Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

04/01/2009 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

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08:00:57 AM Start
08:01:39 AM Confirmation Hearing(s)|| Professional Teaching Practices Commission
08:13:57 AM HB197
09:34:41 AM HB204
10:04:21 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
+ Confirmation Hearings: TELECONFERENCED
Board of Education, Professional Teaching
Practices Commission
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE EDUCATION STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                         April 1, 2009                                                                                          
                           8:00 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Paul Seaton, Chair                                                                                               
Representative Cathy Engstrom Munoz, Vice Chair                                                                                 
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative Wes Keller                                                                                                       
Representative Peggy Wilson                                                                                                     
Representative Robert L. "Bob" Buch                                                                                             
Representative Berta Gardner                                                                                                    
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S)                                                                                                         
Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                                    
     Linda Lee Gilliam Black - Anchorage                                                                                        
     Louis Pondolfino - Anchorage                                                                                               
     - CONFIRMATION(S) ADVANCED                                                                                                 
HOUSE BILL NO. 197                                                                                                              
"An Act establishing minimum standards for open enrollment                                                                      
virtual charter schools; and relating to student count estimates                                                                
and facilities constituting a school."                                                                                          
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
HOUSE BILL NO. 204                                                                                                              
"An Act increasing the number of students pursuing a medical                                                                    
education who are provided postsecondary educational services                                                                   
and programs; and providing for an effective date."                                                                             
     - HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                           
CONFIRMATION HEARING(S)                                                                                                         
Board of Education                                                                                                            
     Carol Schaeffer - Kotzebue                                                                                                 
     - SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                  
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 197                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOLS                                                                                            
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) KELLER                                                                                            
03/23/09       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/23/09       (H)       EDC, FIN                                                                                               
04/01/09       (H)       EDC AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
BILL: HB 204                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: POSTSECONDARY MEDICAL EDUC. PROG.                                                                                  
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) DAHLSTROM                                                                                         
03/23/09       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/23/09       (H)       EDC, FIN                                                                                               
03/30/09       (H)       EDC AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
03/30/09       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
03/30/09       (H)       MINUTE(EDC)                                                                                            
04/01/09       (H)       EDC AT 8:00 AM CAPITOL 106                                                                             
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
LINDA LEE GILLAM BLACK, Appointee                                                                                               
Professional Teaching Practices Commission (PTCP)                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  As appointee to the Professional Teaching                                                                
Practices Commission (PTPC), provided background and answered                                                                   
LOUIS PONDOLFINO, Appointee                                                                                                     
Professional Teaching Practices Commission (PTPC)                                                                               
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  As appointee to the Professional Teaching                                                                
Practices Commission (PTPC), provided background and answered                                                                   
JIM POUND, Staff                                                                                                                
Representative Wes Keller                                                                                                       
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  During hearing on HB 197, answered                                                                       
questions on behalf of the prime sponsor, Representative Keller.                                                                
EDDY JEANS, Director                                                                                                            
School Finance                                                                                                                  
Department of Education and Early Development (EED)                                                                             
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided testimony on HB 197.                                                                            
NARDA BUTLER, Chair                                                                                                             
Academic Policy Committee                                                                                                       
Frontier Charter School                                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Expressed concerns with HB 197.                                                                          
TIM SCOTT, Principal                                                                                                            
Frontier Charter School                                                                                                         
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Expressed concerns with HB 197.                                                                          
ALLISON POWELL                                                                                                                  
International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL)                                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT:  During the hearing of HB 197, offered                                                                    
information about iNACOL.                                                                                                       
KIKI ABRAHAMSON, President                                                                                                      
Alaska Charter Schools Association (ACSA);                                                                                      
Fireweed Academy                                                                                                                
Homer, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  During the hearing on HB 197, reminded the                                                               
committee of the equity issues related to funding that already                                                                  
exist in Alaska's existing schools.                                                                                             
SAM DIX, Staff                                                                                                                  
Representative Nancy Dahlstrom                                                                                                  
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Presented CSHB 204, Version R, on behalf of                                                              
the prime sponsor, Representative Dahlstrom.                                                                                    
ALICE RARIG, Planner IV                                                                                                         
Department of Health and Social Services (HSS)                                                                                  
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Responded to questions on HB 204.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE NANCY DAHLSTROM                                                                                                  
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Spoke as the prime sponsor of HB 204.                                                                    
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:00:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR PAUL  SEATON called the House  Education Standing Committee                                                             
meeting  to order  at 8:00  a.m. Representatives  Seaton, Wilson,                                                               
Edgmon, Gardner,  Buch, and  Keller were present  at the  call to                                                               
order.    Representative Munoz  arrived  as  the meeting  was  in                                                               
^CONFIRMATION HEARING(S)                                                                                                      
^Professional Teaching Practices Commission                                                                                   
8:01:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
the confirmation  hearing for the appointees  to the Professional                                                               
Teaching Practices Commission.                                                                                                  
8:02:22 AM                                                                                                                    
LINDA   LEE  GILLAM   BLACK,  Appointee,   Professional  Teaching                                                               
Practices  Commission, informed  the committee  that she  retired                                                               
after 30  years with the  Anchorage School District and  has been                                                               
teaching  at the  Alaska  Pacific University  for  the past  five                                                               
years.   Ms.  Black noted  that she  has served  on the  PTPC for                                                               
three years  and this would be  a reappointment.  In  response to                                                               
Representative Gardner,  Ms. Black related  that she was  born in                                                               
8:03:48 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON inquired as to  why Ms. Black is interested                                                               
in serving on the PTPC.                                                                                                         
MS. BLACK  responded that the  PTPC plays an important  role with                                                               
regard to the  ethics of the profession, including  when a breach                                                               
of ethics  has occurred.   She opined that the  aforementioned is                                                               
very critical in terms of teacher preparation.                                                                                  
8:04:50 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON asked  if the  PTPC has  a role  in promoting  that                                                               
education be presented to students in  a relevant way in order to                                                               
address the drop-out rate.                                                                                                      
