Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

03/31/2017 08:00 AM EDUCATION

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08:02:18 AM Start
08:02:56 AM SB96
08:40:00 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         March 31, 2017                                                                                         
                           8:02 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Shelley Hughes, Chair                                                                                                   
Senator Cathy Giessel                                                                                                           
Senator Tom Begich                                                                                                              
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Gary Stevens                                                                                                            
Senator John Coghill                                                                                                            
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 96                                                                                                              
"An  Act relating  to education;  relating  to school  districts;                                                               
relating  to  course  credit  for  students;  relating  to  group                                                               
insurance,  self-insurance,  and other  cooperative  arrangements                                                               
between    school    districts    and    businesses,    nonprofit                                                               
organizations, and  government agencies; relating to  funding for                                                               
school districts;  relating to  school operating  funds; relating                                                               
to competency examinations for  teacher certificates; relating to                                                               
the Professional  Teaching Practices Commission; relating  to the                                                               
duties  and  powers of  the  Department  of Education  and  Early                                                               
Development  and   the  commissioner   of  education   and  early                                                               
development;   relating  to   a  virtual   education  consortium;                                                               
relating to  the minimum  wage for bus  drivers; relating  to the                                                               
investment,  appropriation,  and  administration  of  the  public                                                               
school trust fund; and providing for an effective date."                                                                        
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 96                                                                                                                   
SHORT TITLE: EDUCATION: SCHOOLS/TEACHERS/FUNDING                                                                                
SPONSOR(s): EDUCATION                                                                                                           
03/20/17       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/20/17       (S)       EDC, FIN                                                                                               
03/22/17       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/22/17       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/22/17       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
03/23/17       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)                                                                      
03/23/17       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/23/17       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
03/24/17       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/24/17       (S)       <Bill Hearing Canceled>                                                                                
03/27/17       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/27/17       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/27/17       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
03/28/17       (S)       EDC AT 5:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/28/17       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/28/17       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
03/30/17       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/30/17       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/30/17       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
03/31/17       (S)       EDC AT 8:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
MICHAEL JOHNSON, Commissioner                                                                                                   
Department of Education and Early Development (DEED)                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on SB 96.                                                                                       
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:02:18 AM                                                                                                                  
CHAIR  SHELLEY  HUGHES  called   the  Senate  Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 8:02  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were  Senators Begich, Giessel, and  Chair Hughes. Senators                                                               
Coghill and Stevens were excused.                                                                                               
           SB 96-EDUCATION: SCHOOLS/TEACHERS/FUNDING                                                                        
8:02:56 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES announced  the consideration  of SB  96. She  noted                                                               
there would  be invited testimony from  Commissioner Johnson. She                                                               
said, based  on his concerns,  they have addressed many  items in                                                               
the bill.                                                                                                                       
8:03:49 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL JOHNSON, Commissioner, Department  of Education and Early                                                               
Development (DEED), stated the following:                                                                                       
     It is  an honor  to be here  with you  today discussing                                                                    
     SB96 because  it is an  expression of  your willingness                                                                    
     to  work  together to  think  creatively  on behalf  of                                                                    
     Alaska's students.                                                                                                         
     The   committee    collectively,   and    each   member                                                                    
     individually have  welcomed DEED  into your  offices to                                                                    
     discuss   ideas,  refine   proposals   and  support   a                                                                    
     relentless focus on closing Alaska's achievement gap.                                                                      
     Senator Hughes, thank you for your leadership.                                                                             
     Thank you  for your creativity, your  transparency, and                                                                    
     willingness  to   listen  to  input  and   adjust  your                                                                    
     proposals. It   is   very   encouraging   to   Alaska's                                                                    
     educators and families  when they hear you  say this is                                                                    
     only the  beginning of a  process and that  you welcome                                                                    
     continued  dialogue and  deliberation. Your willingness                                                                    
     to   lead  and   collaborate   will  benefit   Alaska's                                                                    
     This  committee  represents  differing  viewpoints  and                                                                    
     perspectives, yet  Alaska's students  would do  well to                                                                    
     follow the  example that I  have seen from each  of you                                                                    
     individually  as  you  have genuinely  worked  together                                                                    
