Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

03/13/2009 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

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08:04:08 AM Start
08:04:32 AM HB33
09:34:52 AM Overview(s): Roundtable Discussion on Structuring a Needs-based Scholarship Program for Alaska
10:06:05 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
+ Roundtable discussion on structuring a TELECONFERENCED
needs-based scholarship program for
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 33-RAISE COMPULSORY SCHOOL ATTENDANCE AGE                                                                                  
8:04:32 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL  NO.  33,  "An  Act  relating  to  compulsory  school                                                               
attendance; and providing for an effective date."                                                                               
8:05:27 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ, speaking  as the  sponsor of  HB 33,  said                                                               
that she  was motivated to  introduce HB 33  due to what  she has                                                               
observed in Juneau.  She related  that in Juneau one of four-five                                                               
youth  don't  complete  school.    Anecdotally,  these  drop-outs                                                               
aren't necessarily  failing academically, but rather  there could                                                               
be  bullying issues  and interpersonal  problems.   In fact,  she                                                               
related her understanding that whether  a student drops out could                                                               
be correlated  with the failure  of freshman  physical education.                                                               
Allowing youth to  [end there secondary education] at  the age of                                                               
16  sends  the wrong  message.    Across Alaska,  57,000  Alaskan                                                               
residents over  the age of 18  don't have a high  school diploma.                                                               
Furthermore, 4,000 youth  are dropping out of  school every year.                                                               
This  legislation proposes  to change  statute while  maintaining                                                               
the existing  exemptions for those  youth who are  home schooled,                                                               
attend  private schools,  as well  as  those youth  who meet  the                                                               
requirements of  the law prior  to age 18.   Representative Munoz                                                               
opined  that strengthening  the law  and extending  the mandatory                                                               
attendance age is a tool  that will empower parents since parents                                                               
will have the ability to say the  youth has to stay in school and                                                               
the  law will  support that.   The  change proposed  in HB  33 is                                                               
supported  by school  districts across  the state,  including the                                                               
Anchorage,  Fairbanks,  Juneau,  and  Cordova  School  Districts.                                                               
Representative Munoz expressed the need  to work hard to continue                                                               
the  successes such  as in  the area  of vocational  education in                                                               
order to find meaningful work  and experiences for students.  She                                                               
pointed out that the committee  packet should include a letter of                                                               
support from Anchorage Superintendant Carol Comeau.                                                                             
8:09:37 AM                                                                                                                    
JACQUELINE  (JACKIE) MARTIN,  Executive Committee  Member, Alaska                                                               
Native Sisterhood  (ANS) of the  Grand Camp; Counsel  Member, ANS                                                               
Camp 70  Local Camp, had  her testimony  read into the  record by                                                               
Representative Munoz [original punctuation provided]:                                                                           
     We support HB 33; to  encourage and give young people a                                                                    
     chance   to  return   to  school   to  complete   their                                                                    
     education.   We can  read negative  into House  Bill 33                                                                    
     and say that 50% of  our students are (commonly called)                                                                    
     "Drop outs," but  we say we have 50%  graduates and the                                                                    
     rest are "Push out."                                                                                                       
     Please accept  these comments as encouragement  to pass                                                                    
     HB-33.   I  offer these  answers to  the questions  put                                                                    
     forth by your Education Committee.                                                                                         
     1.  What are the basis of a high school diploma                                                                        
     Basis for  a high  school diploma  comes easily  with a                                                                    
     positive  family and  community;  even then,  sometimes                                                                    
     this  isn't  enough, they  need  a  second chance  once                                                                    
     obstacles have  been identified.  The  second chance is                                                                    
     A high  school diploma  is hard to  come by,  rules and                                                                    
     laws  change  not quickly  but  fast  enough to  see  a                                                                    
     difference  in  graduates.    "No  Child  Left  Behind"                                                                    
     "Qualifying exam,"  and other  obstacles such  as drugs                                                                    
     and alcohol are made available  to the children.  There                                                                    
     are many social issues  in large and small communities.                                                                    
     Please don't misinterpret me, I  believe in some of the                                                                    
     new laws and changes.                                                                                                      
     2.  Is there  an inherent  problem with  the design  of                                                                
     graduation requirements that produce drop outs?                                                                        
     The Tlingit  tribe in  this area can  take up  hours of                                                                    
     your  time telling  you sorrowful  stories  in our  own                                                                    
     Juneau  school district.   Some  inherent problems  are                                                                    
     discrimination, social issues, and poverty.                                                                                
     Yes,  it is  an inherent  problem, not  only in  Alaska                                                                    
     but,  it  is  a  national  problem.    There  are  many                                                                    
     beautiful  teachers  that  give more  then  themselves;                                                                    
     they  also  use their  own  funds,  and I  offer  these                                                                    
     teachers kudos.                                                                                                            
     How does a community  instill zero dropout tolerance of                                                                    
     its  community?   Pass  this  Bill  and let's  get  our                                                                    
     communities  back  on track.    I  believe in  the  old                                                                    
     saying "it takes a community to raise a child".                                                                            
     3. Is the  high school qualifying exam a  positive or a                                                                
     negative   as  relates   to  student   performance  and                                                                
     I  spoke  about  the  percent success  rate  among  the                                                                    
     Alaska  Natives, so  now  let's  address the  negative.                                                                    
     According to newspapers we  [Alaska Native and American                                                                    
     Indians]  have the  highest rate  of  drunks, the  most                                                                    
     suicides, the  most thieves, the  most sex  abuser, and                                                                    
     we have the  highest percentage of drop outs.   I would                                                                    
     like  to  see  solution  to  these  statistics;  it  is                                                                    
     tiresome to read statistics without solutions.                                                                             
     I  heard a  speaker  talk about  herself  as an  Alaska                                                                    
     Native [she  is a  successful person today  was perhaps                                                                    
