Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

04/16/2019 09:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
08:59:51 AM Start
09:00:04 AM SB6
10:53:12 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+= SB 6 PRE-ELEMENTARY PROGRAMS/FUNDING TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
              SENATE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         April 16, 2019                                                                                         
                           8:59 a.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Gary Stevens, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Shelley Hughes, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Chris Birch                                                                                                             
Senator Mia Costello                                                                                                            
Senator Tom Begich                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 6                                                                                                               
"An Act relating  to early education programs  provided by school                                                               
districts; relating to funding for  early education programs; and                                                               
relating to the duties of the  state Board of Education and Early                                                               
Development."                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: SB 6                                                                                                                    
SHORT TITLE: PRE-ELEMENTARY PROGRAMS/FUNDING                                                                                    
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) BEGICH                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
01/16/19       (S)       PREFILE RELEASED 1/7/19                                                                                
01/16/19       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
01/16/19       (S)       EDC, FIN                                                                                               
03/21/19       (S)       EDC AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
03/21/19       (S)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/21/19       (S)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
04/16/19       (S)       EDC AT 9:00 AM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
STEPHANIE BERGLUND, Chief Executive Officer                                                                                     
thread                                                                                                                          
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
ABBE HENSLEY, Executive Director                                                                                                
Best Beginnings                                                                                                                 
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
DAVID NEES, representing himself                                                                                                
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Raised questions about data on the                                                                        
effectiveness of pre-K programs.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
PATTY OWEN, Director                                                                                                            
Alaska Public Health Association                                                                                                
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
DAVID BOYLE, representing himself                                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Asked for more research about the efficacy                                                                
of pre-K programs.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
BRIDGET WEISS, Ph.D., Superintendent                                                                                            
Juneau School District                                                                                                          
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
POSIE BOGGS, Alaska Reading Coalition                                                                                           
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
TIM PARKER, President                                                                                                           
NEA-Alaska                                                                                                                      
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
PATTY MERITT, representing herself                                                                                              
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6 with some recommendations.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
JUDY ELEDGE, representing herself                                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SB 6.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
ESTHER PEPIN, representing herself                                                                                              
Naknek, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
LAURA BONNER, representing herself                                                                                              
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
JENNIFER SCHMITZ, State Representative                                                                                          
Alaska Association of Elementary School Principals                                                                              
Principal                                                                                                                       
Scenic Park Elementary School                                                                                                   
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
STEPHANIE GISH, Discovery Preschool                                                                                             
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
KATHY CLARK, representing herself                                                                                               
Homer, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
LISA SKILES PARADY, Ph.D., Executive Director                                                                                   
Alaska Council of School Administrators                                                                                         
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 6.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:59:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GARY   STEVENS  called   the  Senate   Education  Standing                                                             
Committee meeting  to order at 8:59  a.m. Present at the  call to                                                               
order  were Senators  Begich, Birch,  Hughes, and  Chair Stevens.                                                               
Senator Costello joined shortly thereafter.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
              SB 6-PRE-ELEMENTARY PROGRAMS/FUNDING                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:00:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration  of SB 6. He noted that                                                               
the committee  had run out  of time  for public testimony  at the                                                               
first hearing. He  stated his intention to allow  time for public                                                               
testimony today and then to hold the bill in committee.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:00:35 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH, speaking  as prime  sponsor, said  he introduced                                                               
the  bill at  the last  hearing and  he wanted  people to  have a                                                               
chance  to  hear  from  the  public.  He  emphasized  that  early                                                               
education  was  absolutely  essential.   When  he  met  with  the                                                               
governor last week,  the governor asked him  what solutions would                                                               
make a difference  in education. The Department  of Education and                                                               
Early  Development  (DEED)  material provided  to  the  committee                                                               
conclude  that evidence-based  early education,  requiring higher                                                               
levels of  certification, ensuring collaboration  and cooperation                                                               
with  existing early  education  programs,  leads to  substantial                                                               
positive outcomes  for kids in  both urban and rural  Alaska. The                                                               
successes of  reading skills  by third grade  and even  in eighth                                                               
grade are significant.  He expressed an interest  in hearing from                                                               
the professionals and the public. He  said he that hoped over the                                                               
interim the committee  could fine tune the bill  based on today's                                                               
testimony.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:02:04 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES said  she has  read that  early education  can be                                                               
helpful, but it can balance out  in later grades. If the teaching                                                               
is  good,  students  can  catch up.  She  wondered  whether  some                                                               
children were simply not mature  enough to begin school. Students                                                               
in Finland  start school later, at  seven or eight years  of age,                                                               
and these students perform fabulously.  She acknowledged he was a                                                               
fan of the Finnish model, so she welcomed his comments.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH said that some  studies show the effects fade, but                                                               
it depends on the studies  and the quality of the prekindergarten                                                               
programs. Evidence-based,  high-quality prekindergarten,  such as                                                               
the  Oklahoma model  or other  models that  were used  to develop                                                               
this bill,  do not show  the fade  effects over time.  The Alaska                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development (DEED)  results,                                                               
whether in the Mat-Su or the  Lower Kuskokwim, show that not only                                                               
are  the accelerated  differences  clear, but  these results  are                                                               
retained even  in the older age  groups. He pointed out  that the                                                               
districts  are  now  in  the   tenth  year  of  consistent  pre-K                                                               
programming.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Second,  the   Perry  pre-K  project  tracked   pre-K  kids  into                                                               
adulthood using a wide variety  of indicators, such as income and                                                               
criminal  justice interactions.  This data  showed those  kids do                                                               
not  become wards  of  the state.  He  characterized the  Finnish                                                               
model as complex,  with results that were not just  about the age                                                               
of  maturity.  Alaska has  a  unique  situation, particularly  in                                                               
rural Alaska and in Anchorage,  due to the numerous dual-language                                                               
students.  The  majority  of the  Anchorage  School  District  is                                                               
comprised  of  minority  students  with over  100  languages  are                                                               
spoken.  He offered  his belief  that  his district  is the  most                                                               
diverse senate district in the  United States. The data in Alaska                                                               
seems to  show that  the earlier students  are prepared  to enter                                                               
the school  system the better.  He offered to produce  studies to                                                               
support his  comments. He suggested  that the  committee consider                                                               
holding a  hearing during  the interim to  provide more  time for                                                               
him to more  directly address those questions.  The Finnish model                                                               
works, he  said. However, Finland  has a fairly  uniform language                                                               
pool and Alaska has a diverse one.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:06:24 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS moved to invited testimony.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:06:49 AM                                                                                                                    
STEPHANIE  BERGLUND,  Chief  Executive  Officer,  thread  Alaska,                                                               
Anchorage, spoke in support of SB  6. She said "thread Alaska" is                                                               
Alaska's childcare  resource and referral network,  a 33-year-old                                                               
private  nonprofit that  works to  increase access  to affordable                                                               
and quality  early care and education.  Thread supports expanding                                                               
quality,  early childhood  education  services, including  pre-K.                                                               
Decades of  research demonstrates that pre-K  makes a difference,                                                               
not  just in  the short  term but  in the  long term  as children                                                               
grow,  become employed  and  contribute to  the  strength of  the                                                               
economy.  Early  and  sustained participation  in  quality  early                                                               
education  leads to  more children  graduating from  high school,                                                               
