Legislature(2019 - 2020)BUTROVICH 205

01/28/2020 09:00 AM Senate EDUCATION

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08:59:30 AM Start
08:59:54 AM SB6
10:23:27 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Teleconference <Listen Only> --
Heard & Held
-- Testimony <Invitation Only> --
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
          SB 6-PRE-K/ELEM ED PROGRAMS/FUNDING; READING                                                                      
8:59:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS  announced the consideration of  SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE                                                               
FOR  SENATE BILL  NO.  6,  "An Act  relating  to early  education                                                               
programs provided  by school districts;  relating to  funding for                                                               
early  education   programs;  relating  to  the   duties  of  the                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development; establishing  a                                                               
reading intervention program for  public school students enrolled                                                               
in  grades kindergarten  through three;  establishing a  literacy                                                               
program  in the  Department of  Education and  Early Development;                                                               
and providing for an effective date."                                                                                           
[SSSB 6, version 31-LS0159\S, known  as the Alaska Reads Act, was                                                               
before the committee.]                                                                                                          
He stated his intention was to focus on the five fiscal notes,                                                                  
and hold the bill for further  review. He asked the bill sponsor,                                                               
Senator Begich, for any comments.                                                                                               
9:00:42 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH noted  that at the last meeting  the committee had                                                               
a lengthy review  of the details in the bill.  It has three major                                                               
components.  One  addresses  early learning,  one  addresses  the                                                               
science- and  evidence-based reading component, and  one provides                                                               
intensive  intervention for  the  lower-performing schools.  From                                                               
the research  his office has  done, the committee  testimony, and                                                               
the work of Senator Hughes  and Representative LeDoux and others,                                                               
he has  learned that to  have a successful reading  program, kids                                                               
need to be prepared  to read when they come to  school. To have a                                                               
successful pre-K program,  a strong reading program  is needed to                                                               
reinforce the gains made  in evidence-based prekindergarten. This                                                               
bill  accomplishes both  of those  tasks. He,  the governor,  the                                                               
commissioner,  and others  have  developed that  concept and  put                                                               
aside political  differences to  make this work  for all  kids in                                                               
Alaska. The  sponsors and  administration want  to make  sure all                                                               
kids have  the opportunity to  succeed. Today the  committee will                                                               
get the  cost of success. He  is hoping that the  committee comes                                                               
away with the idea that a price tag cannot be placed on it.                                                                     
SENATOR BEGICH  said there are  pragmatic ways of  addressing the                                                               
cost of the legislation, but in the  end, if the state is able to                                                               
reduce the number  of kids in special education  and increase the                                                               
ability  of  students  to  move on  to  better  opportunities  by                                                               
providing  those starting  points for  kids, the  change will  be                                                               
transformative  for the  state. There  is no  way to  measure the                                                               
economic  impact of  that. He  said the  committee needs  to hear                                                               
from the  experts and from  those who prepared the  fiscal notes.                                                               
This will help flesh out the bill and answer some questions.                                                                    
9:03:53 AM                                                                                                                    
MICHAEL  JOHNSON, Ph.D.,  Commissioner,  Department of  Education                                                               
and Early Development  (DEED), Juneau, Alaska, said  part of what                                                               
makes  this a  great bill  is that  it reflects  many discussions                                                               
from previous bills  and brings them together  to address reading                                                               
comprehensively.  If  the bill  were  only  pre-K or  only  about                                                               
intervention it  would not be  as strong. The  school improvement                                                               
piece  is also  critical because  it tries  to build  capacity in                                                               
schools that have struggled for decades.                                                                                        
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON said  the  cost  of the  bill  is a  worthy                                                               
investment if  it is  implemented effectively.  It will  make all                                                               
the  other  money  spent  on  public  education  that  much  more                                                               
effective and meaningful in the lives of kids.                                                                                  
9:06:01 AM                                                                                                                    
HEIDI  TESHNER,   Director  of  Finance  and   Support  Services,                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development (DEED),  Juneau,                                                               
Alaska, noted the five fiscal notes  for SB 6 and stated that she                                                               
would start  with Fiscal Note  5, which addresses  the foundation                                                               
program, OMB  Component Number 141,  and Fiscal Note 3,  which is                                                               
for  the fund  capitalization, OMB  component number  2804. These                                                               
two fiscal notes  are what affect the addition  of the four-year-                                                               
olds to the  foundation formula. Fiscal Note 5 has  no money tied                                                               
to it  because this is a  funding mechanism for this  program. It                                                               
is a  general fund transfer  into the Public Education  Fund, not                                                               
the foundation program, which is why it is a zero fiscal note.                                                                  
MS.  TESHNER said  Fiscal Note  3 is  where the  committee starts                                                               
seeing the  money needed  to make  the foundation  program whole.                                                               
This fiscal  note takes the  total amount of projected  state aid                                                               
and divides  it by the  total number of Average  Daily Membership                                                               
(ADM) to  come up  with an  average cost of  ADM. The  bill funds                                                               
students at one-half of that  average, so $4,685 is the estimated                                                               
per student  cost. As  kids flow  through the  formula, districts                                                               
may receive more, depending on  where the school is located. This                                                               
number is  just for  analysis of the  school impact.  Six cohorts                                                               
