Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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Moved SB 156 Out of Committee
Heard & Held
<Above Bill Hearing Canceled>
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES STANDING COMMITTEE                                                               
                         April 18, 2005                                                                                         
                           1:34 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Fred Dyson, Chair                                                                                                       
Senator Gary Wilken, Vice Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Lyda Green                                                                                                              
Senator Kim Elton                                                                                                               
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 128(HES)                                                                                                  
"An Act establishing the Alaska Schools Physical Activity Task                                                                  
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 156                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to notification to teachers of layoff or non-                                                                  
     MOVED SB 156 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                              
SENATE BILL NO. 167                                                                                                             
"An Act authorizing credit in a public correspondence study                                                                     
program for privately purchased curriculum materials from a                                                                     
religious institution."                                                                                                         
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
SENATE BILL NO. 150                                                                                                             
"An Act repealing the limits on grants awarded from the Alaska                                                                  
children's trust fund."                                                                                                         
     BILL HEARING CANCELED                                                                                                      
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 128                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: SCHOOLS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY TASK FORCE                                                                               
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) MCGUIRE                                                                                           
02/04/05       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/04/05       (H)       EDU, HES, FIN                                                                                          
02/24/05       (H)       EDU AT 11:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                            
02/24/05       (H)       -- Meeting Canceled --                                                                                 
03/03/05       (H)       EDU AT 11:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                            
03/03/05       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/03/05       (H)       MINUTE(EDU)                                                                                            
03/08/05       (H)       EDU AT 11:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                            
03/08/05       (H)       Moved CSHB 128(EDU) Out of Committee                                                                   
03/08/05       (H)       MINUTE(EDU)                                                                                            
03/09/05       (H)       EDU RPT CS(EDU) 7DP                                                                                    
03/09/05       (H)       DP:   GARA,   GATTO,   WILSON,   THOMAS,                                                               
                         SALMON, LYNN, NEUMAN                                                                                   
03/29/05       (H)       HES AT 3:00 PM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
03/29/05       (H)       Moved CSHB 128(HES) Out of Committee                                                                   
03/29/05       (H)       MINUTE(HES)                                                                                            
04/01/05       (H)       HES RPT CS(HES) 5DP 2NR                                                                                
04/01/05       (H)       DP: CISSNA, GARDNER, MCGUIRE, SEATON,                                                                  
04/01/05       (H)       NR: ANDERSON, KOHRING                                                                                  
04/01/05       (H)       FIN REFERRAL WAIVED                                                                                    
04/04/05       (H)       TRANSMITTED TO (S)                                                                                     
04/04/05       (H)       VERSION: CSHB 128(HES)                                                                                 
04/06/05       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
04/06/05       (S)       HES, FIN                                                                                               
04/18/05       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
BILL: SB 156                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: LAYOFF/NONRETENTION OF TEACHERS                                                                                    
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) STEVENS B                                                                                                
03/29/05       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/29/05       (S)       HES, FIN                                                                                               
04/18/05       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
BILL: SB 167                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: EDU MATERIALS FROM RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION                                                                           
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) DYSON                                                                                                    
04/08/05       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
04/08/05       (S)       HES, JUD                                                                                               
04/18/05       (S)       HES AT 1:30 PM BUTROVICH 205                                                                           
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
SENATOR BEN STEVENS                                                                                                             
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT:  Introduced SB 156                                                                                        
BARBARA THOMPSON                                                                                                                
Department of Education                                                                                                         
801 W 10 St.                                                                                                                    
Juneau, AK  99801-1894                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Neutral on SB 167.                                                                                        
PATRICK SHIER                                                                                                                   
Box 210926                                                                                                                      
Auk Bay, AK  99821                                                                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 167.                                                                                          
NELS TOMLINSON                                                                                                                  
Box 32663                                                                                                                       
Juneau, AK  99801                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 167.                                                                                          
NEIL SLOTNICK, Assistant Attorney General                                                                                       
Department of Law                                                                                                               
PO Box 110300                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99811-0300                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Opposes SB 167.                                                                                           
JEANNE ANGLIN                                                                                                                   
Department of Health & Social Services                                                                                          
PO Box 110601                                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99801-0601                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 128.                                                                                          
