Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

01/24/2018 08:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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Audio Topic
07:59:40 AM Start
07:59:47 AM SB131
08:56:50 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony <Time Limit May Be Set> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                SB 131-EDUCATION FUNDING; BUDGET                                                                            
7:59:47 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS announced the consideration of SB 131 and his                                                                     
intention to hear and hold the bill. [SB 131, version 30-                                                                       
LS1106\A, was before the committee.]                                                                                            
8:01:08 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL  JOHNSON, Ph.D.,  Commissioner,  Department of  Education                                                               
and Early Development (DEED), presented  information about SB 131                                                               
and the  Alaska Education  Challenge (AEC).  He said  hundreds of                                                               
Alaskans have participated in the  Alaska Education Challenge. He                                                               
thanked  the   senators  for  their  participation   in  the  AEC                                                               
committees  and said  many Alaskans  may  not know  the depth  of                                                               
their experience  and knowledge of  education in Alaska.  The AEC                                                               
began  around "dissatisfaction  with the  tragic achievement  gap                                                               
that currently  exists in our state  as well as an  optimism that                                                               
together we can  inspire all Alaskans to share a  vision for both                                                               
raising  expectations  and  closing  the  achievement  gap."  The                                                               
result of the AEC  work was more unity than he  had hoped for and                                                               
more  impatience  for  things  to  happen  quickly  than  he  had                                                               
8:04:17 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER   JOHNSON  said   addressing  the   achievement  gap                                                               
includes  two parallel  efforts, the  AEC and  the [federal  law]                                                               
Every  Student Succeeds  Act  (ESSA)  accountability plan,  which                                                               
over 4,000 Alaska  contributed to. Both projects  are designed to                                                               
deliver an  excellent education  to every  student in  the state.                                                               
The three  primary commitments  of the  AEC (1.  Increase student                                                               
success   2.  Cultivate   safety   and   well-being  3.   Support                                                               
responsible  and   reflective  learners)   contain  the   13  AEC                                                               
recommendations   and  the   new   ESSA  accountability   system.                                                               
Commitments come  with action. The  next steps will be  done with                                                               
unity from  partners across  the state who  have agreed  to share                                                               
these commitments.                                                                                                              
8:06:53 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  reported that  DEED has held  meetings with                                                               
partners  to align  current  efficient  practices with  promising                                                               
practices identified within  the AEC and the ESSA  plan. Based on                                                               
that alignment  DEED will work  with each district  and community                                                               
to  implement  the  13 recommendations  and  ESSA  accountability                                                               
system.  "There's no  quick fix  for  the challenges  we face  in                                                               
society  that are  reflected  in our  public  schools," he  said.                                                               
Tribes,  the associations  for school  boards and  administrators                                                               
and the Alaska  National Education Association (NEA)  are some of                                                               
the  organizations  eager  to  partner  with  DEED  to  transform                                                               
education. He  said that he hopes  that in five years  there will                                                               
be students reading who wouldn't have been without this work.                                                                   
8:09:26 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON said  that  a lot  of  emotional energy  is                                                               
expended on  the uncertain  budget process. He  hoped SB  131 and                                                               
the  AEC  would redirect  that  energy  to implementing  tailored                                                               
solutions  to raising  expectations and  closing the  achievement                                                               
gap in the state.                                                                                                               
8:10:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  asked him  to reflect  on problems  districts have                                                               
with hiring teachers.                                                                                                           
8:10:58 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON said  nationally there  is difficulty  with                                                               
recruitment  and retention.  Districts have  varying levels  with                                                               
hiring  difficulty and  the same  with  different subject  areas,                                                               
such as special education, math and science.                                                                                    
8:12:19 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BEGICH asked  what impact  an  earlier education  budget                                                               
process would have.                                                                                                             
8:13:00 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER   JOHNSON  said   certainty  about   funding  allows                                                               
districts   to  be   more  efficient   and  effective   in  their                                                               
recruiting.  Waiting  to  recruit  changes  the  candidate  pool,                                                               
especially  in   rural  Alaska,  because  people   need  to  make                                                               
decisions about where to live for the coming year.                                                                              
8:14:01 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked what an  educational partnership with tribes                                                               
would look like.                                                                                                                
