Legislature(2021 - 2022)SENATE FINANCE 532
03/22/2021 09:00 AM FINANCE
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SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE March 22, 2021 9:03 a.m. 9:03:35 AM CALL TO ORDER Co-Chair Bishop called the Senate Finance Committee meeting to order at 9:03 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Click Bishop, Co-Chair Senator Bert Stedman, Co-Chair Senator Lyman Hoffman Senator Donny Olson Senator Natasha von Imhof Senator Bill Wielechowski Senator David Wilson MEMBERS ABSENT None ALSO PRESENT Senator Gary Stevens, Sponsor; Tim Lamkin, Staff, Senator Gary Stevens; Erin Shine, Staff, Senator Click Bishop. PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE Dr. Paul Layer, Vice President for Academics, Students, and Research, University of Alaska; Deena Bishop, Superintendent, Anchorage School District; Gene Stone, Chief School Administrator, Lower Yukon School District, Mountain Village; Peter Hoepfner, Cordova School Board, Cordova; Chris Reitan, Superintendent, Craig School System, Craig; Scott MacManus, Superintendent, Alaska Gateway School District, Tok; Patrick Mayer, Superintendent, Aleutians East Borough, Sand Point; Susan Kalina, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness, University of Alaska Anchorage. SUMMARY SB 19 EXTEND SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICE AGENCY SB 19 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. SB 32 COLLEGE CREDIT FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS SB 32 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. SB 36 U OF A REGENTS REPORTING REQUIREMENTS SB 36 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. 9:04:38 AM SENATE BILL NO. 32 "An Act establishing the Alaska middle college program for public school students; and relating to the powers of the University of Alaska." 9:04:55 AM Co-Chair Bishop introduced the bill sponsor. 9:05:27 AM SENATOR GARY STEVENS, SPONSOR, discussed SB 32. He thought the committee was familiar with the issues in the bill. He simplified that the bill arranged for students all over Alaska to take accredited college classes while in high school. He thought students that began the process of taking University classes during high school went on to become full time students at the University of Alaska. He thought the courses allowed for students to learn how to take college level classes. He stated that the bill would benefits both students and learning institutions alike. 9:08:02 AM TIM LAMKIN, STAFF, SENATOR GARY STEVENS, reiterated that the bill was identical to a bill that had passed the committee the previous year but had died after the COVID-19 pandemic had cut the legislative session short. He summarized that the bill was not meant to micro-manage but to provide a flexible framework for learning opportunities. 9:09:34 AM DR. PAUL LAYER, VICE PRESIDENT FOR ACADEMICS, STUDENTS, AND RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA (via teleconference), spoke in support of the bill. He cited that dual enrollment programs had been shown to increase collage going rate. He said that the University had been partner with similar programs in Anchorage and Fairbanks that had been successful and were expanding. He spoke of the virtual middle college that partnered with districts, which served areas without road systems or campuses. He expressed appreciation of the flexibility allowed for in the legislation. He noted that technical courses were also available under the legislation. Dr. Layer highlighted that the courses in question were college-level courses that would appear on a college transcript and would be on a student's permanent record. He believed that the legislation offered an affordable way for students to get a jump start on their college education. 9:14:00 AM Senator Wilson asked about the capacity of the colleges. He wondered whether there were limitations for each campus. Mr. Layer relayed that the University had not reached capacity and had the ability to take on more students. He noted that the program for the Fairbanks North Star School District had originally been limited to 40 students, and the waiting list was long. He continued that there were about 30 school districts that were currently partnered with the University. 9:15:41 AM Senator Wilson asked about screening criteria in the case that a cap was met. He asked about online versus traditional classroom success rates for the current school year. He shared that an online class from his district had a 40 percent failure rate as compared to in-person learning. Mr. Layer emphasized that the online program was a partnership with the schools and schools provided guidance and support. He noted that in a traditional online class, there might not be the same level of support. He emphasized that a support mechanism was essential to the students success. He noted that the Memorandum of Agreement between schools and Universities iterated the responsibilities to provide support. 