EMILY NEENAN, Alaska Government Relations                                                                                       
The American Cancer Society                                                                                                     
1599 Clifton Road Northeast                                                                                                     
Atlanta, GA  30329                                                                                                              
POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 128.                                                                                          
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
CHAIR FRED DYSON  called the Senate Health,  Education and Social                                                             
Services  Standing  Committee meeting  to  order  at 1:34:11  PM.                                                             
Present were Senators  Donny Olson, Kim Elton,  Gary Wilken, Lyda                                                               
Green and Chair Fred Dyson.                                                                                                     
             SB 156-LAYOFF/NONRETENTION OF TEACHERS                                                                         
1:34:11 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON announced SB 156 to be up for consideration.                                                                        
SENATOR  BEN  STEVENS  introduced  SB   156  and  said  the  bill                                                               
establishes  a consistent  policy for  all school  districts with                                                               
regard to notifying  a teacher of layoff. Currently,  if a school                                                               
district does not  have adequate funding to rehire  a teacher for                                                               
the following  school year,  the district  must notify  a tenured                                                               
teacher by  March 16th,  but it  does not have  to notify  a non-                                                               
tenured teacher until  the last day of the school  year. It seems                                                               
logical that a  school district should be required  to notify any                                                               
teacher  of   his  or  her  discontinued   employment  after  the                                                               
district's assembly has approved the budget.                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEN STEVENS  said the  bill would  remove Section  A and                                                               
modify Section  B of AS.14.21.40  to require districts  to inform                                                               
both  tenured and  non-tenured teachers  of whether  or not  they                                                               
will be retained.                                                                                                               
1:38:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON remarked  the requirements  of line  6 and  line 7                                                               
seem redundant.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  BEN  STEVENS  responded   the  requirements  were  taken                                                               
directly from existing statute.                                                                                                 
1:41:04 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON  understood the  language to  mean the  district must                                                               
deliver the notification in writing  and would have the option of                                                               
delivering it by hand or certified mail.                                                                                        
1:43:36 PM                                                                                                                    
NEIL  SLOTNICK, assistant  attorney  general,  Department of  Law                                                               
(DOL),  testified the  language would  give school  districts the                                                               
option of sending notification by certified mail or by hand-                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON  expressed  concern with  the  difference  between                                                               
deadlines of  the two  delivery options.  Since hand  delivery of                                                               
notification  must be  provided  on  or before  the  last day  of                                                               
school  and certified  mail  must  be sent  by  the  last day  of                                                               
school, it is  possible that notification sent  by certified mail                                                               
could arrive after the deadline for hand delivered notification.                                                                
1:45:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GREEN  moved  SB  156  from  committee  with  individual                                                               
recommendations and  no fiscal notes. Hearing  no objections, the                                                               
motion carried.                                                                                                                 
        SB 167-EDU MATERIALS FROM RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON announced SB 167 to  be up for consideration. He said                                                               
SB  345 was  signed  into law  on August  2002.  With respect  to                                                               
AS.14.18.060 it says:                                                                                                           
     Nothing  in this  paragraph precludes  a correspondence                                                                    
     study  student  or  the  parent  or  guardian  of  that                                                                    
     correspondence study  student from  privately obtaining                                                                    
     textbooks or  curriculum material  not provided  by the                                                                    
     school district.                                                                                                           
It now appears  as though the Department of  Education has issued                                                               
regulations  that say  parents can't  use  certain curricula  and                                                               
text  that  they  have  purchased. He  asked  Mr.  Neil  Slotnick                                                               
whether this was the case.                                                                                                      
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     No,  that  is not  what  the  regulations provide.  The                                                                    
     regulations adopted by the  Department of Education and                                                                    
     Early  Development  specifically provide  that  parents                                                                    
     can  obtain   a  curriculum  of  their   own  choosing.                                                                    
     Districts  may  provide  credit for  classes  that  are                                                                    
     obtained by  the parents without district  approval and                                                                    
     purchased by the parents with  their own personal funds                                                                    
     and taught by the parents.                                                                                                 
     The  district cannot  receive funding  on the  basis of                                                                    
     those  curricula  that  are selected  by  the  parents,                                                                    
     administered and taught  by the parent and  paid for by                                                                    
     the  parents. The  district  will  receive funding  for                                                                    
     each full-time  equivalent student that is  enrolled on                                                                    
     count day in  a correspondence study program.  If it is                                                                    
     a correspondence  study program,  at least one  half of                                                                    
     that  student's  curriculum  must consist  of  academic                                                                    
     If a  student comes in who  is going to be  selecting a                                                                    
     religious curricula  and that student is  enrolled in a                                                                    
     public  school,  if he  is  taught  by a  state  school                                                                    
     district   and    takes   three   classes    from   the                                                                    