MS. BLACK responded that PTPC's  primary focus is on professional                                                               
ethics,  although she  opined that  everyone has  a role  to play                                                               
with regard  to making  education relevant to  youth in  order to                                                               
avoid dropouts.   She characterized making  education relevant to                                                               
youth  as  a more  general  professional  obligation rather  than                                                               
specific to PTPC.                                                                                                               
CHAIR SEATON expressed  his hope that the PTPC  would promote the                                                               
general  professional   standards  that  would   [make  education                                                               
relevant to  Alaska's youth].   He noted  that the  committee has                                                               
been  trying to  address [making  education relevant  to Alaska's                                                               
8:07:21 AM                                                                                                                    
LOUIS  PONDOLFINO,  Appointee,  Professional  Teaching  Practices                                                               
Commission (PTPC),  informed the  committee that he  is currently                                                               
the Service High School principal and  has been for the last five                                                               
years.   Prior  to his  existing position,  he was  the assistant                                                               
principal at East  High School for three years and  prior to that                                                               
a  middle  and  high  school  teacher  in  the  Anchorage  School                                                               
District  for ten  years.    Mr. Pondolfino  related  that he  is                                                               
interested in  serving on  the PTPC  because he  wants to  have a                                                               
positive  influence  on  the teaching  profession  and  represent                                                               
Alaskans on matters that concern the teaching profession.                                                                       
8:08:53 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON related  her  observation that  classrooms                                                               
have  an  antiquated  appearance.   Furthermore,  it  seems  that                                                               
children are being  taught much the same way that  they have been                                                               
for  many years,  she  opined.   Therefore,  she  inquired as  to                                                               
whether  Mr. Pondolfino  believes some  changes are  necessary or                                                               
MR. PONDOLFINO opined  that there are many things  that work well                                                               
and  always have  worked well.   Interestingly,  he related  that                                                               
often those in  the teaching profession have  faced the criticism                                                               
that teachers don't  teach like they once did and  are asked why.                                                               
He said  that teachers have  to be progressive in  their thinking                                                               
as they are preparing students  for jobs that aren't even created                                                               
yet.   At Service  High School things  do appear  quite different                                                               
than when  he was  in school  30 years  ago, particularly  in the                                                               
area  of technology.    In terms  of programs,  the  focus is  on                                                               
relevance and  trying to  keep students  engaged by  showing them                                                               
what  they do  at school  is relevant  to life  after graduation.                                                               
Every student  at Service High  School fills  out post-graduation                                                               
plans each  fall and teachers  address them  in the spring.   Mr.                                                               
Pondolfino  pointed  out  that   although  what's  on  the  post-                                                               
graduation plan isn't so important  since it may change, the fact                                                               
that there  is a  plan is  important.  Also,  an effort  is being                                                               
made  to bring  back career  and technical  education, which  was                                                               
lost when funds were diverted  to technology and computers in the                                                               
1980s.   The monumental  task before educators  is to  figure out                                                               
the job market in the next generation.                                                                                          
8:12:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  said  she was  impressed,  and  expressed                                                               
interest in all  high schools taking on efforts  similar to those                                                               
at Service High School.                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  recalled that her children  attended East                                                               
High School  when Mr.  Pondolfino was there.   She  also recalled                                                               
that her  family, the East High  School staff, and the  East High                                                               
School student body had a good opinion of Mr. Pondolfino.                                                                       
8:13:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  moved to  advance the  names of  Linda Lee                                                               
Gilliam  Black  and  Louis Pondolfino  for  confirmation  to  the                                                               
Professional   Teaching   Practices   Commission  to   the   full                                                               
legislature for consideration.  There  being no objection, it was                                                               
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
HB 197-VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOLS                                                                                                
8:13:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 197, "An  Act establishing minimum  standards for                                                               
open enrollment virtual charter  schools; and relating to student                                                               
count estimates and facilities constituting a school."                                                                          
8:15:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER, speaking  as the prime sponsor  of HB 197,                                                               
highlighted that Alaska  has a challenge since 37  percent of the                                                               
state's schools  have less than  100 students and are  located in                                                               
rural  remote  settings.   However,  the  solution  of  education                                                               
technology  has been  available for  a  number of  years now,  as                                                               
related in the 2006 Legislative  Resolve 43.  Legislative Resolve                                                               
43 served  as the backdrop  for HB  197.  Technology,  he opined,                                                               
mitigates  the impact  of distance  and time.   In  fact, in  the                                                               
Lower 48  there's a  47 percent  increase in  the use  of on-line                                                               
courses   by   educators   across    the   nation   since   2006.                                                               
Representative Keller explained  that the idea with HB  197 is to                                                               
create  open enrollment  virtual charter  schools with  standards                                                               
that raise the bar a bit,  particularly for those in rural areas.                                                               
He  stated  that   HB  197  won't  change   anything;  it  merely                                                               
establishes a  standard for  these virtual  charter schools.   He                                                               
noted that  he has  asked the Department  of Education  and Early                                                               
Development (EED) to  help with the language in  the last section                                                               
of  HB 197,  to  which EED  agreed.   The  legislation, which  he                                                               
characterized  as  fairly  simple,  assures that  there  is  open                                                               
enrollment for  charter schools with  on-line access  to courses,                                                               
records, and individual  learning plans.  The  school boards will                                                               
be  consulted  regarding  how  best   to  form  these  individual                                                               
learning plans, monitoring  the process of the  students, and the                                                               
assessment process.   He characterized it as  a charter contract.                                                               
Representative  Keller   expressed  interest  in   the  committee                                                               
helping him to refine the  standards for virtual charter schools.                                                               
He then  pointed out  that there will  be a  conceptual amendment                                                               
necessary  to address  the portion  of the  legislation regarding                                                               
when student counts  are performed due to the  open enrollment of                                                               
these charter schools.                                                                                                          
8:19:38 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER,  in  response to  Representative  Wilson,                                                               
explained that typically most schools  aren't open year round for                                                               
enrollment.  Therefore,  students may enroll at  certain times of                                                               
the year  when they wouldn't  be counted in that  schools student                                                               
count.   In  such  cases, the  enrolling  school doesn't  receive                                                               
funding for the student who enrolled after open enrollment.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  opined that  such happens in  all schools.                                                               
She  related that  she  knows  of a  school  that received  three                                                               
intensive needs  students after the  student count, and  thus the                                                               
school never received funding for those students.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  requested that  discussion on  that matter                                                               
be held once the conceptual amendment is offered.                                                                               
8:21:13 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER, completing  his presentation  of HB  197,                                                               
explained that  the next to  the last section of  the legislation                                                               
specifies that  part-time students in an  open enrollment charter                                                               
school  will  not  be  counted in  the  districts  average  daily                                                               
membership  (ADM).   The very  last section  of HB  197 could  be                                                               
deleted,  he  noted, and  the  legislation  would still  be  very                                                               
valuable.   He  opined  that a  virtual  open enrollment  charter                                                               
school likely  won't have as  much difficulty reaching  a minimum                                                               
