Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/22/1995 09:06 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                       February 22, 1995                                       
                           9:06 a.m.                                           
  MEMBERS PRESENT                                                              
 Senator Lyda Green, Chairman                                                  
 Senator Loren Leman, Vice-Chairman                                            
 Senator Mike Miller                                                           
 Senator Judy Salo                                                             
  MEMBERS ABSENT                                                               
 Senator Johnny Ellis                                                          
 COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                            
 Presentation by the Alaska Native Health Board.                               
 SENATE BILL NO. 59                                                            
 "An Act authorizing the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary                    
 Education to adopt regulations necessary to determine and set an              
 interest rate applicable to a student loan for which money is                 
 disbursed on or after July 1, 1995, and regulations necessary to              
 implement certain loan default sanctions and consolidation of loan            
 provisions beginning July 1, 1995; and providing for an effective             
 SENATE BILL NO. 88                                                            
 "An Act establishing a pilot program for charter schools; and                 
 providing for an effective date."                                             
  PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                             
 SB 59 - See Health, Education & Social Services minutes dated                 
 SB 88 - No previous action to record.                                         
  WITNESS REGISTER                                                             
 Joseph Dexter                                                                 
 Nortod Sound Health Corporation                                               
 Alaska Native Health Board                                                    
 P.O. Box 966                                                                  
 Nome, Alaska 99762                                                            
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Discussed capital project appropriations of              
                      the ANHB.                                                
 Anne Walker                                                                   
 Alaska Native Health Board                                                    
 1348 Rudakof Circle, Suite 206                                                
 Anchorage, Alaska 99508                                                       
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Discussed the public policy priorities of the            
 Sally Smith                                                                   
 Alaska Native Health Board                                                    
 President, Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation                                
 P.O. Box 490                                                                  
 Dillingham, Alaska                                                            
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Discussed appropriations for health programs             
                      and services of the ANHB.                                
 Robert Clark                                                                  
 Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation                                           
 P.O. Box 130                                                                  
 Dillingham, Alaska 99576                                                      
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Discussed the situation in the rural health              
 Julieanne Hayes, Executive Director                                           
 Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education                                  
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Answered questions about SB 59.                          
 Senator Sharp                                                                 
 State Capitol                                                                 
 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1182                                                     
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Prime sponsor of SB 88.                                  
 Carl Rose, Executive Director                                                 
 Alaska Association of School Boards                                           
 316 W. 11th Street                                                            
 Juneau, Alaska 99801                                                          
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported SB 88.                                         
 Willie Anderson                                                               
 National Education Association of Alaska                                      
 114 Second Street                                                             
 Juneau, Alaska 99801                                                          
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Supported SB 88 in general, but pointed out              
                      some concerns.                                           
 Vivian Johnson                                                                
 Box 2236                                                                      
 Bethel, Alaska                                                                
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Indicated support for SB 88 in her discussion            
                      of SB 88 as an opportunity.                              
  ACTION NARRATIVE                                                             
 TAPE 95-8, SIDE A                                                             
 Number 001                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social                 
 Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:06 a.m. and introduced the            
 Alaska Native Health Board as the first item on the agenda.                   
 JOSEPH DEXTER, Chairman of the Norton Sound Health Corporation and            
 Chairman of the Alaska Native Health Board (ANHB) and                         
 Representative on the National Indian Health Board, introduced                
 members of the Alaska Native Health Board.  Members present                   
 included:  Sophia Chase, Esther Ronne, Cheryl Edenshaw, Eileen                
 Kozevnikoff, Joan Domnick, Myra Heaps, Evelyn Beeter, Eileen Ewan,            
 Morgan Solomm, Vivian Johnson, Mark Wuitschick, Evan Hobson, and              
 Cindy Thomas.                                                                 
 ANNE WALKER, Alaska Native Health Board, discussed their first                
 priority, public policy, in the booklet entitled "Alaska Native               
 Health Board State Legislative Priorities For Fiscal Year 1996."              
 She explained that those in the Native health care delivery system            
 review the community health model as well as the medical model in             
 order to provide the best medical services in the most cost                   
 efficient manner.  The public health infrastructure must not be               
 destroyed with decreasing revenues and budget restraints.  She                
 noted the current outbreak of tuberculosis which is addressed in              
 the state constitution.                                                       
 Ms. Walker spoke to the concerns of the board regarding health                
 education.  Health education promotes health and disease                      
 prevention; it is the most cost effective venue in health services.           
