Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/22/1993 03:00 PM House HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
  HB 210 - HIRING OF SCHOOL CHIEF ADMINISTRATORS                               
  Number 282                                                                   
  REP. TERRY MARTIN spoke as PRIME SPONSOR of HB 210.  He said                 
  the major purpose of the bill was to allow school districts                  
  more flexibility in using their money, not to take it away.                  
  He noted that, at statehood, most of Alaska's laws                           
  concerning education were modeled after California laws, and                 
  at that time, the state had a few large school districts and                 
  many smaller Bureau of Indian Affairs and military schools.                  
  He noted the movement toward local autonomy and single-site                  
  school districts over the years, but said the state did not                  
  realize the high administrative cost of such districts.  He                  
  said the law requiring a superintendent at each school                       
  district was antiquated and expensive and needed to be                       
  REP. MARTIN noted the St. Mary's school district, which was                  
  attempting to contract out administrative services to get                    
  out from under the high cost of on-site administration.  He                  
  said districts in the Aleutian Islands got a special waiver                  
  allowing them to share a superintendent.  He stated his bill                 
  required school districts to have at least 500 students, or                  
  1,000 under an amendment he said he planned to offer, before                 
  they would be able to hire a superintendent.  He said                        
  smaller districts could hire one superintendent in common.                   
  He noted the Yupiit school district, consisting of three                     
  villages, which now spends 65 percent of its budget for                      
  administrative costs.  He said he receives many calls                        
  supporting individual superintendents, but single-site                       
  school districts are a problem because they cannot spread                    
  out their costs over many different schools.                                 
  Number 355                                                                   
  REP. MARTIN continued, referring to legislative efforts in                   
  1992 to make the Anchorage School District's superintendent                  
  reveal his contract to the public.  When the contract was                    
  made public, it astounded the public with its generous                       
  provisions for the superintendent and his family.  He                        
  encouraged the HESS Committee to use its powers of subpoena                  
  to make public the contracts for more school superintendents                 
  and demonstrate how their ability to negotiate high pay and                  
  benefits was impeding districts' ability to pay for                          
  REP. MARTIN noted one small district in Southeast Alaska                     
  that had among the lowest average teacher salaries in the                    
  state, but also the highest superintendent's salary.  He                     
  said the state had an interest in seeing that state                          
  education funds went to serve children, not administrators.                  
  He said 17 of the state's 54 school districts are in                         
  Southeast Alaska, which has 11 percent of state enrollment.                  
  He asked why a single island needed four different school                    
  districts.  He said Klawock was seven miles from Craig, and                  
  asked why the two districts could not share a                                
  superintendent.  He said HB 210 would eliminate mandatory                    
  single-site superintendents and allow more flexibility.  He                  
  stated the bill would cost the state no money.                               
  Number 386                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE referred to one superintendent whose contract                    
  included payment of expenses for an airplane.                                
  Number 394                                                                   
  REP. JERRY MACKIE testified against HB 210 as the                            
  representative of a district that includes many single-site                  
  school districts.  He said the bill was incredibly                           
  arbitrary.  He said the bill would apply to 40 of the                        
  state's 54 districts, and to all 12 of the school districts                  
  in his district.  He stated he wanted a thorough study of                    
  the bill's effects before passage.                                           
  Number 400                                                                   
  REP. MACKIE displayed maps of Southeast Alaska to                            
  demonstrate to committee members how school districts are                    
  scattered around a large area in communities that have                       
  little in common culturally.  Before any change in the                       
  educational delivery system, he recommended a thorough study                 
  taking into account each district's individual nature,                       
  geographical location, composition of students, and funding                  
  effects of any organizational plan.  He said the bill                        
  attacks non-urban school districts for only one factor,                      
  average daily membership.                                                    
  Number 420                                                                   
  REP. MACKIE said he did not want to see problems fixed                       
  without first identifying the problems.  He commented there                  
  might be some cases in which there might be a possibility of                 
  consolidation of some services to save money, but mandating                  
  the elimination of superintendents for single-site school                    
  districts was inconceivable.  He stated for the record that                  
  HB 210 was a bad bill.  He said school districts needed                      
  someone in charge and the current system was good, and it                    
  needed some improvements.  He said there was a need to cut                   
  spending, and some districts would have to do their part.                    