higher  lifetime earnings,  reduced public  spending on  remedial                                                               
education and  services, and lower  incarceration rates.  This is                                                               
especially  true  if  the administration  invests  in  struggling                                                               
schools or  targets disadvantaged  populations to help  close the                                                               
achievement gap.  Work done to  close the achievement  gap before                                                               
children start school  puts children in a  more successful school                                                               
trajectory.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MS. BERGLUND  said that a  2016 Texas  study on its  public pre-K                                                               
programs that  targeted at-risk three and  four-year-old children                                                               
found that  children who attended full-day  pre-K programs scored                                                               
28 points  higher on the  standardized third grade  reading exams                                                               
and had a  40 percent higher likelihood of reading  at a college-                                                               
ready pace. Programs with higher  investments yielded even better                                                               
results.  In 2017.  Montana students  who enrolled  in the  STARS                                                               
preschool  showed  a  21  percent   overall  increase  in  school                                                               
readiness.  Findings  published  in  December  2018  showed  that                                                               
students who participated in North Carolina's More at Four Pre-                                                                 
K, reduced the likelihood of  repeating a grade between the third                                                               
and  eighth   grades.  These  findings  included   a  36  percent                                                               
reduction  in  special  education  placements.  Positive  program                                                               
outcomes were consistent from third  to eighth grade, reinforcing                                                               
a continuity of  positive impacts. The findings  showed that more                                                               
vulnerable  populations,  including  students  from  economically                                                               
diverse   backgrounds,   averaged   higher  scores   than   their                                                               
counterparts without an early education foundation.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BERGLUND  said that  Alaska's  pre-K  services are  working.                                                               
Children participating  in pre-K have shown  growth in cognitive,                                                               
language,  literacy, and  math  development.  Further, the  pre-K                                                               
program  is  meeting  all  ten benchmarks  set  by  the  National                                                               
Institute for  Early Education  Research. While  these benchmarks                                                               
demonstrate  high-quality,  the  current grant  reaches  a  small                                                               
number of children. Expanding  this high-quality, early childhood                                                               
education  through   SB  6  would  continue   to  promote  school                                                               
readiness, identify and provide support  for the children most at                                                               
need and  maximize parental choice.  It would  provide continuity                                                               
of  care  through  collaborative,  mixed  delivery  systems,  and                                                               
support quality  activities. She  offered her belief  that access                                                               
to  high-quality,  early   education  programs  were  desperately                                                               
needed in the state. In fact,  thread estimates that only half of                                                               
the needed  spaces for quality,  early childhood  programs exist.                                                               
By expanding  pre-K, the organization  can support  families with                                                               
more  choices   by  creating   more  affordable   and  accessible                                                               
opportunities for children to learn  in quality settings. To reap                                                               
the  full  benefits  of pre-K  investments  the  department  must                                                               
ensure that the programs are of high-quality. Elements of high-                                                                 
quality pre-K  include highly  qualified, and  whenever possible,                                                               
degreed  professionals who  are well  compensated with  benefits,                                                               
low  teacher-child ratios  and  small  class sizes.  High-quality                                                               
pre-k also includes parental involvement,  minimum hours of pre-K                                                               
instruction, developmental screening  and early intervention, and                                                               
programming to provide smooth transition to kindergarten.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. BERGLUND said that "thread" supports  SB 6 as a means to grow                                                               
and sustain pre-K services. The organization encourages any pre-                                                                
K services be provided in  communities through a diverse delivery                                                               
system.  That means  that pre-K  in Alaska  can be  strengthened,                                                               
with  not only  additional  investment, but  by allowing  service                                                               
delivery in ways that best  meets individual community needs, she                                                               
said.  Pre-K  must also  align  with  and expand  existing  early                                                               
childhood  education services  and  support infrastructure.  This                                                               
could include  existing community-based  programs in  addition to                                                               
school  district  programs.   Alaska's  quality  recognition  and                                                               
improvement  system, QRIS,  is called  Learn  and Grow.  It is  a                                                               
system  that provides  a framework  to ensure  quality activities                                                               
for all  early childhood education program  types, including pre-                                                               
K.                                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BERGLUND said  that in  addition to  existing quality  early                                                               
childhood education  programs for pre-K, "thread"  encourages the                                                               
committee to  consider full-day options. Studies  show that full-                                                               
day programs like  ones in North Carolina may  be more beneficial                                                               
than part-time  programs. The strongest  outcomes in  third grade                                                               
were seen  in states that  invested more pre-K  funding. Full-day                                                               
programs provide  continuity of  care for young  children, reduce                                                               
transportation needs between care  settings, which helps meet the                                                               
needs of working  families. Alaska is not alone  in funding pre-K                                                               
and early education,  she said. Only three  states have decreased                                                               
funding for pre-K  in the last two years and  over 40 states have                                                               
significantly  increased  their investments.  High-quality  pre-K                                                               
must be be followed by  strong teaching and learning environments                                                               
in  the early  elementary  grades. Funding  for  pre-K should  be                                                               
aligned with  increased investments  in young  children beginning                                                               
in infancy  and continue through  the elementary  grades. Quality                                                               
early education,  including pre-K, needs  to be part  of Alaska's                                                               
economic  infrastructure to  help  create a  strong and  prepared                                                               
workforce.  The   evidence  is  clear  that   high-quality  pre-K                                                               
programs are  among the most cost-effective  interventions states                                                               
can make with long-term payoffs.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS asked  if she could give them facts  to support the                                                               
statement that pre-K leads to lower incarceration rates.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BERGLUND  replied  that  she  would  provide  more  specific                                                               
research.  States with  higher graduation  rates  see more  adult                                                               
successes in  terms of  job security  and higher  earnings. These                                                               
graduates have  more protective factors  and resiliency  to avoid                                                               
some of society's ills.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH  said that  statement is  directly from  the Perry                                                               
preschool's   study,  which   is   the   longest  single   study.                                                               
Participants were in  the preschool when the study  began and are                                                               
now  in  their  40s.  It analyzed  employment  and  incarceration                                                               
rates. He  offered to provide  an updated reference to  the Perry                                                               
preschool study to the committee.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES  said that  Ms.  Berglund  mentioned programs  in                                                               
Montana  and North  Carolina. She  remarked that  the results  in                                                               
Montana  and North  Carolina were  impressive. She  asked whether                                                               
she had  any information on  how Alaskan students  have performed                                                               
on standardized test results.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BERGLUND  recalled  that  Alaska   had  gains.  Many  school                                                               
districts have  information about  the gains in  early elementary                                                               
grades from pre-K interventions. She  offered her belief that the                                                               
Department of  Education and Early Development  could provide the                                                               
results.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BEGICH referred  to information  in members'  packets on                                                               
the DEED's early childhood programs,  which shows the differences                                                               
in outcomes for the Lower  Kuskokwim, Mat-Su, Anchorage, and Nome                                                               
School  Districts.  This   information  also  identifies  changes                                                               
occurring in  Alaska for the  higher level,  evidence-based pre-K                                                               
that the department has promoted with its experimental process.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:17:15 AM                                                                                                                    
ABBE  HENSLEY, Executive  Director,  Best Beginnings,  Anchorage,                                                               
supported SB 6. She said  Best Beginnings supports early literacy                                                               
with the  Imagination Library and  parent education.  She offered                                                               
to make  comments not focused on  the bill, but on  one aspect of                                                               
early learning  programs promoted  by the bill.  She acknowledged                                                               
the significant  discussion about  students' low scores  on state                                                               
and national  reading proficiency  assessments. Children  who are                                                               
good  readers by  third grade  are more  likely to  graduate from                                                               
high  school, attend  postsecondary education  or training,  stay                                                               
out of  prison and off  welfare, and become  productive citizens.                                                               
Some  studies   show  up  to   70  percent  of  people   who  are                                                               
incarcerated are functionally illiterate.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HENSLEY  described  ways  that   help  children  can  become                                                               
productive citizens.  She said that the  first year of life  is a                                                               
time  of synaptic  exuberance.  A baby's  brain  makes a  million                                                               
synapses or neural  connections every second. The  more that baby                                                               
