Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

03/29/2019 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
+= SB 74 INTERNET FOR SCHOOLS TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 74(EDC) Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
+= SJR 9 CONST.AM: APPROP. BILL FOR PUBL EDUCATION TELECONFERENCED
Moved SJR 9 Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         March 29, 2019                                                                                         
                           9:00 a.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Gary Stevens, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Shelley Hughes, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Chris Birch                                                                                                             
Senator Mia Costello                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Senator Tom Begich                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 74                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to funding for Internet services for school                                                                    
districts."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     - MOVED CSSB 74(EDC) OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 9                                                                                                   
Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska                                                                 
relating to an appropriation bill funding public education for                                                                  
grades kindergarten through 12.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     - MOVED SJR 9 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SB  74                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: INTERNET FOR SCHOOLS                                                                                               
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) HOFFMAN                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
03/06/19       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/06/19       (S)       EDC, FIN                                                                                               
03/19/19       (S)       EDC AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/19/19       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/19/19       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
03/29/19       (S)       EDC AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SJR  9                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: CONST.AM: APPROP. BILL FOR PUBL EDUCATION                                                                          
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) COSTELLO                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
03/06/19       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/06/19       (S)       EDC, JUD, FIN                                                                                          
03/14/19       (S)       EDC AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/14/19       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/14/19       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
03/29/19       (S)       EDC AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR LYMAN HOFFMAN                                                                                                           
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of SB 74.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
PATIENCE FREDERICKSEN, Director                                                                                                 
Division of Library, Archives, and Museums                                                                                      
Department of Education and Early Development (DEED)                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Suggested a change to SB 74 and reviewed the                                                              
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DAVID GUTTENBERG, representing self                                                                                             
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 74 and spoke about the lack of                                                               
Internet infrastructure in Alaska.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
DAVID NEES, representing self                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified on the need for Internet                                                                        
infrastructure.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
ELWIN BLACKWELL, School Finance Manager                                                                                         
Department of Education and Early Development (DEED)                                                                            
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
Reviewed the fiscal notes for SJR 9.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
JUDY ELEDGE, representing self                                                                                                  
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SJR 9.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
DAVID BOYLE, representing self                                                                                                  
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SJR 9.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:00:00 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GARY   STEVENS  called   the  Senate   Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 9:00  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order were Senators Costello, Birch, Hughes, and Chair Stevens.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                  SB  74-INTERNET FOR SCHOOLS                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration of SB 74, version M.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:00:20 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR LYMAN HOFFMAN, Alaska  State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska,                                                               
sponsor  of  SB 74,  stated  that  he  was  there to  answer  any                                                               
additional questions that the committee members may have.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:00:53 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES said that this was  an important bill at the right                                                               
time for  what the  state is  facing and a  way to  help students                                                               
across the state. The committee  learned at the last meeting that                                                               
the ideal number of megabits per  second (Mbps) is 100. She hopes                                                               
that as the  bill moves forward there would  be consideration for                                                               
stair stepping  it so that once  a certain number of  schools hit                                                               
the threshold  of 25, they could  increase it so that  they don't                                                               
have to  continually do  these bills.  They could  get it  set so                                                               
that over  time as schools are  ready and as the  legislature has                                                               
the  funding, schools  could go  all the  way to  100 Mbps.  That                                                               
would be  best for their  students and schools. She  hopes future                                                               