     talking  about  the  natives  as   a  whole]  as  being                                                                    
     invisible  in  the school  system.    Time is  changing                                                                    
     relationships  among the  Natives  and Governments  and                                                                    
     local residents.   I  do see many  good changes,  I see                                                                    
     Alaska  Native gaining  respect in  our community,  and                                                                    
     I'm 66  years old  and have seen  more natives  and non                                                                    
     natives  working together,  there  is  hope for  change                                                                    
     among  our students.   I  believe with  the passage  of                                                                    
     this  bill, change  will begin  and the  drop out  rate                                                                    
     will lessen, not immediately, but it will begin soon.                                                                      
     Is the  qualifying exam  a good thing?   Yes,  it helps                                                                    
     our successful  natives' offers an equal  chance in the                                                                    
     national population.                                                                                                       
     Then on  the other  hand this is  a difficult  exam for                                                                    
     many and  many oppose  this exam,  I believe  also that                                                                    
     this  is one  of  many  reasons why  many  drop out  of                                                                  
     school today, they can't pass the exam.                                                                                    
     Thank you for your time,  we realize that there is much                                                                    
     opposition   to  this   House  Bill;   we  heard   many                                                                    
     statistics about  the Native Peoples' problems.   Today                                                                    
     we the ANS Grand Camp and  ANS Camp 70 stand in support                                                                    
     of HB-33 as  a beginning of many solutions  to come for                                                                    
     our students.                                                                                                              
8:14:40 AM                                                                                                                    
TERRY HARVEY, Staff, Representative Cathy Munoz, Alaska State                                                                   
Legislature, paraphrased from the following prepared statement,                                                                 
which read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                     
     On February of  this year President Obama  in his State                                                                    
     of the Nation address to Congress stated,                                                                                  
     "Dropping out  of high school  is no longer  an option.                                                                    
     It's not  just quitting  on yourself; it's  quitting on                                                                    
     your country.   And this  country needs and  values the                                                                    
     talents of every American."                                                                                                
     That's  a powerful  statement.   "Dropping out  of High                                                                    
     School is no longer an option."                                                                                            
     The  premise of  HB 33  is to  take that  statement and                                                                    
     bring it  home to Alaska.   We take that  statement and                                                                    
     "Dropping out  of High  School is  no longer  an option                                                                    
     for students in Alaska until they reach the age of 18.                                                                     
     The  current  age for  an  exit  early from  school  in                                                                    
     Alaska is  16.  There  are exemptions in  our statutes,                                                                    
     but  otherwise, until  16, you  must remain  in school.                                                                    
     HB 33  proposes a  change in that  statute and  says to                                                                    
     our young  people in  Alaska, "You  no longer  have our                                                                    
     permission to leave school before you graduate."                                                                           
     That's also a pretty strong  statement. But it is meant                                                                    
     to be.   It's  tough love.   Compulsory  attendance age                                                                    
     laws  in our  nation are  tough love  and have  been in                                                                    
     place in Alaska since 1929.                                                                                                
     "Dropping out of high school is no longer an option."                                                                      
     It's a very  strong statement.  But if  you recall from                                                                    
     last Wednesday's  House Committee on  Education, during                                                                    
     our  round  table  discussion on  the  subject  of  the                                                                    
     dropout dilemma  in Alaska,  there were  equally strong                                                                    
     statements made.                                                                                                           
     Karl  Rose,  Director  of  the  Alaska  Association  of                                                                    
     School Boards,  who is  here today  in support  of this                                                                    
     bill, spoke  about the effort of  solving this problem,                                                                    
     he stated;                                                                                                                 
     "Schools cannot do this alone"                                                                                             
     We agree.   It takes  a community to address  a problem                                                                    
     of this magnitude.  Karl  has stated in the past, "This                                                                    
     is an issue we all own."   The Legislature is a part of                                                                    
     that community  in Alaska and  indeed is part  owner of                                                                    
     this problem.   HB 33  is how you, as  legislators, can                                                                    
     be  a   part  of   the  solution,  by   addressing  one                                                                    
     component, one piece of the puzzle.                                                                                        
     Eric McCormick was  here from the Dept  of Education on                                                                    
     Wednesday.    He spoke  of  the  recent gathering  last                                                                    
     month  that  included   the  Department  of  Education,                                                                    
     School Boards, School Districts,  and Teachers, who met                                                                    
     to  find ways  to  address the  early  exit problem  in                                                                    
     Alaska.  He  said we will approach this with  the new 3                                                                    
     "Rigor, Relevance, Relationships"                                                                                          
     HB  33   requires  the  rigor   of  students,   and  of                                                                    
     educators, to make it all  the way to graduation.  This                                                                    
     morning  we   will  no  doubt  discuss   the  issue  of                                                                    
     'Competence versus Endurance'.   That's a valid debate.                                                                    
     We   will  discuss   competence,  and   diversity,  and                                                                    
     alternative programming,  which are designed  to engage                                                                    
     our students  on whatever level  is necessary  to reach                                                                    
     success.   We  welcome that  discussion as  it directly                                                                    
     correlates to our bill.   Because without the diversity                                                                    
     in  school   programming  that   reaches  out   to  the                                                                    
     individual   needs  of   each   student,  raising   the                                                                    
     compulsory age will have little effect.                                                                                    
     Getting back  to competency  versus endurance,  make no                                                                    
     mistake; getting  the 21  credits required  to graduate                                                                    