  Number 444                                                                   
  REP. TOOHEY disputed Rep. Mackie's assertion that Southeast                  
  Alaska communities were all unique enough to warrant their                   
  own different schools, saying that the Girdwood, Mountain                    
  View and Turnagain areas of Anchorage were different, but                    
  each was served adequately under a single Anchorage School                   
  District.  She said the state needed to control its                          
  education expenses, not by cutting teacher salaries.  She                    
  said that while no one liked change, it had to happen, and a                 
  school serving 200 children did not deserve its own                          
  superintendent at $82,000 per year.                                          
  Number 450                                                                   
  REP. MACKIE commented, "That may be fine if it doesn't                       
  affect your district, but lately we're dealing with a lot of                 
  things that affect my district, and I take exception to                      
  REP. TOOHEY said she understood, but she asked Rep. Mackie                   
  how he could justify having four different schools on Prince                 
  of Wales Island, each served by its own superintendent.                      
  Number 458                                                                   
  REP. MACKIE answered that there were four different school                   
  districts on the island, and each needed its own                             
  REP. BRICE asked Rep. Mackie how school districts would hire                 
  and fire superintendents if more than one community were                     
  served by a single school district.  He asked how school                     
  boards would function, and how community input would be                      
  Number 474                                                                   
  REP. MACKIE answered that numbers taken out of context can                   
  lie.  He said he wished he had more time to refute Rep.                      
  Martin's arguments.  He expressed for the record his                         
  personal feeling, on behalf of those he represented, that                    
  HB 210 was bad legislation, and arbitrary, and that there                    
  was life outside of other areas.                                             
  REP. MACKIE said, "These are real people, real children,                     
  real communities, with their own ideas, their own                            
  traditional history, and background in a lot of things.  And                 
  anytime you say, `Oh, yeah, well the numbers say these                       
  superintendents are making too much money, let's stick 'em                   
  all together and we can save 'em all a bunch of money,' I                    
  assure there's a lot of things that, you know, we could take                 
  a look at numbers throughout all the state government and                    
  make that kind of a case, without any regard whatsoever for                  
  how the background and history and how the people in these                   
  communities feel."                                                           
  Number 480                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE said Rep. Mackie had a right, and indeed an                      
  obligation, to state his case.  He said that he viewed                       
  HB 210 as a major change in the educational system, and that                 
  the bill was not on a fast track and would be discussed in                   
  detail.  He said the committee would welcome Rep. Mackie's                   
  help in remaining at the meeting for a thorough discussion                   
  of the issues.                                                               
  REP. MACKIE thanked Chair Bunde and said he hoped that                       
  superintendents could testify on HB 210 to explain their                     
  sides of the issue.                                                          
  CHAIR BUNDE assured Rep. Bunde the bill would have a                         
  thorough investigation.                                                      
  REP. B. DAVIS asked if the committee planned to take action                  
  on HB 210.                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE said the committee would continue to discuss the                 
  REP. B. DAVIS said HB 210 addressed important issues that                    
  should be dealt with by a different bill.  She said                          
  committees have studied the problems of single-site school                   
  districts.  She noted the $100,000 that had been                             
  appropriated to encourage such districts to find ways to                     
  cooperate voluntarily and said the committee should wait for                 
  the report.  She stated that the committee should take a                     
  long time during the interim to deal with the changes that                   
  everyone agreed needed to be made.                                           
  Number 524                                                                   
  SCHOOL DISTRICT, testified in Juneau in opposition to                        
  HB 210.  He said that since his district had been the                        
  subject of bills, debates, and Anchorage Times editorials,                   
  he decided to testify on HB 210.  He said he had been with                   
  the district 19 years, 12 of them as superintendent, during                  
  which time he had seen many changes in the district, of                      
  which he was not frightened.  He said he understood the need                 
  to reduce state spending.  He displayed a map showing the                    
  boundaries of his district, encompassing many islands, which                 
  included 17 schools, eight of them not on Prince of Wales                    
  Island.  He disputed facts asserted in the editorial                         
  concerning the district's use of an airplane.  He said the                   
  district was not laying off English teachers.  He asked                      
  committee members, if HB 210 passed, who would perform the                   
  duties that superintendents are trained and certified by the                 
  state to perform.  He urged the legislature to perform a                     
  comprehensive study before making a misinformed decision on                  
  school district consolidation.                                               
  Number 562                                                                   
  REP. TOOHEY asked if his district had 418 students.                          