committees will consider adding the stair stepping.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:02:01 AM                                                                                                                    
PATIENCE FREDERICKSEN,  Director, Division of  Library, Archives,                                                               
and  Museums,  Department  of  Education  and  Early  Development                                                               
(DEED), Juneau,  Alaska, said that  the one comment  the division                                                               
has on the  text of the bill  is the phrase "a  minimum of." That                                                               
would open up  a lot of issues with school  districts calling and                                                               
asking if they can go to  a higher number of megabits per second.                                                               
For clarity it would be most  helpful if this version read "bring                                                               
the applicant's share to 25  megabits of download a second." They                                                               
have  had problems  with this  in the  past administering  the 10                                                               
megabits a second.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS asked for clarification about her suggestion.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. FREDERICKSEN  said the  underlined phrase  "a minimum  of" is                                                               
problematic  for  administration  of  the  program.  It  is  much                                                               
clearer if it says, "to 25 megabits a second."                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS  said they  would  will  get  a comment  from  the                                                               
sponsor about  that. He asked if  she had any comments  about the                                                               
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  FREDERICKSEN replied  that  the fiscal  note  is written  as                                                               
though  they  could start  the  program  right away.  They  would                                                               
suggest  that  the bill  have  an  effective date  of  September.                                                               
School districts have  an E-rate filing window in  the spring and                                                               
then  they  do  a  grant  application  to  the  School  Broadband                                                               
Assistance Grant  (BAG) program.  Those two applications  have to                                                               
agree. The E-rate  filing window closed two  days ago. Therefore,                                                               
an effective date of September 2019  will give them one more year                                                               
of School BAG program at 10  Mbps. Then July next year they would                                                               
do the  School BAG program at  25 Mbps. If the  effective date is                                                               
September, then  they would  not need the  $8,676,300 for  the FY                                                               
2020 appropriation requested. School BAG  at $1,487,500 is in the                                                               
governor's budget  now. If they run  the program at 10  Mbps, the                                                               
$1,487,500  will cover  the cost  for FY  20 and  in FY  21, they                                                               
would need what  is shown in the  fiscal note. It is  a matter of                                                               
when the  programs start up. In  order to the start  the program,                                                               
they have to  revise regulations, which takes a  while, and grant                                                               
applications.  The main  thing about  the  grant applications  is                                                               
that they benchmark  what the school is paying for  Internet at a                                                               
certain month. If  they were to issue the  grant application next                                                               
spring  and ask  what the  district was  paying for  Internet for                                                               
each school in  say, January 2020, then School  BAG going forward                                                               
could hold  them at  that January 2020  cost permanently  and the                                                               
state would pay the remaining cost to  get them up to 25 Mbps. It                                                               
is a fairly  technical program and the benchmark needs  to be set                                                               
the same for  all the school districts that would  come into this                                                               
new  program.  That  is  why  they  urge  an  effective  date  of                                                               
September 2019.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
MS. FREDERICKSEN said that for the  fiscal note, they went to the                                                               
Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  E-rate program and did a                                                               
search on  the FCC  database. They  came up  with 245  schools at                                                               
less  than 25  Mbps  at the  end  of February.  In  FY 2019,  the                                                               
average School  BAG cost  per school  was $16,594.  They multiply                                                               
that  by the  245 schools  and then  calculated the  proportional                                                               
increase of  going from 10  to 25. They  multiplied it by  2.5 to                                                               
get to the final $10 million  fiscal note for this program. There                                                               
are no positions associated with  this program. They do add money                                                               
onto the contract  for the E-rate consultant who  does the lion's                                                               
share of the review of the  grant applications and works with the                                                               
school districts to get them  into compliance so they can certify                                                               
them as eligible.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
9:07:22 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COSTELLO  said that it  seems that the effective  date is                                                               
more programmatic than a fiscal  issue. Since the sponsor sits on                                                               
the Finance  Committee, that could  be left for the  committee to                                                               
decide. A bill  only goes into effect 90 days  after the governor                                                               
signs it. That  is about the timeline they need  anyway and there                                                               