     from our  schools does require  endurance.   Anyone who                                                                    
     has  graduated  from  high school  can  attest  to  the                                                                    
     endurance needed  to get  that diploma,  some of  us in                                                                    
     this room,  certainly I  can.  But  in order  to endure                                                                    
     the  rigor   of  getting  that  diploma,   we  must  do                                                                    
     everything   we   can   to  encourage   our   students,                                                                    
     especially our  at risk students,  to stick it  out, to                                                                    
     make it to the end.                                                                                                        
     HB  33  does that.    It  tells  everyone there  is  an                                                                    
     expectation that  until the  age of 18  you will  be in                                                                    
     school,   it's  in   our  statutes,   it's  a   minimum                                                                    
     Walter  Sobeloff,   who  has  been  in   the  education                                                                    
     business  in  Alaska  for  39  years,  39  years  as  a                                                                    
     teacher,   as  an   administrator,   currently  as   an                                                                    
     instructor for people of all  ages who have dropped out                                                                    
     seeking their  GED.  Walter  was here on  Wednesday and                                                                    
     "Our  responsibility  is  to look  for  every  possible                                                                    
     solution to seek success for our students."                                                                                
     HB  33 is  one of  those possible  solutions that  this                                                                    
     legislature  can seek.    I believe  we  can all  agree                                                                    
     there is  no single solution  to this problem.   And we                                                                    
     say  again, HB  33 is  only one  component towards  our                                                                    
     common goal.                                                                                                               
     Karen   Martinson,   an   educator   from   Sitka,   an                                                                    
     alternative  high school  teacher,  who  knows a  great                                                                    
     deal about this, stated on Wednesday,                                                                                      
     "We need an emergency response"                                                                                            
     She is right.  HB 33 is that kind of response.                                                                             
     Bottom  line,   HB  33   represents  a   public  policy                                                                    
     statement that the legislature can  make to address the                                                                    
     commonly used excuse for early exit students;                                                                              
     "Because I can."                                                                                                           
     To  Parents, Teachers,  School Boards,  Administrators,                                                                    
     Citizens of this State, and  the Legislature, this bill                                                                    
     provides  our  response  to 16  year  olds  in  Alaska.                                                                    
     These young people, many of  whom, if not most, or even                                                                    
     all,  are not  prepared to  make an  important decision                                                                    
     like  this.   And we  have stacks  of evidence  sitting                                                                    
     right  here that  is compelling.   We  know early  exit                                                                    
     kids will earn  far less than those  who graduate, that                                                                    
     even  staying   in  school  for  an   additional  year,                                                                    
     graduate or not, will  increase their earning potential                                                                    
     substantially.   We know if  they exit early  they will                                                                    
     be more likely to be  a part of our Corrections system,                                                                    
     and not as  employees.  They will need more  in the way                                                                    
     of public  assistance costing our state  multi millions                                                                    
     in dollars every year.  We  can, with HB 33, remove the                                                                    
     one excuse  most early exit students  declare, "Because                                                                    
     I can."                                                                                                                    
8:20:31 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  HARVEY  then directed  attention  to  the committee  packet,                                                               
specifically  Attachment  A,  entitled  "Raising  the  Compulsory                                                               
School  Attendance  Age:   The  case  for  Reform."   Page  2  of                                                               
Attachment A  specifies the "Top  Five Reasons  Dropouts Identify                                                               
as Major Factors For Leaving  School," which included the student                                                               
feeling as  if he/she had too  much freedom and not  enough rules                                                               
in his/her life.  Another  important aspect of the aforementioned                                                               
report is  that overall enrollment  rates among  16-year-olds are                                                               
lower  in states  that allow  them  to dropout  at age  16.   Mr.                                                               
Harvey related that a study  performed by Joshua Angrist and Alan                                                               
Krueger utilized  a complex equation  and studies that  found the                                                               
compulsory  age  has been  affective  in  raising the  percentile                                                               
rates.  He then turned  attention to Attachment B, entitled "Stay                                                               
In  School: new  Lessons On  the  Benefits of  Raising the  Legal                                                               
School-Leaving  Age" by  Philip Oreopoulos.   The  aforementioned                                                               
study  took an  academic  approach with  a  complex formula  that                                                               
ultimately predicted  that raising compulsory  ages to age  17 or                                                               
18  had  a positive  percentage  increase  [in those  staying  in                                                               
school].   The committee  packet also includes  a study  from the                                                               
Institute  of   Social  and   Economic  Research   (ISER),  which                                                               
addresses the overall  issue of early exits  and provides overall                                                               
general information.   He noted that the  committee packet should                                                               
also  include  the   National  Education  Association's  12-point                                                               
action plan, which  lists mandating high school  education at the                                                               
top of  the list.  This  particular study is specific  to Alaska,                                                               
and thus it was viewed as necessary to include.                                                                                 
8:23:26 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. HARVEY then informed the  committee that the committee packet                                                               
should include Attachment E entitled  "Understanding the Issue of                                                               
the High  school Dropout  Age" from  a Learning  Point Associates                                                               
report  about  compulsory  school  attendance ages.    The  study                                                               
relates that in  Texas compulsory school age laws  are allowed to                                                               
be  raised on  a  county-by-county basis.    The Pasadena  school                                                               
district  has done  an  excellent  job of  tracking  and has  had                                                               
positive results from  changing the compulsory age from  16 to 17                                                               
years of age.                                                                                                                   
8:24:18 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  HARVEY, referring  to Attachment  F, reminded  the committee                                                               
that  last  fall  Senator  Lisa Murkowski  brought  a  number  of                                                               
educators in Anchorage together.   The aforementioned, he opined,                                                               