will  go through  the early  education grant  program. The  first                                                               
cohort would transition  into the foundation formula  in FY 2024,                                                               
after  the district  finished the  initial three-year  grant. The                                                               
assumption is  that all  the programs will  be approved,  and the                                                               
students will transition into the funding formula.                                                                              
MS.  TESHNER  said  that  starting in  FY  2024,  the  foundation                                                               
program  would increase  by $1,724,100.  This  would increase  to                                                               
$4,305,500 in  FY 2025, and  to $6,887,000  in 2026. By  the time                                                               
all cohorts run  through each of the three-year grants  by FY 29,                                                               
the total increase to the foundation program is $17,217,400.                                                                    
9:09:20 AM                                                                                                                    
MS. TESHNER  continued with Fiscal  Note 1, OMB  Component Number                                                               
2912. It  shows the cost  of operating the early  education grant                                                               
program, as  well as  providing the training  and support  to the                                                               
grantees.  The estimate  is three  staff members  to operate  the                                                               
program  and provide  that training  and support.  There are  two                                                               
education  specialist  positions   and  one  education  associate                                                               
reflected  in the  fiscal note.  In  addition to  the salary  and                                                               
benefits costs,  there are department chargeback  costs of $9,600                                                               
per  person  and a  one-time  charge  of  $5,000 per  person  for                                                               
supplies  and equipment  and a  one-time cost  of $6,000  for the                                                               
legal  fees  to  implement  the regulations  tied  to  the  early                                                               
education program. The total estimate for FY21 $401,900.                                                                        
MS. TESHNER said  that Fiscal Note 2, OMB  Component Number 3028,                                                               
shows the cost for the pre-K  program grants. The chart on Page 3                                                               
provides the breakdown  of funding by fiscal year  for the three-                                                               
year grant program.  Table 1 shows that statewide,  the number of                                                               
four-year-olds  is   about  10,000.  The  table   estimates  that                                                               
striving  for a  participation rate  of  88 percent  would be  an                                                               
additional 3,675 students served by  SB 6 [current district pre-K                                                               
number is 3,590 and the number  for Head Start is 1,580]. Table 2                                                               
estimates how many  students would flow through  each grant year.                                                               
Participation in the  grant program by 10 percent  of the lowest-                                                               
performing school districts in Year  1 would be 368 students. The                                                               
cohort of students in the grant program  for Year 2 and Year 3 is                                                               
estimated  to be  551 students  each year  and then  735 students                                                               
each year for Years 4, 5, and 6 for a total of 3,675 students.                                                                  
MS. TESHNER explained that Table  3 shows which cohort would flow                                                               
through the  grant every  year and the  number of  students every                                                               
year. Year 1  would just be Cohort  1, Year 2 would  be Cohorts 1                                                               
and 2,  and Year  3 would  be Cohorts 1,  2, and  3. For  Year 4,                                                               
Cohort 1 would transition to  the foundation formula and Cohort 4                                                               
would start,  joining Cohorts 2  and 3. The total  estimated cost                                                               
for the three-year education grant  year is $1,724,080 in Year 1,                                                               
and $4,305,515 in  Year 2. Once all six cohorts  move through the                                                               
three-year  grant program,  the estimated  total is  $51,652,125.                                                               
Table 4 reflects  the numbers associated with coming  up with the                                                               
foundation  formula  totals.  Those  are also  reflected  in  the                                                               
fiscal  analysis of  those two  fiscal notes.  After all  cohorts                                                               
have  moved through,  the increase  to  the foundational  formula                                                               
would  be $17,217,375  [the  FY2029 cost  of  the pre-K  students                                                               
being included in the foundation formula].                                                                                      
9:14:19 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  TESHNER  said Fiscal  Note  4,  OMB Component  Number  2796,                                                               
addresses the  student school  achievement costs  associated with                                                               
the  school improvement  literacy program  and the  comprehensive                                                               
reading intervention  program. The first program  in the analysis                                                               
is  the   school  improvement  literacy  program.   Through  this                                                               
program,  DEED will  provide direct  support and  intervention to                                                               
district and school  literacy programs. In Year 1, up  to 10 low-                                                               
performing  districts would  be  served by  a reading  specialist                                                               
employed by DEED. Up to 20  schools would be served in the second                                                               
year and  beyond. Depending  on the  size of  the school  and the                                                               
need, either one or two  reading specialists would be assigned to                                                               
each school.                                                                                                                    
MS. TESHNER said DEED anticipates  employing 10 to 20 specialists                                                               
in  Year 1  and 20  to  40 in  the subsequent  years. For  fiscal                                                               
analysis,  the department  maximized the  number of  positions in                                                               
Year 1  with five  additional positions  phased in  annually over                                                               
the following  four years. If  DEED cannot  hire all 20  staff in                                                               
Year 1, the  out years will be adjusted based  on how the program                                                               
is being  implemented. The timing of  the passage of the  bill is                                                               
critical to help DEED hire staff  as soon as possible in FY21, so                                                               
it  can  implement  the  program   quickly  and  efficiently.  In                                                               
addition  to  the salary  and  benefits  costs reflected  in  the                                                               
fiscal  note, the  department chargebacks  are $9,600  per person                                                               
and  a  one-time cost  of  $5,000  per  person for  supplies  and                                                               
equipment, as well  as $6,000 for legal  services associated with                                                               
regulation changes.                                                                                                             
MS.  TESHNER  said the  final  cost  associated with  the  school                                                               