 She noted the board's support of an increase in taxes on alcohol              
 and tobacco due to their concerns about children becoming addicts.            
 She also stated support for HB 182 and urged the Senate to review             
 that legislation.                                                             
 Number 143                                                                    
 SALLY SMITH explained that particulary in the bush, the dental                
 profession lacks adequate staff.  Often, a community cannot hire a            
 dental hygenist and the dental assistants have been trained to                
 assist a dentist; this needs to be legalized in order to bill for             
 this service.  She urged the introduction of a companion bill to              
 HB 182.                                                                       
 JOSEPH DEXTER continued with the board's next priority, capital               
 project appropriations.  Rural village water and sanitation                   
 facilities have been a top priority for the ANHB.  He noted that              
 the Indian Health Service approximates that the total cost to meet            
 the basic needs in every rural community would be close to $1                 
 billion.  He thanked the legislature for their past commitment and            
 funding and would urge that the legislature continue their                    
 commitment to the construction of water and sanitation facilities             
 in rural Alaska.                                                              
 Mr. Dexter expressed the need for help in the costly aspects of the           
 operation and maintenance of rural water and sanitation facilities.           
 He noted the success of the Remote Maintenance Worker program, the            
 Rural Utility Business Advisors, and operator training programs.              
 These programs are cost effective and should be expanded.  The ANHB           
 recommends that the legislature provide the $500,000 contribution             
 for operations and maintenance capacity-building in rural Alaska in           
 order that these areas receive the support of the Department of               
 Environmental Conservation.                                                   
 Mr. Dexter explained the need for the replacement and renovation of           
 village health clinics.  Many of the clinics are too small to meet            
 the present needs.  There are still clinics without running water             
 or sewage disposal.  He emphasized the ANHB's desire to have piped            
 water and sewage disposal in every village health clinic by the               
 year 2002.  He requested that the legislature renew the special               
 $500,000 appropriation to the Department of Environmental                     
 Conservation in order to support sanitation to additional clinics             
 in the fiscal year 1996.                                                      
 Number 252                                                                    
 SALLY SMITH directed the committee's attention to page 9 of their             
 booklet, Appropriations for Health Programs and Services.  She                
 recounted the legislature's past with regard to waivers for                   
 Medicaid reimbursment of home and community-based care.  She                  
 emphasized the need for continued support of home and community-              
 based services for the elderly and the disabled.  Ms. Smith added             
 that health promotion and disease prevention offer the best cost              
 benefit, especially since nine of ten Alaska Native deaths can be             
 attributed to lifestyle and behavior-related choices.  She                    
 continued by addressing the needs in the area of mental health and            
 substance abuse services.  The down-sizing of the Alaska                      
 Psychiatric Institute creates an even more urgent need for funding            
 of the bush mental health centers.  She pointed out that local                
 providers make a difference in the long-term.                                 
 SENATOR SALO asked if most of the village health clinics are                  
 totally out-patient facilities.  ANNE WALKER said that they are               
 only out-patient services unless the patient needs to be stablized            
 due to inclement weather.  Hospitals cannot be supported in every             
 SENATOR LEMAN asked if that service would be provided in Bethel.              
 ANNE WALKER said that the Bethel hospital does provide major                  
 medical care except for major surgeries and high risk OB patients.            
 Number 301                                                                    
 ROBERT CLARK, Bristol Bay Area Health Corporation, clarified that             
 often the weather and the short runways in the bush pose problems             
 for Medivacs.  Federal Aviation Association regulations become                
 involved when there is inclement weather.  Most rural communities             
 cannot afford air ambulances.  He suggested that some of the                  
 regulations should be reviewed.  Mr. Clark reiterated the need to             
 update the village health clinics and urged the state to match                
 federal funding in order to enhance the priorities of the ANHB.               