     correspondence  study program  and  one  class that  is                                                                    
     purchased  by  the  student's  parents  and  it  has  a                                                                    
     religious  basis, that  district  will receive  funding                                                                    
     for a three quarter  equivalent, because the curriculum                                                                    
     consists of  three classes  that are  district provided                                                                    
     and one class that is personally provided.                                                                                 
The aforementioned  subject was at  issue when the  Department of                                                               
Education  did  a  recent   monitoring  of  correspondence  study                                                               
practices. It found some correspondence  programs had missed that                                                               
distinction and  had submitted students  in courses such  as that                                                               
for  100 percent  reimbursement. The  Department disallowed  that                                                               
practice and placed the districts on a program of correction.                                                                   
1:52:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON said  his understanding of SB 345 was  that it allows                                                               
a  parent to  select  a  text and  if  the correspondence  school                                                               
teacher supervising  the class were  comfortable with  that text,                                                               
the parents can teach it and  the school would give credit for it                                                               
even if a religious publisher publishes the texts.                                                                              
MR.  SLOTNICK  said there  were  a  couple of  different  issues;                                                               
credit, funding,  and school  district participation  in teaching                                                               
religious materials.  Credit is a matter  of district discretion.                                                               
If a  parent purchases  and teaches  a religious  curriculum, the                                                               
district  decides whether  or not  to accept  it for  credit. The                                                               
department has  no regulations governing the  district's decision                                                               
on whether or not to give credit for such a course.                                                                             
With regards  to the  issue of  funding, the  parent may  not use                                                               
state funds to  purchase the religious curriculum  and the school                                                               
district may  not be  reimbursed with state  funds for  a student                                                               
who is taught under that curriculum.                                                                                            
The third issue is not  explicitly covered in regulations, but it                                                               
is nevertheless  covered in the  constitution. It is  argued that                                                               
allowing  a  teacher  to  teach   a  religious  curriculum  while                                                               
employed at  a public school  is a  violation of both  the United                                                               
States   Constitution's   First    Amendment   and   the   Alaska                                                               
1:55:53 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  DYSON   asked  whether  there  were   legal  criteria  for                                                               
classifying a course as a religious course.                                                                                     
MR. SLOTNICK  responded the department has  two requirements that                                                               
speak to  the inability of  schools to use  religious curriculum.                                                               
One is in AS.14.03.090, which says:                                                                                             
     Partisan,  sectarian  or denominational  doctrines  may                                                                    
     not be  advocated in a  public school during  the hours                                                                    
     that  the school  is in  session. A  teacher or  school                                                                    
     board  violating the  section  may  not receive  public                                                                    
There  is  a clear  requirement  in  the department's  regulation                                                               
4AAC33.421(d) that says:                                                                                                        
     Certificated staff members  may not advocate religious,                                                                    
     partisan, sectarian or  denominational doctrine as part                                                                    
     of  the member's  instructional duties  as certificated                                                                    
     staff for the district's correspondence study program.                                                                     
The  department  also  has  a  requirement  that  money  used  to                                                               
purchase such programs cannot be  reimbursed with state money. He                                                               
does  not know  whether  there are  explicit  definitions of  the                                                               
terms used in the aforementioned  regulations. He is not aware of                                                               
any problems that have arisen from a lack of the definitions.                                                                   
SENATOR  OLSON said  he  took a  college class  on  the bible  as                                                               
literature  and  asked  whether  the  regulations  prohibit  such                                                               
MR.  SLOTNICK   responded  courses  that  advocate   a  religious                                                               
perspective may not be taught  in the public schools, but courses                                                               
about religion as an academic subject are allowed.                                                                              
SENATOR  OLSON  asked  whether  the state  would  be  allowed  to                                                               
reimburse the  expense of  bibles if they  were purchased  for an                                                               
academic study of religion.                                                                                                     
MR. SLOTNICK could not answer the question at the time.                                                                         
2:02:40 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR GREEN asked whether there is  a way for parents to ensure                                                               
that  their children  would  receive credit  for  a given  course                                                               
before they begin teaching that course.                                                                                         
BARBARA  THOMPSON,  director  of  the Division  of  Teaching  and                                                               
Learning Support,  said when a  student enrolls in  the statewide                                                               
correspondence  individual learning  program, learning  plans are                                                               
developed  and curriculum  and materials  are discussed.  At that                                                               
point there  should be an  approval of the learning  plan because                                                               
the  parent, the  student  and  the district  work  on that  plan                                                               
SENATOR GREEN asked  whether the district is  required to approve                                                               
all courses at that time.                                                                                                       
MR.  SLOTNICK responded  there is  a  requirement the  individual                                                               
learning plan  be jointly approved at  the start of the  year. He                                                               
did  not know  whether that  requirement addresses  courses taken                                                               
outside of the district's own program.                                                                                          
2:05:22 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     When we passed SB 345,  we anticipated that the parents                                                                    