improvement  literacy program  is  the  purchase of  supplemental                                                               
reading  textbooks   and  materials   for  school   districts  in                                                               
connection  with  reading  intervention services.  The  cost  per                                                               
student when adopting  a new reading curriculum  is about $[250].                                                               
With approximately  10,000 students  per grade, there  are 40,000                                                               
students from  kindergarten through  third grade. In  the present                                                               
fiscal year, FY20,  390 schools served K-3 students,  which is an                                                               
average  of 102  K-3 students  per school.  The costs  associated                                                               
with supplemental  reading textbooks would be  $255,000 [for each                                                               
year   of  the   literacy   program,  10   schools   X  102   K-3                                                               
students/school X $.25/student=$255.0].                                                                                         
9:17:35 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  TESHNER added  that the  comprehensive reading  intervention                                                               
program is  the next item reflected  in Fiscal Note 3.  DEED will                                                               
manage and  operate the  program and  provide direct  support and                                                               
training to  all K-3 teachers  on the use of  statewide screening                                                               
or assessment tools.  The staff needed for this  is one education                                                               
administrator,  two  education  specialists,  and  one  education                                                               
associate.  The staff  will  be required  to  participate in  and                                                               
present  at statewide  professional  development conferences,  as                                                               
well as  to provide direct  support to district  staff concerning                                                               
the statewide screening  or assessment tool. For  that, $3,000 is                                                               
needed for travel. In addition  to salary and benefits, there are                                                               
the department  chargebacks of $9,600  per person and  a one-time                                                               
cost of $5,000 for supplies and equipment.                                                                                      
MS. TESHNER  said the comprehensive reading  intervention program                                                               
also  requires the  adoption and  administration  of a  statewide                                                               
screening  or assessment  tool to  identify the  students in  K-3                                                               
with reading deficiencies.  With the 40,000 students  in K-3, the                                                               
annual estimated cost  for the tool is $320,000.  The final costs                                                               
associated with this program are  grants for one staff member per                                                               
district  to attend  a statewide  training for  the screening  or                                                               
assessment  tool.  With 53  districts  and  an estimate  cost  of                                                               
$1,000  per  staff  member,  the cost  is  $53,000.  The  overall                                                               
estimate  is $4,221,700  in  FY 21  to  begin implementation  for                                                               
those two programs.                                                                                                             
9:19:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS asked  for the bottom line of costs  for the entire                                                               
MS. TESHNER answered that in Year  1 it is $6,347,700 and by FY26                                                               
it will be $24,606,000.                                                                                                         
SENATOR BEGICH noted  that he had some  clarifying points because                                                               
the fiscal notes  are complex and Fiscal Note 2  took three years                                                               
to develop. He stated, and  Ms. Teshner affirmed, that the bottom                                                               
line number  for the grants program  is $50 million, but  that is                                                               
spread out  over nine years.  In addition, the grants  program is                                                               
more expensive  than the cost  of kids  being counted as  half of                                                               
the ADM.  He pointed  out, which Ms.  Teshner affirmed,  that the                                                               
impact of  the foundation program is  less than the cost  of kids                                                               
being in  the grants  program because of  the cost  of developing                                                               
the grants program.                                                                                                             
SENATOR  BEGICH   added,  and  Ms.  Teshner   agreed,  that  some                                                               
districts will  be already  qualified to  roll [pre-K]  kids into                                                               
the ADM, so  that could potentially bring down the  impact of the                                                               
fiscal note.                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH  said the total  estimated amount is the  high end                                                               
of the  fiscal note,  with absolutely  no one  in the  system and                                                               
with the need to bring everyone up to speed.                                                                                    
MS. TESHNER added that the maximum possible has to be estimated.                                                                
9:21:46 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH responded that he  is supportive of that. He noted                                                               
that  one  thing  that  cannot  be measured  is  the  savings  of                                                               
potentially keeping kids out of  such things as special education                                                               
and remedial education  later on, as shown by  state and national                                                               
data and research.                                                                                                              
MS. TESHNER said  absolutely. If students are  caught early, they                                                               
will  not  be  classified  as   intensive  students.  That  would                                                               
definitely bring the cost of the foundation program down.                                                                       
CHAIR   STEVENS  said   he  has   heard  that   and  would   like                                                               
confirmation.  He  asked  if  many of  the  students  in  special                                                               
education are only there because of a lack of reading ability.                                                                  
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON replied  it is probably true  in some cases.                                                               
National  studies  show that  sometimes  students  are placed  in                                                               
special  education because  of a  reading issue,  not necessarily                                                               
because  of a  disability. That  is not  true in  every case.  If                                                               
students  are reading  proficiently by  the end  of third  grade,                                                               
they  are  more likely  to  take  dual  credit courses  and  even                                                               
graduate early, further saving the system money.                                                                                
SENATOR  HUGHES asked  for data  showing the  total amount  other                                                               
states  have saved  in special  education costs.  She said  she'd                                                               
also like to see  the grand total for this bill  for one year and                                                               
a number of years broken down  into two buckets for pre-K and for                                                               
reading by the end of third grade.                                                                                              