highlights  the awareness  of  this  issue in  Alaska.   He  then                                                               
directed   attention  to   Attachment  G,   which  highlights   a                                                               
specialized alternative  program in  the Chugach  School District                                                               
that  has been  successful.   The  Voyage  to Excellence  program                                                               
boasts a 98 percent graduation rate.                                                                                            
8:25:45 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  HARVEY, in  response  to Chair  Seaton,  clarified that  the                                                               
Chugach School District  hasn't mandated a compulsory  age of 18.                                                               
The desire  to highlight  this program  was to  merely illustrate                                                               
its success, even with the existing compulsory age of 16.                                                                       
8:26:58 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  EDGMON inquired  as to  the meaning  of the  term                                                               
"shall" on page 1,  line 7, of the bill.  He  also inquired as to                                                               
whether there will be any type of enforcement mechanism.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ  answered  that   "shall"  is  the  current                                                               
language in statute.  The  legislation only changes the mandatory                                                               
compulsory age.                                                                                                                 
8:28:05 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  expressed excitement for the  support from                                                               
the school districts  for this legislation, as this is  not a new                                                               
idea.   She  characterized HB  33  as a  start, an  anchor.   The                                                               
latest brain  development research  indicates that  a 16-year-old                                                               
isn't  capable  of  making  decisions  with  consequences,  which                                                               
really doesn't materialize until about age 24.                                                                                  
8:29:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER directed  attention  to  the e-mail  from                                                               
Kelly  Foreman,  which  includes statistics  that  indicate  that                                                               
states  with a  compulsory  attendance age  of 17  or  18 have  a                                                               
slightly  higher  dropout  rate  that states  with  a  compulsory                                                               
attendance age of  16.  She then highlighted an  e-mail from Todd                                                               
Brocious that  discusses truancy data that  is reported federally                                                               
on  a  regular basis.    She  expressed  interest in  having  the                                                               
truancy data in order to review  how 15-year-olds who don't go to                                                               
school  are addressed.    She questioned  why  one would  believe                                                               
those who  can't get their  15-year-olds to stay in  school would                                                               
be able to do so until the youth is 17- or 18-years old.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE   MUNOZ  said   she  would   obtain  the   truancy                                                               
information.     Additionally,   she  recalled   that  there   is                                                               
information  outlining the  numbers  of dropouts  per  age.   She                                                               
further recalled a spike in the number of dropouts at age 16.                                                                   
8:32:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER recalled her  children relating that there                                                               
were many students  who cut school, misbehaved, and  did drugs in                                                               
9  grade,  but not in 11   and 12  grade.   She recalled that the                                                               
students who  were problems  in 9   grade were  gone by  the time                                                               
they would've reached 11  or  12  grade.  She surmised that those                                                               
are the  youth being targeted  [by HB  33], and pointed  out that                                                               
targeting  these youth  isn't without  risks to  the rest  of the                                                               
school population.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ related  that the  former principal  of the                                                               
Juneau  alternative  high  school  reports that  often  a  single                                                               
situation,  something simple,  can  result in  a student  feeling                                                               
frustrated  and wanting  to  give up.   She  opined  that if  the                                                               
compulsory age is  18-years-old or until the  student reaches the                                                               
specified education requirements, the  easy exits wouldn't happen                                                               
as often.                                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE   GARDNER  said   although  that   approach  seems                                                               
reasonable, the  chart [provided  by Kelly Foreman]  doesn't seem                                                               
to bear that out.                                                                                                               
MR. HARVEY pointed  out one of the frustrations  with the dropout                                                               
issue  is accurately  tracking it  because states  are compiling,                                                               
reporting, and  tracking the data differently.   Furthermore, the                                                               
information  could be  interpreted  to mean  that compulsory  age                                                               
rates don't really make a difference.                                                                                           
8:35:36 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER  suggested  then that  perhaps  comparing                                                               
over time a  state that had a  compulsory age of 16  that went to                                                               
18 years of age would make more sense.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ offered to obtain such information.                                                                        
8:35:55 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON opened public testimony.                                                                                           
8:36:51 AM                                                                                                                    
ELI ROLFE, Student, Yaakoosgé  Daakahídi Alternative High School,                                                               
opined that the reasons students dropout are various.                                                                           
8:38:44 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER inquired as to what he thinks of HB 33.                                                                  
MR. ROLFE  said he believes  the proposal [encompassed in  HB 33]                                                               
seems good, for the most part.   However, he questioned what will                                                               
happen  to those  students who  don't attend  school.   For those                                                               
students who don't attend school in  order to work and earn money                                                               
for  their  family,  fines  for not  attending  school  would  be                                                               
8:39:54 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ related her  understanding that existing law                                                               
includes an exemption  for emancipated students who  have to earn                                                               
a living, and this law would not change that.                                                                                   
8:40:19 AM                                                                                                                    
REBECCA  LEE,  Student,   Yaakoosgé  Daakahídi  Alternative  High                                                               
School, expressed  concern for  those students  who have  to face                                                               
things that  others never  do, including having  a child  and not                                                               
living at home.  She related that  when she, under the age of 16,                                                               
dropped out  of school she  didn't see  a truancy officer  for 1½                                                               
year.   She acknowledged that  students are too young  to realize                                                               
the importance of  school.  In fact, she recalled  that it wasn't                                                               
until  the middle  of her  junior  year that  she discovered  the                                                               
importance of  school.   Therefore, she  opined that  raising the                                                               
compulsory attendance age is probably the best scenario.                                                                        