size  as  would  a  smaller   district.    Representative  Keller                                                               
explained that  since standards for  the open  enrollment virtual                                                               
charter  schools  are  going  to be  set  higher  than  [existing                                                               
schools], perhaps then any school  meeting these higher standards                                                               
could  qualify  with  a  smaller [ADM].    However,  penning  the                                                               
language to that  effect became difficult, which is  why he asked                                                               
EED for help.                                                                                                                   
8:23:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ surmised then that one  goal of HB 197 is to                                                               
allow existing  schools to increase  enrollment by  providing on-                                                               
line services outside of the district.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER clarified  that is the intent  of the first                                                               
section  of HB  197, while  the last  section is  to include  any                                                               
charter  or alternative  school  that would  choose  to meet  the                                                               
standards of the open enrollment charter school.                                                                                
8:23:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ further  surmised that  HB 197  would allow                                                               
existing schools  to provide their  curriculum statewide  as well                                                               
as new virtual charter schools.                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  further  clarified that  the  legislation                                                               
would  allow a  district that  forms an  open enrollment  virtual                                                               
charter school to offer those  courses across the state, not just                                                               
any school.                                                                                                                     
8:24:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  asked then  whether existing  schools would                                                               
be able to  offer their existing curriculum on-line  in a virtual                                                               
charter school.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  answered that  there is no  restriction on                                                               
8:24:42 AM                                                                                                                    
JIM  POUND,  Staff,  Representative   Wes  Keller,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, specified that  essentially existing charter schools                                                               
would be  able to expand  into the virtual capability  by meeting                                                               
the standards set out in HB 197.                                                                                                
8:25:14 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  remarked that  he believes  the state  is on                                                               
the cusp of some revelations,  with [virtual education] being one                                                               
of  them.   He thanked  the  sponsor for  his efforts.   He  then                                                               
directed  attention  to the  sectional  analysis  for Section  1,                                                               
which specifies  that the open enrollment  virtual charter school                                                               
will  exceed  the  minimum high  school  graduation  requirements                                                               
through  direct engagement  with  the student  and the  student's                                                               
parent to establish a learning plan.   He inquired as to where in                                                               
the legislation it requires some sort of contact.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER explained  that  in order  to  be an  open                                                               
enrollment  charter school,  there has  to be  a plan  or charter                                                               
with the school  board.  What the plan or  charter has to include                                                               
is specified  on page 2,  lines 10-14, including:   "if possible,                                                               
the  student's  parents,  in the  development  of  the  student's                                                               
individualized learning plan".                                                                                                  
8:27:31 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  acknowledged that language, but  opined that                                                               
it isn't  direct contact, which  he interpreted to  mean face-to-                                                               
face or ear-to-ear.  He further  acknowledged that the idea is to                                                               
be in  a virtual environment.   However, he expressed  his desire                                                               
for there to be assessment  capabilities whereby there is a means                                                               
to assess the ongoing contact required.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER stated  that the intent is to  try to avoid                                                               
micromanaging  at  the  statutory  level.    The  legislation  is                                                               
written  as it  is because  it's problematic  to define  what the                                                               
meeting consists of.   The intent of the  language, he specified,                                                               
is to charge  the district with making a plan.   He conceded that                                                               
perhaps it would  be appropriate to include the  term "direct" in                                                               
reference to the contact language.                                                                                              
8:29:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  related her understanding that  one of the                                                               
core principles of  charter schools is parental  involvement.  If                                                               
the aforementioned is going to  be changed, she expressed concern                                                               
that a parent  who doesn't have time to be  involved with his/her                                                               
children would decide to enroll  his/her children in this type of                                                               
distance   learning  program.      She   expressed  interest   in                                                               
maintaining the core principles for charter schools.                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  said that  isn't  the  intent.   An  open                                                               
enrollment  virtual   charter  school  is  organized   under  the                                                               
existing charter school law, which  includes an advisory panel of                                                               
parents that  run the  school.   The aforementioned  will remain.                                                               
This proposed legislation  specifies that in order  to qualify as                                                               
an  open  enrollment virtual  charter  school,  the plan  has  to                                                               
include working with the student  and his/her parents in order to                                                               
have   a  plan   for  graduation   and  post-graduation.     This                                                               
legislation merely adds  to what a charter school  already is and                                                               
doesn't take anything away.                                                                                                     
8:31:42 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER asked  if it's  possible for  a group  of                                                               
parents to form a  school such as proposed in HB  197 and ask for                                                               
approval under existing charter school regulations.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  answered absolutely.  In  further response                                                               
to Representative  Gardner, Representative Keller  explained that                                                               
HB 197  encourages the  standards to be  raised.   He highlighted                                                               
the  fact that  under HB  197  open enrollment  would occur  year                                                               
round, which he characterized as an improvement.                                                                                
8:32:33 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  surmised then that already  parents could                                                               
come  together to  form a  charter school  and could  decide that                                                               
it's going to be a year  round, virtual school.  She related that                                                               
she's confused as to why this legislation is necessary.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  reiterated that 37 percent  of the state's                                                               
schools are  quite small and remote.   There are parents  in some                                                               
districts that have a vision  that goes beyond their district and                                                               
rural  school.   Therefore,  this legislation  would establish  a                                                               
parameter  that  would  require a  charter  school  that  reaches                                                               
across the  state to meet  the standards set out  in HB 197.   He                                                               
echoed  his  earlier  desire  to  raise  the  bar  and  set  high                                                               
standards.  He reminded the  committee that in the last two-three                                                               
years alone  there has been a  47 percent increase in  the number                                                               
of on-line  courses students are  taking.  Therefore,  the intent                                                               
of HB 197  is to catch the  wave of on-line courses  and set high                                                               
8:35:04 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE MUNOZ  recalled that there's an  on-line statewide                                                               
charter  school operated  out of  Galena.   Therefore, she,  too,                                                               
questioned how  HB 197 changes  what's allowed under  the current                                                               
law.   Additionally, Representative Munoz recalled  that existing                                                               
law  has a  cap that  only allows  60 charter  schools statewide.                                                               
She suggested  that it would  be helpful to  have an idea  of the                                                               
number of charter  schools being contemplated under HB  197.  She                                                               
then  questioned  whether  the  sponsor  contemplated  a  minimum                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  clarified that  the  Galena  School is  a                                                               
correspondence  program.    This  legislation  proposes  an  open                                                               
enrollment  virtual charter  school that's  not a  correspondence                                                               
program.  He  pointed out that charter schools are  the only type                                                               
of  school  that's well-defined  in  statute.   This  legislation                                                               
doesn't propose  a home school  support program, like the  one in                                                               
Galena.  Representative  Keller said that he  is comfortable with                                                               