9:17:26 AM 9:17:43 AM DEENA BISHOP, SUPERINTENDENT, ANCHORAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT (via teleconference), testified in support of the bill. She relayed that she had been involved in similar programs since 2021. She noted that the bill allowed for many different models depending upon the school districts and the needs of the students. She thought the program could be implemented in various ways and would not eliminate technical prep agreements. She stressed that dual enrollment added value and offered equity of opportunity to students. Ms. Bishop believed that dual enrollment programs supported high standards in education in the state. She noted that low variance among school districts was important. She believed that all parties involved cold work together to make the bill a reality for Alaskas students. She stressed that the bill should not be considered an unfunded mandate but a tool that prepares Alaskan students for college, which should be a priority of the state. 9:21:21 AM Ms. Bishop continued her comments. She thought there were several bills in process that reflected the educational values of the state. She related that many students that took college level classes in high school continued to university. Ms. Bishop stressed the importance of the legislation. 9:23:51 AM Senator Wielechowski looked at the MOU, and noted the agreement was for upwards of 200 students. He asked about the anticipated demand for the program. Ms. Bishop responded that the demand had grown in Anchorage, which started with 100 student and had a waiting list. She emphasized that students had to work hard to qualify for the program. She added that the district had wanted to ensure that the students had an excellent experience, which is why the number of students was limited initially. Ms. Bishop continued her response to Senator Wielechowski's question. She believed that growth should happen thoughtfully overtime. 9:26:35 AM Senator Wielechowski looked at the MOU and observed that the majority of the courses were at the Eagle River campus. He asked whether there were transportation options for students. Ms. Bishop explained that King Tech High School provided transportation. She considered that the district had taken down barriers for students not only in transportation, but by providing support for college prep. 9:28:37 AM Senator Olson asked about potential funding responsibilities for school districts, particularly in rural areas of the state. Mr. Layer explained that through the Alaska Advantage program the University shared the costs of the program with districts. He offered to provide additional information on pricing for districts. He stressed that the idea was to provide an affordable and accessible program. He noted that there were other entities, external to Alaska, that offered programs, but he stressed that the University program was unique as it was Alaska-focused. He shared that the University wanted to be the entity that districts reached out to first for dual enrollment opportunities. 9:30:51 AM Ms. Bishop added when yearly BSA funds were received decisions were made daily about the value of those dollars and the education priorities for Alaskan students. She said that in Anchorage, as well as Mat-Su, budgeting approached had been changed to reach desired outcomes. She shared that when the Anchorage program had grown. She relayed that cooperatives with other school districts had been used to share costs. She shared that focusing on optimum outcomes would lead to the right decisions and spending priorities. 9:32:24 AM Senator Olson did not doubt the program had value. He wondered how to ensure that all students in the state were able to participate, especially in rural areas where there were challenges with achievement at the college level. Senator Stevens appreciated Senator Olson's concerns. He thought bigger districts had done a great job. He expressed appreciation for the work of Mr. Layer and Ms. Bishop. He thought that smaller districts were challenging and appreciated Ms. Bishops work with the Lower Yukon. He stressed that the bill was crafted to ensure that rural and urban student would have equal access. He did not believe that the program should be categorized as an unfunded mandate. 9:35:34 AM Senator Olson thought Lower Yukon School District was the outlier in the scenario being discussed. He asked whether the student at Mount Edgecumbe Boarding School would qualify for the program. Dr. Bishop believed that dual credits were offered at Mount Edgecumbe. She emphasized that if districts worked together to offer courses, there could be a mixed cohort with students from other districts. She stressed that cooperatives between districts were a powerful tool. She said that innovative ways for successful outcomes were being regularly discussed. 9:37:39 AM Senator von Imhof supported the program and wanted to address funding. She referenced the Sectional Analysis (copy on file): (h) ADM: Holds harmless a school district's Average Daily Membership (ADM) calculation. Students participating in the AMC program are to still be counted toward the respective school district's ADM. Senator von Imhof asked who was paying the University of Alaska for the tuition and the credits that the students would receive. Ms. Bishop relayed that the Anchorage School District (ASD) currently paid the University. She stated that the MOAs detailed services that would be utilized by students. She said that because students were still enrolled in high school, much of their tuition would be covered by schools. She stressed that the intent was to create college ready kids. She said that some high schools and colleges shared teachers. 