Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/10/1993 01:40 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION & SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE February 10, 1993 1:40 p.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Steve Rieger, Chairman Senator Bert Sharp, Vice-Chairman Senator Mike Miller Senator Johnny Ellis Senator Judy Salo MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Jim Duncan Senator Loren Leman COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 61 "An Act implementing certain recommendations of Alaska 2000 to improve the state's education system; and providing for an effective date." SB 59 (SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION & MAINTENANCE GRANTS) WAS SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD THIS DATE. SB 60 (APPROP:SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION GRANT FUND) WAS SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD THIS DATE. PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 61 - See HESS minutes dated 2/8/93. SB 59 - See HESS minutes dated 3/2/93. SB 60 - See HESS minutes dated 3/2/93. WITNESS REGISTER Vince Barry, Director Education Program SUpport Department of Education 801 West 10th Street, Suite 200 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1894 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed SB 61. Mary Rubadeau, Assistant Superintendent Kenai School District 148 North Binkley Soldotna, Alaska 99669 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. Richard Kronsberg 3511 Chiniak Bay Drive Anchorage, Alaska 99515 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. David Schwantes 8148 East 4th Avenue Anchorage, Alaska 99504 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. Bonnie Barber, President Fairbanks Education Association 3198 Judge Arend Fairbanks, Alaska 99709 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. Vernon Marshall Executive Director NEA-Alaska 114 Second Street Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. Kathi McCord 1601 Hidden Lane Anchorage, Alaska 99501 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. Pamela Conrad, Teacher P.O. Box 780 Palmer, Alaska 99645 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. John Cyr, Teacher P.O. Box 873663 Wasilla, Alaska 99687 POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on SB 61. Carl Rose, Executive Director Association of Alaska School Boards 316 West 11th Street Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports Alaska 2000. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 93-10, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN RIEGER called the Senate Health, Education and Services Committee (HESS) to order at 1:40 p.m. The only order of business that came before the committee was SB 61 (IMPLEMENT ALASKA 2000 RECOMMENDATIONS). VINCE BARRY, Director, Education Program Support, Department of Education, was first to testify. He informed the committee that he was a principal for the Lake and Peninsula School District and was the Superintendent of Tanana School District. Mr. Barry referred to the question "What would you do to improve education in Alaska" and said first, he would pay attention to the expectations of the parents. Second, he would pay attention to the research in eduction - what works for kids and how do we know. Third, he would implement the best education practices that have occurred throughout Alaska and the nation. He informed the committee he has been conducting a survey over the past nine years throughout Alaska. He asked the same questions to over 2,000 parents, "Is it your expectation, as a parent, that after thirteen years in school your child would be prepared well enough to go on to further education and training." The 2,000 parents responded "yes." Mr. Barry said he also asked several other questions such as: Will students would be prepared well enough to subsist? Will students be prepared well enough to be trained on a job for an apprenticeship? Will students be prepared well enough to get into the military? Will students be prepared well enough to get into a vocational two and four year programs? The parents said "yes" to all of the questions and questioned him as to what percentage of the kids can currently do that. He said the answer is approximately 30 percent nationwide. Another 30 percent of high school aged children are considered to be "in school dropouts," and another 30 percent aren't in school at all. The last 10 percent can be rearranged into the three groups. Mr. Barry said the task is to move up the middle 30 percent to the higher 30 percent level and keep all of the high school students in school. He continued to discuss research in relation to middle schools and the "Equity 2000 Math Program." CHAIRMAN RIEGER referred to Mr. Barry's comment regarding moving the middle 30 percent of students to the higher level and asked if the task is to move up the middle 30 percent at the expense of the top 30 percent. Mr. Barry indicated the answer is "no." The task is to make sure every child receives an education that is as good as an education that any child in the world receives. He noted that wonderful things are happening in many schools across the state. SENATOR SALO said she agrees wonderful things are taking place in relation to school reform and asked how the provisions of Alaska 2000 and SB 61 fit into that. Mr. Barry explained Alaska 2000 is one of the most wonderful things to happen in his life in terms of thinking about the kids in the State of Alaska and the state taking a leadership role in the initiative. He said to him, the promise of Alaska 2000 is on one hand 100 percent expectation of the parents and on the other hand a 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70 percent delivery system which is a tremendous caesium between the expectation of the parent and what actually is occurring. Alaska 2000 closes that gap. He also said Alaska 2000 is not a perfect approach to the needs of education, it is what the people think that we should be taking a look at. It doesn't preclude us from pursuing academic excellence in any arena. Number 236 MARY RUBADEAU, Assistant Superintendent, Kenai School District, referred to the school improvement fund and said she believes that out of all the aspects of SB 61, this has the most benefit for districts which are involved in a significant school restructuring