the  existing cap  on the  number of  charter schools  statewide.                                                               
With regard  to the  minimum number of  students to  constitute a                                                               
school,  he  opined that  it's  less  of  a problem  for  virtual                                                               
schools because  the potential student  base is much wider.   The                                                               
last section of  HB 197 includes the cap in  order to benefit the                                                               
existing  charter schools  and alternative  schools because  it's                                                               
not really necessary for the open enrollment charter schools.                                                                   
8:38:45 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH inquired as  to the availability of resources                                                               
to  support the  necessary technology  for these  virtual charter                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  pointed out that there  are different ways                                                               
that technology can  be utilized.  For example, there  could be a                                                               
situation in which  a teacher is giving a lesson  to students who                                                               
are  on-line.    The  aforementioned   would  require  a  lot  of                                                               
bandwidth.  "We are  not set up to do that  across the state," he                                                               
acknowledged.   However,  all schools  have Internet  connections                                                               
and course downloads  could be performed at night.   According to                                                               
the 2000 census, 70 percent of  Alaskans are already on-line.  He                                                               
noted  that  the  Yukon  Kuskokwim  Delta  area  schools  have  a                                                               
microwave  system between  schools, and  therefore they  could do                                                               
really exotic schools.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH commented that  he found it interesting since                                                               
the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta area  schools have the worst reputation                                                               
in the state.   He then commented that perhaps HB  197 may be the                                                               
8:40:40 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON characterized what's  proposed in HB 197 as                                                               
essentially a virtual  correspondence school.  She  asked if this                                                               
proposed open  enrollment charter school  has to follow  the same                                                               
rules as correspondence schools.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  answered that any number  of technological                                                               
approaches could  be used,  such as e-mail.   Virtual  means that                                                               
technology  is used  as the  vehicle for  the student's  learning                                                               
plan.   He stated that  a virtual  school won't be  restricted by                                                               
the rules  that apply  to a correspondence  school program.   The                                                               
legislation  proposes   a  charter  school  and   those  are  the                                                               
regulations and  rules under which  it will operate.   In further                                                               
response   to   Representative  Wilson,   Representative   Keller                                                               
clarified that  this legislation  is for full-time  students, not                                                               
part-time students.  He said he  would expect a student to enroll                                                               
in a  virtual charter school,  create a graduation plan  and meet                                                               
the postsecondary training requirements,  and follow through with                                                               
the specified class courses.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON remarked  that she  understood that  to be                                                               
what correspondence  schools do.   Therefore, she  questioned how                                                               
what this  legislation proposes is different  from correspondence                                                               
schools.  She then asked about  Section 3 and whether it's at the                                                               
point at which it should even be discussed.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  confirmed that Section 3  is not complete.                                                               
He related  that although  he has a  conceptual amendment  to fix                                                               
Section  3, he  recommended  waiting to  hear  EED's comments  on                                                               
Section 3 as well as Section 1.                                                                                                 
8:45:21 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. POUND,  in response to  earlier comments and  questions, said                                                               
that the difference between the  proposed virtual charter schools                                                               
and  the existing  virtual correspondence  schools are  that they                                                               
are  specialized.   He  informed the  committee  that the  Native                                                               
Culture  Charter   School  in  Anchorage  spent   several  months                                                               
attempting to obtain  enough students to make  the school viable.                                                               
The proposed virtual charter school  would provide an opportunity                                                               
for the Native  Culture Charter School to reach out  to the rural                                                               
areas  and become  viable.   This  legislation  also provides  an                                                               
opportunity for the  Wrangell school system to  use this proposed                                                               
model  and avoid  the  ADM problems  it has  faced  in the  past.                                                               
Furthermore, schools such  as those in Tenakee  Springs, which is                                                               
advertising  for students,  could utilize  this proposed  virtual                                                               
program to satisfy ADM requirements.   Those are communities that                                                               
aren't  even  that  rural,  he  stressed.    However,  there  are                                                               
communities in  northern Alaska where  there might be  only three                                                               
students  at  a  school,  and   those  students  don't  have  the                                                               
opportunity for a  quality education.  What's proposed  in HB 197                                                               
will  provide  the  aforementioned students  the  opportunity  to                                                               
receive  a quality  education based  on the  specified graduation                                                               
8:47:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON suggested that it's  much more likely that a virtual                                                               
charter school will be formed  in Juneau or Anchorage rather than                                                               
Tenakee Springs, and thus the  ADM of other schools will decrease                                                               
and perhaps  even to the  point of  having to close  the physical                                                               
MR. POUND  noted his agreement,  but pointed out that  the school                                                               
buildings likely won't close because  they often also function as                                                               
the community  centers.   He then suggested  that even  under the                                                               
charter  school system  there will  likely be  a requirement  for                                                               
some  sort of  educator  to remain  in the  village  in order  to                                                               
maintain some kind of education level.                                                                                          
8:48:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON related  his understanding that in  Hope the school,                                                               
which is  owned by  the school  district, will  close if  the ADM                                                               
drops  below 10  for  two years  in  a row.    He reiterated  his                                                               
concern that  this proposal may  close the main  functioning part                                                               
of many small Alaskan communities.                                                                                              
MR.  POUND said  that he  isn't  familiar with  the situation  in                                                               
Hope,  but is  familiar with  northern Alaska  where most  of the                                                               
schools are community centers.                                                                                                  
8:50:06 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON posed a scenario in  which the school is operated by                                                               
a  single  site  school  district  and the  ADM  falls  below  10                                                               
students.   In  such a  scenario no  funding will  come from  the                                                               
state to  that school  district.   Therefore, he  questioned what                                                               
will allow that school building  to remain open without any state                                                               
funding coming to the school district.   He expressed the need to                                                               
consider  the  aforementioned  since  the  legislation  has  been                                                               
presented as a way in which to keep schools open.                                                                               
MR.  POUND acknowledged  that the  [legislation  could result  in                                                               
school  closures, but  opined  that it  could  also keep  schools                                                               
open].   For example, Galena  and Nenana  are two of  the largest                                                               
operating correspondence schools in the state.                                                                                  
8:51:17 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  POUND, returning  to earlier  questions  and comments,  said                                                               
that from  the perspective  of the  individual the  technology is                                                               
capable [of fulfilling the needs  of this proposal].  With regard                                                               
to the broadband capability that  the companies advertise, it may                                                               
be a challenge to prove that  they have the high speed technology                                                               
necessary.    He  related  that his  first  exposure  to  virtual                                                               
classrooms was at the University  of Alaska Southeast back in the                                                               
1990s.  He  imagined that the technology has  advanced much since                                                               
that time.   Furthermore, students  today are  very sophisticated                                                               
with  technology  and  computers  have the  potential  to  be  an                                                               
education enabler.                                                                                                              
8:53:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  EDGMON  directed  attention to  the  language  in                                                               
Section  2 of  HB  197 and  asked if  the  terms "part-time"  and                                                               
