Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/22/1995 09:06 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE 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 date." 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 2/15/95. 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 ANHB. 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 clinics. 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 village. 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 community. 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 committee. 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 program. 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 different. 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 funding. 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.