MS. TESHNER  said in Year  1, it is  a $6.3 million  increase. By                                                               
year 2026, it is a $24  million increase. From FY21 through FY26,                                                               
the total for those years alone is $91.5 million.                                                                               
CHAIR STEVENS asked  Senator Begich if the $50  million figure he                                                               
mentioned was for nine years of pre-K.                                                                                          
SENATOR  BEGICH   said  student   achievement,  or   the  reading                                                               
component, the  first year will be  just over $4 million  and the                                                               
pre-K component will  be about $1.7 million.  The pre-K component                                                               
maxes out in FY 26, when  the largest number of districts will be                                                               
included,  but  by FY29  it  is  zero  because the  pre-K  grants                                                               
program  is  gone  then.  That  runs its  course  and  it  has  a                                                               
termination date  in the  bill because  every district  will have                                                               
had   the  option   to  participate.   The  student   and  school                                                               
achievement component,  the reading  part of the  act, continues.                                                               
It  averages around  $7 million  a year.  That is  the additional                                                               
money necessary to keep the comprehensive reading program going.                                                                
9:26:49 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES  asked for confirmation  that when the  grant runs                                                               
out, the  students are shifted  to the ADM  at the half  rate and                                                               
the ADM will be increased by $17 million.                                                                                       
SENATOR BEGICH  responded that  at the end,  the kids  are rolled                                                               
into the  ADM, which is  less expensive than the  grants program.                                                               
The grants program  is more expensive because the  state wants to                                                               
make sure that districts develop  pre-K programs with the highest                                                               
levels of quality,  similar to the ones  the department currently                                                               
supports and funds. The governor  said he supports early learning                                                               
and  pre-K, but  he  did not  want a  number  of different  pre-K                                                               
programs  with different  standards  or ones  that aren't  really                                                               
pre-K.   Senator  Begich   said   his  response   was  that   the                                                               
commissioner should have  authority to determine what  is a pre-K                                                               
program. Then  those are rolled  into ADM. The whole  approach is                                                               
to  provide  integrity  so  that  when  kids  start  the  reading                                                               
program,  they can  take full  advantage of  it and  lock in  the                                                               
gains made in pre-K.                                                                                                            
SENATOR BEGICH asked Ms. Teshner  if the fiscal notes reflect the                                                               
declining  population of  Alaska  that the  legislature has  been                                                               
hearing about.                                                                                                                  
MS. TESHNER answered no.                                                                                                        
SENATOR BEGICH  said this  is a  substantial investment  in kids,                                                               
but the cost  is spread over nine years and  there are mitigating                                                               
factors  not  reflected in  the  fiscal  notes. Number  one,  the                                                               
population  is  getting older  and  shrinking.  Number two,  over                                                               
time, some  of the  districts will already  include pre-K  in the                                                               
ADM because they have programs  that meet the criteria. That will                                                               
lower  the  grants  outlay. Number  three,  with  fewer  students                                                               
needing remedial education, the  impact on the foundation formula                                                               
will  be less.  The  fiscal notes  are large  but  the costs  are                                                               
spread over time  to provide the full impact of  what the bill is                                                               
trying to do.                                                                                                                   
9:30:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR HUGHES said  it would be helpful to have  data from other                                                               
states  showing how  remedial and  special  education costs  were                                                               
reduced, and data  showing how costs might be  reduced because of                                                               
population  trends for  Alaska. She  expressed concern  about the                                                               
size of the  fiscal note and the idea that  the state would spend                                                               
substantial amounts  to teach kids  to read  by the end  of third                                                               
grade when  some schools are already  doing that and all  of them                                                               
should.  This  state  has  a  $1.5  billion  fiscal  gap,  so  it                                                               
particularly  important  for  the  legislature  to  try  to  find                                                               
SENATOR HUGHES  noted that  he said the  pre-K grants  will phase                                                               
out  and the  ADM  will be  a lower  amount  [than operating  the                                                               
grants].  She asked  if schools  would incorporate  these reading                                                               
interventions into  what they  do or  if this  would be  an added                                                               
cost for the next 20, 30, and 40 years if this becomes law.                                                                     
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  replied the bill  is a small  percentage of                                                               
the $15  billion the state  will spend  on education in  the next                                                               
ten years.  As to whether  the expense  will be ongoing,  he said                                                               
probably yes. The  programs phase in over years  and new students                                                               
will  enter  the  system  every  year with  needs  that  will  be                                                               
addressed through  these programs. In addition  to reading, there                                                               
is  an  ongoing  need  to  address  frequent  turnovers  and  the                                                               
resulting need for teacher training.                                                                                            
9:35:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked  if  the  department  was  taking  on  this                                                               
responsibility with just  an additional three people  and if that                                                               
was reasonable.                                                                                                                 
MS.  TESHNER answered  no. Three  people  would be  added to  the                                                               
department  to  coordinate  the early  learning  grants,  and  an                                                               
additional 10 to 40 reading  specialists would be employed by the                                                               
department to work in the schools.                                                                                              
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked  if  the  10 to  40  specialists  would  be                                                               