is the official record of  their conversation. They could put the                                                               
legislative intent  on the record in  terms of how it  would best                                                               
work for the program to go into effect.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS said  that he  had heard  the suggestion  from the                                                               
department  that "to  a  minimum  of 25"  be  changed  to "to  25                                                               
megabits of download a second."                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HOFFMAN  replied  that  he  had  no  problem  with  that                                                               
conceptual amendment.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  COSTELLO  offered  a  conceptual  amendment  to  SB  74,                                                               
Version M, to strike the words "a minimum of" on line 7.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS  said that was  very clear and simple.  There being                                                               
no objection, the conceptual amendment was adopted.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:09:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS opened public testimony.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:09:32 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID   GUTTENBERG,   representing   self,   Fairbanks,   Alaska,                                                               
supported  SB   74  and   spoke  about   the  lack   of  Internet                                                               
infrastructure in Alaska. He said  this is an important bill that                                                               
didn't quite make  it through the process last year.  On the last                                                               
hearing on the  bill they heard quite a bit  from the educational                                                               
experts.  He would  say  that  at the  least  they minimized  the                                                               
impact of bringing  broadband to these schools. If  more of these                                                               
communities   had   connectivity   and   sustainable   high-speed                                                               
broadband, then  all of Alaska  would have  significant increases                                                               
in  quality  of life  and  educational  opportunities. They  have                                                               
talked about  diversifying the  economy, but  they can't  do that                                                               
until they  have expanded broadband.  This bill  brings broadband                                                               
to students across  the state. Senator Hoffman noted  this is not                                                               
just for  rural schools. Many  parts of the Interior  suffer from                                                               
lack of decent broadband to no  broadband at all. There have been                                                               
endless conversations  with the  Internet Service  Providers. The                                                               
industry tells  them all kinds  of things,  but there is  never a                                                               
time when they are going to get broadband.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR. GUTTENBERG  said that Senator  Hughes asked if  this industry                                                               
is regulated. It is  not. For some reason, part of  his bane as a                                                               
legislator, the RCA [Regulatory  Commission of Alaska] refuses to                                                               
recognize  that  the  Internet  is  telecommunications.  That  is                                                               
bizarre. The universal service fund is  a tax and the money flows                                                               
into a specific fund. There  is an ever higher, escalating demand                                                               
for Internet and  there is no control of cost  or connectivity or                                                               
infrastructure.  Ms. Fredericksen  last time  said schools  spend                                                               
about $145 million a year  for Internet. The legislature told the                                                               
RCA  the last  couple of  years to  produce reports  on Internet.                                                               
Those  are   significant  reports  that  are   available  to  the                                                               
committee if the members request them.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  GUTTENBERG said  that  billions are  going  into Alaska  for                                                               
Internet  infrastructure from  tax  money.  The Alaska  universal                                                               
service fund is  about $26 million a year. Cash  grants that have                                                               
gone to entities  in the state are about 100  million a year. His                                                               
point is that there is no  infrastructure or no guiding hand that                                                               
says, "We  need infrastructure,  not just escalating  costs." All                                                               
the reports that have been  done, including the state's broadband                                                               
task force, recommended that there  be a quasigovernmental entity                                                               
to  point  out  where  the  efficiencies  are  to  build  out  an                                                               
infrastructure.  Part of  the broadband  task  force report  that                                                               
puts people  back is that the  estimated cost is a  $1.3 billion.                                                               
That  was about  eight years  ago, so  it's probably  higher now.                                                               
When someone  buys a  home it's $300,000.  People don't  say they                                                               
don't  have $300,000  in their  pockets.  They have  a source  of                                                               
income. They have  jobs. They can go to a  bank and borrow money.                                                               
There are billions of dollars  in public funds coming into Alaska                                                               
now that  could pay for the  infrastructure if there were  a hand                                                               
that  points  out where  Alaska  lacks  infrastructure. They  are                                                               
going  to keep  paying  higher costs  with  no infrastructure  in                                                               
place.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. GUTTENBERG  said that  as technology  changes, the  costs are                                                               
going to  keep going up. They  have money coming into  the state.                                                               
It's  already there.  They  just  don't have  a  guiding hand  to                                                               