  MR. WEINSTEIN said the district served 437 students, at 17                   
  schools, with 418 in 1992.  He said the student body                         
  population had reached 600 students in some years.                           
  REP. TOOHEY asked how many school buildings the district had                 
  and inquired as to their construction.                                       
  MR. WEINSTEIN answered that some of the buildings were old                   
  trailers or converted cook houses, and there were schools in                 
  17 separate communities.                                                     
  TAPE 93-42, SIDE A                                                           
  Number 000                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE asked how many districts would be on Prince of                   
  Wales Island if there were a 1,000 student minimum.                          
  Number 005                                                                   
  MR. WEINSTEIN said he did not know the exact enrollments of                  
  all the single-site school districts.  He said there were                    
  three regional school districts in Southeast Alaska.                         
  CHAIR BUNDE said it was conceivable that all of the island's                 
  districts could be folded into a single district, and all of                 
  southern Southeast Alaska would be folded into a single                      
  REP. VEZEY offered the information that Craig and Klawock                    
  had about 160 or 190 students each, and Hydaburg had about                   
  150 students, making a total of about 520 students.                          
  Number 030                                                                   
  REP. G. DAVIS asked Mr. Weinstein whether his district had a                 
  boarding program.                                                            
  MR. WEINSTEIN said there were several, including the Mt.                     
  Edgecumbe boarding high school in Sitka.  He said there were                 
  programs allowing students from smaller communities to                       
  attend school in Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, Petersburg and                    
  Wrangell, in which boarding families are paid a small fee to                 
  cover the student's living expenses.  He said his district                   
  participated on a limited basis in that program.                             
  Number 048                                                                   
  DISTRICT, testified via teleconference from Craig in                         
  opposition to HB 210.  He said he wanted to retain local                     
  accountability of school districts to their local boards of                  
  education and communities.  He said Craig had 356 students,                  
  not 190.  He stated his duties far exceed those of the                       
  superintendent of the Anchorage School District, but are                     
  typical of a small district superintendent's duties.  They                   
  include teaching senior English, and managing curriculum                     
  development, special education, staff development, finance,                  
  and program development.  He said cutting the                                
  superintendent's job in Craig would not necessarily save                     
  money, as the district would have to hire an additional site                 
  manager or principle.                                                        
  Number 093                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE asked a clarifying question about whether HB 210                 
  would require Craig schools to have two principals.  He                      
  asked the salary differential between a principal and a                      
  MR. HOLST said that a principle was paid about $12,000 per                   
  year less than a superintendent.                                             
  Number 110                                                                   
  SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, testified in Juneau in opposition to                  
  HB 210.  He said that as long as there were separate school                  
  districts, there had to be chief administrators for those                    
  districts.  He remarked it was not a single-site district                    
  issue.  He listed the different responsibilities of rural                    
  school superintendents:  recruiter and supervisor of staff,                  
  budget officer, bus transportation director, special                         
  education director, vocational education administrator,                      
  mandated reporting for DOE, report cards, PL874, enrollment,                 
  reports, audit reports, mandated in-services, physical plant                 
  maintenance, federal programs director, implementation of                    
  strategic plan, conduct long-range plans, curriculum                         
  supervisor, community relations, implementation of school                    
  board policy, classroom teaching, supervision of student                     
  activity, coaching, supervising capitol projects,                            
  supervising summer programs, and meet with parent advisory                   
  committees.  He said it takes a well-trained professional                    
  educator to fulfill all these responsibilities.  He stated                   
  he wanted to discuss the issue further.                                      
  Number 145                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE commented that he might dispute whether it took                  
  a trained professional educator to fulfill those duties.  He                 
  noted that the North Slope Borough (NSBSD), with 2,000                       
  students, had a superintendent to fulfill those functions.                   
  MR. MCPHETRES interrupted to say that the NSBSD                              
  superintendent had supervisors, directors and assistant                      
  superintendents to help carry out those responsibilities.                    