and are at a lull in terms of being able to provide the resources. Ms. Rubadeau discussed changing junior high schools to middle schools. She said she would like to be able to apply for school improvement money and use it in a research and development way. Ms. Rubadeau explained that the Kenai School District is currently looking at "school based decision making" as a process for school improvement. A key to that is being able to feed some of the projects through some resources such as grant money. The projects then could be used or displayed at other schools. Ms. Rubadeau informed the committee that her district supports the concept of increasing the school term. If the learning time is increased, the learning rate will also increase. The key would be the corresponding fiscal notes. SENATOR SALO asked Ms. Rubadeau if she has information as to what the attendance patterns are in the Kenai District. She said her point is if there are a lot of kids currently not in school the 180 days, making a 200 day requirement doesn't fix anything. Ms. Rubadeau said she would send Senator Salo the attendance information. She noted that the district had to compile the attendance information as part of the school district report card legislation. The attendance rate in the Kenai District is very high and in some schools, it is in the 90 percent range. Senator Salo asked if extra curricular and school sponsored absences are included in the report. Ms. Rubadeau informed the committee that those absences aren't included because they are excused absences which are considered an extension of the program. Senator Salo referred to all excused absences and asked if they are not revealed in the statistics. Ms. Rubadeau explained the answer is "no." Only the provision of extra curricular is included as it is an extension of the program. Ms. Rubadeau referred to extending the school year and said if there aren't corresponding revenues, they would basically be undermining existing programs. She said she would have difficulty supporting that provision. Number 336 SENATOR ELLIS referred to an attachment to the fiscal note which read, "Sections 2 and 3 will result in a cumulative increase of 20 school days by the year 2000. The existing public school foundation statutes do not fund school districts on the number of school days. Therefore, under the current law there is no impact on the state operating budget if the number of school days is increased." He said he feels that statement shows no intention on the part of the administration of asking for required funding to make the 200 day school year a reality. Senator Ellis noted he is a supporter of increasing the school year. Ms. Rubadeau said if there isn't corresponding funding, she believes her district would be against the provision. Ms. Rubadeau referred to tenure and said she would send the committee written testimony. She then continued her testimony with regard to charter schools. The language in the bill which relates to the provision that the local school board would decide whether a charter school proposal has school district backing is good language. She said charter schools could be schools which provide opportunities to go beyond the provisions of the local public schools. What needs more clarification is state and federal regulations that would be needed to go through a waiver process. She said there needs to be some assurances and more clarification as to what charter schools would do under district liability. Ms. Rubadeau referred to the language relating to advisory school boards and said she concurs with it. She noted that her school board has the provision that everyone of Kenai's local schools will have a parent group. Number 418 RICHARD KRONSBERG, testifying from Anchorage, referred to the section of the bill which discusses the fund for improvement of public schools and said it seems to have the most potential for positive results. However, it should be written into the law that the money will be used to improve public school performance and will not go outside of the public school system. Mr. Kronsberg referred to the length of the school term and said he would like to know what the fiscal note would be. He said he doesn't understand the point of adding more days for school to be in session when there is currently no requirement that the student attend school at all. He said he would like to know what evidence there is that lengthening the school year will improve student performance. Mr. Kronsberg referred to advisory boards and said he would like to know what the extra cost will be. He said he would also like to know how many administrators or bureaucrats will be required to facilitate the work of the advisory boards. Mr. Kronsberg referred to teacher tenure and said it seems the entire thrust of it is to make the tenure process a political one and to reward members - even those who don't have a regular teaching certificate. He said the essential problem is that tenure will now become a matter not of competence but of popularity. Mr. Kronsberg said his basic concern with charter schools is there doesn't seem to be guarantees that would truly ensure equity and that would prohibit the establishment of exclusive private schools funded by the public. SENATOR SALO said currently the tenure review process takes place between the employer and employee and there is a certain degree of confidentially that exists. She asked Mr. Kronsberg how he sees the enactment of the tenure review committees affecting the confidentiality. Mr. Kronsberg said it seems that the operations of the tenure review committees are outlined in the proposed statute and totally undermine any confidentiality that might exist. He said he believes the local tenure review committee is a sham as the members serve at the pleasure of the school board. Number 497 DAVID SCHWANTES, testifying from Anchorage, explained he has taught school in Alaska for 28 years. He said he thinks the bill is trying to do too much too fast with creating advisory school boards at every school. In Anchorage, there are 80 schools. The cost of the bill will be tremendous. He indicated concern with putting a student on the local tenure review committee as they aren't old enough to vote for a legislator or school board member and would be able to vote as to whether a teacher is going to have tenure or not. Mr. Schwantes referred to page 5, line 14, and