     and   the  student   would  present   a  text   to  the                                                                    
     correspondence  supervisor  who  would  then  determine                                                                    
     whether or  not it  was appropriate.   What I  hear you                                                                    
     saying, which is  so disturbing, is that  if that text,                                                                    
     which  might be  absolutely  world class  academically,                                                                    
     has a religious  publisher or a religious  slant to it,                                                                    
     they can't  give credit to  the student for it  and the                                                                    
     school  cannot get  reimbursed  through the  foundation                                                                    
     formula  for providing  the  education  that uses  that                                                                    
     That  means that  if you  are studying  Newton, whom  I                                                                    
     happen  to  respect,  who   evolved  calculus  and  was                                                                    
     absolutely stunned  at the  eloquence of  the equations                                                                    
     of the obits  of the planets and ascribed  them to some                                                                    
     grand  mathematician, we  can't use  it.   If you  come                                                                    
     across  any  of  the  personal  views  of  the  classic                                                                    
     scientists  such  as  Holm,  Faraday,  Boyles,  on  the                                                                    
     origins  of the  universe, you  can't use  them. Do  we                                                                    
     have to go through Shakespeare  and take out all of the                                                                    
     biblical allusions?  What is the deal here?                                                                                
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     If what I said was interpreted  to mean that we have to                                                                    
     cleanse all  references to religion from  texts, then I                                                                    
     certainly  misspoke, that  is  not what  I intended  to                                                                    
     say, but  there are correspondence study  programs that                                                                    
     clearly advocate a religious  perspective. They do what                                                                    
     AS.14.03.090 says you cannot do  in a public school.  I                                                                    
     have seen some of these and  it is very clear that they                                                                    
     are  advocating  a  religious  view.    Those  programs                                                                    
     cannot be purchased with  state funds. Districts cannot                                                                    
     be  reimbursed for  students taking  those classes  and                                                                    
     public  school  teachers  should  not  be  involved  in                                                                    
     teaching those programs.                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     I have  information from several  states that  go right                                                                    
     down  a  list  of   all  of  these  religious  textbook                                                                    
     publishers,  and  they  are absolutely  approved.  They                                                                    
     have their  own First Amendment language  as well. What                                                                    
     makes us so weird that those texts can't be used here?                                                                     
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     The Department of Education  and Early Development does                                                                    
     not  have a  list  of textbooks.  The district  decides                                                                    
     what will and  will not be approved when  it meets with                                                                    
     a student and  his parents. As to whether or  not it is                                                                    
     a  reimbursable expense,  if it  is not  a reimbursable                                                                    
     expense for the  parent, then it is  not a reimbursable                                                                    
     class for the district. That  is what the Department of                                                                    
     Education has determined and that  is the extent of the                                                                    
     determination that I am aware of.                                                                                          
2:08:42 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     I  think that  that  is absolutely  outrageous, but  my                                                                    
     argument  is not  with you.  My reading  of the  law is                                                                    
     that  the   school  and  the   teacher  can't   do  the                                                                    
     advocating, but I  don't read where that  is applied to                                                                    
     the materials that are used. Can you show me that?                                                                         
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     If  it  is  going  to be  state  reimbursed,  then  the                                                                    
     teacher  cannot  be  an   advocate  of  any  particular                                                                    
     religion. So,  if the  materials advocate  a particular                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON interjected:                                                                                                        
     That  is  not  what  it says,  this  is  AS.14.03.090A:                                                                    
     'Except as  provided in B,  the partisan,  sectarian or                                                                    
     denomination  doctrines  may  not  be  advocated  in  a                                                                    
     public  school  during  the  hours  the  school  is  in                                                                    
     session.' A teacher or school  board violating this may                                                                    
     not  receive   public  money.   It  doesn't   say  'the                                                                    
     materials' and it  sounds to me like it  is what people                                                                    
     do  when the  school  is in  session.  Am I  misreading                                                                    
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     It  would be  my  view that  if a  teacher  is using  a                                                                    
     denominational text  to teach from, that  teacher is in                                                                    
     violation of AS.14.03.090.                                                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON asked:                                                                                                              
     Even  if it  is just  a generally  religiously oriented                                                                    
     text without emphasis on a specific denomination?                                                                          
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     It is the  same answer if it is  a religiously oriented                                                                    
     text that  is advocated,  as opposed to  teaching about                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     What  if  it  is   Buddhist,  which  by  definition  is                                                                    
     agnostic?  Buddhists are  very clear  that they  do not                                                                    
     say anything about God or  ultimate things? It would be                                                                    
     okay, right?                                                                                                               
MR. SLOTNICK responded, "You are getting way beyond my areas of                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     You and I  think of it as religion because  it is a way                                                                    
     of  life, a  philosophical  and mental  way of  viewing                                                                    