8:41:22 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. ROLFE  added that  perhaps speaking  with students  as equals                                                               
would  be   helpful  in  terms  of   helping  potential  dropouts                                                               
understand  that they  can't survive  as well  without graduating                                                               
from high school.                                                                                                               
8:41:54 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. LEE opined  that students have more of an  influence on their                                                               
peers than teachers, which are  often viewed as authority figures                                                               
"who are trying to put us down."                                                                                                
8:42:21 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON shared  that she was a  student who dropped                                                               
out  of school,  had a  baby, and  then returned  to school,  and                                                               
therefore  has some  understanding  of  the situations  teenagers                                                               
face.   She remarked that  just because  a student drops  out, it                                                               
doesn't  mean that  he/she  can't  return to  high  school.   She                                                               
thanked the students for having the courage to testify today.                                                                   
8:43:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER asked  if the  alternative school  Ms. Lee                                                               
and Mr.  Rolfe are attending  have helped them clarify  the goals                                                               
to achieve graduation.                                                                                                          
MS.  LEE  identified  confrontations   with  other  students  and                                                               
teachers  as an  issue.   Confrontations  among  students can  be                                                               
ignored   because  the   school  is   large  enough.     However,                                                               
confrontations with  teachers are  another matter  since students                                                               
have  to  be  with  them  for  lengthy  periods  of  time.    She                                                               
characterized   the  environment   in  the   Yaakoosgé  Daakahídi                                                               
Alternative High  School as a  big family.   She related  that on                                                               
Fridays, everyone  works on  how students  will graduate  and how                                                               
they  will  go  to  college.    Basically,  [staff  in  Yaakoosgé                                                               
Daakahídi  Alternative High  School]  get to  know the  students.                                                               
The aforementioned makes a big difference, she opined.                                                                          
8:44:42 AM                                                                                                                    
BRETT  DILLINGHAM, Co-Chair,  Alaska  State Literacy  Association                                                               
(ASLA)  Advocacy  Committee,  informed  the  committee  that  the                                                               
Alaska State  Literacy Association  has over 500  members, making                                                               
it  the  largest  educational  organization in  the  state.    He                                                               
related that the  members of ASLA would like  modifications to HB
33,  particularly changing  the compulsory  start age  to age  6.                                                               
For those  children who  don't start school  until age  7, almost                                                               
all  of  those   children  are  behind  in   reading  and  arrive                                                               
unprepared for  the testing that  begins at age  8.  A  very high                                                               
percentage  of   the  aforementioned  students   have  behavioral                                                               
problems and  become drop  outs later in  life.   Therefore, ASLA                                                               
believes that a compulsory start age of 6 would take care of                                                                    
many of the problems down the road.                                                                                             
8:47:08 AM                                                                                                                    
PATRICIA GEORGE, Co-Chair, Alaska State Literacy Association                                                                    
(ASLA) Advocacy Committee, provided the following testimony:                                                                    
     The   Alaska   State  Literacy   Association   strongly                                                                    
     believes  that  mandatory  school  age  attendance  age                                                                    
     should be  lowered from age 7  to 6.  There  is several                                                                    
     House  and Senate  bills currently  under consideration                                                                    
     that would  provide quality preschool  and kindergarten                                                                    
     programs.  In  your packet you'll see  the Alaska State                                                                    
     Literacy  Association's  position   paper  on  literacy                                                                    
     development in Alaska  children ages 3 to  5.  However,                                                                    
     we believe  that ... our  children need to  be required                                                                    
     to  attend school  by  age  6.   We  have provided  the                                                                    
     committee  with a  chart and  summary showing  that ...                                                                    
     there  are  32  states  that  require  students  attend                                                                    
     school by age 6.                                                                                                           
     From my  personal experience as a  First grade teacher,                                                                    
     there  is  no  way  to compel  parents  to  have  their                                                                    
     children  in school  ... to  compel students  to attend                                                                    
     school.     ...  if  they're  not   at  their  [school]                                                                    
     regularly  and on  time,  they  miss critical  learning                                                                    
     steps.   I know  that there are  parents who  feel that                                                                    
     changing  statute  will  infringe on  their  rights  as                                                                    
     parents, but it is my  understanding that the change in                                                                    
     mandatory school  attendance age doesn't change  any of                                                                    
     the  waivers  already  built  into  the  law.    It  is                                                                    
     important  to have  children who  attend public  school                                                                    
     come to  school regularly so  that they don't  miss the                                                                    
     critical steps in the learning  process.  House Bill 33                                                                    
     is an appropriate  vehicle to make the  change in state                                                                    
     statute.  We  urge you to amend House Bill  33 to lower                                                                    
     the mandatory school age from 7  to 6.  We provided ...                                                                    
     a proposed amendment.   Thank you and we'd  be happy to                                                                    
     answer any questions.                                                                                                      
8:49:15 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  asked if  there are any  reasons involved                                                               
parents might not  want their 5- or 6-year-olds  to attend school                                                               
for  a full  day of  school.   More specifically,  Representative                                                               
Gardner asked whether  full-day school is appropriate  for all 5-                                                               
and 6-year-olds.                                                                                                                
MS. GEORGE  clarified that ASLA  is requesting  compulsory school                                                               
attendance for  children age 6,  which is  normally the age  of a                                                               
first grader.  As a First  Grade teacher, Ms. George related that                                                               
even  many competent  parents don't  believe that  their children                                                               
have to be at school on time or  even come on a Monday, say.  The                                                               
aforementioned,  she opined,  stems from  the lack  of a  mandate                                                               
requiring a child under the age of 7 to attend school.                                                                          
8:50:36 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER  specified  that   she  is  referring  to                                                               