9:41:35 AM Senator von Imhof appreciated the information. She noted that there was a zero fiscal impact note, and it appeared that ASD and the University had created an agreement to share resources. She noted that not all districts had large student counts. She had concerns with the word "shall" in the legislation and preferred the word "may" because some districts might not have the financial resources to participate in the program. She felt that the program should be offered to school districts that wanted to participate. She stressed that many districts might no be able to afford the program. 9:43:28 AM Mr. Lamkin relayed that the issue of "shall" versus "may" had been discussed at some length. He stated that the sponsor wished to express, through the language of the bill, an expectation that the program be made available. He stated that schools could opt out of the program. Senator Stevens thought that to some extent the inclusion of "shall" addressed the concept of equal opportunity as previously mentioned by Ms. Bishop. He reiterated that districts were not required to take part in the program but that every student should be afforded the opportunity. 9:45:01 AM 9:45:13 AM Mr. Lamkin addressed the Sectional Analysis (copy on file): SECTIONAL ANALYSIS (Version A) Sec. 1: AS 14.07.168 Regarding an annual report submitted to the Legislature by the state Board of Education and Early Development, amended to include in that report a current summary of middle college activity and outcomes in the state. Sec. 2: AS 14.30 is amended to add a new Article 15, relating to the Alaska Middle College Program. AS 14.30.780 (a) Establishes a Middle College program for eligible students in high school to enroll in courses at the University of Alaska, and to earn credit toward a college degree as well as credit toward high school graduation. (b) UA shall enter into an agreement with each school district to participate in the AMC, giving access to any eligible student to participate in the program. (c) Eligibility: Establishes baseline student eligibility requirements to include being enrolled in a public school, be in high school (grades 9-12), to not have already received a high school diploma, and demonstrate to the satisfaction of both the school district and the UA as being academically competent to complete college level coursework. (d) Awareness: Requires school districts to establish and maintain awareness of AMC course offerings and eligibility requirements to students and parents, including the academic and social responsibilities of participating in the AMC. (e) Financing: UA and school districts shall include in their respective MOU a manner of sharing costs associated with providing the AMC program locally, including tuition waivers, scholarships, and other means of reducing program costs and finding efficiencies. (f) Course Quality: specifies that courses offered by the AMC must meet quality and content standards, including quality instruction, and regular course and instructor review. (g) Credit Cap: Under the AMC program, students may not enroll in more than 15 credit hours per semester, nor earn more than a total of 60 credits. (h) ADM: Holds harmless a school district's Average Daily Membership (ADM) calculation. Students participating in the AMC program are to still be counted toward the respective school district's ADM. (i) Transcripts: Allows the UA and school districts to exchange student transcript information for purposes of determining program eligibility or for graduation requirements. (j) Definitions: Provides definitions for use of the term "program" in this section as being the AMC program, and for "school district" as consistent with other uses of that term in statute, as defined on AS 14.30.350. Sec. 3:AS 14.40.040, relating to general powers and duties of the UA, is a conforming amendment to : (c) UA must implement the AMC and regularly review the AMC course content and quality of instruction to meet national standards for dual credit, enter into MOUs with school districts consistent with the AMC, and award student credit for course completion of AMC courses, which will be fully transferable within the UA system. 9:49:13 AM Senator Wilson asked about page 4 Line 8, and the releasing of transcripts. He asked whether the requirement met the Federal Education Protraction Act (FRPA) policy. Mr. Lamkin stated that the language had been negotiated between districts and the University. He deferred to Mr. Layer. Mr. Layer replied in the affirmative. 9:50:03 AM Senator Wielechowski asked whether the University credits were transferable outside the UA system. Mr. Layer responded in the affirmative. 