 SENATOR LEMAN pointed out that changing regulations would not be              
 under the purview of the legislature.  ROBERT CLARK said that he              
 intended to refer to the statutes.                                            
 JOSEPH DEXTER commented that the Budget Request Units are cost                
 effective; administrative costs are reduced.  He boasted that the             
 ANHB does provide good services in a cost effective manner.  The              
 ANHB will continue to come before the legislature to request help             
 in achieving their priorities until their needs are met.                      
 ANNE WALKER stated that ANHB would be willing to take budget cuts             
 so long as the cuts were equal across the entire provider                     
 CHAIRMAN GREEN commented that community-based services are the most           
 efficeint, cost effective and desireable form of service.  Chairman           
 Green thanked everyone for the presentation and called an at ease             
 at 9:33 a.m.                                                                  
 SHES - 2/22/95                                                                
             SB  59 REGULATIONS FOR STUDENT LOANS                            
 Number 379                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the committee back to order at 9:36 a.m. and            
 introduced  SB 59  as the next order of business before the                   
 committee.  Chairman Green inquired as to the will of the                     
 SENATOR LEMAN expressed the need to hear from the Commission.                 
 JULIEANNE HAYES, Executive Assistant of the Alaska Commission on              
 Postsecondary Education, stated that SB 59 is a transition bill               
 which would allow the Commission on Postsecondary Education to set            
 an interest rate.  This language was not present in last year's               
 legislation, HB 506.  Without the authority to set regulations the            
 commission would not be able to issue loans as of July 1995.  She             
 reviewed the sections of SB 59 and pointed out the various                    
 regulations they would allow such as default procedures and                   
 consolidation of loans.  She explained that the truth lending law             
 does not allow the issuance of loans without a specified interest             
 rate and without the timely passage of SB 59, the commission will             
 be unable to issue loans.                                                     
 CHAIRMAN GREEN clarified that SB 59 would correct an oversight in             
 the previous legislation; an immediate effective date is necessary.           
 Ms. Hayes agreed.                                                             
 SENATOR LEMAN moved that SB 59 be moved out of committee with                 
 individual recommendations.  Without objection, it was so ordered.            
 SHES - 2/22/95                                                                
           SB  88 PILOT PROGRAM FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS                          
 Number 416                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN introduced  SB 88  as the next order of business               
 before the committee.                                                         
 SENATOR SHARP, prime sponsor, said that SB 88 addresses the                   
 consideration of the charter school concept.  He noted previous               
 legislation, SB 60 and SB 61, which attempted to address charter              
 schools along with various other educational issues.  SB 88 is a              
 single issue piece of legislation.  He pointed out that SB 88 would           
 allow creativity with few limitations on setting up and operating             
 charter schools.  He reviewed the sectional analysis of SB 88.  He            
 hoped that this legislature could develop legislation encouraging             
 charter schools to challenge students.                                        
 SENATOR SALO asked if SB 88 included the committee amendments to              
 last year's legislation regarding charter schools.  SENATOR SHARP             
 said that he basically used the last version of SB 61.                        
 Number 496                                                                    
 SENATOR SALO felt that a lot of work had been put into last year's            
 legislation, however, more could be done.  She asked where the                
 charter school would be located; would this be a program within an            
 existing school or another facility entirely?  SENATOR SHARP could            
 foresee various possibilities.  He felt that in the current                   
 economy, existing facilities would be used.  This legislation is              
 based on the Wisconsin Charter School Law which uses an existing              
 school within a district.  He noted that facilities not owned by              
 the school district would not be eliminated from consideration.               
 CHAIRMAN GREEN pointed out that oftentimes, charter schools had               
 resulted in an attempt to save a school in danger of being phased             
 out.  She said that the Birchwood School in Anchorage and the ABC             
 School in the Northern Lights District were examples of quasi                 
 charter schools; these schools used existing facilities.                      
 SENATOR SALO explained that part of the opposition to this bill is            
 encompassed in Chairman Green's previous statement.  Many believe             
 that programs such as charter schools can be achieved in the                  
 current system.                                                               
 SENATOR SHARP noted that the scope of his background in education             
 was his service in the past two sessions on the HESS committee.               