parents who  are well engaged.   She  opined that there  are some                                                               
children  who  aren't  developmentally  ready  to  attend  public                                                               
school, or their parents are  doing things with the children, but                                                               
it's not  formally home schooling.   She related her  belief that                                                               
full-day  kindergarten may  not  be appropriate  or  in the  best                                                               
interest for all children age 5 or even 6.                                                                                      
MR.  DILLINGHAM  related  his understanding  and  suggested  that                                                               
perhaps  there's a  way to  identify such  children.   He further                                                               
suggested  that  perhaps  a  waiver  or  an  exemption  could  be                                                               
8:52:26 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  GEORGE  pointed  out  that  the  committee  packet  includes                                                               
documentation regarding  the mandatory  school attendance  age in                                                               
each  state.   The  chart  illustrates that  most  states with  a                                                               
compulsory school attendance age of  5 also provide for a waiver.                                                               
As a teacher,  Ms. George related her belief  that it's important                                                               
to meet  the needs of  every child  in the classroom,  even those                                                               
children  who   aren't  as   developmentally  developed   as  the                                                               
remainder  of the  class.   Most teachers,  she further  related,                                                               
recognize  that  students enter  school  with  a broad  range  of                                                               
abilities.   However, she pointed  out that as the  student ages,                                                               
the gap been the "cans and cannots" widens.                                                                                     
8:54:03 AM                                                                                                                    
LYDIA  GARCIA, Executive  Director, NEA-Alaska,  paraphrased from                                                               
the   following   prepared    statement   [original   punctuation                                                               
     I'm here today to testify  in support of House Bill 33.                                                                    
     This bi-partisan  legislation is an attempt  to address                                                                    
     the problem  of, quite frankly, children  not remaining                                                                    
     in school.                                                                                                                 
     The reasons teenagers decide to  drop out of school are                                                                    
     many and varied, but certainly  there are times when it                                                                    
     is  just the  fact that  legally  they do  not have  to                                                                    
     attend school which helps them out the door.                                                                               
     House Bill  33 will  raise the  upper end  of mandatory                                                                    
     attendance  in  Alaska's  schools  to the  age  of  18.                                                                    
     While this  is certainly not  a silver bullet, it  is a                                                                    
     good ingredient in any recipe  for success in life.  As                                                                    
     the  sponsor   has  stated,  the  more   education  one                                                                    
     receives the better earning  potential one acquires and                                                                    
     a better chance of personal success ensues.                                                                                
     About  six  weeks  ago,   450  public  school  employee                                                                    
     delegates, elected by their peers  met at the Anchorage                                                                    
     Hilton and set the policy  for the coming year for NEA-                                                                    
     Alaska.   One  of the  resolutions passed  by the  2009                                                                    
     NEA-Alaska   Delegate   Assembly   stated   "NEA-Alaska                                                                  
     believes the legislature  should establish policies for                                                                  
     non-compliance  with   Alaska's  compulsory  attendance                                                                  
     This legislation takes  those laws a step  further.  It                                                                    
     is the belief,  however, of NEA-Alaska that  a law with                                                                    
     no teeth would serve little purpose.                                                                                       
     Alaska's  school  employees  work  hard  to  offer  our                                                                    
     children opportunities that prepare  them for life.  We                                                                    
     cannot fulfill the promise of  a high quality education                                                                    
     for  Alaska's   children  if  they   are  not   in  our                                                                    
     We applaud the  efforts and direction of  House Bill 33                                                                    
     and ask that you move this legislation from committee.                                                                     
8:56:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  pointed out  that  the  committee packet  includes                                                               
Attachment  D entitled  "NEA's  12 Point  Plan  for Reducing  the                                                               
School  Dropout  Rate."   The  aforementioned  plan calls  for  a                                                               
compulsory school attendance  age until age 21  or the individual                                                               
receives a  diploma.   He asked  if that's  the position  of NEA-                                                               
Alaska as well.                                                                                                                 
MS.  GARCIA replied  yes, adding  that the  intent is  not to  be                                                               
punitive,  but  rather finding  systems  to  build in  to  assist                                                               
students  to  succeed in  education.    At  times that  may  look                                                               
differently due  to alternative education options.   Furthermore,                                                               
special needs  of the  student could  cause the  circumstances to                                                               
8:58:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON related his understanding  that NEA's position is to                                                               
mandate high  school graduation or equivalency  as compulsory for                                                               
everyone below the age of 21.                                                                                                   
MS. GARCIA  specified that age  18 would be the  ideal situation.                                                               
However, reaching  out to  the 19- to  21-year-olds is  an option                                                               
for  providing  education  to  those   who  want  it,  but  can't                                                               
accomplish it  by age 18.   She  clarified that the  intent isn't                                                               
that youth need to stay in school until age 21.                                                                                 
8:59:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON related  support for the concept  of HB 33.                                                               
However,  as  pointed  out  by Todd  Brocious  in  Attachment  J,                                                               
there's  no  uniform  or  standardized  response  to  truancy  in                                                               
Alaska's public  schools because  such laws are  explicitly given                                                               
to  districts  to  establish   their  procedures.    Furthermore,                                                               
statistics provided by Kelly Foreman,  seem to indicate that this                                                               
may  look good  on  paper but  may not  achieve  exactly what  is                                                               
desired.    Therefore, he  questioned  whether  more than  merely                                                               
raising the bar from age 16 to 18 is necessary.                                                                                 
MS. GARCIA  related her perspective  that raising  the compulsory                                                               
school attendance age  is not the limit of what  needs to happen.                                                               
She  suggested that  there  should  be an  infusion  of funds  to                                                               
schools   to   enhance   the   programs,   enhance   professional                                                               