ensure  tax money  is spent  wisely to  build infrastructure  for                                                               
these schools so  they can say imagine a time  when they only had                                                               
25  Mbps. An  infrastructure would  not just  be for  schools and                                                               
libraries. It  would be  for telemedicine  or public  safety, all                                                               
those things. The legislature is not addressing it.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. GUTTENBERG said that this  is a good bill. Schools everywhere                                                               
need  it. Educational  opportunities  are incredibly  significant                                                               
for kids. They  can have hardware like tablets but  if they don't                                                               
have Internet  it doesn't  matter. The  curriculum is  going more                                                               
into  connectivity online.  It is  not  just the  speed, but  the                                                               
latency speed that  matters. All kinds of things  matter and they                                                               
need  an  infrastructure  that   can  support  that.  They  can't                                                               
diversify the  economy, which everyone  talks about,  unless they                                                               
have connectivity everywhere in the state.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:17:46 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID NEES,  representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska,  testified on                                                               
the  need  for Internet  infrastructure.  He  said that  Internet                                                               
broadband  speed came  up with  the House  education task  force.                                                               
Their concern was  that they are just paying  for operations with                                                               
no incentive to upgrade facilities.  GCI just completed a project                                                               
using microwave,  which is a  slow-speed way of  connecting. That                                                               
was  a  $300  million  investment. Quintillion  tried  to  run  a                                                               
fiberoptic   across  the   Arctic   and  that   went  belly   up.                                                               
Representative Guttenberg  was correct to  say that they  have an                                                               
infrastructure problem instead of  a connectivity speed issue. No                                                               
one  has  presented  a  proposal   about  what  would  happen  if                                                               
fiberoptics were installed  in the schools. If it is  going to be                                                               
the schools'  mission to do  distance delivery and all  the other                                                               
things,   such   as  using   the   schools   and  libraries   for                                                               
telemedicine, instead  of saying  they are just  going to  up the                                                               
speed, a better idea is to  look at the broadband report and find                                                               
a way to  do this. He agrees with  Representative Guttenberg that                                                               
it needs to be in commerce or  something else. It is a basic need                                                               
going unmet. They keep throwing  more money at telecommunications                                                               
to increase  the speed. They  don't have schools now  meeting the                                                               
minimum. When  they raise  the speed  again, that  doesn't change                                                               
anything. It is  the access point that is more  of a problem than                                                               
raising  the  speed. People  are  subsidizing  this and  everyone                                                               
would benefit  if they had faster  access. That is going  to take                                                               
infrastructure.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:20:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS closed public testimony.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:20:20 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES moved to report SB  74, Version M as amended, from                                                               
committee  with   individual  recommendations   and  accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
[CHAIR STEVENS  found no  objection and  CSSB 74(EDC)  moved from                                                               
committee.]                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:20:31 AM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
        SJR  9-CONST.AM: APPROP. BILL FOR PUBL EDUCATION                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:22:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration of SJR 9.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:22:21 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COSTELLO,  speaking as  prime sponsor,  said that  she is                                                               
appreciative of  cosponsors Senator  Hoffman, Senator  Olson, the                                                               
chair,  and Senator  Begich, who  had to  temporarily remove  his                                                               
name due  to a conflict  of interest. In the  original testimony,                                                               
it became evident that it  is creating havoc for school districts                                                               
by passing education  funding later in the  session. Last session                                                               
the  legislature funded  education early,  forward funded  it and                                                               
added a total  of $50 million to education.  That was appreciated                                                               
by  the districts.  Another  issue in  testimony  is that  Alaska                                                               
needs certainty  for the economy.  That extends to  the education                                                               
community. At  the end of  the day students will  benefit because                                                               
their   teachers  will   be   there  for   the   long  haul   and                                                               
administrators will  not be in  this annual churning  of teachers                                                               
in the schools  because they have to, by law,  issue a pink slip.                                                               
This is  important legislation.  She wants to  put on  the record                                                               
that originally,  she had hoped to  put the bill in  statute, but                                                               
they were  told that putting it  in the constitution was  the way                                                               