     across party  lines to develop  great ideas. Washington                                                                    
     can  learn   from  Alaska…as  observed  here   on  this                                                                    
     committee,  there  are  examples of  elected  officials                                                                    
     from   differing   political   perspectives   who   put                                                                    
     character   above  party.    On   behalf  of   Alaska's                                                                    
     students, thank you for teaching  them how a democratic                                                                    
     republic works.                                                                                                            
8:05:40 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON continued:                                                                                                 
     I  want  to  also  thank  Joshua  Banks.  Alaskans  are                                                                    
     getting more  than their money's  worth out  of Joshua.                                                                    
     He is a willing learner and tireless worker.                                                                               
     I also want to note  the attitude of cooperation that I                                                                    
     heard from  several of our associations,  most notably,                                                                    
     the  Alaska Association  of School  Boards, the  Alaska                                                                    
     Association   of  Business   Officials,  the   National                                                                    
     Education Association,  and the  Alaska Superintendents                                                                    
     Association. Their   statements    supporting   change,                                                                    
     innovation,   and  thoughtful   ideas   to  close   the                                                                    
     achievement  gap and  be  more  efficient are  evidence                                                                    
     that  they are  already working  hard to  develop unity                                                                    
     worthy of our students.                                                                                                    
8:06:25 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON turned to SB 96:                                                                                           
     Now,  regarding, SB  96. Senator Hughes,  your comments                                                                    
     seem most  applicable.  It is  a work in  progress, but                                                                    
     it is  good work  and it is  good progress. It  is only                                                                    
     those with courage  who have the confidence  to put out                                                                    
     a draft  and invite  critique.   Those who  fear change                                                                    
     will  react negatively,  but those  who understand  the                                                                    
     importance  of an  excellence education,  will roll  up                                                                    
     their  sleeves and  work  with us.  As  with any  first                                                                    
     draft,  there is  still work  to do,  but you've  heard                                                                    
     commitments   from   organizations,  individuals,   and                                                                    
     departments  that   are  ready  and  willing   to  work                                                                    
     alongside   you.  I   thank  each   of  you   for  your                                                                    
     willingness to continue the  work in Alaska's Education                                                                    
     SB 96 reflects the  conversations you've been having in                                                                    
     this  committee.   It  touches  on   student  learning,                                                                    
     educator   excellence,   modernization,  finance,   and                                                                    
     community  ownership,  all  of  which is  part  of  the                                                                    
     Alaska  Education Challenge.  By introducing  this bill                                                                    
     to  begin  the  conversation, you  and  your  committee                                                                    
     members have elevated these  topics in anticipation the                                                                    
     work with many different Alaskan's.                                                                                        
     I would be remiss if  I didn't restate to the committee                                                                    
     what I've  said before  and you already  know. The most                                                                    
     pressing  legislative  issue  for  Alaska's  system  of                                                                    
     public  education  is  the  need   for  of  a  complete                                                                    
     sustainable  fiscal   plan. When  the   current  crisis                                                                    
     started,    today's    second     graders    were    in                                                                    
     kindergarten.  They will  be in third grade  next fall.                                                                    
     If a  complete forward  looking fiscal  plan is  not in                                                                    
     place this year,  they could be in  fourth grade before                                                                    
     a  fiscal  plan is  passed  and  working to  sustain  a                                                                    
     viable economy  for their future. The year  this year's                                                                    
     kindergartners were  born, Alaska enjoyed revenue  of 8                                                                    
     or 9 billion dollars from  oil. This year, that is down                                                                    
     to 1.6 billion. That, along  with rising cost of health                                                                    
     care, has left  a mark on Alaska,  including the public                                                                    
     system of education.  Thank you for the  many hours you                                                                    
      and your colleagues have invested in a fiscal plan.                                                                       
     Please continue to focus on  that work so that when our                                                                    
     kindergartners are  seniors, they will have  a thriving                                                                    
     steady Alaska in  which to plan their  own families and                                                                    
8:08:58 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON concluded:                                                                                                 
     It is  with great respect  for each  of you that  I say                                                                    
     sincerely,  I  have  enjoyed  our  work  together  thus                                                                    
     far. Thank you for  allowing me to join  you in today's                                                                    
8:09:15 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES noted  there was  a  lot of  public testimony  over                                                               
concerns  with Sections  10 and  11. The  committee was  aware of                                                               
some of those issues and  has been working with Legislative Legal                                                               
to   prevent   unintended   consequences.  The   committee,   the                                                               
Commissioner, and  the other body  had a  goal to free  up school                                                               
facilities that made sense for  savings purposes. They are trying                                                               