9:50:35 AM Senator von Imhof pondered a smaller school district in which 50 percent of the kids wanted to participate in the program. She questioned what would happen to the staffing of the home district and would the University need to add another staff member. Ms. Bishop believed money should follow student needs. She shared that ASD utilized university professors, but some dual credit options existed that used high school teachers who moonlighted as adjunct professors by night. She stressed that there were various ways to implement the program based on the number of students wanting to participate. 9:52:54 AM Co-Chair Bishop OPENED public testimony. 9:53:07 AM GENE STONE, CHIEF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR, LOWER YUKON SCHOOL DISTRICT, MOUNTAIN VILLAGE (via teleconference), testified in support of the bill. He thought the bill was an important opportunity for rural students in the state who currently could only receive dual credits online. He had worked as assistant superintendent in Mat-Su and had worked on development of the first Middle College Program. He testified that the ability to use K-12 funds for students to earn up to an associates degree was beneficial to Alaskan families. Mr. Stone continued his testimony. He spoke of the programs available in Anchorage and Mat-Su. He reiterated that the program would not be an unfunded mandate. He stressed that the on-campus experience for high school students was essential for success at the college level. 9:56:12 AM PETER HOEPFNER, CORDOVA SCHOOL BOARD, CORDOVA (via teleconference), spoke in opposition to the bill. He supported students getting dual credit but not that the bill mandated that districts participate. He believed that the spending of K-12 dollars was a local control issue. 9:59:24 AM CHRIS REITAN, SUPERINTENDENT, CRAIG SCHOOL SYSTEM, CRAIG (via teleconference), spoke in support to the bill. He expressed concerns about specific language on Page 3, line 18: (e) An agreement entered into by a school district and the University of Alaska under (b) of this section must outline the manner in which costs associated with the program will be shared between the participating school district and the University of Alaska. He appreciated the intent of the bill and thought that language should be included that the University would develop a negotiated, affordable, and uniform rate across all districts. He believed that this would create a more equitable playing field for all Alaskan students. 10:01:26 AM Co-Chair Bishop asked whether the bill mandated that school districts participate in the Middle College Program. Senator Stevens answered in the negative. He asserted that the bill took no power from local school districts. He asserted that schools could choose whether to participate or not to participate. 10:02:14 AM SCOTT MACMANUS, SUPERINTENDENT, ALASKA GATEWAY SCHOOL DISTRICT, TOK (via teleconference), spoke in opposition to the bill. He took umbrage with the language of shall as it was written in the legislation. He referenced Mr. Reitan's testimony and agreed with his sentiments regarding flexible solutions for smaller districts. He thought that small school districts should be included in the program's design. He believed that dual credit programs were a good idea but did not want them to be mandated. He said that dual credit programs had worked well in his district. Mr. MacManus cited the fiscal note for the University and the fiscal note for the Department of Education and Early Development were both zero fiscal notes, which indicated that costs would be placed on school districts. He summarized that he supported the concept, and supported students, but opposed the legislation as currently written. 10:06:11 AM PATRICK MAYER, SUPERINTENDENT, ALEUTIANS EAST BOROUGH, SAND POINT (via teleconference), testified that he did not think it was necessary to mandate school district participation. He thought the consideration of "shall" versus "may" warranted additional scrutiny. Mr. Mayer spoke about challenges with bandwidth. He shared that bandwidth in his district was unstable. He acknowledged that resources for the program would come out of the school districts budget. He thought there was an issue of scale. He explained that smaller districts did not have the capacity to move students and teachers around in the same way as larger districts. He proposed that there was an equity issue with the bill. He thought mandatory program participation would be a big issue for the Aleutians. 10:09:48 AM 10:10:06 AM Co-Chair Bishop CLOSED public testimony. 10:10:21 AM Senator Wilson asked whether the bill would affect students in homeschool programs. Senator Stevens did not think there would be an impact to homeschool students. Senator Wilson asked whether homeschool students could participate in the program. Co-Chair Bishop noted that Ms. Bishop was nodding her head in the affirmative. Senator Wilson thought that people in smaller districts who could not participate through their brick-and-mortar school could switch to homeschooling and then be able to participate in the program. 