  He said he knew, as he had been superintendent of the                        
  district for 10 years.                                                       
  CHAIR BUNDE asked at what point a district needed an                         
  assistant superintendent.  He said the Anchorage School                      
  District had lots of officials to help the superintendent.                   
  MR. MCPHETRES answered that it depended on the mandated                      
  duties for the superintendent, which made it quite a                         
  subjective question.                                                         
  CHAIR BUNDE said he assumed that each district had the                       
  functions that Mr. McPhetres had earlier listed.                             
  Number 168                                                                   
  MR. MCPHETRES said that a superintendent would need an                       
  assistant in a district with 1,000 students, and a lone                      
  superintendent would be working at his capacity in a                         
  district with 500 students.                                                  
  Number 176                                                                   
  EDUCATION, testified in Juneau in favor of HB 210.  He read                  
  a statement, which is on file in the committee room.  In                     
  summary, the statement said that the DOE believed each                       
  school district, regardless of size, needed a superintendent                 
  or equivalent either directly or in cooperation with another                 
  district, such as was being accomplished in the Aleutian                     
  Region and Unalaska.  He said HB 210 would affect 29 of                      
  Alaska's 54 school districts, and there would be no savings                  
  to the state because the foundation formula is based on                      
  students not employees.  There is no guarantee money saved                   
  on superintendent's salary would not be spent on other                       
  administrative costs.                                                        
  CHAIR BUNDE asked whether the DOE's official position was to                 
  oppose HB 210 and support single-site school districts.                      
  MR. STEPHAN stated, "As it stands, yes."                                     
  Number 200                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE said he believed in the need for                                 
  superintendents, and while the bill supported the role of                    
  superintendents, the committee was deciding how many                         
  superintendents the state should support.  He announced the                  
  committee would not get to HB 174 during that day's meeting                  
  and apologized to those who had come to the meeting to                       
  testify on HB 174.  He said the committee would continue its                 
  discussion of HB 210, though it was likely not to finish                     
  discussing it, either.  He asked Rep. Martin to make a                       
  summary statement, addressing some of the questions raised                   
  about his bill.                                                              
  Number 219                                                                   
  REP. MARTIN said that HB 210 was not meant to save money,                    
  and would not.  But, he stated, it is clear more money is                    
  going for administrators, not children.  He said he wanted                   
  HB 210 and HB 174 considered separately, noting that if the                  
  committee dealt with the issue of the number of                              
  superintendents this year, it could maximize the money used.                 
  He said school boards would not be straddled with                            
  superintendents.  He noted that only two school districts                    
  had taken up the legislature's offer of $100,000 to try to                   
  learn to cooperate and consolidate with each other, and                      
  HB 210 would force districts to share superintendents.                       
  REP. MARTIN described the Yupiit school districts, which                     
  wanted to reduce its 65 percent administrative costs; and                    
  another district which he said was happy to have                             
  consolidated.  He said the high level of state funding even                  
  for school districts would encourage the growth of more                      
  smaller districts.  He noted that the legislature has made                   
  several efforts to address possible consolidation of school                  
  districts, but has been assailed with calls to go slowly.                    
  He said the issue deserved discussion but could not be                       
  delayed indefinitely.  He stated he could not blame any                      
  member of the legislature from crying foul when                              
  consolidation cost his district money.                                       
  REP. MARTIN again encouraged the committee to obtain copies                  
  of superintendent contracts around the state, which might                    
  reveal that the educational funding system was being                         
  misused.  He encouraged passage of HB 210.  He said DOE                      
  statistics showed the true enrollment in state districts,                    
  including the four school districts on Prince of Wales                       
  Island, handle 1,093 children.                                               
  Number 280                                                                   
  CHAIR BUNDE said he would like to hold HB 210 until                          
  Thursday, April 1, 1993, and consider HB 174 on Tuesday,                     
  March 30, 1993, for discussion.                                              
  REP. MARTIN offered information on how much revenue was                      
  available to small school districts, including information                   
  that showed that some small communities were very rich.                      
  CHAIR BUNDE said there was still much work to be done and                    
  noted that the session was in its 72nd day.  He ADJOURNED                    
  the meeting at 4:55 p.m.                                                     

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