to  go  because  one  legislature  is  not  allowed  to  encumber                                                               
another.  Therefore,  the  constitution  is a  clearer  and  more                                                               
secure place to have it.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:24:25 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH said  he  appreciates where  this  is headed.  His                                                               
concern  is about  compelling the  legislature to  commit such  a                                                               
significant amount of financial resources  by the 45th day of the                                                               
session. They  are fast  approaching 90  days now.  He recognizes                                                               
that the  school year starts  in September. He  supported forward                                                               
funding last year  to address this issue. He  is comfortable with                                                               
forward funding. A  two-year budget cycle would  be optimal. With                                                               
SB 26 and the POMV [percent  of market value] approach, they have                                                               
stabilized revenue  to help that  out. He is challenged  with the                                                               
idea  of  carving  out  such   a  significant  portion  of  their                                                               
resources.  Crime and  transportation are  important. There  is a                                                               
myriad of vital  issues. As important as education  is, they need                                                               
to balance  those all out. He  is concerned about stepping  it up                                                               
early in the  session. Forty-five days is in  February. The House                                                               
wasn't  organized until  the middle  of February.  The intent  is                                                               
good.  He is  concerned about  how it  might impact  their budget                                                               
development process.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:26:18 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  said it is  a real problem for  school districts.                                                               
She  has been  trying  to  think outside  the  box  for ways  the                                                               
legislature  can  fix  it  because  she  shares  Senator  Birch's                                                               
concern. Perhaps  they should convene the  legislature in October                                                               
or  November and  take  a Christmas  break.  She appreciates  the                                                               
sponsor's  intent  and  recognizes  that  it  is  a  problem  for                                                               
districts.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:26:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  said that is  outside the box, but  he appreciates                                                               
the thought                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:27:09 AM                                                                                                                    
ELWIN BLACKWELL, School Finance  Manager, Department of Education                                                               
and  Early Development  (DEED) said  the fiscal  notes associated                                                               
with  the  resolution   are  zero  fiscal  notes.   There  is  no                                                               
expectation that  this would impact the  processes and procedures                                                               
of  the department.  They currently  develop these  budgets in  a                                                               
normal  time frame.  The resolution  would not  disrupt that.  It                                                               
just puts in upon the governor's  office to submit a separate, K-                                                               
12 education budget.  They already go through that  process as it                                                               
is.                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:28:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS opened public testimony.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:28:29 AM                                                                                                                    
JUDY ELEDGE,  representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska,  opposed SJR                                                               
9. She  said she is  a retired educator  who has received  a pink                                                               
slip  in the  past. She  is against  this being  a constitutional                                                               
amendment.  She   agrees  that   there  needs  to   be  something                                                               
different, but this  is a process issue which does  not require a                                                               
constitutional  amendment. It  can be  corrected by  changing the                                                               
date May 1,  when budgets must be given to  the department, in AS                                                               
14.14.060 to June 1. Constitutional  amendments must be used only                                                               
for great policy  changes, not a budget process.  She suggested a                                                               
pilot program of three years  of forward funding if all districts                                                               
agreed to keep their funding  at the same level. Constitutionally                                                               
mandating that K-12  education be funded first  reduces the power                                                               
of  appropriation  for the  legislature.  How  arrogant to  think                                                               
education is the most important thing  in the state when there is                                                               
also public  safety and health  and social services. It  locks up                                                               
almost  one-fourth of  the budget  for the  state of  Alaska. She                                                               
asks what  incentive is  there for school  boards to  stop giving                                                               
pay raises and benefits with no  way of knowing how they will pay                                                               
for  them three  or  five  years later.  She  is concerned  about                                                               
unintended consequences if  education gets a bigger  piece of the                                                               
budget pie early on.  That is unfair. It could be  done by law or                                                               
pilot programs.  There are creative  ways of stepping  outside of                                                               