to be  transparent and  plan to  write a new  CS with  input from                                                               
DEED  that includes  a list  of schools  to which  this provision                                                               
would apply.  They will  change 80 percent  to 70  percent school                                                               
capacity  and request  that recommendations  be reported  back in                                                               
January of 2018. She noted  that this is Education Transformation                                                               
- Act I. Next session will be Act II.                                                                                           
8:12:39 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH  thanked Senator Hughes  for her work and  said he                                                               
is supporting her efforts and concepts in the bill.                                                                             
He  asked Commissioner  Johnson how  SB 96  fits into  the Alaska                                                               
Education Challenge.                                                                                                            
8:14:03 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  said conversations  about the bill  and the                                                               
Challenge  have been  happening  together.  The committee's  work                                                               
elevates  the  concepts in  the  Alaska  Education Challenge.  He                                                               
stated that it takes  courage to put a draft of  a bill out. They                                                               
will be discussing and refining the elements of both.                                                                           
He listed  the five  committees that have  been developed  in the                                                               
Alaska   Education   Challenge:    Student   Learning,   Educator                                                               
Excellence,  Modernization and  Finance, Safety  and Well  Being,                                                               
and Community and  Tribal Ownership. Each component of  SB 96 can                                                               
fit into  all of the committees,  but they will figure  out where                                                               
each one best fits. He opined  that it is a wonderful opportunity                                                               
to  discuss both  the  bill and  the  Alaska Education  Challenge                                                               
8:16:36 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GIESSEL  agreed with the Commissioner  Johnson's comments                                                               
on the  courage needed to put  forth a bill and  the challenge to                                                               
refine the elements of the Challenge.                                                                                           
8:17:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  commented that she  is rather new to  the Education                                                               
Committee process  and brings a  fresh perspective. It  does seem                                                               
like  a  good   idea  for  the  State  School   Board  and  their                                                               
subcommittee   process    to   be   able   to    make   education                                                               
recommendations. She  looks forward to the  legislature's role in                                                               
the process.                                                                                                                    
She asked  if there  is anything  in the bill  that is  going the                                                               
wrong direction from the five  Challenge committees or whether it                                                               
complements them.                                                                                                               
8:18:05 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  said, in  terms  of  the Alaska  Education                                                               
Challenge,  there   are  two  broad   goals.  One  is   that  the                                                               
recommendations  are good,  quality,  right recommendations.  The                                                               
other important  part of the  process is unity around  the public                                                               
education system  and a vision for  what we want. He  wants those                                                               
who will work on the committees  to show up committed to both the                                                               
unity and the recommendations. He  said, "If we stand together to                                                               
close the achievement gap in  this state, we'll have accomplished                                                               
something, even apart from  the particular recommendations." This                                                               
effort  represents  collaboration,   cooperation,  and  unity  on                                                               
recommendations. He  concluded that  SB 96 is  very much  in line                                                               
with the direction of Alaska's Education Challenge.                                                                             
8:19:36 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON agreed  with  the provisions  in  SB 96  to                                                               
modernize the system,  make great teachers available  to more and                                                               
more students, be more efficient, and address teacher quality.                                                                  
8:20:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH  summarized  that  any  idea  that  moves  Alaska                                                               
forward is worthy  of consideration and, in general,  the bill is                                                               
moving in the right direction.                                                                                                  
8:20:50 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said  he does not have all  the answers, but                                                               
is willing to listen. He agreed with Senator Begich's comment.                                                                  
8:21:15 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GIESSEL  pointed out that  there has been talk  about the                                                               
need to  innovate and change  education for years. She  said this                                                               
is  the first  time  it  feels as  though  steps  are being  made                                                               
forward,   begun  by   the  bill,   in  collaboration   with  the                                                               
Commissioner  who is  looking to  make things  move forward.  She                                                               
said it was encouraging and she appreciates it.                                                                                 
8:21:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES thought  that everyone  who has  previously led  in                                                               
education  has  had  good intentions,  but  there  were  daunting                                                               
challenges. It  was encouraging to  learn that other  states have                                                               
poverty, racial  diversity, and economic  challenges as  great as                                                               
Alaska's, yet  were able  to achieve  high academic  results. She                                                               
maintained that  every student matters  and we cannot give  up on                                                               
students.  We  must  provide  tools to  districts,  so  they  can                                                               
provide  opportunities  for their  students,  such  as access  to                                                               
great teachers.  With a  national shortage  of teachers,  this is                                                               
the right time  to address this issue. Next  year the committee's                                                               
focus will  be on  teacher education. She  is encouraged  to know                                                               