is  played with  and  talked  with, sung  to,  and  read to,  the                                                               
stronger  the  baby's  brain  architecture  becomes,  laying  the                                                               
foundation for  learning. A few  years ago, the  American Academy                                                               
of Pediatrics  recommended for the  first time that  parents read                                                               
to their babies from birth.  Along with enhancing the development                                                               
of  early  literacy  and  language  skills,  reading  with  young                                                               
children helps  to nurture the  relationship between  parents and                                                               
children and  builds social and  emotional skills.  These results                                                               
can be seen in resiliency studies, she said.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY emphasized  reading is a learned skill  that does not                                                               
come naturally.  The first  step in learning  to read  relates to                                                               
vocabulary. The  more words  children know,  the more  sounds and                                                               
words children recognize strengthens  every aspect of reading. In                                                               
2015, the  Society for Research  in Child Development  found that                                                               
children who had a larger oral  vocabulary at age two were better                                                               
prepared  academically  and  behaviorally for  kindergarten  with                                                               
greater reading and math achievement and better self-regulation.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY described the process  in how children learn to read.                                                               
She  explained   that  parents   can  develop   their  children's                                                               
vocabulary  by talking  and holding  back-and-forth conversations                                                               
with them,  even as babies.  A Psychological Science  study found                                                               
that pictures books provide a  richer source of unique words than                                                               
conversation,  containing 72  percent  more  unique words,  which                                                               
helps   children   expand    their   vocabulary.   Second   comes                                                               
phonological  awareness,  the  ability  to  hear,  identify,  and                                                               
manipulate sounds  in spoken words,  and sentences.  The emphasis                                                               
is  placed  on  hearing  the  sound in  spoken  words.  In  fact,                                                               
developmental screenings are critical  because it is difficult to                                                               
identify  when  children  cannot  hear,  she  said.  Third  comes                                                               
phonics, the connection  between the letter sound  and the letter                                                               
that makes the  sound. Finally, learning print  concepts, such as                                                               
knowing that  print carries  a message,  including that  print is                                                               
read  left  to  right  and  from top  to  bottom.  Children  need                                                               
exposure  to books  and reading  in fun  and pleasurable  ways in                                                               
order to learn to read once school begins.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY  explained that  in quality  early care  and learning                                                               
programs, children  regularly read  a wide variety  of children's                                                               
books.  This month,  through the  Imagination Library,  more than                                                               
18,000 Alaskan  children from  birth to age  five have  access to                                                               
those important  experiences in their  own homes.  These children                                                               
have  the opportunity  to build  vocabulary, hear  the sounds  in                                                               
letters  and words,  connect sounds  and letters,  and understand                                                               
print concepts. She characterized the  program as being more than                                                               
children receiving a  book in the mailbox.  Eighty-one percent of                                                               
parents  responded  that   receiving  Imagination  Library  books                                                               
increased  the amount  of  their time  spent  reading with  their                                                               
children. Eighty-seven  percent of parents reported  that reading                                                               
with  their children  helped them  form closer  relationships and                                                               
that the  children enjoyed reading together.  Eighty-four percent                                                               
reported  that their  children were  more excited  about reading.                                                               
These positive experiences with  books and reading are reinforced                                                               
in the  kinds of programs  promoted by  this bill, she  said. She                                                               
emphasized  that  she  is  passionate  about  ensuring  that  all                                                               
Alaskan  children have  access to  books and  the early  literacy                                                               
experiences necessary  to become good  readers. It is  really one                                                               
of the best investments for their future, she said.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:24:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS asked for an  assessment of early learning and pre-                                                               
K funding in  the governor's budget and the House  version of the                                                               
budget.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY replied  the governor's budget cut  virtually all the                                                               
funds for early learning, including  $2 million for pre-K program                                                               
grants.  The school  districts have  consistently received  these                                                               
grants  for a  number of  years. The  governor's budget  cut $1.2                                                               
million  for  schools  as  part  of  the  Moore  settlement,  and                                                               
$475,000 for the  Parents as Teachers program.  She reported that                                                               
the governor's budget  cut $6.8 million for Head  Start, which is                                                               
the  state matching  portion  for the  federal  $40 million.  The                                                               
governor's  budget  cut  $320,000   for  Best  Beginnings.  As  a                                                               
consequence, the Head Start program  reported that 138 jobs would                                                               
be lost, and  programming would not be available  for hundreds of                                                               
children.  Further, twelve  to fifteen  communities may  not have                                                               
any  early  childhood programs.  Funding  was  cut for  the  home                                                               
visiting programs  located in a number  of communities throughout                                                               
the  state,   she  said.  The   department  could   also  provide                                                               
information about  the consequences of cutting  the pre-K grants,                                                               
she said.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY offered to focus  on Best Beginnings, noting that the                                                               
state  has  invested  $320,000 annually  for  the  public-private                                                               
partnership since this program began.  The Imagination Library in                                                               
Alaska  is set  up  very  differently than  in  the  rest of  the                                                               
country. Alaska's program has been held  up as a model program by                                                               
the  Dollywood   Foundation.  Twenty-eight   Imagination  Library                                                               
affiliates are  supported by Best  Beginnings, many  with funding                                                               
but all  offer training and  technical assistance.  The necessary                                                               
resources exceed $320,000,  which meets half of  the budget costs                                                               
for  Best Beginnings.  In 2018,  223,729 books  provided by  Best                                                               
Beginnings  and local  communities, valued  at $2.9  million were                                                               
delivered to 112 communities, she said.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS.  HENSLEY pointed  out hearing  testimony that  parents should                                                               
take responsibility  for teaching  their children.  While parents                                                               
have the  base responsibility  to do  so, for  $30 per  child per                                                               
year, from  birth to age  five, families can  have as many  as 60                                                               
books  in their  home  libraries. In  other states,  kindergarten                                                               
teachers  reported that  Imagination  Library children  exhibited                                                               
more  school readiness,  which is  very valuable  to kindergarten                                                               
teachers. It  helps them pull  a group of children  together, she                                                               
said. Some studies  indicate that children who  attend pre-k also                                                               
have higher math achievement, she said.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS asked  for  clarification on  the  funding in  the                                                               
House budget.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY reiterated the figures.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:30:13 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH  said the  Constitution  of  the State  of  Alaska                                                               
requires  the  state to  establish  a  system of  public  schools                                                               
without  reference  to  pre-K  or  Kindergarten.  Therefore,  the                                                               
judgement and  responsibility to  provide funding outside  of the                                                               
constitutional requirements  are vested with the  legislature and                                                               
governor,  he said.  In the  Molly Hootch  case, {Alaska  Supreme                                                               
Court, Tobeluk v. Lind] a  young woman said children are entitled                                                               
to an  education in their  communities under the  Constitution of                                                               
the  State of  Alaska. One  challenge the  legislature has  after                                                               
passage of  Senate Bill  26 last legislature,  is that  the state                                                               
has a finite revenue, eh said.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
He offered his  belief that the legislature would need  to make a                                                               
policy  call on  the amount  of permanent  fund dividend  dollars                                                               
versus public services dollars to fund government.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BIRCH said  that everyone  hopes that  adults have  good                                                               
parenting skills, but  this is not always the case.  He asked for                                                               
further  clarification  on  her  perspective  about  screen  time                                                               
impacts  on  pre-K  children.   He  recalled  previous  committee                                                               
discussions  on   educators  who  use  distance   delivery  using                                                               
internet  tools.  He  further  asked  whether  the  state  should                                                               
support or moderate that concept.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY  responded that she  has long been interested  in the                                                               
impacts of of  media screen time on children. In  1994, she began                                                               
working with  parents and childcare  providers to  provide public                                                               
television to  young children. About  two years ago  the American                                                               
Academy of  Pediatricians modified  its position on  screen time,                                                               
which was  not based on  research, from advocating for  no screen                                                               
time  for children  under the  age  of two  to recommending  that                                                               
screen time  for children  under the  age of  two should  be more                                                               
interactive with  a parent.  One beneficial  screen time  use for                                                               
children and  grandparents is FaceTime.  This allows  children to                                                               
interact  with grandparents  or other  family members,  she said.                                                               