8:16:10 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said he is  excited about what will be great                                                               
conversations   with   tribes.   He  didn't   know   what   those                                                               
partnerships would look  like yet and so didn't want  to make any                                                               
8:17:50 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  GIESSEL  said  early  funding   makes  sense,  but  many                                                               
citizens wonder what  the state is funding, what  kind of results                                                               
is the  state seeing. She  is a big fan  of math and  science but                                                               
reading competency  is more fundamental. Considering  the state's                                                               
bad reading results, she asked what is being done about reading.                                                                
8:19:28 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  said he hopes  in five years there  will be                                                               
students who  are readers because  of the work being  done today.                                                               
There are  places in the state  where it is difficult  to recruit                                                               
reading specialists. In other areas  there are phenomenal reading                                                               
specialists.  Reading  is emphasized  through  the  AEC and  ESSA                                                               
accountability plan.  Alaska's accountability  plan has  a unique                                                               
component to  incentivize schools  to get all  student proficient                                                               
in reading by the end of third grade                                                                                            
8:21:19 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES  said  early funding  would  eliminate  havoc  in                                                               
districts,  but wondered  that if  the bill  were to  pass, could                                                               
there still  be havoc  if districts  and education  advocates who                                                               
were  not  satisfied   with  the  funding  level   tried  to  get                                                               
supplemental  funding in  the final  budget and  would pink-slips                                                               
still be issued.                                                                                                                
8:23:14 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  said early funding would  not eliminate the                                                               
process  or  probability  of  pink-slipping  because  other  Base                                                               
Student  Allocation  factors,  such   as  hold  harmless,  affect                                                               
funding,  but the  pink-slip process  and  planning becomes  more                                                               
8:24:52 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  asked about implications for  changing the fiscal                                                               
year to the calendar year for districts.                                                                                        
8:25:46 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  said  finance   people  could  speak  more                                                               
technically  about  that  idea,  but one  issue  would  be  three                                                               
different fiscal years: district, state, and federal.                                                                           
8:26:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  asked if the  local and  state year could  be the                                                               
calendar year.                                                                                                                  
8:26:58 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  said  the  fiscal year  syncing  with  the                                                               
school year was important.                                                                                                      
8:27:22 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked  if  there  were  other  funding  deadlines                                                               
besides April 1 that would work.                                                                                                
8:27:38 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  said any  time  before  April 1  would  be                                                               
appealing, but April 1 is good.                                                                                                 
8:28:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS said there are  other solutions. He appreciated the                                                               
opportunity to have the bill and discussions on the record.                                                                     
8:28:53 AM                                                                                                                    
TIM PARKER,  President, NEA  Alaska, testified  in support  of SB
131. He  said student  learning is the  center of  what educators                                                               
are  doing  and  requires  strong  relationships  with  students.                                                               
Teachers  get  better  at  that   with  experience.  Last  summer                                                               
district  laid  off  more  teachers than  needed  and  then  many                                                               
weren't there  for rehire.  SB 131  provides certainty.  He noted                                                               
that NEA Alaska is committed to the success of AEC.                                                                             
8:33:32 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. PARKER  said NEA Alaska envisioned  in the next three  to six                                                               
months  engaging all  15,000 educators  in Alaska  about the  AEC                                                               
commitments. ESSA is  part of those same discussions.  The AEC is                                                               
good for Alaskans.  He noted that it was unusual  to have all the                                                               
educational groups  give a big thumbs  up to this plan.  But last                                                               
summer late budgeting  caused many of the  state's best educators                                                               
to leave  Alaska and  districts were scrambling  to hire  in July                                                               
and  August. The  state had  250 open  teaching positions  at the                                                               
start of  year. Passing SB  131 helps  the state retain  its best                                                               
and brightest and prevent other  states from snatching up some of                                                               
the best  educators. An earlier date  than April 1 would  be even                                                               
better. Some states will be hiring teachers next month.                                                                         
8:37:44 AM                                                                                                                    
JACK   WALSH,  Superintendent,   Craig   City  School   District,                                                               