 Number 544                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN stated that one of his goals was to offer educational           
 opportunities to all children in Alaska.  He disagreed with the               
 Anchorage School District's policy.  All school programs should be            
 available to all students even those that receive home schooling or           
 attend private schools.  Such programs as a chemistry lab would not           
 be appropriate to have in a home school setting.  He hoped to                 
 ensure the ability for students to participate in any available               
 SENATOR SHARP felt that SB 88 incorporates a lot of freedom for the           
 school board.  This bill would allow a school district the ability            
 to offer facilities in the district to be utilized by a charter               
 school.  There is ample room to explore all the options.                      
 Number 578                                                                    
 CARL ROSE, Executive Director of the Association of Alaska School             
 Boards (AASB), supported SB 88.  He noted the association's                   
 previous work on this legislation in an omnibus effort.  He stated            
 that a school board's ability to examine the needs of those it                
 serves is impaired by their frame of reference.  Regulations,                 
 statutes, funding constraints, negotiated agreements, and board               
 policies impact the school board.  SB 88 allows interested groups             
 to offer proposals to the school board.  He envisioned much                   
 opportunity for improvement within SB 88.  After conducting a                 
 survey, Mr. Rose discovered that 85 percent of their membership are           
 in rural communities.  The rural communities do not expect charter            
 schools to be part of their future.                                           
 TAPE 95-8, SIDE B                                                             
 Number 595                                                                    
 Mr. Rose noted that the areas of Anchorage, Fairbanks, Mat-Su,                
 Kenai, and Juneau are interested in charter schools; the more                 
 populated areas would be most interested in charter schools.  In              
 terms of funding charter schools, there needs to be a clarification           
 of the administrative costs.  He informed the committee that other            
 proposals had created charter schools as a funding site unto                  
 themselves.  He reiterated Senator Salo's concerns regarding the              
 facilities for charter schools.  SB 88 seems to be geared towards             
 magnet schools due to the increased cost of operating an off site             
 facility.  He commented on possible prerequisites in order to                 
 handle admission of charter schools.  In conclusion, SB 88 would              
 positively address certain areas of community interest and the                
 association supports charter schools.                                         
 SENATOR SALO asked if the AASB supported this two years ago.  CARL            
 ROSE stated that AASB supported the concept, but not the                      
 legislation.  SB 88 seems to address most of the concerns the AASB            
 had with the legislation of two years ago.                                    
 SENATOR SALO expressed the need to take time with SB 88 in order to           
 survey possible scenarios in a charter school situation.  She asked           
 if Mr. Rose believed that SB 88 would allow freedom from negotiated           
 agreements which he had mentioned as an obstacle school board's               
 face.  CARL ROSE directed the committee's attention to Section 5              
 subsection (b) which addresses that fear.                                     
 SENATOR SALO asked how easy would it be for a charter school to               
 become a voucher system.  She expressed her belief that a voucher             
 system would be detrimental to public education.  There is a group            
 of parents in Anchorage working on opening a private school.  If              
 such a group was interested in a charter school and public funding            
 was matched with private funds, the results could be a wonderful              
 school and delivery system.  She pointed out that there is already            
 discussion regarding federal disparity in the formula; in-state               
 disparity could also be a consideration.                                      
 CARL ROSE understood Senator Salo's concern with disparity issues             
 with regard to equality and equal protection.  He stated that                 
 students in public schools are afforded certain opportunities that            
 others cannot take advantage of.  In smaller schools without access           
 to Star Schools, there is no opportunity to take advanced                     
 mathematics or foreign languages as is the case in some areas in              
 Skagway.  A student could excell in one school system while being             
 barred from certain courses with prerequisites which are not                  
 available.  He felt that creating a charter school that would not             
 be accessible to all would be justified in its original charter.              
 When a charter school is proposed the board would review the                  
 benefits.  Mr. Rose explained that charter schools and vouchers               
 were tied together in the past eventhough, charter schools are                
 Number 499                                                                    
 WILLIE ANDERSON, National Education Association for Alaska (NEA-              
 AK), supported SB 88 in general, but recognized some areas of                 
 concern.  He noted that NEA-AK had also worked with Senator Sharp             
 on this legislation.  The funding of charter schools was noted as             
 a concern.  He explained that charter schools would pull students             
 out of the general population of the school system which could                
 result in smaller classes.  Smaller classes would create the                  
 possibility of higher enrollment in the main school causing less of           
 an opportunity for a quality education for those students in the              
 main school.  Another problem could come in the area of enrollment.           