"enrolled" are  clearly defined.   He asked  if a  student taking                                                               
one virtual course would result  in the student being enrolled in                                                               
the virtual school.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  said that  he  would  make note  of  that                                                               
question to which he would respond later.                                                                                       
8:54:32 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BUCH  asked if a  demonstration of  equipment that                                                               
might be  used in  the virtual classroom,  such as  smart boards,                                                               
would be brought before the committee.                                                                                          
8:55:35 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON related his understanding  that HB 197 doesn't apply                                                               
to a correspondence  school, per the language on page  1, line 6.                                                               
However,   he   questioned  whether   that's   the   case  if   a                                                               
correspondence  school  developed   an  "individualized  learning                                                               
plan"  for  each  student  as  outlined on  page  2,  lines  3-6.                                                               
Therefore, he  surmised, "Wouldn't  that fit  the exact  bill and                                                               
wouldn't correspondence  schools for the funding  difference from                                                               
.8  to  this funding  all  just  convert  over to  being  virtual                                                               
charter schools?"                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  related  his  belief that  there  is  the                                                               
possibility  that a  correspondence  school  could reorganize  to                                                               
become  a  charter  school,  and   therefore  could  obtain  more                                                               
funding.      However,  he   reminded   the   committee  that   a                                                               
correspondence  school is  defined in  regulation and  relates to                                                               
the minimum  number of  face-to-face hours  with the  teacher and                                                               
thus would impact the aforementioned  possibility.  He noted that                                                               
the aforementioned wasn't the intent of HB 197.                                                                                 
8:57:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER pledged to work further on HB 197.                                                                        
8:57:46 AM                                                                                                                    
EDDY  JEANS, Director,  School Finance,  Department of  Education                                                               
and  Early Development  (EED), explained  that under  the current                                                               
structure  for funding  schools in  Alaska, there  are brick-and-                                                               
mortar  schools  and correspondence  programs.    He related  his                                                               
understanding that the sponsor is  attempting to create a virtual                                                               
charter school with higher standards  than those for the existing                                                               
correspondence   programs.       The   current    standards   for                                                               
correspondence  programs  are  established in  regulation.    The                                                               
higher standards for the proposed  virtual charter school include                                                               
the individual learning  plan and twice monthly  contact with the                                                               
family.   Furthermore,  correspondence  programs allow  part-time                                                               
enrollment  whereas  the  sponsor  has  said  that  the  proposed                                                               
program would  not include a  part-time component.   As mentioned                                                               
earlier,  the sponsor  and the  commissioner of  EED are  to meet                                                               
tomorrow to  flesh this idea out  more.  He pointed  out that the                                                               
department submitted  a fiscal note to  the original legislation,                                                               
although  he  acknowledged  that  it's not  appropriate  for  the                                                               
legislation.   Therefore,  there will  be a  revised fiscal  note                                                               
once the details are determined.                                                                                                
8:59:49 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  requested  that the  department  compare  the  two                                                               
existing types of  funding structures for schools as  well as the                                                               
proposed virtual  charter school.   He  also requested  review of                                                               
the implications and results of  changing from one type of school                                                               
to another.                                                                                                                     
MR. JEANS agreed to do so.                                                                                                      
9:01:05 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  noted that the committee  packet includes                                                               
the 2006 Legislative Resolve No.  43, which directs school boards                                                               
and  administrators  to  apply  for  grants  available  under  AS                                                               
14.14.115.    The  aforementioned statute  addresses  educational                                                               
technology.    She asked  if  districts  have been  applying  for                                                               
grants  under the  aforementioned statute  and whether  there are                                                               
adequate funds available.                                                                                                       
MR. JEANS said he would be happy to gather that information.                                                                    
9:01:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  requested  that  Mr. Jeans  also  review  for  the                                                               
committee the  issues of correspondence schools  developed with a                                                               
statewide  mission,  which  then  drew  membership  from  various                                                               
districts  in  the   state  by  offering  things   such  as  free                                                               
computers.  The  aforementioned resulted in problems  with ADM in                                                               
other  districts.    He  recalled that  changes  were  made  that                                                               
required  correspondence  schools  to draw  upon  the  membership                                                               
within the  district that they  are located.   He inquired  as to                                                               
whether similar difficulties could result from HB 197.                                                                          
9:03:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   MUNOZ   requested   that   Mr.   Jeans   provide                                                               
information  to  the  committee   regarding  the  charter  school                                                               
funding disparity in  which schools are counted  with the largest                                                               
school  in the  district.   She questioned  whether HB  197 could                                                               
address the aforementioned problem.                                                                                             
MR. JEANS agreed to do so.                                                                                                      
9:04:32 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON noted  that this is the first discussion  of HB 197,                                                               
and then opened public testimony.                                                                                               
9:04:48 AM                                                                                                                    
NARDA BUTLER, Chair, Academic  Policy Committee, Frontier Charter                                                               
School, informed  the committee that  she has been  involved with                                                               
both the  charter school and  correspondence school  programs for                                                               
about  nine years.    She  noted that  she  is  also a  certified                                                               
science teacher  and teaches mid-distance education  in which she                                                               
provides  most of  the curriculum  and  homework assignments  on-                                                               
line.  She  further noted that her children are  educated at home                                                               
and  through part-time  enrollment  at  a local  brick-and-mortar                                                               
school  as well  as via  some  virtual instruction.   Ms.  Butler                                                               
applauded  Representative  Keller's  efforts to  provide  greater                                                               
options and  introduce technology at  a greater level.   However,                                                               
she expressed  concern that existing  charter school  law doesn't                                                               
allow out-of-district  students.  Furthermore, Ms.  Butler opined                                                               
that the  proposed virtual school  in HB  197 seems to  fit under                                                               
the  definitions of  a correspondence  school,  which don't  have                                                               
lower  limits for  face-to-face interaction  with teachers.   Ms.                                                               
Butler  related  her belief  that  the  objective sought  by  the                                                               
sponsor could  be accomplished by allowing  districts to contract                                                               
with vendors for  virtual classes.  To be sure  the standards are                                                               
met it can be made  clear that districts allowing virtual classes                                                               
meet  the state's  standards.   She also  expressed concern  that                                                               
this legislation  may allow  or perhaps  encourage correspondence                                                               
schools  to reopen  as charter  schools,  and therefore  wouldn't                                                               
fall within  the 80 percent  funding the state  offers brick-and-                                                               
mortar schools.   Districts, she  opined, need to  maintain local                                                               
control of their  educational systems through the  use of virtual                                                               
vendors.   Furthermore,  caution  must be  taken  with regard  to                                                               
opening  unintentional  doors  while  trying to  achieve  a  good                                                               
9:07:57 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  surmised then  that Ms. Butler  is saying                                                               
that if correspondence schools are  allowed to reorganize charter                                                               
schools  and accept  out-of-district students,  then these  newly                                                               
formed charter schools would simply access more funding.                                                                        
MS. BUTLER  replied yes.   In further response  to Representative                                                               