development   for  educators,   and  enhance   opportunities  for                                                               
families, schools, and community partnerships.                                                                                  
9:01:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  relayed that  every  study  he has  read  suggests                                                               
raising  the  compulsory  attendance   age  in  conjunction  with                                                               
changing the  delivery of education.   However, he  cautioned the                                                               
members with regard to discussions  of other changes because only                                                               
HB 33 is before the committee.                                                                                                  
9:02:03 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON  questioned whether  there is any  merit to                                                               
reviewing Alaska's truancy laws to support HB 33 going forward.                                                                 
MS. GARCIA answered that she  always encourages review of current                                                               
laws with  regard to whether  they're working and if  not, what's                                                               
necessary for them to be more effective.                                                                                        
9:03:05 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  GARCIA, in  response  to  Representative Gardner,  clarified                                                               
that NEA's 12-point  action plan is the national  action plan and                                                               
doesn't   include   NEA-Alaska's   resolution   encouraging   the                                                               
legislature to  develop policies for noncompliance  with Alaska's                                                               
school attendance laws.                                                                                                         
9:04:19 AM                                                                                                                    
JULIE  MACHAKOS, Home  School Parent,  referring to  the previous                                                               
comment that  students should be  allowed the chance  to complete                                                               
education,  said that  children have  a chance  to do  so whether                                                               
it's compulsory or  not.  For the two young  people who testified                                                               
today, it  is apparent that  they have a  reason to be  in school                                                               
and are taking responsibility for  their own education.  However,                                                               
she questioned  whether raising the compulsory  school attendance                                                               
age would  necessarily provide an  18-year-old student more  of a                                                               
reason  to  attend  school  than  a  16-year-old  student.    Ms.                                                               
Machakos further questioned  whether compulsory school attendance                                                               
laws create a desire to learn  in students.  Perhaps changing the                                                               
way things  are done in schools  would make more of  a difference                                                               
than compulsory education.   She noted that she  likes the notion                                                               
of an alternative  school in which students are  very involved in                                                               
their education.                                                                                                                
9:07:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER   commented  that  the  best   thing  that                                                               
students  can have  is caring  parents.   He opined  that it's  a                                                               
dangerous situation  if the  state becomes  the parent  and takes                                                               
over the responsibility of the parent.                                                                                          
MS. MACHAKOS  related her  belief that  for those  children whose                                                               
parents aren't  involved, it's important  for the children  to be                                                               
motivated to learn, which seems to be the case in Juneau's                                                                      
alternative high school.                                                                                                        
9:08:58 AM                                                                                                                    
PEGGY COWAN, Superintendant, Juneau School District, paraphrased                                                                
from a written statement, which read as follows [original                                                                       
punctuation provided with handwritten additions]:                                                                               
     One of the  JSD Board of Education  priorities for this                                                                    
     legislative  session   is  increasing   the  compulsory                                                                    
     attendance  age.   The  Board's  priority statement  on                                                                    
     this issue reads in part,                                                                                                  
     "The current law requires attendance  until age 16.  So                                                                    
     far in the  JSD this year, 46 percent  of dropouts were                                                                    
     under  age 18.    Increasing the  mandatory  age to  18                                                                    
     helps prevent  students who are not  mature enough from                                                                    
     making decisions to forgo  basic education and provides                                                                    
     a  chance for  them to  meet performance  standards and                                                                    
     pass the HSQE [high school qualifying exam]."                                                                              
     We own  the drop  out problem  as a  district.   We are                                                                    
     addressing  the  drop  out  problem  in  our  district.                                                                    
     Since I  became superintendent the graduation  rate has                                                                    
     increased by  22% in  the Juneau  School District.   We                                                                    
     worked with  our borough and established  local truancy                                                                    
     penalties and will continue to  work on the penalty and                                                                    
     enforcement side.  We still have  a ways to go and room                                                                    
     for improvement.   We will continue to do  what we can.                                                                    
     This is a big enough problem  that we need to team with                                                                    
     the state.   At  the policy  level the  legislature can                                                                    
     assist districts  by raising the  compulsory attendance                                                                    
     age and clearly communicating  that the state of Alaska                                                                    
     believes  that education  is important  for all  of our                                                                    
     As   Representative  Wilson   stated,  brain   research                                                                    
     clearly shows  that the judgement portion  of the brain                                                                    
     in a 15-16 year old child is not well developed.                                                                           
     The legislature  will empower parents to  keep their 16                                                                    
     and 17 students in school  with this law.  Now, parents                                                                    
     can NOT  stop their  child from  dropping out  on their                                                                    
     16 birthday.                                                                                                               
     The correlations  with dropping out are  ALL negative -                                                                    
     greater chance  of poverty, ill  health, incarceration,                                                                    
     domestic  violence,  under   employment  and  need  for                                                                    
     costly  public services.   This  is not  the future  we                                                                    
     want for the children of Alaska.                                                                                           
         Misconceptions of dropouts - many students are                                                                         
     successful - passed HSGQE.                                                                                                 
      This is an opportunity for the legislature to take a                                                                      
     stand against the state's high drop out rate.                                                                              
9:12:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  questioned how  the  earlier  student witness  who                                                               
testified to, at the  age of 16, being out of  school for a year-                                                               