asked if there is anything in the bill that prohibits a member of the school board from serving on the tenure review committee. He referred to line 20 which says, "the committee shall meet once every six months," and said Anchorage would have a terrible time trying to deal with all the teachers that apply for tenure. Mr. Schwantes continued to discuss concerns of the tenure process and indicated he is opposed to having public testimony on whether or not a teacher should receive tenure. He asked what kind of training the members of the tenure review committees will receive. Mr. Schwantes referred to the legislation saying the teacher may apply for tenure and asked what happens if the teacher doesn't apply. Number 556 BONNIE BARBER, President, Fairbanks Education Association, expressed her concerns about increasing the school year with the current under funding of the operating budget for schools. TAPE 93-10, SIDE B Number 001 Ms. Barber referred to tenure and said she sees the creation of a local tenure review board as politicizing the tenure process. She referred to the bill and said she doesn't see a direction to develop an objective criteria to evaluate competence, nor does she see where training would be provided for the members of the tenure review committees. Ms. Barber said the legislation is very confusing, isn't clear, and it politicizes a process that needs to be objective and have clear criteria. She referred to charter schools and said it seems there is the potential to draw funding away from the local school districts. Ms. Barber asked if the teachers who would teach in the charter schools would come from the district. The idea of charter schools affecting the current funding of schools is very worrisome, she concluded. Number 050 VERNON MARSHALL, Executive Director, NEA-Alaska, said he would like to echo some of the points that were made by Claudia Douglas at the previous meeting concerning Alaska 2000. He referred to the work done during Alaska 2000 and said he is surprised that SB 61 is the only vehicle to implement the changes. Mr. Marshall expressed concern about kids that fall below the age for admission into the first grade. He said all that will be done is a plan will be developed to deal with early childhood education. Plans are trivial and a commitment needs to be made to adequately deal with early childhood. He discussed the subject of students who have dropped out of school and how it isn't addressed in Alaska 2000. Mr. Marshall referred to overcrowded classrooms and said determinations need to be made as to how effective can reduced classes be in terms of allowing a teacher an opportunity to get closer to children to provide opportunities. He discussed the increase in the school year, how much it will cost, and factoring in the costs in relation to inflation. Mr. Marshall said his organization is concerned that there isn't a uniform starting date. There is a possible variance from when a school district would start. He referred to teachers that his organization is encouraging to go back to school and earn advanced degrees in their areas and questioned whether they would have enough time during the summer to do it if the school year is extended. CHAIRMAN RIEGER informed Mr. Marshall that there are time constraints on the teleconference network and requested that he finish his testimony later in the meeting. Number 169 KATHI MCCORD, testifying from Anchorage, said she has been teaching for the Anchorage School District for the last nineteen years. She expressed concern that there are several areas of the legislation which have not been addressed fully. Those areas are tenure, a longer school year, and charter schools. Many items in SB 16 are negative and she doesn't see them bringing added incentive for positive change in education. She referred to tenure and said teachers are carefully and extensively evaluated by their administrator during their first two years of teaching to determine if they should qualify for tenure. Most principals have been trained in evaluation processes and teaching methodology. She said their job is not only to evaluate, but to help the teacher to improve if need be. She said there will be a need for training the public members if the tenure review committees are set up. If the legislature feels that tenure isn't working, perhaps the administrative evaluation process is what needs to be changed. Ms. McCord continued to discuss her views in relation to tenure. Ms. McCord referred to charter schools and said she is surprised that Department of Education (DOE) would promote schools that are exempt from their own requirements. Every public school must live by DOE regulations and Alaska Statutes. She referred to the funding aspect of charter schools and asked if the funding would come from public school budgets. If the goal is really to improve education, give teachers a meaningful role in restructuring schools. Don't promote unnecessary changes to the current system, she concluded. Number 221 PAMELA CONRAD was next to testify on SB 61. She said she has been teaching public school in Alaska for fifteen years. Ms. Conrad said she doesn't see any rationale for limiting tenure and changing teacher evaluation procedures. School administrators have the responsibility to do adequate evaluations and changing the tenure law will not change that responsibility. She continued to discuss the current tenure law. Ms. Conrad referred to charter schools and said they would have the option of restricting enrollment to the right type of students and mix religion in education all with public funds which is unacceptable. She explained she is a special education teacher and she has spoken to several people who do send their kids to private schools. When she asked them why they choose private schools, their main reply was lower class size. Ms. Conrad asked why not give public schools the money so that class sizes can be brought down to a more desirable level. She thanked the committee for listening to her testimony. JOHN CYR, a teacher at Wasilla High School, expressed concern with the SB 61 and the whole process. He asked if there would be extra funding for the extension of the school year. He also asked if the truancy laws would be strengthened. Wouldn't it be better to ensure that the children are in school now rather than just lengthening the school year. Mr. Cyr referred to advisory boards and asked