When a person talks to  children via FaceTime, it provides almost                                                               
the   same  quality   of  interaction   as   when  children   and                                                               
grandparents are  in the same  room. But experts still  find that                                                               
kids  have too  much unattended  screen time.  She referred  to a                                                               
section on  the Best Beginnings  website that  provides resources                                                               
and  help for  parents.  A  recent study  said  that e-books  are                                                               
probably better for  older kids, but print  books provide greater                                                               
benefit for young  children than e-books since  children can lose                                                               
track of the story with an e-book, she said.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BEGICH said  that  based on  a task  force  that he  and                                                               
Senator  Stevens  served  on, he  has  been  contemplating  early                                                               
education as  an opportunity  to provide  developmental screening                                                               
for audio and visual. He asked for her professional perspective.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS. HENSLEY  replied that one  thing she  found in her  work with                                                               
ARISE  [Anchorage Realizing  Indigenous Student  Excellence] with                                                               
the  Cook Inlet  Tribal Council  a few  years ago  was that  most                                                               
children have  hearing screenings at  birth, but not  again until                                                               
entering  school. She  said that  is a  long period  when no  one                                                               
would  know whether  these children  can  see or  hear well.  For                                                               
phonological awareness, children must  hear the sounds in letters                                                               
and words to  learn how to make sense of  the words. For example,                                                               
it is important to identify  when children cannot distinguish the                                                               
difference between sounds p and t,  to help determine the type of                                                               
intervention that  might be needed.  She offered her  belief that                                                               
that type of screening would be valuable.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:36:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH  said  that one  element  of  high-quality  early                                                               
education is related  to social interaction. Part  of the Finnish                                                               
model involves  social interaction  in order to  prepare children                                                               
for a  learning environment. Early education  is about developing                                                               
reading and social skills, not screen time, he said.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.   HENSLEY   said  one   reason   the   American  Academy   of                                                               
Pediatricians (AAP) recommends reading  to children from birth is                                                               
to  help children  develop social  and emotional  attachments. In                                                               
Finland, formal  reading education  starts at age  7 but  it also                                                               
involves  substantial play-based  education. However,  that play-                                                               
based  educational  component  was   sometimes  lost  in  America                                                               
because  the   first-grade  curriculum   has  been   pushed  into                                                               
kindergarten.   The   AAP   has  expressed   concern   that   the                                                               
kindergarten  curriculum  will be  pushed  down  into pre-K,  she                                                               
said. She emphasized the importance  of developing pre-K programs                                                               
and standards  in line  with age-appropriate  and developmentally                                                               
appropriate standards.  She expressed her concern  that educators                                                               
might  make things  even more  academic,  which would  ultimately                                                               
hurt children.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES  remarked  anecdotally   that  she  read  to  her                                                               
children as babies  and taught them to  read before kindergarten.                                                               
He daughter began reading to her own  son when he was a few weeks                                                               
old.  She said  she  found it  fascinating to  see  how much  her                                                               
grandson, now one year old, enjoys that time.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS [opened public testimony].                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:40:52 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  NEES, representing  himself,  Anchorage, raised  questions                                                               
about data used  to rate the effectiveness of  pre-K programs. He                                                               
said that pre-K  has been offered in Alaska at  least since 2001.                                                               
The McDowell  Group "ARISE"  report did a  good job  of reviewing                                                               
the data from 2010 to 2016.  He offered his belief that committee                                                               
packet  information was  an incomplete  snapshot because  it only                                                               
included  one year,  but  the available  data  spans many  years.                                                               
Anchorage has  had a consistent  gap between the Native  and non-                                                               
Native population.  While Cook Inlet  Tribal Council has  taken a                                                               
good approach,  the CITC  is missing  longitudinal data.  He said                                                               
that the Yupiit  School District has consistently  been ranked as                                                               
one  of worse  performing  school districts  in  the state,  even                                                               
though  YSD  has  92  percent  pre-K  enrollment.  He  questioned                                                               
spending $50  million a year in  state funding for Head  Start if                                                               
it does  not produce measurable results.  Other studies indicated                                                               
the lack of a male in a  household was a better predictor of poor                                                               
performance in school and  subsequent arrests and incarcerations.                                                               
Alaska regulations,  4AAC 06.712  requires all  children entering                                                               
kindergarten be tested,  but it does not provide  any guidance of                                                               
how to use  the data. When he served on  the House Education Task                                                               
Force five years ago, the  assistant commissioner at the time was                                                               
considering a longitudinal study on  Head Start, but it was never                                                               
completed  or published.  He emphasized  that the  districts need                                                               
the data.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NEES said  that there  is no  Constitution of  the State  of                                                               
Alaska mandate  to provide education  prior to the 7th  grade. He                                                               
suggested that  if the legislature  decides to fund  [Head Start]                                                               
based on  anecdotal evidence, it  should seek  long-term evidence                                                               
to determine how  many students graduated from  high school, went                                                               
to  college,  or  were incarcerated.  Even  though  thousands  of                                                               
children have  gone through the program,  the administration does                                                               
not have data to determine its  success or whether the free books                                                               
program,  [Imagination  Library],  has  had  a  positive  impact.                                                               
Without  data, the  districts and  the legislature  must consider                                                               
the main drivers.  In his view, one of the  main drivers would be                                                               
for districts  to run a  pilot program  for five years  and count                                                               
the children in  their ADM [average daily  membership]. Using the                                                               
multiplier  effect,  the  further  away the  districts  are  from                                                               
Anchorage,  the more  money the  legislature could  put into  the                                                               
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
He said  that SB  6 has  merit, but the  committee also  needs to                                                               
obtain  longitudinal data.  In 2014,  DEED's former  commissioner                                                               
and  assistant commissioner  started the  study. The  legislature                                                               
should obtain that  data and analyze the  $60 million investment,                                                               
he said.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS said he made some  good points for the committee to                                                               
follow up on.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:46:56 AM                                                                                                                    
PATTY OWEN,  Director, Alaska Public Health  Association, Juneau,                                                               
supported SB 6. She said  the Alaska Public Health Association is                                                               
a  statewide  organization  of  health  professionals  and  other                                                               
community members  dedicated to  improving health  and well-being                                                               
in Alaska.  APHA is  an affiliate of  the American  Public Health                                                               
Association,  which   was  on  record  as   supporting  universal                                                               
preschool programs.  She reminded  members that  this is  also an                                                               
important public  health issue.  The APHA considers  education as                                                               
one of primary  social determinants of health,  along with things                                                               
like economic  status and housing,  she said.  Education strongly                                                               
correlates  with a  longer life  expectancy  and improved  health                                                               
status. Early  education is particularly important,  not just for                                                               
school  readiness,  but  also  for  brain  development,  positive                                                               
social and emotional and cognitive  development. The experts know                                                               
that adverse  childhood experiences  have detrimental  effects on                                                               
young  people,  including  diseases   and  other  adverse  health                                                               
outcomes   later    in   life.   Early    childhood   development                                                               
opportunities  can  help  provide protective  factors  to  offset                                                               
those adverse childhood experiences.  The APHA is very supportive                                                               
of early  childhood development to improve  health and education,                                                               
she said. She  clarified that she was referring  to quality early                                                               
education and quality K-12 education.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:49:40 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BIRCH  remarked  that people  typically  immunize  their                                                               
children  but  lately  some  pushback  against  vaccinations  has                                                               
occurred, which  has had  adverse impacts.  He asked  for further                                                               
clarification on  vaccinations in  general and in  public schools                                                               
since  substantial numbers  of kids  are congregated  together in                                                               
that setting.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. OWENS replied that the  public health community was united in                                                               
its support for immunizations.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS  expressed concern  about shocking news  related to                                                               
disease outbreaks.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH  recalled an  earlier discussion  on developmental                                                               
screening. He  said he  is contemplating  adding language  to the                                                               
bill  related to  developmental screening.  He asked  whether Ms.                                                               