department employees.                                                                                                           
MS. TESHNER answered  yes, and there would be  an additional four                                                               
staff for the reading intervention  program. The intention is for                                                               
the  education  administrator  to  be  the  lead  for  the  three                                                               
programs outlined in SB 6.                                                                                                      
CHAIR STEVENS  summarized, and Ms.  Teshner affirmed,  that there                                                               
would be seven staff members working  in the department and 10 to                                                               
40 working in the districts.                                                                                                    
9:37:09 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL asked how many schools are in Alaska.                                                                           
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON answered 505 this year.                                                                                    
SENATOR COGHILL  asked if the  bill would  target underperforming                                                               
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  responded  that   the  program  starts  by                                                               
targeting those schools.                                                                                                        
SENATOR COGHILL asked how many schools are underperforming.                                                                     
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON offered to follow up with the number.                                                                      
SENATOR  COGHILL  said that  would  help  him decide  whether  he                                                               
agrees  with this  policy  call. He  commented  on the  retention                                                               
issue, particularly in rural schools,  and questioned whether the                                                               
state could find that many reading specialists to hire.                                                                         
9:39:24 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON replied  there is  a shortage  of educators                                                               
across  the nation,  so the  recruitment effort  will need  to be                                                               
aggressive and  preferably sooner rather than  later. Some expert                                                               
capacity exists  within the state,  but recruitment will  also be                                                               
out of state.  Regarding the cost, the department  received a $21                                                               
million grant  to build expertise  and funding capacity  and they                                                               
will  look  for  other  federal opportunities  to  support  those                                                               
SENATOR COGHILL said  he needed to understand the  context of the                                                               
target but the  commissioner could talk to him  about that later.                                                               
He  said some  schools are  doing  well and  he did  not want  to                                                               
disrespect that during this process.                                                                                            
CHAIR STEVENS  said the meeting  probably should have  started by                                                               
talking about  how bad things  are. Certainly, there  are schools                                                               
and  districts doing  well, but  when Alaska  is compared  to the                                                               
rest of  the nation,  Alaska is particularly  bad at  reading. He                                                               
asked the commissioner  to comment on that because  it seems that                                                               
the state can only go up.                                                                                                       
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON replied  that  the  National Assessment  of                                                               
Education Progress  (NAEP) is the one  scientific assessment that                                                               
provides   a   true  comparison   across   the   50  states.   As                                                               
disappointing as it  is, Alaska has ranked at the  very bottom in                                                               
fourth   grade  reading   proficiency  in   the  last   two  NAEP                                                               
administrations. He  acknowledged that Alaska does  have kids who                                                               
are  performing  well, but  the  overall  achievement gap  is  an                                                               
uncomfortable fact.                                                                                                             
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON said  there is no reason  Alaska kids should                                                               
not be  at the top  in the nation.  This bill  is a path  to that                                                               
9:44:02 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR COSTELLO  said the effort  and countless hours  that have                                                               
gone  into  the   challenge  of  bringing  kids   up  to  reading                                                               
proficiency  should  not  go   unrecognized.  She  mentioned  her                                                               
constituents in  particular, including families and  teachers and                                                               
educators. She  relayed the  concern she's  heard about  having a                                                               
definition of  a reading specialist  to ensure that this  is what                                                               
the  state hires  for these  positions. She  also asked  what the                                                               
plan  is  if   the  state  is  unable  to   find  enough  reading                                                               
specialists  and what  that will  do to  the fiscal  note in  the                                                               
first and subsequent years.                                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON agreed that  many Alaskans have been focused                                                               
on this  issue for a  long time.  He said reading  specialist and                                                               
several other elements will be  defined in the regulatory process                                                               
that will include  robust stakeholder input. He said  in terms of                                                               
building  capacity, DEED  is already  having conversations  about                                                               
how to  implement the professional  development part of  the bill                                                               
by  partnering  with  other agencies.  He  mentioned  the  recent                                                               
Response to  Intervention conference  and meetings with  SERRC to                                                               
align the comprehensive grant with  the vision that every student                                                               
is reading by third grade.                                                                                                      
9:48:44 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR STEVENS offered his  understanding that reading specialists                                                               
are not  necessarily new hires  or outside people. They  could be                                                               
current teachers with professional development.                                                                                 
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  answered they're both. Some  will hopefully                                                               
be recruited from  within the system and some from  the Lower 48.                                                               
If the  bill passes, then  a conversation  will need to  begin to                                                               
make sure that the university's  teacher preparation programs and                                                               
reading specialist  programs align with what  the legislature has                                                               
said it wants through this reading bill.                                                                                        
9:49:39 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  TESHNER  said  regarding  the   rollover  of  funds  if  the                                                               