Gardner,   Ms.  Butler   confirmed  that   vendors  of   [various                                                               
curriculums] are  a whole industry.   Any vendor, in-  or out-of-                                                               
state, must meet state standards  to ensure the district that the                                                               
students  are  striving  to  meet  established  standards.    She                                                               
informed  the committee  that her  daughter attends  a school  in                                                               
Washington, D.C., that enrolls students worldwide.                                                                              
9:10:12 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  said that  the committee  would review  whether the                                                               
legislation should be  modified to address the  fact that charter                                                               
schools can't accept out-of-district students.                                                                                  
9:10:45 AM                                                                                                                    
TIM SCOTT, Principal, Frontier  Charter School, expressed concern                                                               
with the vagueness of some of  the terms in the legislation.  For                                                               
example, the  terms "open enrollment"  and "virtual" may  need to                                                               
be clearly defined.   He informed the committee that  he was part                                                               
of a  group that brought  a lawsuit  against the Alaska  Board of                                                               
Education  regarding the  meaning of  the term  "correspondence."                                                               
He related that he spent about  three years of his life trying to                                                               
help  define the  term "correspondence."   In  his opinion,  this                                                               
proposed  virtual  charter  school   would  be  a  correspondence                                                               
school.   This  legislation, he  opined, would  allow schools  to                                                               
reorganize for  funding purposes.   Furthermore, the  law already                                                               
allows  for  the  existence  of   virtual  schools  within  other                                                               
schools.   He then directed  attention to AS 14.14.110,  which is                                                               
the cooperation  between districts law.   Mr. Scott said  that he                                                               
would  only  be  in  favor  of   what  HB  197  proposes  if  the                                                               
cooperation between  districts law was  invoked.  Mr.  Scott then                                                               
opined that there hasn't been  any resolution to the situation in                                                               
which  districts have  raided other  districts  for students  for                                                               
9:13:55 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. SCOTT,  in response to Representative  Gardner, confirmed his                                                               
belief  that  there  is  an  issue  of  districts  raiding  other                                                               
districts for  money.   One of the  largest incentives  to enroll                                                               
students into a  statewide correspondence school is the  ADM.  He                                                               
suggested  that such  schools don't  necessarily  return all  the                                                               
funds received back into the students.   In fact, he charged that                                                               
two years ago $6.7 million was  placed in the operating budget of                                                               
a   local   school  district   rather   than   returned  to   the                                                               
correspondence school students.                                                                                                 
9:14:39 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER said  that there  is another  perspective.                                                               
There  is a  danger  of  creating a  monopoly  where the  revenue                                                               
source  is  defined by  the  children  in  a  district.   If  the                                                               
aforementioned  is protected,  there's less  pressure on  raising                                                               
the   standards.     Competition   produces   good  results,   as                                                               
illustrated across  the state  with the  correspondence programs.                                                               
Representative Keller  acknowledged the  need to  proceed slowly,                                                               
but  maintained  that  being able  to  enroll  statewide  doesn't                                                               
necessarily make it bad.                                                                                                        
9:15:48 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  inquired  as   to  how  the  terms  "open                                                               
enrollment" and "virtual" could be defined now.                                                                                 
MR. SCOTT responded that the  term "open enrollment" is currently                                                               
considered  the   timeframe  in   which  students   are  enrolled                                                               
throughout the  year, not necessarily boundaries.   He reiterated                                                               
the need in  HB 197 to clarify the term  "open enrollment," which                                                               
he interpreted to  mean that boundaries can be  crossed to enroll                                                               
students into the  proposed virtual charter school.   With regard                                                               
to the definition of "virtual  charter school," Mr. Scott pointed                                                               
out that although the state  has defined "correspondence school,"                                                               
correspondence  schools are  hybrids.   He opined  that he  would                                                               
include  an on-line  synchronous course  as a  virtual school  as                                                               
that's typically to what the literature refers.                                                                                 
9:18:27 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  noted his agreement  that the  aforementioned terms                                                               
will definitely need to be defined.                                                                                             
9:19:16 AM                                                                                                                    
ALLISON  POWELL,   International  Association  for   K-12  Online                                                               
Learning  (iNACOL),  informed  the  committee that  iNACOL  is  a                                                               
nonprofit  organization  that   supports  virtual  schools,  both                                                               
supplemental  and full-time  online schools  all over  the world.                                                               
The goal of iNACOL is to  ensure that every student has access to                                                               
the  best  education,  regardless  of  the  student's  geographic                                                               
location, income,  or background.   In response to  Chair Seaton,                                                               
Ms. Powell explained  that the North American  Council for Online                                                               
Learning  (NACOL)  is  the same  organization  as  iNACOL;  NACOL                                                               
recently changed  its name  to reflect  that the  organization is                                                               
dealing with  more international clients.   Therefore, the iNACOL                                                               
paper in the committee packet is relevant to NACOL.                                                                             
9:20:34 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  inquired  as to  iNACOL's  definition  of                                                               
MS.  POWELL  answered  that iNACOL  has  several  definitions  of                                                               
"virtual."  Currently,  there are various ways in  which to setup                                                               
a virtual  school.   There are cyber  charter schools,  which are                                                               
online full-time  programs in which  the majority of  the program                                                               
is  performed  online  with  both  asynchronous  and  synchronous                                                               
[courses].   These  cyber charter  schools often  require contact                                                               
with  the  teacher,  which is  accomplished  through  synchronous                                                               
schools.   She further explained  that it's a situation  in which                                                               
students  meet with  the  teacher online.    During this  meeting                                                               
online,  the teacher  and student  can do  practically everything                                                               
that's  done in  a  typical face-to-face  classroom.   Currently,                                                               
there are  173 cyber charter schools  in the nation.   Ms. Powell                                                               
noted that there are other  online programs that are supplemental                                                               
in which a student can attend  a face-to-face school and take one                                                               
class  online.    The  aforementioned  can be  done  in  both  an                                                               
asynchronous and synchronous manner.                                                                                            
9:22:21 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER inquired as to the membership of iNACOL.                                                                 
MS.  POWELL related  that iNACOL  has about  2,500 members  which                                                               
include  virtual  schools  and   programs  to  universities  with                                                               
teacher  training programs.   The  membership also  includes many                                                               
nonprofit groups  that are running virtual  schools, researchers,                                                               
online  teachers   and  administrators,  and   corporations  that                                                               
provide the online  content and technology.   In further response                                                               
to   Representative   Gardner,    Ms.   Powell   specified   that                                                               
corporations are  probably the  smallest group  of members.   She                                                               
explained that  the organization receives funds  from its members                                                               
as well as from an  annual conference.  The organization receives                                                               
about  one  third of  its  funding  from  each of  the  following                                                               
sources:   membership, the  annual conference,  and grants.   She                                                               
noted that the  organization intends to seek  some federal grants                                                               
as well.   In response to  Chair Seaton, Ms. Powell  informed the                                                               
committee of iNACOL's web site, www.inacol.org.                                                                                 
9:24:18 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER inquired about the board of iNACOL.                                                                      
MS.  POWELL  explained   that  the  board  is   comprised  of  an                                                               
individual  who   operates  a   state-led  virtual   school  with                                                               