     life, but by definition it is agnostic.                                                                                    
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     Mr. Chairman,  I don't  know. It sounds  to me  like it                                                                    
     might  be  a  partisan,  sectarian,  or  denominational                                                                    
     doctrine  that   is  prohibited  by  090.   If  someone                                                                    
     challenges  that, I  guess that  we will  have to  look                                                                    
     into it.                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  ELTON asked  how a  student that  transfers from  a home                                                               
school curriculum into a public  school is placed with respect to                                                               
his or her grade level in the public school.                                                                                    
MS. THOMPSON  responded it depends on  the grade level. If  it is                                                               
an elementary  school, a district  may accept that  student based                                                               
on information that has been  provided by his parent, evidence of                                                               
work produced, or by placement assessment.                                                                                      
2:12:39 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON asked whether it  possible for a school district to                                                               
place a home  school student in a lower grade  level because part                                                               
of his or  her curriculum contained religious  material for which                                                               
the school district denied credit.                                                                                              
MS. THOMPSON  said she has  never heard of  a case in  which that                                                               
has happened.                                                                                                                   
2:14:40 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON asked:                                                                                                              
     Why do you suppose that  other states are able to allow                                                                    
     their  correspondence   students  to  use   texts  from                                                                    
     religious publishers  while ours  does not  allow these                                                                    
     same texts?                                                                                                                
 MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                        
     I am  not able  to answer that  question. I  don't know                                                                    
     that  this state  has a  policy  that there  can be  no                                                                    
     texts  from a  religious  institution.  What we  cannot                                                                    
     have  is  text  that  would  be  considered  advocating                                                                    
     religion under the statute.                                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     These other  states very  clearly do.  The list  that I                                                                    
     read  this morning  includes many  that  are used  here                                                                    
     Abeka comes to  mind and several others that  I am told                                                                    
     are excellent  for math and  so on. Is  there something                                                                    
     peculiar about our state constitution  that makes it so                                                                    
     that  those apparently  excellent academic  texts can't                                                                    
     be used because they  have a religious or philosophical                                                                    
     slant to them?                                                                                                             
MR. SLOTNICK responded                                                                                                          
     I haven't seen  any of this research for  which you are                                                                    
     speaking.  I do  know that  our constitution  prohibits                                                                    
     direct  aid to  religious, sectarian  schools. We  also                                                                    
     have the  separation of church  and state in  our state                                                                    
     constitution  and  in  the federal  constitution.  This                                                                    
     body has passed a law  as well, telling us that schools                                                                    
     cannot advocate denominational, sectarian doctrines.                                                                       
2:18:06 PM                                                                                                                    
     Given that,  I think  that school  districts themselves                                                                    
     have  applied   these  rules  and  have   come  to  the                                                                    
     determination  that  they  cannot use  state  funds  to                                                                    
     purchase  certain   texts.  It  has  been   a  district                                                                    
     determination. There has been  a monitoring done by the                                                                    
     Department and it  has said that there can  be no state                                                                    
     funding  for courses  that are  using religious  texts.                                                                    
     To my  knowledge there has  not been an appeal  of that                                                                    
     determination,  which  is what  would  put  it into  my                                                                    
     arena over at the department  of law. I have not looked                                                                    
     into  whether we  are different  from other  states and                                                                    
     whether  there  are  standards that  we  could  use  to                                                                    
     approve these texts.                                                                                                       
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     In my  understanding, the  department is  only applying                                                                    
     this  standard  to  correspondence  programs  that  are                                                                    
     administered across school  district boundaries and not                                                                    
     to  the  ones  that  are administered  within  a  given                                                                    
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     The  monitoring   was  conducted  only   for  statewide                                                                    
     correspondence programs.  It is the state  board's view                                                                    
     that where there is a  wholly in-district program there                                                                    
     is not  as much need  for oversight  as there is  for a                                                                    
     statewide program. That does  not mean that in-district                                                                    
     programs are  free to engage  in a practice  that would                                                                    
     violate AS.14.03.090 or the  Alaska Constitution or the                                                                    
     Federal Constitution.  If we had information  that such                                                                    
     practices  were  going  on,  we  certainly  would  take                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     Which  might mean,  in your  opinion, if  a parent  had                                                                    
     bought  a textbook  that was  otherwise excellent,  but                                                                    
     happened to  have a religious  orientation and  the kid                                                                    
     was getting credit  for that class as a  core class and                                                                    
     the school  was getting  reimbursement from  the state,                                                                    
     then you would want to stop that.                                                                                          