department  cannot  hire  all  the  reading  specialists  or  368                                                               
students do  not roll through  the grant program the  first year,                                                               
the department will adjust outyear  requests to true up where the                                                               
department is with implementation of the programs.                                                                              
SENATOR COSTELLO asked the commissioner  if he said that the term                                                               
reading  specialist  will  be   defined  through  the  regulatory                                                               
process, not legislation.                                                                                                       
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  replied, as the legislation  was developed,                                                               
the  conversations  were  that  that   it  would  be  defined  in                                                               
regulation, but it's up to the legislature to decide.                                                                           
SENATOR COSTELLO  asked if other  states with  reading specialist                                                               
legislation define that aspect in statute.                                                                                      
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON offered to follow up with the answer.                                                                      
9:51:14 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BEGICH said  Colorado and other states  have a definition                                                               
for reading  specialist and  he was not  opposed to  putting most                                                               
definitions  in  the  bill  if   necessary.  To  address  Senator                                                               
Coghill's statement about honoring  schools, he said if districts                                                               
have a working pre-K program, which  many do, they can roll those                                                               
kids into  the ADM  without going  through the  three-year grants                                                               
process.  That  is  a  reward   to  those  districts  because  it                                                               
acknowledges that they have already done the hard work.                                                                         
SENATOR BEGICH disclosed that he  runs a scholarship program that                                                               
funds students  in teacher preparation  programs but  his efforts                                                               
on the bill would not benefit him or enhance his income.                                                                        
SENATOR  BEGICH  said  regarding  fund  issues,  the  legislature                                                               
cannot dedicate funds but it  often designates them. He cited the                                                               
example of  legislation related  the raffle and  a change  in the                                                               
percent of market value (POMV)  calculation for deposits into the                                                               
education trust fund that increased  the state income, ostensibly                                                               
for education,  by almost $10  million annually.  The legislature                                                               
cannot dedicate that  money to education, but  the implication is                                                               
that there  is an extra $10  million this year for  education. He                                                               
also  mentioned the  proposed legislation  for an  education head                                                               
tax that  can't specifically  go to education  but it  would show                                                               
legislative  intent  if that  bill  were  to  pass. This  is  not                                                               
uncommon and is  worth remembering as this bill  goes through the                                                               
9:55:05 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  HUGHES described  the idea  of  training technicians  to                                                               
provide medical  services and questioned whether  it was possible                                                               
to  train technicians  to deliver  reading instruction.  She also                                                               
asked  if the  $10 million  the  sponsor described  would be  per                                                               
SENATOR BEGICH  answered that the  change in the deposits  in the                                                               
trust fund now represent an  additional $10 million annually, not                                                               
one-time money. He  said he was guessing at the  numbers, but Mr.                                                               
Partlow  would be  more accurate  in his  presentation about  the                                                               
trust and the raffle.                                                                                                           
SENATOR HUGHES asked the commissioner  if he knew what percentage                                                               
of kindergarteners are not prepared when they enter school.                                                                     
9:58:07 AM                                                                                                                    
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  replied 69 percent, which  is a significant                                                               
number.  Teachers   administer  the   Kindergarten  Developmental                                                               
Profile, which  has 13  categories, and 69  percent did  not meet                                                               
the threshold of being prepared.                                                                                                
SENATOR HUGHES  asked why  the participation  goal is  88 percent                                                               
and not 69 percent.                                                                                                             
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON deferred to Ms.  Teshner to answer about the                                                               
participation rate.  The department goal  is to have  every child                                                               
reading proficiently by the end of third grade.                                                                                 
MS. TESHNER  said the department  is striving to make  sure every                                                               
student  is reading  proficiently.  Last  session Senator  Begich                                                               
reported that some states have  a participation rate around 70 to                                                               
77  percent. The  department is  striving  high. It  can look  at                                                               
whether 70 percent is a better starting point.                                                                                  
SENATOR  HUGHES said  just  as Senator  Coghill  has respect  for                                                               
parents who  are doing a  good job,  she has respect  for parents                                                               
who are doing  a good job. She said if  the participation rate is                                                               
too high,  perhaps there are  kids being  put in the  program who                                                               
could be just as  well or better served at home.  If the state is                                                               
pushing  every  child  in  a  public school  by  age  4,  she  is                                                               
resistant to that.                                                                                                              
SENATOR BEGICH responded  that the bill is based  on the Oklahoma                                                               
bill from about  20 years ago. The  participation goal represents                                                               
the number  of kids who  would potentially be enrolled  in pre-K,                                                               
but the  choice is  up to  parents. It is  not a  mandatory pre-K                                                               
program  and parents  who  would choose  not  to participate  are                                                               
absolutely respected.  He said  he heard that  loud and  clear in                                                               
2017  and  made  sure  pre-K  was  a  voluntary  component,  like                                                               
Oklahoma's.  Some states  with these  laws  have a  significantly                                                               
lower  participation  rate.  Oklahoma  happens to  be  around  88                                                               