 Mr. Anderson emphasized the need for open enrollment; there should            
 be equal opportunity to participate in any program receiving public           
 Mr. Anderson pointed out that SB 88 merely implies that charter               
 schools would be required to follow all applicable laws and                   
 regulations.  He expressed the need to clarify this issue.  Also              
 there should be clarification as to how charter schools differ from           
 what currently exists.  He thought that SB 88 could be providing a            
 new vantage point in which to look at the educational process.  He            
 said that NEA-AK supported creative thinking to the extent that               
 every student has equal access, the presence of an adequate funding           
 source, and a facility for these programs.  Many of the current               
 educational facilities are overcrowded.  SB 88 could enhance public           
 schools and NEA-AK would support that endeavor.                               
 Number 453                                                                    
 SENATOR SALO commented that the issues of the availability of                 
 facilities and funding for charter schools are closely linked.                
 SB 88 addresses the administrative costs of charter schools, but              
 does not deal with the costs of operating a facility separate from            
 a school facility already being utilized.  WILLIE ANDERSON agreed             
 with Senator Salo and specified that SB 88 should have an                     
 additional funding mechanism to address the operational concerns of           
 using a separate facility.                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN inquired as to the position of NEA-AK regarding                
 SB 88.  WILLIE ANDERSON reiterated that NEA-AK supports SB 88 with            
 the reservations previously indicated.                                        
 SENATOR LEMAN asked Mr. Anderson of his thoughts regarding the need           
 for equal access to educational programs for all students.  WILLIE            
 ANDERSON stated that NEA-AK does not officially oppose private                
 school students utilizing public school facilities.  NEA-AK would             
 encourage students interested in programs offered by public schools           
 to enroll in the public school.  Mr. Anderson mentioned the option            
 of part-time enrollment.  Every student has the opportunity to                
 attend public schools and utilize their programs, the ability to              
 chose certain portions of the program would be left to the                    
 discretion of the local board of education.                                   
 Number 415                                                                    
 VIVIAN JOHNSON, Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation member and                 
 hospital administrator at the Bethel hospital, stated that her                
 testimony represented her thoughts not any group with which she was           
 affiliated.  She informed the committee of her varied educational             
 background and noted that when she attended a state run high school           
 it did not provide the necessary challenge for her.  She agreed               
 that equal access should be a concern.  There is a need to ensure             
 educational opportunities.  She felt that students are challenged             
 no matter their location.                                                     
 Ms. Johnson, speaking from the perspective of a professional                  
 teacher, noted that everyone learns in different ways.  There are             
 also numerous theories of practice for education.  She envisioned             
 charter schools in her future although, previous statements                   
 indicated that rural areas would not be interested in charter                 
 schools.  She commented that, as a professional teacher, teaching             
 in a charter school seems very attractive to her.  She asked what             
 the geographic balance referred to in SB 88.                                  
 Number 336                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN GREEN clarified that the intent of the language was to               
 ensure that one district did not utilize all thirty of the possible           
 charter schools.  The numbers are arbitrary without any scientific            
 calculations; there was no bias intended.  VIVIAN JOHNSON expressed           
 the need to clarify that language because the language suggests an            
 inbalance in the geographic areas.                                            
 VIVIAN JOHNSON emphasized that SB 88 would offer tremendous                   
 opportunities for teachers.  She pointed out that access at the               
 state level is important and should not be ignored no matter your             
 region.  She offered her assistance with these issues.                        
 SENATOR LEMAN restated Ms. Johnson's feelings that the School of              
 Excellence could raise the standards for everyone however, others             
 feel threatened by such a school.  VIVIAN JOHNSON noted that                  
 everyone reacts to change differently.  Charter schools would be a            
 drastic philosophical change in the state's policy.  She concluded            
 that SB 88 creates an important opportunity.                                  
 CHAIRMAN GREEN said that the committee would continue to consider             
 SB 88 and hoped to hear from other interested individuals.  She               
 noted the committee's next meeting would be on Monday,                        
 February 27th.                                                                
 There being no further business before the committee, the meeting             
 adjourned at 10:30 a.m.                                                       

Document Name Date/Time Subjects