Owens  could play  a  role in  developing  an adequate  screening                                                               
tool. He  further recalled  that screening arose  as part  of the                                                               
Task Force on Reading Proficiency  and Dyslexia Task Force, which                                                               
was something Ms. Hensley also described.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. OWENS  responded that she  could research it but  believe the                                                               
APHA would be interested.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:51:39 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  BOYLE, representing  himself,  Anchorage,  asked for  more                                                               
research  about the  efficacy  of pre-K  programs.  He said  that                                                               
everyone in  the state wants  what is best for  Alaskan children,                                                               
but the  state must proceed  carefully in any efforts  to improve                                                               
education outcomes.  Before the  [legislature and  the districts]                                                               
spend  money  on  a  perceived   problem,  the  legislature  must                                                               
evaluate the efficacy of pre-K  programs in Alaska and across the                                                               
nation.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
He said  he read  most of  the documents in  the bill  packet. He                                                               
expressed  concern  over  the "cherry  picking"  of  research  to                                                               
justify universal  pre-K in Alaska. He  strongly recommended that                                                               
the committee  conduct its own research,  consider questions, and                                                               
use  the  most reliable,  gold  standard  randomized research  to                                                               
decide  if  pre-K  programs  present  the  appropriate  approach.                                                               
Initially, it  might seem like the  right thing to do,  but pre-K                                                               
may have unintended consequences,  he said. The greatest downside                                                               
might  result in  less parental  involvement in  their children's                                                               
education.   When   the   state  substantially   provides   early                                                               
education, parents are absolved  of the responsibility to provide                                                               
it. He advocated for more  parental involvement in pre-K and K-12                                                               
education  and  his concern  that  the  state was  replacing  the                                                               
parent as the primary teacher.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. BOYLE said  that in addition, the majority  of pre-K majority                                                               
studies do not show any  difference after third grade between the                                                               
control group and those children  who were enrolled in pre-K. The                                                               
most recent longitudinal data in  the Vanderbilt study shows that                                                               
the control-group kids  had higher achievement than  those in the                                                               
pre-K group,  which he found  unbelievable. The  Vanderbilt study                                                               
provided the gold standard research,  which compared two randomly                                                               
selected groups of children. Even  the federal government's study                                                               
on  Head  Start  demonstrated  that  there  were  no  significant                                                               
differences  in student  achievement  after the  third grade.  He                                                               
other states' pre-K programs, noting  the Alabama has the highest                                                               
rating for a pre-K program  from the National Institute for Early                                                               
Education  Research.   The  reading   proficiency  rate   in  the                                                               
Montgomery public schools was less  than one percent according to                                                               
the state  standardized test.  He asked  members to  consider the                                                               
impact of an  excellent pre-K program and  identify the solution.                                                               
He suggested a  pilot program that would  actively engage parents                                                               
involved in their children's early  education. The program should                                                               
teach parents how  to teach their children  phonics, reading, and                                                               
basic  math.  Some parents  who  want  to  be involved  lack  the                                                               
knowledge of how to help. He  said he places his faith in parents                                                               
who  know  their  kids  better   than  the  government  does.  He                                                               
expressed  concern  that  spending  more  money  on  pre-K  won't                                                               
produce needed results.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR STEVENS asked  Mr. Boyle to inform the  committee staff how                                                               
to access the Vanderbilt study.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH reminded  members that SB 6 would  not expand Head                                                               
Start.  He referred  to a  list of  studies in  members' packets,                                                               
including  a  study  of  the   Arkansas  Better  Chance  program.                                                               
Children  who participated  in the  Better Chance  program scored                                                               
higher on  kindergarten measures of vocabulary,  math skills, and                                                               
an understanding  of print  concepts than  students who  did not.                                                               
There are a  number of studies for every state  that provide some                                                               
form of universal  pre-K. "No cherry picking  here, Mr. Chairman,                                                               
just the facts," he said.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  said the committee previously  discussed a policy                                                               
to ensure that  that every child reads proficiently  by the third                                                               
grade. That  policy would  seem to meet  the sponsor's  goal, she                                                               
said. She  agreed with Ms.  Hensley on the importance  of healthy                                                               
play  and   activities  for   young  children.   She  highlighted                                                               
Finland's  early  education  program,  which does  not  focus  on                                                               
actual  phonics  and  letters  until   age  seven  that  has  had                                                               
excellent  results.  She was  unsure  if  any studies  were  done                                                               
related to states with Read  by Nine programs. She cautioned that                                                               
it was  not possible to isolate  the effects of preschool  if the                                                               
schools also  use a Read by  Nine approach. She pointed  out that                                                               
the  committee hasn't  discussed child  readiness for  math, just                                                               
for reading. She  questioned whether the committee  would like to                                                               
focus expand  its focus.  The districts  have been  running pre-K                                                               
programs long  enough to acquire  the data about the  impacts all                                                               
the way through high school graduation, she said.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
She reported  that Alaska  currently spends  about $11  million a                                                               
year  for  the  [pre-K]  programs.  The fiscal  notes  for  SB  6                                                               
indicate  that amount  would increase.  She said  that using  the                                                               
multiplier effect  once the children  are added to the  BSA [base                                                               
student  allocation]  would relate  to  a  significant number  of                                                               
dollars.  She   would  like  the   longitudinal  data   from  the                                                               
Department of Education.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS said  committee will  request that  data from  the                                                               
department.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:00:03 AM                                                                                                                   
BRIDGET  WEISS,  Ph.D.,  Superintendent, Juneau  School  District                                                               
(JSD), Juneau,  supported SB 6.  She said  she wanted to  share a                                                               
Juneau project  that has  been dear to  her heart.  The community                                                               
has spent  considerable time over  the last few  years discussing                                                               
early  childhood and  high-quality  childcare from  ages zero  to                                                               
five.  The community  has grave  concerns about  the availability                                                               
and capacity  for high-quality childcare, she  said. Mayor Weldon                                                               
put together a  Child Care Task force (CCTF),  comprised of seven                                                               
members, including  assembly members  and community  members. The                                                               
CCTF members  were tackling that issue  as a city to  decide what                                                               
funds it can  contribute and the potential scope  of the program.                                                               
The JSD  uses local funds,  state funds, and partners  with other                                                               
Southeast  communities  in  a five-year  STEPS  grant  for  pre-K                                                               
facilitated  by  the Association  of  Alaska  School Boards,  she                                                               
said.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
DR.  WEISS agreed  that the  committee  members raised  important                                                               
questions about  data and tracking.  She said she hoped  that the                                                               
JSD  would seek  data for  the district  during the  interim. She                                                               
asked  the  committee  to  realize the  many  variables  when  it                                                               
reviews  the data.  Educational  data is  seldom scientific,  she                                                               
said.  She said  when Juneau  considered its  targeted population                                                               
for early childhood programs, it  wanted to identify students who                                                               
live in economically disadvantaged homes.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
She  highlighted  Juneau's   program,  KinderReady,  which  hosts                                                               
children aged three to five.  This year the district has expanded                                                               
the program  from one  classroom last  year to  three classrooms.                                                               
About  60 percent  of the  students in  each classroom  reside in                                                               
economically  disadvantaged homes.  One  piece that  the JSD  has                                                               
gained  through that  process was  family engagement.  That is  a                                                               
different view  than the testimony  the committee  heard earlier,                                                               
which   suggested  family   engagement  and   responsibility  for                                                               
children's  education. She  said that  it would  be wonderful  if                                                               
every  child in  Alaska lived  in a  high-functioning home,  that                                                               
their  children's  activities were  a  priority,  and that  these                                                               
children came to  school ready to learn. However,  the reality is                                                               
that  many  families  are  in crisis  across  Alaska,  she  said.                                                               
Sometimes  these  crises  are  due  to  language  challenges,  as                                                               
Senator  Begich  stated.  Other  times  the  crises  are  due  to                                                               
economic factors and other traumatic experiences.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
DR. WEISS  said that  when the  districts track  that data  it is                                                               
important  to  see  the  impact,  but it  may  be  relational  in                                                               
comparison  to  children  from  families who  may  not  have  any                                                               
challenges. The  Juneau School District commits  13 classrooms to                                                               
preschool. Seven  classroom are  for special  education programs,                                                               