testified  in support  of SB  131.  He said  recruitment is  more                                                               
difficult for  rural school  districts. April 1  is a  good place                                                               
holder for a date. Half of  teachers quit within their first five                                                               
years  and budget  uncertainty makes  it even  more difficult  to                                                               
commit to a career in education.                                                                                                
8:41:39 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. WALSH said rural communities  deserve the best educators, and                                                               
he reassured the committee that  educators every day are thinking                                                               
about how to be better.                                                                                                         
8:44:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MONICA GOYETTE, Ph.D.,  Superintendent, Matanuska-Susitna Borough                                                               
School  District,  testified  in  support of  SB  131.  She  said                                                               
districts  are waiting  too long  to  know what  funding will  be                                                               
available  for  the  next  school  year.  Because  the  budgeting                                                               
process involves  many variables such as  enrollment projections,                                                               
local funding  amounts, and health insurance  renewals, they need                                                               
to  resolve  as many  of  these  unknowns  as soon  as  possible.                                                               
Funding  assurances  are needed  to  recruit  the best  teachers.                                                               
Without knowing funding levels,  Mat-Su has difficulty adapting a                                                               
staffing plan  that aligns with the  anticipated resources, which                                                               
delays  early  hiring  and   retention  of  nontenured  teachers.                                                               
Without  knowing the  state  contribution,  the borough's  school                                                               
board must confront numerous budget  scenarios. She said that she                                                               
would like  the see  the inclusion of  a hold  harmless provision                                                               
for  funding  if  the  April  1  deadline  is  not  met.  SB  131                                                               
represents smart, thoughtful policy that benefits students.                                                                     
8:47:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  asked Dr. Goyette  to speak about the  increase in                                                               
enrollment in the Mat-Su school district.                                                                                       
8:47:19 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. GOYETTE said  the district did not grow as  much as projected                                                               
this year,  but expects to  grow by  about .5 percent,  about 100                                                               
additional  students,  next year.  The  growth  is an  additional                                                               
concern  because  the  longer  the borough  waits  to  hire  more                                                               
teachers, the more limited the pool becomes.                                                                                    
8:48:18 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked  what the growth was for  the current school                                                               
8:48:35 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. GOYETTE said the district had  150 more students, half of the                                                               
projection  of 300  and growth  has  been slowing  down the  past                                                               
decade. The  district is projecting  a growth of  75-100 students                                                               
per year for the next few years.                                                                                                
8:49:12 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES asked where the  new students in Mat-Su are coming                                                               
8:49:25 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. GOYETTE  said the  district is  working on  identifying where                                                               
students are  coming from.  She noted  that many  are transients,                                                               
that 650  students entered  the district,  but 500  left. Poverty                                                               
rates in  Mat-Su are increasing.  Higher income earners  left and                                                               
incoming  families   are  struggling  more.  Three   schools  are                                                               
qualifying  for  Title 1  because  of  poverty rates  that  never                                                               
before qualified.                                                                                                               
8:50:42 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID NEES, representing  self, suggested a change to  SB 131. He                                                               
said  SB 131  has  no guarantee  that it  funds  teachers at  the                                                               
levels of  the previous  year. Early funding  of the  system does                                                               
not  guarantee  that. It  is  a  good  bill,  but it  needs  this                                                               
guarantee to solve the pink-slip issue.                                                                                         
8:53:11 AM                                                                                                                    
LISA SKILES PARADY, Ph.D., Executive  Director, Alaska Council of                                                               
School Administrators, testified  in support of SB  131. She said                                                               
that  her  members,  which include  superintendents,  principals,                                                               
school  business  officials,  and other  administrators,  support                                                               
this  bill,  which  addresses  their  highest  priority:  timely,                                                               
reliable, and predictable revenue.                                                                                              
8:56:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   HUGHES  asked   if  Dr.   Parady   could  provide   her                                                               
organization's thoughts on the suggestion  to include a guarantee                                                               
of the same funding level for teachers in the bill.                                                                             
DR. PARADY said she would.                                                                                                      
8:56:41 AM                                                                                                                    
ACTING CHAIR COGHILL  closed public testimony and held  SB 131 in                                                               
committee for further consideration.                                                                                            

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