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     The credit issue  is not one that the  state would want                                                                    
     to stop.   As far as reimbursement for that  class as a                                                                    
     core class, yes. If state  money were being used to pay                                                                    
     for that  class or  if teachers  paid with  state money                                                                    
     were  teaching  that  class,  then  the  Department  of                                                                    
     Education would take action.                                                                                               
CHAIR DYSON asked what the  Legislature and the department should                                                               
do about an unconstitutional law, which  SB 345 seems to be, that                                                               
has  been  passed  by  the  Legislature.  He  asked  whether  the                                                               
Department of  Education or the  Department of Law could  sue the                                                               
Legislature in such a case.                                                                                                     
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     We  have, in  the  past, issued  an Attorney  General's                                                                    
     opinion and  if something is  clearly unconstitutional,                                                                    
     we have stated it. Where  there is no clarity regarding                                                                    
     an  issue, I  usually consider  it my  job to  defend a                                                                    
     statute if I can, or,  in the alternative, ask if there                                                                    
     is  an interpretation  of the  statute  that would  not                                                                    
     offend the constitution. As  I read AS.14.07.050, there                                                                    
     is  such   an  interpretation.  We  certainly   do  not                                                                    
     prohibit parents or  guardians from privately obtaining                                                                    
     textbooks and  curriculum that are not  provided by the                                                                    
     school districts.  They are  free to do  so, but  we do                                                                    
     not reimburse  the parents or the  school districts for                                                                    
     those classes.                                                                                                             
CHAIR DYSON interjected:                                                                                                        
     That last one is really  a sticking point. If that text                                                                    
     and  a  supervising  teacher  working  together  get  a                                                                    
     student  to accumulate  the skills  and knowledge  that                                                                    
     they want and  they can pass a test,  why shouldn't the                                                                    
     district be  reimbursed for that?  The kid  learned the                                                                    
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     Mr.   Chairman,  the   problem  is   that  we   have  a                                                                    
     requirement  in  our   constitution  of  separation  of                                                                    
     church and state. There is  a line, upon which we would                                                                    
     all agree at  some point, that we can't  have a teacher                                                                    
     advocating   religion  in   the  public   schools.  The                                                                    
     question is where do we  draw that line? Where are they                                                                    
     no  longer  advocating  religion  and  merely  teaching                                                                    
     purely  secular  academic   subjects?  To  answer  that                                                                    
     question  we really  need to  have more  facts than  we                                                                    
     have here today. I am not  sure if that has really been                                                                    
     the  issue  in  the   monitoring  because,  again,  the                                                                    
     initial   decision  that   these   materials  are   not                                                                    
     available for  reimbursement was  made at  the district                                                                    
     level in every case in the monitoring.                                                                                     
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     So  the  department did  an  audit,  decided that  some                                                                    
     districts were getting money  for classes that students                                                                    
     took  under their  supervision that  used  a text  that                                                                    
     might  have   come  from  a  religious   publisher  and                                                                    
     therefore  the   audit  shows   that  they   can't  get                                                                    
     reimbursed for that  and they have got  to change their                                                                    
     ways. That is what has produced this whole flap?                                                                           
2:25:25 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     In  at least  one  case  the district  did  not have  a                                                                    
     policy  of letting  the teachers  teach this  religious                                                                    
     oriented   material.    It   was   very    clear   that                                                                    
     correspondence teachers  were not supposed to  teach it                                                                    
     and yet  the district still sought  state reimbursement                                                                    
     for it.  I think that  therein is part of  the dilemma.                                                                    
     When  we have  correspondence programs  and we  provide                                                                    
     for  districts  to  administer them,  we  expect  those                                                                    
     districts  to  do something  for  that  money. So  they                                                                    
     really should  be in there helping  students learn that                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON said:                                                                                                               
     That   is   certainly   not  the   argument   from   my                                                                    
     perspective. I  don't want  them to  get paid  for work                                                                    
     that they didn't do, but  if they supervised and taught                                                                    
     a  child  using a  text  book  that doesn't  meet  your                                                                    
     standard  of  secularity, I  think  they  ought to  get                                                                    
     credit for it and get paid  for it as long as a teacher                                                                    
     thinks that he  can teach math or  chemistry or reading                                                                    
     from it.  I think that  it is incumbent upon  those who                                                                    
     are going to take this stand  to define what makes it a                                                                    
     religious  advocacy book.  Does  that mean  Augustine's                                                                    
     "City of  God", Milton and  half of Shakespeare  are to                                                                    
     be precluded from our literature classes?                                                                                  
MR. SLOTNICK responded, "I am probably not qualified to say, but                                                                
I would say, in my view, no they are not."                                                                                      
CHAIR DYSON said, "I am with you and most of the classic                                                                        
scientists of the West are the same way."                                                                                       