10:11:33 AM Mr. Lamkin pointed to Page 2 of the legislation: (b) The University of Alaska shall make the program available to school districts in the state by entering into an agreement with each school district in the state that has eligible students interested in participating in the program. Mr. Lamkin stressed that the onus was on the University to make the program available. He thought the reporting process proposed by the bill would identify any barriers for students, which would then be addressed. Mr. Lamkin asserted that changing the bill wording to "may" would effectually leave the program as it currently existed; changing the language to shall meant that schools would need to explain why they were opting out and then address any existing barriers to their students participating in the program. He thought that top notch students in any district should be afforded every resource possible to succeed. 10:13:26 AM Ms. Bishop affirmed that the bill would improve the outcomes of the already established programs. She thought that the shall in the bill would lead to the expansion of the programs accessibility to all students in the state. 10:14:24 AM SB 32 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. 10:14:39 AM AT EASE 10:16:49 AM RECONVENED SENATE BILL NO. 36 "An Act relating to reporting requirements of the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska." 10:17:22 AM Senator Gary Stevens, sponsor, explained that SB 36 came about due to the loss of accreditation by the University of Alaska Anchorage. He discussed the process of accreditation, which he deemed as straight forward. He shared that he had been shocked to learn that the School of Education at UAA had lost accreditation. He said that the president of the University at the time had been unaware of the accreditation loss. He felt that the University, particularly the president of the University, should be aware of accreditation standings of all departments and programs. 10:19:50 AM Tim Lamkin, Staff, Senator Gary Stevens, discussed version B of the legislation. He said that the bill would maintain lines of communication within the University system so that accreditation loss did not happen again. 10:20:44 AM Mr. Lamkin discussed a Sectional Analysis for the bill (copy on file): CS for Senate Bill 36 (EDC) (Version B) University of Alaska Accreditation Reporting Requirements Sec. 1: AS 14.40.190(b) Amends existing University of Alaska reporting requirements regarding teacher training and retention, to specify the report is required to be submitted to the Legislature (Senate Secretary / House Chief Clerk) biennially, by the 30th legislative day of the first regular session of each new Legislature. Sec. 2: AS 14.40.190(c) is a new subsection establishing a requirement for the University of Alaska to issue a biennial report on the status of all of its accreditations within the UA system. The report must be submitted to the Legislature (Senate Secretary / House Chief Clerk) by the 30th legislative day of the first regular session of the legislature; and The accreditation report is subsequently to be presented in a formal hearing setting to the education committees of the legislature, the scheduling for which is intended to be at the discretion of the chairs of the committees 10:22:08 AM Co-Chair Bishop asked about Section 2 and the "formal hearing", he was curious who from the University would speak at the formal hearing. Senator Stevens specified that the representative would be from the Board of Regents. 10:22:42 AM Senator Wilson asked whether the chairs of the Education Committee in each house of the legislature would be forced to officially hear the report, or could they simply distribute it to committee members. Senator Stevens asked Senator Wilson to restate the question. Senator Wilson asked whether the bill mandated certain work to Education Committee chairs. Senator Stevens believed that it should be mandated that the presentation on accreditation be heard before the Education Committee. He contended that he could not imagine an Education Committee chair who would not be interested in hearing an update on the states University accreditation. Senator Wilson asked how many programs at the University required accreditation. Senator Stevens was not sure of the number but estimated over 100. Co-Chair Bishop thought the number was 200. Mr. Lamkin pointed to the programmatic accreditation summary in the bill packet (copy on file). Senator Wilson had seen the document but had not wanted to count all the listed programs. Senator Stevens shared that the accredited programs were various and numerous. 10:25:08 AM Senator von Imhof asked whether the reports were currently submitted yearly to the Board of Regents. Senator Stevens responded that all involved parties had been surprised by the loss of accreditation. He shared that there was now a report that went to the board, which was what would be shared with the legislature. Senator von Imhof clarified that the report would be seen by the Board of Regents and then forwarded to the legislature. Senator Stevens replied in the affirmative. Co-Chair Bishop OPENED invited testimony. 