that  Alaska can  do  better and  people seem  to  be getting  on                                                               
8:24:57 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  added that the  state is fortunate  to have                                                               
partners  in this  mission, such  as  superintendents. In  states                                                               
where achievement  gaps have been  closed, all  stakeholders were                                                               
involved in the  process and worked together. He  agreed that the                                                               
time is right, and the opportunities outnumber the challenges.                                                                  
8:26:22 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES asked  whether there  are  any particular  sections                                                               
that  need further  work.  She inquired  whether  Section 5,  the                                                               
reporting by districts  of the ratio of  students, employees, and                                                               
teachers to administrators, would be helpful.                                                                                   
8:27:00 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  responded that this information  is already                                                               
available. They  will work with the  committee on how it  will be                                                               
CHAIR  HUGHES  asked  about  increasing  the  Praxis  scores  and                                                               
delaying the mandate to do so.                                                                                                  
8:28:29 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON replied  that he  has not  gotten into  the                                                               
details of that section yet. It  may be that teachers are already                                                               
scoring high. He  wanted to spend more time looking  at the data.                                                               
He agreed that teacher quality is essential.                                                                                    
8:29:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES inquired whether the  requirement for the department                                                               
to make available professional  development for virtual education                                                               
to  districts  is  a  good  idea and  would  provide  savings  to                                                               
8:29:48 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISIONER JOHNSON  thought it  would. The department  wishes to                                                               
provide more  support for educators  in the classroom.  There are                                                               
districts  that already  provide great  staff development.  Also,                                                               
DEED  can  work with  the  Alaska  Staff Development  Network  to                                                               
provide targeted staff development addressing particular needs.                                                                 
8:30:58 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH   agreed  targeted   staff  development   was  an                                                               
effective method of professional development.                                                                                   
He addressed broadband  limitations. He said his  office has been                                                               
working  with Quintillion,  a company  that  is completing  fiber                                                               
optics along the North Slope  to Nome. He suggested inviting them                                                               
into the process as a partner.                                                                                                  
He noted a  section in the bill that addresses  percent of market                                                               
value  (POMV)  and adjusting  how  to  spend the  Public  Schools                                                               
Trust.  He said  there  has  been testimony  that  says it  would                                                               
double the amount  of money that could be used  for education. He                                                               
asked for Commissioner Johnson's opinion on that.                                                                               
8:33:25 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON addressed the  first question first. He said                                                               
he  is  encouraged  by  conversations  about  broadband  and  the                                                               
contacts  that  have  come  forth   about  broadband.  There  are                                                               
exciting projects out  there that will be good for  Alaska in the                                                               
The  department's position  on more  money through  investment is                                                               
positive.  They don't  have expertise  within  the department  on                                                               
investing,  but have  had conversations  with  the Department  of                                                               
Revenue. They want  to get the most for their  money, in terms of                                                               
investment, for education.                                                                                                      
8:34:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  wanted to work  on broadband over the  interim with                                                               
the  department,   the  delegation   in  Washington,   D.C.,  and                                                               
communication  companies  to  seek reasonable  costs  for  school                                                               
districts in rural  areas. She asked the department to  be a part                                                               
of that conversation.                                                                                                           
8:35:21 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GIESSEL  addressed a concern  in Section 8 about  the use                                                               
of "businesses".  She pointed out  that Quintilian is  a business                                                               
and would be a good  partner with school districts. She described                                                               
a teleconference  between high school students  and Greens Creek.                                                               
She suggested not eliminating "businesses" from the bill.                                                                       
8:36:56 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said  they should have a hearing  on all the                                                               
ways  businesses   benefit  public  education.  He   thanked  the                                                               
business  community   for  their  substantial   contributions  to                                                               
8:37:43 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH spoke  in favor  of the  continuation of  the tax                                                               
credit  for education  between the  university  and the  business                                                               
8:38:44 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HUGHES  appreciated the dialogue with  Commissioner Johnson                                                               
and working with his team.  She thanked Senator Begich's staff as                                                               
well as her staff.                                                                                                              
8:39:17 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH thanked his staff.                                                                                               
CHAIR HUGHES held SB 96 in committee.                                                                                           
8:40:00 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Hughes  adjourned the  Senate Education  Standing Committee                                                               
at 8:40 a.m.                                                                                                                    

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