supplementals,  another individual  who  operates a  district-run                                                               
program,  while  another  individual  is a  corporate  member,  a                                                               
researcher, a  representative from  a full-time  corporate cyber-                                                               
charter school program,  and a private consultant  who works with                                                               
education  technology throughout  the  country.   In response  to                                                               
Chair Seaton,  Ms. Powell confirmed that  iNACOL's membership and                                                               
board membership  is listed on  the organization's web site.   In                                                               
further response to Representative  Gardner, Ms. Powell specified                                                               
that the  statewide virtual school, the  supplemental school, and                                                               
the  district  run  programs  are  publicly  funded  through  the                                                               
9:26:15 AM                                                                                                                    
KIKI ABRAHAMSON,  President, Alaska Charter  Schools Association;                                                               
Fireweed Academy,  began by thanking the  committee for providing                                                               
the   opportunity  for   in-depth   discussion  about   providing                                                               
alternatives for  students in Alaska.   She recalled  that during                                                               
the education  summit held November  13-14, 2008, it  was brought                                                               
up multiple  times that  some of the  most important  things that                                                               
can be  addressed in education  in Alaska is  creating innovation                                                               
and providing equity.   Although she applauded  the committee for                                                               
the work  it's doing, she  reminded the committee that  there are                                                               
equity  issues regarding  funding  for students  in schools  that                                                               
already exist.                                                                                                                  
9:27:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON,  upon determining  no one  else wished  to testify,                                                               
closed public testimony.                                                                                                        
9:27:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  asked  if  the funding  for  the  virtual                                                               
students is the  same as that for  the brick-and-mortar students.                                                               
She noted that the funding for correspondence schools differs.                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER stated  that the  intent of  HB 197  is to                                                               
allow  for  the  interaction  between  districts  to  cover  both                                                               
academics and supervision of the child.   He noted that it allows                                                               
for  contracting between  school districts.   Districts  would be                                                               
encouraged to  work together, but  it has  been left open  and on                                                               
the table.                                                                                                                      
9:30:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON  suggested  that the  committee  should  review  AS                                                               
14.14.110, which already  allows participation between districts,                                                               
and  determine whether  the existing  statute  is different  than                                                               
what's proposed in HB 197.                                                                                                      
9:30:41 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  requested clarification  regarding whether                                                               
part-time students  will be allowed because  although the sponsor                                                               
has  said  that there  won't  be  part-time students,  Section  2                                                               
addresses part-time students.                                                                                                   
9:31:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON suggested  then that when this  legislation is heard                                                               
again,  the  sponsor  can review  what  constitutes  a  full-time                                                               
student  in this  proposed open  enrollment  virtual setting  and                                                               
whether there will be part-time students.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER agreed to do so.                                                                                          
9:32:12 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE EDGMON pointed  out that there is  over $7 billion                                                               
in   federal   stimulus   funds   for   broadband   and   related                                                               
infrastructure services.   Therefore, he suggested  that it would                                                               
be enlightening  to have  some sort  of discussion  regarding the                                                               
broadband  capabilities and  how  that ties  in with  educational                                                               
services in Alaska.                                                                                                             
9:32:50 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that today  at noon, there will be various                                                               
presentations  and demonstrations  regarding  various aspects  of                                                               
technology in education in Alaska.                                                                                              
9:33:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER pointed out  that students in Bethel could                                                               
all  have  laptops,  but  they   cannot  necessarily  access  the                                                               
9:34:22 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  related that  the department  will discuss                                                               
the stimulus funds as they relate to HB 197.                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that HB 197 would be held over.                                                                          
HB 204-POSTSECONDARY MEDICAL EDUC. PROG.                                                                                      
9:34:41 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 204,  "An Act increasing  the number  of students                                                               
pursuing  a  medical  education who  are  provided  postsecondary                                                               
educational  services   and  programs;   and  providing   for  an                                                               
effective date."                                                                                                                
9:35:22 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  moved  to  adopt CSHB  204,  Version  26-                                                               
LS0778\R, Mischel, 3/31/09, as the working document.                                                                            
CHAIR SEATON objected for discussion purposes.                                                                                  
9:35:51 AM                                                                                                                    
SAM  DIX, Staff,  Representative  Nancy  Dahlstrom, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, explained  that Version R continues  to increase the                                                               
number of students  pursuing a medical education  to 24, although                                                               
the language  now specifies  "24" not "up  to and  including 24".                                                       
The legislation,  Version R, now  includes provisions  that would                                                               
allow   student  loan   forgiveness  to   Alaska  residents   who                                                               
participate in  the Washington,  Wyoming, Alaska,  Montana, Idaho                                                               
Medical Education  Program (WWAMI),  receive a  medical education                                                               
degree, and  provide qualified practice  in the state.   The loan                                                               
forgiveness is detailed in Section 2  of Version R.  Section 3 of                                                               
Version R states that those who  received a degree from the WWAMI                                                               
program  must be  a  full-time employee  or  practitioner for  at                                                               
least six  months in order  to qualify for the  loan forgiveness.                                                               
He  highlighted   that  Section   3  specifies   that  "full-time                                                               
employee"  doesn't  include  seasonal  or  temporary  employment.                                                               
Section 4 defines  a "qualified practice" to be  a facility where                                                               
medical  services  are  provided  by  a  physician  who  received                                                               
medical education  under the WWAMI  program, where  a significant                                                               
percentage  of the  patients  of the  practice  are uninsured  or                                                               
covered  under  Medicare  or other  medical  assistance,  and  is                                                               
located in a medically underserved area  of the state.  Section 4                                                               
also  specifies the  definition of  "rural".   Section 5  relates                                                               
that  Department  of  Health  and   Social  Services  (DHSS)  may                                                               
establish  standards  for  a qualified  practice  in  regulation,                                                               
including  the definition  of  "medically  underserved area"  and                                                               
"significant percent" in  terms of patients that  would qualify a                                                               
practice for loan  forgiveness.  Section 6 is  the effective date                                                               
of July 1, 2010.                                                                                                                
9:40:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER directed  attention to  Section 3,  which                                                               
specifies  that in  order to  qualify for  [loan] forgiveness,  a                                                               
person must be a full-time  employee or practitioner for a period                                                               
of at least  six months.  She  asked, "Does it mean  they have to                                                               
be a  doctor for six  months before  the clock starts  ticking on                                                               
their employment under which loans will be forgiven?"                                                                           
MR.  DIX  answered  that  Section  3  means  that  they  must  be                                                               
considered  a  full-time employee  within  the  first year  after                                                               
graduating from the WWAMI program.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE   GARDNER  surmised   then  an   individual  can't                                                               
graduate from the  WWAMI program, take a job elsewhere  for a few                                                               
years,  and  then  return  to  Alaska to  work  and  obtain  loan                                                               
MR. DIX stated his agreement.                                                                                                   