and-a-half with no contact from a truancy officer.                                                                              
MS. COWAN acknowledged that there's a  problem in that area.  She                                                               
mentioned  that the  Juneau School  District is  in need  of more                                                               
[truancy officers].   The Juneau School District  has one truancy                                                               
tracker in the district.  Ms.  Cowan explained that truancy is an                                                               
offense at the  state level, but it's difficult to  pursue at the                                                               
state level because the dockets  are so full.  Therefore, truancy                                                               
was changed  such that a ticket  is issued similar to  the ticket                                                               
issued for  [underage] smoking.   The Kenai School  District does                                                               
the  same,  she noted.    School  district employees  can  ticket                                                               
truancy offenses,  she said.   In response  to Chair  Seaton, Ms.                                                               
Cowan  indicated  she  would provide  information  regarding  the                                                               
Juneau    School   District's    truancy   efforts    and   their                                                               
9:13:54 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  inquired as  to the teacher  student ratio                                                               
at Juneau's alternative high school.                                                                                            
MS. COWAN answered that it's the  same as it is in the mainstream                                                               
high school,  26.25:1.   However, the teachers  use a  variety of                                                               
methods, including teaming, to reduce class size.                                                                               
9:14:59 AM                                                                                                                    
CODY  BALDWIN,  Student,  Yaakoosgé  Daakahídi  Alternative  High                                                               
School, related his belief that students  need to be able to know                                                               
how to  use the  freedom they receive.   Changing  the compulsory                                                               
school attendance  age from 16  to 18  years of age  doesn't mean                                                               
these  students will  know  what to  do with  that  freedom.   He                                                               
recalled that of the top  five reasons dropouts identify as major                                                               
factors for  leaving school, the  top reason was  classes weren't                                                               
interesting.   Mr. Baldwin opined  that the first three  years of                                                               
high  school  aren't   particularly  interesting;  the  mandatory                                                               
classes are  not compelling.   He said he didn't  believe raising                                                               
the compulsory school attendance age is going to help.                                                                          
9:16:58 AM                                                                                                                    
JORDON  CURDOW,  Student,  Yaakoosgé Daakahídi  Alternative  High                                                               
School, suggested that  the alternative high school  is well run,                                                               
with  smaller class  sizes that  provide more  individual support                                                               
for students.                                                                                                                   
9:18:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER inquired  as  to what  would  be used  to                                                               
compel a 15-year-old dropout to return to school.                                                                               
MR.  BALDWIN opined  that  having to  be in  school  to obtain  a                                                               
driver's license could be a compelling reason to stay in school.                                                                
CHAIR SEATON encouraged  the students to forward  along any ideas                                                               
regarding how to keep youth in school.                                                                                          
9:19:50 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  surmised that  the students  who testified                                                               
were relating  the positive aspect  of having  additional teacher                                                               
attention.   She asked if there  is a difference in  the teachers                                                               
of the regular  high school versus those in  the alternative high                                                               
MR.  CURDOW replied  yes,  adding that  the  regular high  school                                                               
teachers are biased against those students they dislike.                                                                        
MR. BALDWIN  interjected that  the teachers  at the  regular high                                                               
school don't seem to care about  personal issues.  He said he has                                                               
a connection with  each of his alternative  high school teachers.                                                               
He characterized the alternative high school as a big family.                                                                   
MR. CURDOW  opined that it helps  to have teachers with  whom the                                                               
students can relate.                                                                                                            
9:23:29 AM                                                                                                                    
MARK CHOATE, President, Juneau Board  of Education, Juneau School                                                               
District, related  that last year, despite  efforts otherwise, 57                                                               
percent  of  Native  students [in  the  Juneau  School  District]                                                               
didn't graduate,  commonly referred to  as "pushout."   The state                                                               
average [for  Native students who  don't graduate] is  over 30-35                                                               
percent.  Not  graduating, he opined, takes  away an individual's                                                               
options and future.  More  importantly, not graduating takes away                                                               
the options  and future for society  as a whole.   He highlighted                                                               
that other countries  have an understanding of  the importance of                                                               
education; mastery  of technology is  the key to success  for any                                                               
society, he stressed.  However,  in the U.S. that same importance                                                               
is not  prioritized.  This costs  society across the board.   Mr.                                                               
Choate then turned  to the advantages of youth  staying in school                                                               
and  applauded the  idea of  obtaining  a driver's  license as  a                                                               
reason  to stay  in school.    He also  suggested that  employers                                                               
shouldn't  employ  those  youth   who  aren't  attending  school;                                                               
Juneau's alternative  high school will work  around the schedules                                                               
of its  students.  In  conclusion, Mr. Choate  encouraged keeping                                                               
every child in  school because it's the only way  society will be                                                               
9:27:12 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   SEATON  pointed   out  that   local  school   boards  and                                                               
superintendents control  how education is delivered  in the local                                                               
district.   He then  returned attention to  the top  five reasons                                                               
students  dropout, which  can be  controlled at  the local  level                                                               
point  of   delivery  of  education.     Chair  Seaton  expressed                                                               
difficulty  in  understanding how  forcing  students  to stay  in                                                               
school two more years will impact the outcome of the pushout.                                                                   
9:28:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that HB 33 would be held over.                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
hb 33 material.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 33
HB 33 material II.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 33
HB 94 Materials.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 94
HB 94 Fiscal note.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 94
Taylor Plan Materials 1.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
Taylor Plan Materials 2.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
Needs based scholarship letter from ACPE.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
UA Final Need Based Report.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 94 letter from University of AK president.pdf HEDC 3/13/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 94