how they will be funded and what they will do to district continuity. He asked who will pick the board members, what criteria will be used, and who will decide when advisory and local school boards come into conflict. He referred to the area of evaluations and said public comment endangers privacy rights. Ms. Cyr said if tenure is denied, what will be the school district's obligation. Mr. Cyr referred to charter schools and asked how charter school boards operate. He continued to ask several questions and said the entire Alaska 2000 proposal seems to be an attempt to fix what isn't broken. VERNON MARSHALL, Executive Director, NEA-Alaska, was requested to come back before the committee to finish his testimony. He said his organization has some technical questions relative to the issues of tenure, charter schools, and advisory school boards. The expansion of parental involvement is very important, but we don't know that these vehicles accomplish that. Mr. Marshall said there are several questions in relation to tenure. He continued to discussed concerns and asked questions about the tenure process, the tenure review board members, truancy, charter schools, and equal access. Mr. Marshall said he would also submit several and questions and concerns in writing. TAPE 93-11, SIDE A Number 001 Mr. Marshall referred to the tenure review committee and said it would be created by the local board of education. He asked what the criteria would be to become a member of the committee. He said he thinks that a school board would select a committee that shares similar concerns about their feeling regarding tenure and how it should be applied. The bill creates a two tier system of employees. Those employed prior to July 1, 1993, are grandpersoned into the bill. Those who are employed after July, 1, 1993, would go into the new system. He said a person could still be employed but not have tenure. They would become an "at will employee." If that does happen, Alaska becomes a state that has virtually no protection. He said there will not be a "do process standards" by which the denial would be measured. He said he doesn't believe that the current process of tenure is automatic. Mr. Marshall continued to discuss the tenure section of the bill. Number 133 CARL ROSE, Executive Director, Association of Alaska School Boards, said his organization's position is in support of Alaska 2000. He indicated that there will be more in depth testimony on the particulars as the association has just concluded a six region - eight district audio conference network touching 49 out of 54 school districts in gaining concurrence. Mr. Rose said he supported Alaska 2000 last November before the final recommendations were made. They also support the concept as it has great potential. He indicated that the association didn't have a chance to address their concerns with the state board before the legislation was introduced. Now the association finds that they have to address the legislation and concerns through the committee process. He said they want to shape the Alaska 2000 package to meet the needs of the kids. Mr. Rose said he views the components of Alaska 2000 as having positive potential. Rather than look for all the answers in legislation, they feel that regulation will be a part of the effort as well. Mr. Rose referred to SB 61 and said there are many supporters of increasing the school term, but the point is to increase the educational opportunity. He said his organization tends to think there is a class size problem, a unit increase is required, and early childhood education is an area that should be reviewed. He said he is in favor of flexibility in funding grants as anything that can increase the educational opportunity and school improvements at the local level. Mr. Rose said there are some concerns about the latitude which would be given to outside groups as they are always concerned about public dollars being spent within the framework of public schools. He referred to the establishment of advisory boards and said the idea is to get the public involved. If the language causes people a lot of problems, then the language should be fixed. The intent of advisory boards is to include the public. Mr. Rose referred to the establishment of tenure review committees and said that he isn't sure that a review committee to review an administrator's evaluation is the answer. Mr. Rose referred to charter schools and said as he reads and understands the legislation, it would all take place under the auspices and direction of the local school board. If an application is made for a charter school and the criteria isn't satisfied or resources are pulled away from the educational program, the local school board won't look kindly on that kind of an attempt. With charter schools, Mr. Rose said he sees an opportunity for a group of educators to identify similar groups. He said if a group of educators were to develop a program to satisfy the criteria, to provide curriculum and assessments, and to pursue a course of education through the public schools under a charter with some flexibility, it may attract some of the people who aren't interested to coming to public schools. He said he doesn't look at charter schools as a threat as long as charter schools aren't formed in a private setting with public funds. Mr. Rose said there is a positive side to some of the things he sees in SB 61. The Alaska Association of School Boards chooses to take the high road in hopes of helping shape the legislation to accomplish those things. He explained that their focus group will convene on Friday and Saturday, and he will come back before the committee to testify on SB 61. Mr. Rose said the association supports SB 61 and wants to work to shape the legislation so that it has a positive affect on kids. SENATOR SALO said she is very interested in what the focus groups have to say about amending the legislation to more appropriately deal with what real education reform is needed in Alaska's schools. There was discussion regarding charter schools by Senator Salo and Mr. Rose. CHAIRMAN RIEGER requested that Mr. Rose submit written testimony and indicated that the bill would be back before the committee the following Wednesday. He also requested that if there are any proposed amendments, they should be submitted to him before the Wednesday meeting. Number 346 Chairman Rieger adjourned the meeting at 3:35 p.m.