plus the  district has three  KinderReady programs.  The district                                                               
also  uses  two  classrooms  to  support Head  Start  and  has  a                                                               
Montessori classroom  that was a  blended pre-K  and kindergarten                                                               
classroom.  She  characterized  the   JSD  program  as  a  strong                                                               
commitment.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
She  related  her  experience  working  with  Family  Promise,  a                                                               
program for homeless  families, designed to help  the families to                                                               
transition into their  own homes. She described  watching a child                                                               
go  from homeless,  to kindergarten,  and  to a  K-3 program.  It                                                               
represented a  beautiful example of  the continuum that  the most                                                               
vulnerable  children need.  She  highlighted the  many layers  of                                                               
need including  academic, social/emotional,  self-regulation, and                                                               
parent engagement at an earlier  level. She said that these areas                                                               
were ones in  which the district can help guide  families who may                                                               
not know how to read to  their children, what it means to connect                                                               
with the schools.  Many of these parents had  their own traumatic                                                               
school experiences, so these parents  don't seek support from the                                                               
district. However,  parents viewed the district  as meeting their                                                               
kids'  needs,  the  children might  enter  the  district  systems                                                               
earlier and the district can  start influencing them. She offered                                                               
her belief that there  are a lot of moving parts  that can make a                                                               
difference. The  districts can start  putting some of  those data                                                               
pieces together, she said.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  BIRCH thanked  her for  her advocacy  for children.  She                                                               
asked about the onsite daycare  in Juneau. He asked whether there                                                               
is commercial or  government support for daycare because  it is a                                                               
component of zero to five.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
DR. WEISS answered that Juneau has  some daycare, such as the day                                                               
care  in the  federal  building  for the  U.S.  Coast Guard.  The                                                               
community has experienced day care  closures due to the financial                                                               
challenges. The  Child Care Task  Force is reviewing  that issue,                                                               
she said. The continuum from zero  to age 5 is childcare. This is                                                               
something the task force would  like to be high quality learning,                                                               
she  said.  The   continuum  is  something  the   CCTF  has  been                                                               
reviewing.  The CCTA  has been  creative about  where to  look in                                                               
Juneau to increase capacity and quality.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
She related that one issue  raised earlier related to health care                                                               
screenings.  The districts  are  federally required  to do  Child                                                               
Find, she  said. The districts  are obligated to  pursue students                                                               
who have  special needs  that have not  yet been  identified. The                                                               
district also partners with the  Association for the Education of                                                               
Young Children  (AEYC) on early  learning and  performs screening                                                               
at early learning fairs.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:09:10 AM                                                                                                                   
POSIE  BOGGS,  Alaska  Reading  Coalition,  Anchorage,  spoke  in                                                               
support of  SB 6. She  said that  reading starts in  infancy. The                                                               
ARC   supports   high-quality   preschool  and   early   literacy                                                               
screening. The  result is to  produce intervention if  needed. If                                                               
schools had high-quality early  literacy screening and preschool,                                                               
she would  not need to  tutor a ten-year old  to read or  teach a                                                               
35-year-old had  he had early  screening in preschool. He  is now                                                               
learning  to read  with her  help, along  with an  online reading                                                               
coach. She would  like the committee to  consider early preschool                                                               
screening as a parental right.  Parents do not have the knowledge                                                               
to be aware  of what to look for. She  asked if parents naturally                                                               
know   about   phonological    awareness,   phonemic   awareness,                                                               
orthographic mapping, and other topics.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS.  BOGGS said  that  regarding Senator  Hughes' comments  about                                                               
Finland, it is  important to understand that it is  easy to learn                                                               
to  read  Finnish. One  letter  has  one  sound. English  has  26                                                               
letters  and  44 sounds.  It  is  extremely difficult  to  learn.                                                               
English  is  considered an  opaque  language,  not a  transparent                                                               
language such as Finnish, Spanish,  or Turkish. He emphasized the                                                               
importance to start literacy as  early as possible because of the                                                               
nature of English. The first thing  Finland did when it went from                                                               
a poor  education system to  one of the  best was to  close every                                                               
school  except the  five best  and then  standardize its  teacher                                                               
preparation courses. That  fact gets buried with  the love affair                                                               
the districts seem to have with Finland.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MS. BOGGS agreed  with Senator Hughes that children  do not catch                                                               
up. The NAEP  reported that 12th grade reading  outcomes are just                                                               
as  dismal as  fourth  grade reading  outcomes.  She offered  her                                                               
belief  that the  country wouldn't  be experiencing  the cost  of                                                               
illiteracy to industry  is $250 billion because  the districts do                                                               
not start  screening and intervention in  preschool. She referred                                                               
the committee  to contact U.S.  Senator Cassidy  for correlations                                                               
between reading capabilities and incarceration.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
10:16:19 AM                                                                                                                   
TIM PARKER, President, NEA-Alaska,  Fairbanks, supported SB 6. He                                                               
said educators primarily work with  children ages five to 18, but                                                               
the  NEA also  considers what  happens  in pre-K,  because it  is                                                               
interlinked to K-12. He said that  when he moved to Alaska almost                                                               
30  years  ago,  he  was   surprised  the  department  was  named                                                               
Department of Education and Early  Development (DEED) since it is                                                               
the Department  of Education in other  states. He said that  SB 6                                                               
is helping push the state in that direction.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
He reviewed  the DEED's homepage, which  lists Alaska's Education                                                               
Challenge as  the driving force  within the department,  with the                                                               
goal to  provide an excellent  education for every  student every                                                               
day. In order to achieve that  districts must focus on pre-K. One                                                               
commitment of the DEED is  to cultivate safety and well-being. It                                                               
also provides  recognition that Alaska  is not like  other places                                                               
in the  country. The state  needs to provide additional  focus to                                                               
make sure that some of  Alaska's most vulnerable students get the                                                               
necessary help so these children are able to learn.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR. PARKER  cautioned that  the state  can't wait  until children                                                               
are five  years old  to assess  whether children  live in  a safe                                                               
environment since environmental  influences have dramatic effects                                                               
on  student achievement.  The  Alaska  Developmental Profile,  in                                                               
which  600 kindergarten  teachers examine  13 areas  for incoming                                                               
kindergarteners. According  to a 2018  department study,  only 70                                                               
percent of students meet fewer than ten of those benchmarks.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
He  recalled  the  committee previously  discussed  the  idea  of                                                               
return on investment. According  to research from Professor James                                                               
Heckman,  a  Nobel-winning  economist   from  the  University  of                                                               
Chicago,  pointed to  a 13  percent return  on investment  in the                                                               
pre-K  area. He  cautioned that  the  longer the  state waits  to                                                               
address pre-K, the less the return on investment.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
MR. PARKER  acknowledged that the  quality of pre-K  programs was                                                               
important. He  appreciated that Senator  Begich provided  a large                                                               
volume of research  in this area. The legislature  must work with                                                               
DEED to ensure  quality in pre-K. The state needs  a program that                                                               
actually works,  one that works  for parents and fits  Alaska. He                                                               
urged  member  to  look  to their  professionals  and  invest  in                                                               
Alaska's children.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:21:28 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS asked  Mr. Parker to provide the  Heckman report to                                                               
the committee.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
10:21:51 AM                                                                                                                   
PATTY MERITT, representing  herself, Fairbanks, Alaska, supported                                                               
SB 6 with some recommendations. She  has worked as a professor at                                                               
the University  of Alaska  Fairbanks for over  40 years  in early                                                               
childhood  education. She  said it  is wonderful  that Alaska  is                                                               
considering  a universal  pre-K  option. She  has three  concerns                                                               
with   the  bill.   First,  she   expressed  concern   about  the                                                               
qualifications  of  the lead  teacher  and  other adults  in  the                                                               
classroom.  Early  childhood  education  is  often  misunderstood                                                               
People recognize  specialized training  in the health  field, but                                                               
not  in the  education field,  she said.  For example,  this bill                                                               
refers to six early childhood  credits for someone who is already                                                               
certified.  However, the  training and  course of  study is  very                                                               
different for someone to teach  K-12 compared to early childhood.                                                               
Most  K-12 teachers  have one  course in  child development  that                                                               
covers  ages  zero  to 18  whereas  early  childhood  development                                                               
