toohey suggested that the Finance Committee was certainly aware that HB 92 and the funding needed was coming to them, and it will be up to the Finance Committee members to make the decision. The Citizens' Review Panel received a lot of support last session and there is obviously a lot of support this session. Number 1892 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON suggested that Co-Chair Toohey write a letter to make sure that this receives a high priority from the Finance Committee. Representative Robinson was doubtful that everyone in that committee is watching for the program and that they really care that the program continues. To Representative Robinson, it would be a shame to lose the program and then have to begin it again. She thought the HESS Committee is the only committee before Finance and it is important that the HESS Committee members let the Finance Committee know of this program's importance and the importance of funding. Number 1917 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS asked if the motion to pass HB 92 out of committee had passed without objection. Hearing no objections, the bill was passed out of the HESS Committee, to the Finance Committee. with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes by Co-Chair Toohey. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS left the committee meeting at 3:40 p.m. Number 1935 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY called the meeting back to order at 3:45 p.m. A quorum was not present to conduct business, therefore, only testimony would be taken. HHESS - 02/09/95 HB 94 - PRIVATE MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES read her sponsor statement into the record: Parents, teachers, political leaders, and students are all asking for improvements and changes in our educational system. No governmental attempts at reforming education seem to have slowed the growth of problems in our schools, much less created solutions. This bill would allow Alaska's regional school boards a new option: that of contracting with private agencies for the management of our schools. Articles from New York and Connecticut point to the differences private management can make in public schools, despite initial opposition to the concept. HB 94 would in no way require school boards to employ or even investigate this option. But with revenues declining and an enormous part of Alaska's budget going toward education, it is time we opened the door to all possibilities for spending this money more wisely and efficiently. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that in the bill packets, HESS Committee members would find letters from people who are in opposition to the bill. Number 2008 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that one of the most difficult challenges political and nonpolitical arenas face is to look at absolutely every opportunity possible to make things better and less expensive. Representative James doesn't have any answers for problems. She spoke to a number of schoolteachers from all walks of life, young and old. She found they are very frustrated with the way the education system is run. They are classroom teachers and probably know best how to deal with students they have in their classes. Yet by rules and regulations applied to them, and administrative decisions and policies, they are not able to do what they know would work best. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that if the opportunity was there for private contracting of some of the smaller Alaskan school districts, some teachers could actually teach the way they know is best. The teachers could form their own private organizations and they could implement the systems that would work best. Number 2055 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES has no intention of selling or supporting a private agency. She only believes that every opportunity should be available to get Alaskan children a good education through the most inexpensive methods possible so Alaska can maximize the use of its funds and maximize the ability to educate Alaska in a better way. Representative James thinks to not pass the bill is to get rid of an option. The decision to utilize this option would be the decision of the local school board. The private agency would be represented by those who had put together an educational plan and organization. Number 2093 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY said Page 1, line 13 of HB 94, reads: (A regional school board may) appoint, compensate, and otherwise control all school employees in accordance with this title; these employees are not subject to AS 39.25 (State Personnel Act). CO-CHAIR TOOHEY wanted to know if these employees would be subject to union regulations and if they would have to be part of a union if they chose not to be. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES did not believe that is the case. A legal opinion may be necessary, but it is not the bill's intent to require that the employees of a private agency who contracted with the school board be part of a union. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if teachers would have to be part of a union. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES responded that would be a decision of the teachers. She continued that if a private organization was implemented, they would not necessarily fall under the same auspices of a public or pseudo-public organization which is ruled by state regulations. The teachers employed by a private agency would be able to decide if they wanted to be in a union or not. That would not be a decision that the state could enforce upon a private agency. Number 2148 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if the curriculum would be controlled. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES answered that the curriculum would be part of the contract. She visualizes people wishing to operate a school system presenting a curriculum, a cost and a program for operating the system to the school board. Representative James felt the curriculum would be a very important part of that presentation. Presumably, the curriculum would be the selling point. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked the difference between contracting to a private agency and a private school with public funding. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied that private schools don't get funding from the public. Private schools and their students pay their own way. HB 94 allows for public funds paying for a private agency that contracts with a public entity. Generally, private schools are not provided with public funds. A school district run by a private agency would be a private school authorized to be given money from public funds. Number 2194 CO-CHAIR TOOHEY asked if there was something in the laws or the Alaska Constitution that said public funds could not be used without some sort of oversight. She also asked if it was possible to have such an oversight. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES answered that she was not aware of any such laws. In drafting HB 94, such laws were not brought to her attention if they exist. She would think that the legal drafters would bring such a problem to her attention. The only delineation that exists is that public funds cannot be used for private religious education. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said there are times when Alaska does contract for education, with private entities, in specific areas such as special education and speech therapy. Currently, there are contracts with specialized agencies to serve that part of the curriculum. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES explained HB 94 would allow the whole management or sections of management to be contracted out. It may be that a private industry wants only to take over special education. If they offer an ability to do that, they may offer teachers an early-out retirement program. Many teachers have expressed to Representative James that such a program is necessary to get new blood into the school systems. This would be optimal to replace the "burned out" teachers. Number 2266 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES continued that one of the reasons she thinks teachers get burned out is because they are working an uphill battle with the rules and regulations and what they can and cannot do. They do not get to implement what they know these students need. Representative James thinks that teachers are just as frustrated as the public is about how the schools are operated. The teachers cannot do some of the things that would give children a better education. If the opportunity existed for the teachers to put together a private organization and contract with the school districts, Alaska may be able to get some otherwise tired-out teachers doing things they like to do and do very well. We would all be winners if we made those opportunities available. Number 2299 WILLIE ANDERSON, National Education Association (NEA) Alaska UniServ Director, testified against HB 94. He said that HB 94, as he reads it, would allow for private operation of a public school. It does not achieve the objectives that Representative James articulated. In his understanding, this bill would allow for the same kind of situation going on currently in Baltimore, Maryland and Hartford, Connecticut. A private agency will come in, for profit, and run the operation while being subject to the rules and regulations of the state. MR. ANDERSON continued that he did not see where the savings would be to the public if a public school was run for profit. TAPE 95-6, SIDE B Number 000 MR. ANDERSON continued that all the rules that are applicable to other public schools are applicable to the schools run by private agencies. If it is the intent of HB 94 to create a private school voucher system, in which parents apply to the state to receive money to send their children to private schools, Mr. Anderson does not think that is congruent with the Alaska State Constitution. The constitution essentially says that public funds cannot be used to send children to private schools. In addition, the bill does not create that type of system. Number 069 REPRESENTATIVE JAMES responded that her intent is not to second guess or violate any state decisions made concerning educational principles. Her intent is also not to create voucher schools. Her intent is not to have families searching out better schools in which to place their children. Her intent is to give teachers and other qualified individuals the ability and opportunity to put forth an agenda, the curriculum and management in one package. This package would be their own administration. REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that one of the problems in the existing school system is that the Administration is overwhelmed with all the rules and regulations they must follow. She is not saying the private agency would not have to follow the same rules, but they also would not have the other level of Administration, forms and reports to deal with. Basically, it would allow the teachers in the private agency to implement agendas that otherwise could not be implemented. CO-CHAIR TOOHEY said there being no further testimony, the bill would be held. Number 181 ADJOURNMENT CO-CHAIR TOOHEY adjourned the meeting at 4 p.m.