the box, but she cannot support a constitutional amendment.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:31:06 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID BOYLE,  representing self,  Anchorage, Alaska,  opposed SJR                                                               
9.  He said  this constitutional  amendment is  a solution  for a                                                               
problem caused by  the legislature and local  taxing entities. AS                                                               
14.14.060 states  that school districts  shall submit  the school                                                               
budget for the  following school year to the  borough assembly by                                                               
May  1  for approval  of  the  total  amount.  So the  state  has                                                               
proposed  a deadline  for the  local taxing  entity to  approve a                                                               
school district's budget,  but the state legislature  is not able                                                               
to provide  a budget for the  school district to base  its budget                                                               
on. Because the legislature cannot get  its work done on time, it                                                               
puts the school  districts in a terrible bind. This  is a process                                                               
issue, a  calendar issue, and  does not require  a constitutional                                                               
amendment to  correct. It can  be corrected by changing  the date                                                               
in the  statute from  May 1 to  sometime in  June. Constitutional                                                               
amendments must only  be used for big policy  changes, not budget                                                               
process issues.  SJR 9  would severely  limit the  flexibility of                                                               
the legislature  in its  appropriation of funds  to all  areas of                                                               
the budget. If  this constitutional amendment were  to pass, then                                                               
K-12 education would  be first in line for funding  and would not                                                               
have  to  compete for  funding  on  an  equal basis  with  public                                                               
safety, transportation, and health  and social services. It could                                                               
be possible  that K-12 would get  a large increase in  funding to                                                               
the detriment of other vital state needs.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  BOYLE   said  that  constitutionally  mandating   that  K-12                                                               
education  be  funded  first reduces  the  legislative  power  of                                                               
appropriation  where there  is  a  give and  take  among all  the                                                               
competing  interests. If  this constitutional  amendment were  to                                                               
pass,  then other  special constituencies  may  want their  needs                                                               
placed  in the  Alaska constitution  to  be funded  early in  the                                                               
legislative session. They have heard  about the pink slip circus.                                                               
Pink slipping  is a tool that  school districts use to  play mind                                                               
games   with  parents   and  students,   legislators,  and   most                                                               
importantly, teachers.  They wreak  havoc with  teachers' futures                                                               
where  there is  no need  to do  this. They  pay managers  in the                                                               
school districts big bucks to  make the tough decisions. Now they                                                               
need to start  earning their pay. School districts  can use state                                                               
money however  they want.  They can  use transportation  money to                                                               
buy playground  equipment. Money for intensive-needs  students at                                                               
13 times  the average daily  membership is not directed  to those                                                               
students  who  need the  resources.  In  education all  money  is                                                               
fungible.  The legislature  needs to  earmark money  for specific                                                               
requirements.  Putting K-12  funding in  the Alaska  constitution                                                               
will not improve student achievement  or ensure that public funds                                                               
are spent wisely.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
9:36:45 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS closed public testimony.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:36:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  noted that SJR 9  had a referral to  Judiciary and                                                               
then to Finance. He solicited a motion.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:37:09 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES moved  to report SJR 9, Version  S, from committee                                                               
with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
[CHAIR  STEVENS  found   no  objection  and  SJR   9  moved  from                                                               
committee.]                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:37:18 AM                                                                                                                    
At ease                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:38:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS reconvened the committee.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COSTELLO  said she appreciated individuals  calling in to                                                               
testify. Judy  Eledge is  one of her  constituents and  she found                                                               
some  of  her ideas  interesting.  She  is definitely  listening.                                                               
David Nees  often calls  into the  committee and  she appreciates                                                               
that he  does follow  what the legislature  is doing  and commits                                                               
quite a  bit of his  personal time to  review bills. It  is great                                                               
that the  public is following  what the legislature is  doing and                                                               
is part of the process.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:39:34 AM                                                                                                                    
There being  no further  business to  come before  the committee,                                                               
Chair Stevens  adjourned the Senate Education  Standing Committee                                                               
at 9:39 a.m.