teachers take  three courses to  cover the same range  to provide                                                               
depth  and foundation.  Curriculum  and preparation  for K-12  is                                                               
also  very different  for early  childhood, she  said. Assessment                                                               
for  K-12 is  standardized,  but is  performance  based and  uses                                                               
specialized  observation skills  for  preschool. Early  childhood                                                               
training focuses on child guidance  while training for older kids                                                               
focuses on class management. She  agreed that suggesting a type A                                                               
certified  teacher  could  take  six credits  to  become  a  lead                                                               
teacher was a significant gap in the bill.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MERITT  expressed concern  that  the  bill is  missing  some                                                               
points  about quality.  For example,  research shows  that ratios                                                               
are critical, which the bill  should address. Public schools, due                                                               
to funding and space problems often work with large group sizes.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  STEVENS   asked  Ms.  Meritt   to  send  in   her  written                                                               
recommendations.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MS.  MERITT said  her third  point was  that the  bill should  be                                                               
equitable  to  childcare  licensing  standard  requirements.  For                                                               
example, some  childcare standards might  require meeting a  1 to                                                               
10 ratio  in a private setting  but children in a  public setting                                                               
have ratios of 1 to 15 or 1 to 20.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:28:27 AM                                                                                                                   
JUDY ELEDGE,  representing herself, Anchorage, opposed  SB 6. She                                                               
provided a brief  work history, including that she  has worked in                                                               
education  in Alaska  since 1981  and  in rural  and bush  Alaska                                                               
since 1997. She expressed frustration  that people are asking for                                                               
things that have already been  tried, especially when considering                                                               
the cost. She  said the state does not address  truancy, which is                                                               
a problem. In  her experience, attendance was even  worse in pre-                                                               
K.  Since 2003,  she has  worked with  low-performing schools  to                                                               
provide support.  She has worked with  the lowest of the  low. It                                                               
was   baffling  to   discuss  adding   pre-K  funding   when  the                                                               
legislature is reducing K-12 education  and districts struggle to                                                               
provide  it,   she  said.  She   encouraged  districts   and  the                                                               
legislature to  discussing improving  the current  program before                                                               
adding additional grades.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. ELEDGE said  she supports the Read by Nine  effort because it                                                               
has  provided early  screenings  since 2001  when the  department                                                               
brought in Roland  Good of DIBELS from the  University of Oregon.                                                               
She   described  her   experiences  working   with  low-achieving                                                               
students  in low-performing  schools, noting  that many  of these                                                               
schools  don't  have  the capability  to  change.  However,  when                                                               
schools have strong programs and strong principals, these low-                                                                  
performing schools  can be turned  around. She  acknowledged that                                                               
the  department  has  limited   resources.  She  hoped  that  the                                                               
department would focus on K-3  reading. She has observed students                                                               
enter kindergarten well behind catch  up from teacher effort. She                                                               
did not hear  anything in testimony today  that districts haven't                                                               
already  tried.  Sometimes  programs  don't work  well  when  the                                                               
administration  forces  them  on  teachers, who  push  back.  She                                                               
offered  her belief  that the  districts  know what  needs to  be                                                               
done. She expressed frustration that nothing seems to change.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
10:33:08 AM                                                                                                                   
ESTHER PEPIN,  representing herself, Naknek, supported  SB 6. She                                                               
said  she  is the  early  learning  coordinator for  Bristol  Bay                                                               
School District. As a recipient  of the pre-elementary grant, her                                                               
community was able to provide  every four-year-old with a quality                                                               
half-day pre-K program  for the last three years. This  has had a                                                               
significant impact on  child development, kindergarten readiness,                                                               
and  development of  a culturally  responsive education  program.                                                               
With  the   continuation  of  pre-K  funding,   the  schools  and                                                               
districts  hope to  continue to  explore a  sustainable model  to                                                               
ensure  that  early learning  support  is  a priority  for  their                                                               
community and that  the children's needs are being  met. The pre-                                                               
elementary grant  is not a  one size fits all  preschool program.                                                               
It  is  a  challenge  to ensure  that  districts  developa  model                                                               
responsive  to   their  community's  needs,  one   that  supports                                                               
continuity  of   care  through  a  mixed   delivery  system.  The                                                               
districts  respect the  educational role  of parents,  elders and                                                               
families. It  is their right  to participate as  their children's                                                               
first educators, not just at home  but also in the classrooms for                                                               
early learning, she said.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MS. PEPIN  said that continuity  of care means that  preschool is                                                               
not  a silo  learning experience  and continuity  includes Alaska                                                               
Native  ways  of knowing  and  a  Western education  system.  The                                                               
program  has   ensured  their  young   children  are   ready  for                                                               
kindergarten. Before receiving the  pre-K funding, their children                                                               
averaged 25 to  30 percent fully ready for  kindergarten based on                                                               
the Alaska  Developmental Profile. In  the last three  years, the                                                               
school's profile score  has increased from 67 and  100 percent on                                                               
the 13  goals kindergarten  teachers must  measure. She  said the                                                               
district hoped this  readiness will be reflected  in future years                                                               
and also when  measuring literacy and math skills  in third grade                                                               
and beyond. Funding has allowed  the school district to provide a                                                               
responsive  program that  meets  the social/emotional,  cognitive                                                               
and physical needs by providing daily opportunities for inquiry-                                                                
based  play.  This funding  also  provides  and trains  teachers,                                                               
selects   and   implements  research-based   inquiry   curriculum                                                               
resources, and develops a rich,  support environment for children                                                               
to  help them  develop the  necessary  skills to  succeed in  the                                                               
world. Speaking  as a mother who  will have a child  in preschool                                                               
next year, she  hoped that his teachers would be  able to support                                                               
his needs and  that he will have a rich  environment to socialize                                                               
in  and play  with other  children as  he prepares  not only  for                                                               
kindergarten but for his educational years.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
10:37:11 AM                                                                                                                   
LAURA BONNER,  representing herself,  Anchorage, supported  SB 6.                                                               
She  said SB  6 is  a  good long  term investment.  She said  she                                                               
previously submitted written  testimony on the benefits  of SB 6.                                                               
She offered  support for Section  3, because it created  a stair-                                                               
step  grant   program.  This  program   could  help   the  lowest                                                               
performing districts  improve, many of  which are in  rural areas                                                               
with less access  to programs. She expressed  support for Section                                                               
5,  regarding  cultural  content  in the  local  communities  and                                                               
accommodations  for the  needs of  all pre-K  children and  their                                                               
families,   regardless  of   socioeconomics  circumstances.   She                                                               
suggested the  bill should  be expanded  to include  children who                                                               
are three  years old, and  not be limited  to four and  five year                                                               
old children.  She highlighted that  her daughter, now  an adult,                                                               
has autism but was in a  special education pre-K program when she                                                               
was three years  old because of testing. At the  time, Ms. Bonner                                                               
did not  know anything  about autism, but  she through  the pre-K                                                               
program she  learned how to  help her daughter.  She acknowledged                                                               
that the program has costs,  but early investment costs less. She                                                               
urged the  committee to find  the revenue to fund  this important                                                               
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:39:29 AM                                                                                                                   
JENNIFER  SCHMITZ, State  Representative,  Alaska Association  of                                                               
Elementary School  Principals, Principal, Scenic  Park Elementary                                                               
School, Anchorage, spoke in support of  SB 6. She said the Alaska                                                               
Association  of Elementary  School  Principals strongly  supports                                                               
early childhood.  She briefly reviewed her  background, including                                                               
that she served  as an elementary principal in  Anchorage for the                                                               
past 13 years.  She has seen more rigorous  standards and changes                                                               
in families'  overall fiscal and personal  situations. She taught                                                               
kindergarten her first  year of teaching in 1990. All  but one of                                                               
her  students  that  year  had  attended at  least  one  year  of                                                               
preschool.  Today, only  12 of  85 kindergarten  students in  her                                                               
school have  attended some type  of preschool program.  Those who                                                               
were  attended   preschool  immediate   become  leaders   in  the                                                               
classroom.  She and  her colleagues  believe that  these students                                                               
will  remain  leaders  long  after  kindergarten.  Unfortunately,                                                               