SENATOR GREEN asked whether the department has examples of                                                                      
pertinent egregious materials.                                                                                                  
MR. SLOTNICK responded:                                                                                                         
     The way  I would approach it  is to not try  and sit in                                                                    
     the hypothetical  and think something, I  would want to                                                                    
     see the  texts and see  how other states  evaluate them                                                                    
     and check with the  experts of the education department                                                                    
     to  see if  they could  be taught  in a  completely and                                                                    
     wholly  secular manner.  That is  how I  would approach                                                                    
     it. It really must be a factual determination.                                                                             
2:30:35 PM                                                                                                                    
NELS TOMLINSON said he and  his wife are currently home schooling                                                               
their  three  children.  So  far   the  restrictions  the  school                                                               
district has placed on curriculum  have not been a problem. After                                                               
last  year's new  regulations, several  of the  families that  he                                                               
sees  regularly through  the  Juneau  Home Educators  Association                                                               
have told him  they are struggling over whether or  not they want                                                               
to continue  with the public  program. He believes  the statewide                                                               
School Board, The Department of  Education, and the Department of                                                               
Law are all acting in accordance  with what they think is the law                                                               
and the Legislature's intent. He expressed support for SB 167.                                                                  
2:34:52 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON asked whether a  student enrolled in a state funded                                                               
correspondence program  is subject to state  requirements such as                                                               
the High-school Exit Exam.                                                                                                      
MR.  THOMASON responded  his children  are enrolled  in a  public                                                               
curriculum,  so  they  are  subject   to  the  school  district's                                                               
PATRICK SHIER  said he saw a  copy of the letter  from the school                                                               
district  to the  Raven Correspondence  Program  which said  that                                                               
credit  would  not be  granted  for  non-secular studies.  He  is                                                               
concerned  about how  that would  affect parents  in home  school                                                               
programs  that  use  religious  materials.  The  school  district                                                               
policies  may  negatively affect  students  that  return to  high                                                               
school after being taught through  private programs. He supported                                                               
SB 167.                                                                                                                         
2:45:35 PM                                                                                                                    
RUTH ABBOT, Delta Junction, supported  SB 167. She taught her two                                                               
children  with  a Christian  curriculum  and  both are  currently                                                               
excelling  at college.  The Christian  Home School  curriculum is                                                               
not  substantially different  from  the  public school's  secular                                                               
curriculum since  they both  use the  same information.  The main                                                               
difference is in the perspective  of the two curricula. She would                                                               
like to  know the difference between  a parent-teacher explaining                                                               
a secular text  within a religious context and  the textbook that                                                               
presented the parent's perspective within the text itself.                                                                      
2:47:38 PM                                                                                                                    
ANNIE  DOUGHERTY,   Fairbanks,  said   that  she   has  extensive                                                               
experience in  the school  system and  is currently  teaching her                                                               
children  in home  school. She  supported  SB 167.  She said  the                                                               
exclusive concern of the education  system should be the academic                                                               
performance of its  students and it is irrelevant  whether a high                                                               
level  of academic  performance  is obtained  through secular  or                                                               
sectarian  programs. She  said that  there are  many elements  in                                                               
sectarian  correspondence programs  that do  not teach  religious                                                               
material and yet  they are still precluded from  state funding on                                                               
the bases of their origin.                                                                                                      
CHAIR DYSON held SB 167 in committee.                                                                                           
          HB 128-SCHOOLS PHYSICAL ACTIVITY TASK FORCE                                                                       
CHAIR DYSON announced HB 128 to be up for consideration.                                                                        
SHALON   SZYMANSKI,  staff   to  Representative   Lesil  McGuire,                                                               
introduced the bill:                                                                                                            
     According  to the  American  Obesity Association,  more                                                                    
     than  30   percent  of   United  States   children  and                                                                    
     adolescents are overweight or  obese. Studies show that                                                                    
     overweight   children  are   more   likely  to   become                                                                    
     overweight  adults with  a variety  of health  problems                                                                    
     including  diabetes,  cardiovascular  disease,  cancer,                                                                    
     and high cholesterol.                                                                                                      
     According  to a  recent study  by the  Anchorage school                                                                    
     district,   36  percent   of  Anchorage   students  are                                                                    
     overweight  or  at  risk of  becoming  overweight.  The                                                                    
     National Association  for Sport and  Physical Education                                                                    
     recommends that  elementary school students  receive at                                                                    
     least 150  minutes of Physical Education  (PE) per week                                                                    
     and  that middle  and high-school  students receive  at                                                                    
     least  225  minutes of  PE  per  week. The  center  for                                                                    
     disease  control  recommends  at least  30  minutes  of                                                                    
     physical activity per day.                                                                                                 
     Despite all of these  recommendations from the experts,                                                                    
     the Anchorage,  Valdez, and Fairbanks  school districts                                                                    
