Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 106

04/18/2006 11:00 AM EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
11:12:32 AM Start
11:12:52 AM the Whole Village Project - Presented by Alyeska Worldwide
12:19:19 PM HB228
12:35:31 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ The Whole Village Project - Presented by TELECONFERENCED
Alyeska Worldwide
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 228-PUPIL-TEACHER RATIO GRADES K-3                                                                                         
[Includes brief mention of HB 247.]                                                                                             
12:19:19 PM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR NEUMAN announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  228, "An  Act imposing  a maximum  pupil-teacher                                                               
ratio for grades kindergarten through three in public schools."                                                                 
12:19:53 PM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE JIM HOLM, Alaska  State Legislature, as sponsor of                                                               
HB 228, expressed his belief  that the education system in Alaska                                                               
is not satisfying  the educational needs of children  and that it                                                               
is structurally unsound.  He  highlighted that studies have shown                                                               
those children  who do not read  well by the third  grade are not                                                               
as  successful.   Even  with  technology  available to  them,  he                                                               
opined  that children  must learn  to think  for themselves.   He                                                               
relayed that  HB 228 would  change the pupil teacher  ratio (PTR)                                                               
in  the  lower  grades  and  could address  such  problems  as  a                                                               
teacher's  inability to  control the  classroom.   He noted  that                                                               
those  teachers who  must spend  more time  with unruly  students                                                               
have less time to teach  well-behaved students.  Additionally, he                                                               
remarked that lowering student numbers  would allow more time for                                                               
teachers to  spend with parents  at conferences.  He  provided an                                                               
example of one district's way  of addressing class size reduction                                                               
by highlighting  the Flex  schedule used  at the  Fairbanks North                                                               
Star Borough  Schools for some  of its kindergarten classes.   He                                                               
explained  that the  system  features two  small  class sizes  of                                                               
fewer  than 20  students -  one  in the  morning and  one in  the                                                               
afternoon -  with a  small, overlapping period  in the  middle of                                                               
the  day combining  all students  for such  activities as  lunch,                                                               
recess, music, or gym.  In  conclusion, he stated, "It's a simple                                                               
bill and yet it's not a simple problem."                                                                                        
12:27:21 PM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR NEUMAN referred to HB  247, Representative Croft's proposed                                                               
legislation on  class size reduction, presented  to the committee                                                               
last month.   In  response to  the possible  cost and  whether it                                                               
would be  another unfunded  mandate to  the school  districts, he                                                               
relayed  that Representative  Croft  had  informed the  committee                                                               
that  his legislation  involved voluntary  participation.   Chair                                                               
Neuman requested  Representative Holm provide the  committee with                                                               
comparisons between the  two bills and to address  whether or not                                                               
his legislation was an unfunded mandate.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM suggested he  would tell districts, "We won't                                                               
let you  not do  it."  He  opined that "[large  class size]  is a                                                               
singular  causation  of poor  performance"  and  that "it's  more                                                               
important to build those foundations  for those young children of                                                               
Alaska."   He expressed  his belief that  addressing this  is far                                                               
more  important than  consideration of  the cost  to do  so.   He                                                               
remarked that  up to 35  percent of funds  has been added  to the                                                               
system  but asked  whether  the funds  are  being directed  where                                                               
needed.    He expressed  his  belief  that with  the  performance                                                               
standards set by  No Child Left Behind (NCLB), "we  need to raise                                                               
the children's abilities,  and to [do this],  smaller class sizes                                                               
are  absolutely  imperative."   In  response  to  Chair  Neuman's                                                               
question regarding  the need  to add  teachers and  classrooms to                                                               
accommodate  any [overflow]  of  students, he  opined that  these                                                               
decisions  would have  to  be made  at the  district  level.   He                                                               
informed the committee  that his proposed class size  limit of 20                                                               
students is  higher than he'd  like because of  the ramifications                                                               
of costs to implement the change.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  commented on the number  of bills introduced                                                               
every  year to  address  lowering class  size  and the  available                                                               
research  showing that  class  size must  be  somewhere below  20                                                               
[students] in order to make a real difference.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  HOLM said  he  agrees with  this  and stated  his                                                               
interest in having the dialogue  that says, "this is something we                                                               
can fix; this  is something we legislatively can  set in policy."                                                               
He opined  that district decisions are  more apt to be  guided by                                                               
available funding  and yet priority  should be given  to ensuring                                                               
that performance standards are met.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE GARA, in noting that  available research has shown                                                               
"merely reducing class size from 25  to 20 is an ineffective form                                                               
of implementation," said  that before large amounts  of funds are                                                               
spent, he  would like to  see the  legislation crafted in  such a                                                               
way to  ensure it would really  make a difference.   He expressed                                                               
his  hope  that Representative  Holm  would  consider drafting  a                                                               
sponsor substitute to reduce class size to 17 students.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE HOLM  informed the committee  that he is  "not set                                                               
in  stone"  as to  what  the  actual  number is  and  appreciated                                                               
Representative Gara's suggestion.                                                                                               
CHAIR NEUMAN announced that HB 228 would be held over.                                                                          

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