10:26:16 AM SUSAN KALINA, VICE PROVOST FOR ACADEMIC AFFAIRS AND INSTITUTIONAL EFFECTIVENESS, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), testified that the three main campuses of the University of Alaska had been reporting on accreditation to the Board of Regents since 2012. She said that the report was annual and that it covered both status of accreditation with the Northwest Commission and to the specialized programmatic accreditations for each program requiring accreditation. She explained that UAA had 59 programs that had specialized accreditation, through 24 accrediting agencies. She stated that the reports outlined all recommendations that might be standing for a program. She related that accreditations were generally on 5, 7, or 10-year cycles, and they cycle ended in a self-study and a site visit. She relayed that the results of the site visit went to the agencies who then sent letters to the University detailing strengths and recommendations for improvement. She said that issues would be addressed and discussed at the end of the accreditation cycle. 10:30:28 AM Senator Stevens thought it was concerning to hear Ms. Kalina's comment that the reports had been issued to the Board of Regents since 2012, when accreditation had been lost in 2019. He queried what could be wring with the system the University currently had in place. He asked what had been done by the University to make sure that the loss of accreditation did not happen again. Ms. Kalina revealed that the report that was presented to the Board of Regents was very detailed. She relayed that at UAA, school deans were required to provide status updated to the provost at frequent intervals and status update meetings between the provost, dean, and heads of programs were frequent. She stressed that if concerns of any size were identified, the provost informed the chancellor. Co-Chair Bishop asked Ms. Kalina to send her comments regarding enhanced accreditation oversight to the committee. 10:33:12 AM AT EASE 10:33:19 AM RECONVENED Co-Chair Bishop OPENED public testimony. 10:33:45 AM Co-Chair Bishop CLOSED public testimony. Co-Chair Bishop set the bill aside. SB 36 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. SENATE BILL NO. 19 "An Act extending the special education service agency; and providing for an effective date." 10:34:03 AM Co-Chair Bishop recounted that the committee had heard public testimony on the bill March 2, 2021. 10:34:48 AM Senator Gary Stevens, Sponsor, relayed that the bill had to do with the Special Education Service Agency (SESA), which was valuable to the students of the state and needed funding stabilization. He said that the next 8 years held some difficulties due to the cost of business. 10:35:30 AM AT EASE 10:35:46 AM RECONVENED Senator Hoffman MOVED to ADOPT Amendment 1, 32-LS020\B.3 (Fisher, 3/8/21), (copy on file). Co-Chair Bishop OBJECTED for discussion. 10:36:13 AM ERIN SHINE, STAFF, SENATOR CLICK BISHOP, addressed Amendment 1. She explained that the amendment would change the formula for funding the agency. She said the current formula was set at $18.65 times the state student average daily membership (ADM), the amendment would update that to $23.13 per ADM. Ms. Shine referenced a document that showed a graph of the Special Education Services Agency Fund Balance being modelled on a graph (copy on file). The sunset review of SESA had revealed that the statutory funding level had been flat since 2013; however, during that period there had been a 63 percent increase in their caseload. She shared that the executive director for SESA had provided an updated projection for SESAs funding level, which showed that, at current levels, funding for the agency would not be sufficient after 2025. Ms. Shine continued to address the amendment. She explained that relayed that the amendment sought to address the forthcoming budget shortfall for the agency; the estimated cost increase, based on the ADM is $577,000 per year. She noted Page 1, line 8 of the amendment reflected the proposed monetary change. She also cited the effective dates for the bill one for the sunset of SESA, effective June 30, 2021; although the funding increase could begin at the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, 2021. 10:38:42 AM Senator Wielechowski asked about the fiscal impact of the amendment. Ms. Shine responded that the numbers projected approximately $577,000 per year. 10:39:07 AM Senator von Imhof asked for verification that version A of the bill version extended the sunset date to 2028. Ms. Shine replied that the amendment was to version b of the bill and would extend the sunset date to 2029. 10:39:40 AM Senator Olson asked whether the sponsor was in favor of the amendment. Ms. Shine said that she had worked with the sponsors staff to craft the amendment. 10:40:01 AM Senator Stevens spoke to Amendment 1. He thought the amendment was marvelous and offered his full support. Co-Chair Bishop WITHDREW his objection. There being NO further OBJECTION, it was so ordered. Amendment 1 was ADOPTED. SB 19 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration. Co-Chair Bishop shared that the agenda for the following day included a report on the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS). ADJOURNMENT 10:41:18 AM The meeting was adjourned at 10:41 a.m.