     are requiring that only  middle school students receive                                                                    
     daily physical  activity. Elementary students  in these                                                                    
     school districts  receive only two  30 to 40  minute PE                                                                    
     sessions per week and in  the four years that a student                                                                    
     is in high  school; he is required to only  take a year                                                                    
     and a half of PE in order to graduate.                                                                                     
     These levels of PE are  clearly much lower than what is                                                                    
     recommended by PE and health  experts. This task force,                                                                    
     if established,  would be made  up of  school officials                                                                    
     from rural  and urban areas, physicians  and members of                                                                    
     the Department  of Education and Early  Development and                                                                    
     We  recognize  that  different schools  have  different                                                                    
     facilities available for PE and  it would be up to this                                                                    
     task  force to  determine an  effective and  economical                                                                    
     way  to   increase  PE   within  the   existing  school                                                                    
     This task force  would also look into  whether new laws                                                                    
     or regulations  are necessary to provide  more physical                                                                    
     activities  in  the  schools and  whether  construction                                                                    
     requirements should  be changed to facilitate  PE. Many                                                                    
     other state  legislatures are  taking similar  steps in                                                                    
     addressing  the  problem  of  overweight  children  and                                                                    
     Alaska  should consider  following in  their footsteps.                                                                    
     Establishing  this taskforce  would  be a  step in  the                                                                    
     right direction.                                                                                                           
CHAIR  DYSON asked  Ms. Szymanski  how  the task  force could  be                                                               
established with a zero fiscal note.                                                                                            
2:59:11 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  SZYMANSKI  responded  the   taskforce  would  meet  only  by                                                               
teleconference  so  there  would  not be  any  associated  travel                                                               
expenses.  The  fiscal  note shows  that  the  Legislature  would                                                               
absorb  the  communications  costs.   The  task  force  would  be                                                               
comprised only  of volunteers  and there  are currently  many who                                                               
are willing to volunteer.                                                                                                       
SENATOR WILKEN asked  Ms. Szymanski what she envisions  to be the                                                               
deliverable of this taskforce.                                                                                                  
MS. SZYMANSKI  responded Representative McGuire hopes  to develop                                                               
strategies  within the  school  system  to get  kids  to be  more                                                               
physically active and to adopt healthier diets.                                                                                 
3:01:27 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR WILKEN  said the suggestions  of a  volunteer nine-member                                                               
task force would probably not have  any affect on such a nebulous                                                               
problem as juvenile obesity.                                                                                                    
SENATOR GREEN agreed  with Senator Wilken and  remarked that over                                                               
the years she  has been incredibly disappointed with  many of the                                                               
fact-finding  committees that  have met  during the  interim. She                                                               
said the proposed  actions of the taskforce  should be restricted                                                               
to the  purview of  the State  School Board since  it has  a much                                                               
greater  resource base  with which  to address  the problem.  She                                                               
added the timeframe of the bill is unrealistic.                                                                                 
3:06:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON voiced support for  bringing a Legislative focus to                                                               
the issue.  He said the  bill could  draw attention and  since it                                                               
does not have a fiscal note, it is worth doing.                                                                                 
CHAIR DYSON said  most of what needs to be  done is common sense.                                                               
School  districts are  under immense  pressure  from high  stakes                                                               
tests such  as the high-school  exit exam  and the No  Child Left                                                               
Behind mandate  and they would  not want to divert  valuable time                                                               
and resources from those endeavors.                                                                                             
3:09:16 PM                                                                                                                    
JEANNE ANGLIN,  Department of Health and  Social Services (DHSS),                                                               
supported  HB  128.  She  recommended   the  committee  adopt  an                                                               
amendment  to include  a DHSS  representative on  the task  force                                                               
since the  department has considerable interest  and expertise in                                                               
dealing with chronic diseases such as obesity.                                                                                  
SENATOR  OLSON  asked  the  sponsor whether  she  would  like  to                                                               
address the concerns of the committee.                                                                                          
MS.  ANGLIN  responded  the  bill  would  not  be  a  stand-alone                                                               
solution  to the  problem,  but  it would  help  to the  organize                                                               
entities involved in addressing the problems.                                                                                   
CHAIR  DYSON asked  whether  academic  achievement is  correlated                                                               
with increased hours of PE in the curriculum.                                                                                   
EMILY NENAN, Alaska Government Relations  for the American Cancer                                                               
Society,  supported HB  128. She  said  the purpose  of the  task                                                               
force would  be to elevate  the discussion and recognize  that it                                                               
is  a  high level  priority  for  the state.  Many  organizations                                                               
support  the task  force  as  a means  of  corroborating on  data                                                               
pertinent to the problems of juvenile inactivity. There is data                                                                 
that suggests healthy children learn better.                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON held HB 128 in committee. There being no further                                                                    
business to come before the committee, he adjourned the meeting                                                                 
at 3:19:35 PM.                                                                                                                

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