quality  programs  are  not  available  to  all  families.  These                                                               
programs are  difficult to find  and expensive. While  the number                                                               
of  students   in  high-quality   programs  has   decreased,  the                                                               
standards for  student expectations have increased.  When her 22-                                                               
year-old  son  was  in  kindergarten,  it was  a  half  day.  The                                                               
children  played, learned  social skills,  did art  projects, had                                                               
naptime, and a basic introduction  to letters and numbers. Today,                                                               
kindergarten  runs a  full day.  Students are  expected to  learn                                                               
letters,  letter  sounds,  letter  blends,  story  structure,  to                                                               
compose  and  decompose numbers,  add  and  subtract fluently  to                                                               
five, and many  other skills. School districts  have raised their                                                               
rigor, which helps schools compete nationally.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MS.  SCHMITZ  said each  year  she  discovers  that many  of  her                                                               
kindergarteners have never  held a pencil, have never  had a book                                                               
read to them, and many of  them have never heard English at home.                                                               
These children  have never  had to  sit in a  circle, stand  in a                                                               
line,  learn  their  colors,  or many  other  things  that  other                                                               
students  experience prior  to beginning  school. These  teachers                                                               
spend much  of the school year  being pre-K teachers at  the same                                                               
time these teachers function as  the kindergarten teachers. It is                                                               
difficult raise  these students to  the appropriate level  by the                                                               
end of  the year.  Unfortunately, some  students never  catch up.                                                               
Pre-K involves parents  early on in the  educational process, she                                                               
said.  These parents  learn the  importance of  reading books  to                                                               
young  children.  As  Ms.  Hensley  said,  reading  to  children,                                                               
talking and  interacting with them  at home is vital  for reading                                                               
readiness.   However,  without   early  childhood   programs  and                                                               
resources,  many  parents  don't   recognize  the  importance  of                                                               
reading or how  to teach their children. She  urged the committee                                                               
to support  the bill  to provide adequate  and early  funding for                                                               
public education.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
10:43:11 AM                                                                                                                   
STEPHANIE GISH, Discovery Preschool,  Juneau, spoke in support of                                                               
SB 6.  She said  neuroscience has confirmed  that the  first five                                                               
years of life  are crucial to human  development. Early childhood                                                               
experiences  lay  the foundation  for  life.  Infants are  active                                                               
participants   in  learning.   Besides  preparing   children  for                                                               
kindergarten, early  child educators  are trained to  spot trauma                                                               
triggers  and to  build resiliency  in preschoolers.  Considering                                                               
Alaska's  high incidence  of abuse  and  neglect, early  learning                                                               
programs might  be the  only place  where healthy  development is                                                               
being fostered.  Continued lack of investment  in early education                                                               
will produce  dire and  costly social  and economic  results, she                                                               
said.  The  lifelong  effects of  adverse  childhood  experiences                                                               
(ACEs)  place a  significant and  lifetime burden  on the  state.                                                               
High  ACE scores  are correlated  with poor  physical and  mental                                                               
health, along  with an increased likelihood  of criminal behavior                                                               
and unemployment. In short, criminals  are made from children who                                                               
are  abused and  neglected,  children who  cannot access  healthy                                                               
environments  or  attachments.  Lowering crime  rates  in  Alaska                                                               
starts with  early childhood  education. Adversity  and childhood                                                               
trauma are not limited to  the impoverished, she said. It happens                                                               
to far  more children  than people realize,  and the  results can                                                               
last for generations.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS.  GISH  said that  learning  begins  at  birth, such  that  an                                                               
infant's brain triples  in size by age three.  Their dense brains                                                               
are  eager to  learn more  about the  world. Their  brains cannot                                                               
distinguish  one  type  of  toxic   stress  from  another.  These                                                               
stresses  have  the same  impact  and  capacity to  impair  their                                                               
health and well-being  for lifet. If the state  honestly wants to                                                               
make  a   difference  for  current   and  future   Alaskans,  the                                                               
legislature  must   pave  the  way  for   high-quality  care  and                                                               
education to  begin in infancy,  she said. Programs  that provide                                                               
developmentally  appropriate,  high-quality  continuity  of  care                                                               
will generate greater academic, social, and economic success.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
10:46:10 AM                                                                                                                   
KATHY CLARK, representing herself, Homer,  spoke in support of SB                                                               
6.  She  said she  lived  in  Talkeetna  when the  first  primary                                                               
program was  introduced in  the elementary  school for  three and                                                               
four-year-old children.  Her son's  daycare teacher was  hired to                                                               
run the preschool program and  encouraged Ms. Clark to enroll her                                                               
son. Because he  entered the program when  he at three-and-a-half                                                               
years old, the district discovered  he had dysgraphia. That early                                                               
diagnosis made a  huge difference in how  the teachers approached                                                               
his education.  Currently, her son  is a successful  graduate and                                                               
getting his contractor  license at 21, she  said. Early education                                                               
is  not  only  important  for  social  issues  but  for  learning                                                               
disabilities.  She referred  to testimony  she heard  today about                                                               
the  availability, capacity,  and  quality of  childcare. If  the                                                               
Homer were to  lose its Head Start and  early preschool programs,                                                               
only one  church in  her community  would provide  childcare. She                                                               
expressed concern that  it would cut off a  substantial number of                                                               
children   in  the   community  from   the  benefits   of  pre-K.                                                               
Unfortunately, some  parents are illiterate and  cannot read with                                                               
their  children  or help  them  do  simple math  problems.  These                                                               
parents now observe their children  being left behind in a system                                                               
that left them  behind, she said. She urged members  to pass SB 6                                                               
because it is important.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:48:38 AM                                                                                                                   
LISA SKILES PARADY, Ph.D., Executive  Director, Alaska Council of                                                               
School Administrators, Juneau, supported SB  6. She said that Ms.                                                               
Hensley, Dr. Weiss, Principal Schmitz,  and others have explained                                                               
the importance of  this investment in early  learning. The Alaska                                                               
Council  of School  Administrators  (ACSA)  2019 joint  positions                                                               
statements  consider  early childhood  as  one  of their  highest                                                               
priorities.  She  read  the  ACSA  position  statement  on  early                                                               
childhood  education, "ACSA  believes equitable  access to  fully                                                               
funded, sustainable  preschool programs provides a  foundation of                                                               
excellent   social,  emotional   and  cognitive   instruction  to                                                               
students. Research  clearly demonstrates that  early intervention                                                               
and  instruction is  one of  the  best ways  to increase  student                                                               
achievement  across  all  demographics and  create  the  greatest                                                               
opportunity  for  all  students  to read  proficiently  by  third                                                               
grade. Early childhood education should  be considered as part of                                                               
public school funding through the BSA."                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
DR.  PARADY said  that the  ACSA and  their educational  partners                                                               
invested  in   a  public  opinion  poll   administered  by  Zogby                                                               
Analytics, a highly respected  international polling and research                                                               
company.  The   poll  was  administered   to  provide   a  better                                                               
understanding of  Alaska voters' perspectives, both  on pre-K and                                                               
K-12  public education.  The pre-K  question  was whether  voters                                                               
support or oppose  state funded public preschool.  The answer was                                                               
overwhelming  with  73.5  percent of  Alaskan  voters  supporting                                                               
state funded preschool. The evidence  of public opinion is clear.                                                               
Yesterday, the  Anchorage Daily News  published an  opinion piece                                                               
that  she  and her  colleagues,  Norm  Wooten and  Sarah  Sledge,                                                               
wrote. She offered  to submit that opinion  as written testimony.                                                               
She said strongly agreed with  the previously testifiers that the                                                               
committee should  independently research  pre-K. She  offered her                                                               
belief that members  will find that investing  in early childhood                                                               
programs was one of the most critical investments the                                                                           
legislature can make for the future success of our children and                                                                 
of our state.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR BEGICH disclosed that his wife is Sarah Sledge, the                                                                     
executive director for the Coalition for Education Equity.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:53:02 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS held SB 6 in committee.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
10:53:12 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no further business to come before the committee,                                                                   
Chair Stevens adjourned the Senate Education Standing Committee                                                                 
at 10:53 a.m.                                                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
09_SB006_PreKfunding_Research_THREAD_FactSheet_2019.pdf SEDC 4/16/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 6
10_SB006_PreKfunding_Support_Emails Bundle15April2019.pdf SEDC 4/16/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 6