percent, so  that seemed  to be  a fair  target if  all districts                                                               
were exposed.  That percentage  is about  how many  parents might                                                               
potentially  enroll their  kids  in pre-K,  not achievement.  The                                                               
bill has other strong elements  to strengthen the parents' voice,                                                               
just as he and the governor agreed.                                                                                             
10:01:54 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  STEVENS  asked  the  commissioner whether  the  10  to  40                                                               
reading  specialists could  be  anything  less than  certificated                                                               
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  replied that could  be defined in  the bill                                                               
but the  intent is  that it  is someone who  is certified  with a                                                               
degree that represents  skill in reading. He noted  that some the                                                               
education  support professionals  who  work in  schools now  have                                                               
been  highly  trained.  To  the  question  about  students  being                                                               
prepared for  kindergarten and participation in  a pre-K program,                                                               
he  said  those are  two  separate  things.  He agreed  with  the                                                               
sponsor that  families should  have the  choice of  sending their                                                               
kids  to  pre-K.  For  budget purposes  they  estimate  how  many                                                               
students will  participate, but that  is different from  how many                                                               
kids are prepared for kindergarten.                                                                                             
CHAIR STEVENS called Michael Partlow to the table.                                                                              
10:04:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MICHAEL  PARTLOW, Fiscal  Analyst, Legislative  Finance Division,                                                               
Alaska  State  Legislature,  Juneau,  Alaska,  said  he  was  not                                                               
prepared to  speak in detail  about the Public School  Trust Fund                                                               
amount but he could speak  generally about trends. He said recent                                                               
changes in  the management of  the fund  has freed up  more money                                                               
for annual  appropriations out of  the Public School  Trust Fund.                                                               
Previously,  earnings from  the fund  were placed  in a  separate                                                               
fund  and   only  those  could  be   appropriated.  This  limited                                                               
potential  investment   vehicles  to  things  like   bonds.  That                                                               
averaged  about  $16 million  over  the  last several  years  for                                                               
appropriations   to   the   foundation  formula   payments   that                                                               
essentially  supplanted  the  UGF  [unrestricted  general  funds]                                                               
MR. PARTLOW  said starting  in 2018,  the fund  was used  to help                                                               
fund  operations  at  Mt.  Edgecumbe.  That  lowered  the  amount                                                               
available to  the foundation but  lowered the UGF  obligation for                                                               
Mt.  Edgecumbe. The  new  percent of  market  value (POMV)  model                                                               
allows different  types of investments which  increased the money                                                               
available for  sustainable appropriation  from about  $16 million                                                               
to $26  million. This year,  the governor included a  $29 million                                                               
appropriation out  of that fund  for the foundation. He  said the                                                               
governor proposed  funding Mt. Edgecumbe  funded with UGF  so the                                                               
Public  School  Trust  Fund earnings  would  be  appropriated  go                                                               
towards  foundation  funding.   The  education  raffle  mentioned                                                               
earlier is a new source of  funds. Unlike the Public School Trust                                                               
Fund  that is  used to  supplant UGF,  education raffle  funding,                                                               
which  now  is budgeted  at  $488,000,  is considered  additional                                                               
money outside of the formula.                                                                                                   
SENATOR  BEGICH observed  that after  this year,  he was  hopeful                                                               
that the  state would  make a  raffle announcement  before filing                                                               
for PFDs begins.                                                                                                                
10:08:21 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS  noted that Karen Melin,  DEED Deputy Commissioner,                                                               
and  Tamara  Van  Wyhe,  Director  of  Innovation  and  Education                                                               
Excellence, were  available online  for any questions.  He opened                                                               
public testimony.                                                                                                               
10:09:09 AM                                                                                                                   
JUDY ELEDGE,  representing self, Anchorage, Alaska,  said she has                                                               
been in education since 1981 in  Alaska and in rural Alaska since                                                               
1997. She retired  in 2003 and has  worked off and on  as a state                                                               
coach consulting with the lowest  performing school districts, so                                                               
she is very aware of what the  state needs and does not need. She                                                               
said she has  not always been a proponent of  preschool, but when                                                               
students come to school without  the oral language needed for the                                                               
kindergarten curriculum,  it is extremely difficult.  If the bill                                                               
is implemented correctly,  she supports it although  cost will be                                                               
an  issue  for  some.  She  mentioned  retirees  working  in  the                                                               
coaching program and  pointed out that retired teachers  may be a                                                               
valuable resource.                                                                                                              
CHAIR STEVENS  asked if retired  teachers could serve as  some of                                                               
the reading specialists.                                                                                                        
MS.  ELEDGE  answered  yes.  Right   now,  the  coaching  program                                                               
consists mostly of  retired teachers who work  for the department                                                               
on contract with low-performing schools.                                                                                        
SENATOR COSTELLO asked how a low-performing school is defined.                                                                  
MS.  ELEDGE replied  that  is based  on data  from  DEED on  test                                                               
scores and other criteria. The  federal government also has a lot                                                               
of the identifiers of low-performing schools.                                                                                   
SENATOR   COSTELLO  asked   if  this   bill  were   enacted,  how                                                               
legislators  would  know whether  it  is  working  and if  it  is                                                               
MS.  ELEDGE replied  that  she would  defer  to the  commissioner                                                               
because  she has  had  an  issue with  how  money  is spent  with                                                               
seemingly no accountability.                                                                                                    
10:12:22 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR BEGICH reported that conversations  with Ms. Eledge about                                                               
accountability  have  helped  enhance  the bill.  He  noted  that                                                               
Senator Hughes raised  the same questions in  an earlier hearing.                                                               
He said the  bill has a defined research component  to track what                                                               
districts  are doing  and whether  they  are meeting  benchmarks.                                                               
Further, the  reporting requirement  in the  bill will  help show                                                               
how  the  bill  is  being  implemented.  He  said  the  governor,                                                               
commissioner,  and  he  felt   the  research  and  accountability                                                               
components were critical parts of the bill.                                                                                     
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON offered to follow  up with a presentation on                                                               
DEED's accountability  system if the committee  was interested in                                                               
the  elements.  Accountability  that   is  built  into  the  bill                                                               
includes  schools   and  districts  reporting  outcomes   on  the                                                               
Internet, that specialists are certified  and that the definition                                                               
will be in  regulation, and that reading  specialists will report                                                               
to  the  department. Transparency  is  ensured  with postings  on                                                               
district and the department web sites.                                                                                          
MS.  Eledge said  it's exciting  that  the bill  builds a  strong                                                               
system of  comprehensive support  because that has  been lacking.                                                               
She  stated  support  for  the  commissioner  and  described  the                                                               
excitement evident at  a recent conference from  states that have                                                               
received federal grants.                                                                                                        
SENATOR HUGHES described Ms. Eledge  as a miracle worker and said                                                               
she was  pleased that she was  going to be part  of this process.                                                               
She   clarified  her   earlier   comment  about   technician/aide                                                               
certification saying  that should be  an option if the  state has                                                               
trouble keeping  certified teachers. She  also asked if  the bill                                                               
ties  district reporting  to their  funding, and  if some  of the                                                               
coaches  working on  contract might  be  retired teachers,  which                                                               
would not add costs to the retirement system.                                                                                   
10:17:26 AM                                                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON answered that  districts have to demonstrate                                                               
that they  have a  quality pre-K to  fund those  students through                                                               
the Base  Student Allocation. For  the foundation  formula, there                                                               
is no mechanism in state law  to withhold funding from a district                                                               
because  of  performance.  No Child  Left  Behind  had  financial                                                               
implications  for  schools  that   were  low  performing  for  an                                                               
extended time.  Most of that changed  with ESSA, so there  are no                                                               
financial penalties. Quality and  success have to be demonstrated                                                               
to  access  some   of  the  money  for  pre-K.   For  the  school                                                               
improvement piece, access  to the money is based  on a memorandum                                                               
of agreement  between the department  and the school  for certain                                                               
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON said  Ms.  Teshner may  be  able to  answer                                                               
whether  the  fiscal  note represents  a  PCN  [position  control                                                               
number] or contract. He agrees  that many retired teachers in the                                                               
state are  able to  add expertise and  experience. He  noted that                                                               
the legislature  also passed a  retire/rehire bill that  could be                                                               
CHAIR  STEVENS  observed that  Table  2,  3-Year Early  Education                                                               
Grant Cycle--District  Eligibility, for  Fiscal Note  2 indicates                                                               
that 2021  would include the  lowest 10 percent of  districts. He                                                               
asked if that is the right number.                                                                                              
10:19:59 AM                                                                                                                   
COMMISSIONER  JOHNSON  asked  if  he was  asking  why  the  grant                                                               
program  is  phased  in  with  different  percentages  of  school                                                               
districts participating each year.                                                                                              
CHAIR STEVENS answered  yes and asked for  help understanding the                                                               
reasons for involving the different percentages.                                                                                
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON  replied the bill recognizes  that to ensure                                                               
quality,  the  recruitment,  retention,  and  training  needs  to                                                               
happen by phasing the program in over a number of years.                                                                        
CHAIR STEVENS  restated that  the commissioner  thinks that  is a                                                               
reasonable pace  to make sure  the state achieves the  success it                                                               
COMMISSIONER JOHNSON confirmed that  he thought it reasonable and                                                               
added that it could be said  to be ambitious given the challenges                                                               
the state has.                                                                                                                  
10:22:03 AM                                                                                                                   
1. CHAIR  STEVENS   said   the   committee  will   have   further                                                               
   opportunities for public testimony. After ascertaining that no                                                               
   one else in the audience wanted to testify, he asked for any                                                                 
   comments from the committee.                                                                                                 
SENATOR  COSTELLO  commented  that  the  bill  uses  reading  and                                                               
literacy throughout  and almost interchangeably, but  she'd never                                                               
had a  parent say their  child was having trouble  with literacy.                                                               
Instead,  parents   just  mention   trouble  with   reading.  She                                                               
providing definitions  so the  committee knows  what is  meant by                                                               
the word reading and what is meant by the term literacy.                                                                        
10:23:22 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR STEVENS held SB 6 in committee.