9:42:13 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  asked then  whether a  WWAMI graduate  seeking loan                                                               
forgiveness  would have  to return  directly to  Alaska or  could                                                               
they return to Alaska with an outstanding WWAMI loan.                                                                           
MR. DIX clarified that if a  WWAMI graduate practices or takes up                                                               
employment  outside  of  the  medical   practice,  they  will  be                                                               
considered  under  the five  years  employment,  20 percent  loan                                                               
forgiveness program.                                                                                                            
9:43:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON related his understanding  that Section 3 means that                                                               
an individual  who takes a job  for one month can't  receive loan                                                               
forgiveness.  However, the language  doesn't specify that a WWAMI                                                               
graduate who  takes a  job elsewhere and  then returns  to Alaska                                                               
and is  employed for six  months can't receive  loan forgiveness.                                                               
He expressed the need to clarify this point.                                                                                    
MR. DIX deferred to departmental representatives.                                                                               
9:44:54 AM                                                                                                                    
ALICE  RARIG,  Planner  IV,  Department   of  Health  and  Social                                                               
Services,  related her  belief  that Section  3  doesn't seem  to                                                               
imply  that  service couldn't  be  interrupted.   Therefore,  she                                                               
suggested that the  sponsor may need to  provide clarification on                                                               
this  point.   She opined  that  the clock  for loan  forgiveness                                                               
would start once the individual  begins full-time employment in a                                                               
qualified  practice   and  after  six  months   could  apply  for                                                               
9:45:59 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   NANCY  DAHLSTROM,   Alaska  State   Legislature,                                                               
speaking as the  sponsor of HB 204, related that  the intent with                                                               
HB 204  is to provide  more efficient and better  quality medical                                                               
care  for  all  Alaskans.    She  said  she  shared  Ms.  Rarig's                                                               
understanding  that there  wouldn't be  a break  in the  service.                                                               
She  offered  to  request  an opinion  from  Legal  and  Research                                                               
9:47:01 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON opined  that the language seems  straight forward in                                                               
that  this  would  require  employment six  months  in  order  to                                                               
qualify  for  loan  forgiveness.    However,  Section  3  doesn't                                                               
stipulate that  a WWAMI graduate  couldn't take a job  in another                                                               
state  prior to  working six  months in  Alaska and  applying for                                                               
loan forgiveness or  return to Alaska and have  a six-month delay                                                               
prior to  taking a job.   The language simply says  that a [WWAMI                                                               
graduate] would  have to be employed  in Alaska for at  least six                                                               
9:47:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER  said  that  she  has  received  adequate                                                               
clarification on the  language and pointed out that  the only new                                                               
language in Section 3 is the addition of "or practitioner".                                                                 
9:48:14 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  EDGMON asked  if  the language  "or for  services                                                           
provided in  a qualified practice  in" and "or practice"  on page                                                       
2, lines 13-16, is defined elsewhere  or is supportive of a full-                                                               
time employee.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR SEATON  pointed out  that page  3, subsection  (i) provides                                                               
the definition of "qualified practice".                                                                                     
9:49:28 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  EDGMON  then  asked  if  there  is  a  difference                                                               
between a medically underserved area and a rural area.                                                                          
MR. DIX answered that DHSS will define those terms.                                                                             
MR. RARIG  pointed out that  the term  "rural" is defined  in the                                                               
legislation  on  page  3,  lines  11-13.    The  term  "medically                                                               
underserved area"  is federal language  with a  specific meeting.                                                               
However, "medically  underserved area" has  yet to be  defined in                                                               
state statute.   She noted  that DHSS has developed  criteria for                                                               
the Denali  Commission funding priority  systems and  proposed an                                                               
Alaska-based  definition  of  medically underserved  area.    The                                                               
aforementioned  definition   has  been  submitted  to   the  U.S.                                                               
Department of Health and Human Services.   She said that DHSS has                                                               
no  qualms with  developing a  definition for  the term  for this                                                               
program.   There  are  non rural  areas that  may  be defined  as                                                               
medically underserved.                                                                                                          
9:52:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  posed a  scenario in which  a portion  of Anchorage                                                               
has a lot of people who  qualify for Medicare, but there aren't a                                                               
lot of physicians who want to  take Medicare patients.  In such a                                                               
situation, Anchorage could be defined  as a medically underserved                                                               
area because of  the definition of "uninsured."  He  asked if the                                                               
aforementioned would  result in those in  Anchorage receiving the                                                               
same benefit  as [those in  rural Alaska], and thereby  take away                                                               
the incentive of the higher  reimbursement rate for rural Alaska.                                                               
Furthermore, does  such a situation  create a conundrum  in which                                                               
the  higher reimbursement  rate being  given in  rural Alaska  to                                                               
stimulate people  to go to rural  Alaska is given to  those in an                                                               
area with a significant number of Medicare patients.                                                                            
MS. RARIG related her understanding  that the regulations for the                                                               
medically  underserved  area  would  only  apply  to  the  census                                                               
designated level  and Anchorage would  be considered as  a whole.                                                               
An  area  that  would  likely  fall under  the  definition  of  a                                                               
medically  underserved area  would be  Ketchikan, where  there is                                                               
difficulty for certain portions  of the population gaining access                                                               
to services, although  the area wouldn't qualify  under the rural                                                               
definition due  to the  population being over  7,500.   Ms. Rarig                                                               
said that  most qualifying practices  would fall under  the first                                                               
designation  in  which  the practice  can  demonstrate  that  the                                                               
practice serves a significant portion  of individuals who receive                                                               
Medicare or Medicaid, or are uninsured.                                                                                         
9:54:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON surmised  that under  Section 4(i)(1)(A)  Anchorage                                                               
would  qualify  for  the  higher   reimbursement  if  the  [WWAMI                                                               
graduate joins]  a practice  for which  a significant  portion of                                                               
the patients are Medicare patients.   He asked if that would be a                                                               
correct assumption.                                                                                                             
MS.  RARIG answered  that she  believes that  would be  a correct                                                               
9:55:33 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR   SEATON   expressed   concern   with   having   a   higher                                                               
reimbursement rate for those living  in the lowest cost of living                                                               
areas  in  the  state  while   possibly  taking  away  the  rural                                                               
MS. RARIG  stated her  understanding that there  are a  number of                                                               
practices in  Anchorage and other  urban areas that are  taking a                                                               
disproportionate  number   of  [Medicare,   Medicaid,  uninsured]                                                               
patients.    These  practices  feel that  they're  in  an  unfair                                                               
situation  in   terms  of  reimbursement   and  threaten   to  be                                                               
overwhelmed when other practices  won't accept Medicare patients.                                                               
She  opined  that   this  legislation  is  meant   to  provide  a                                                               
recruitment  incentive for  those practices  to be  able to  hire                                                               
more physicians  and perhaps create  a more  balanced competition                                                               
[in the urban areas].                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  DAHLSTROM  stated  that  the  intent  is  not  to                                                               
identify any  particular population in  the state, but  rather to                                                               
provide better  medical service for  all Alaskans.   Furthermore,                                                               
many  rural residents  come to  Anchorage  for medical  services.                                                               
She  clarified   that  this  legislation  wouldn't   qualify  the                                                               
Anchorage area  as a whole,  only those practices that  treat the                                                               
underserved populations.                                                                                                        
9:58:01 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  acknowledged   the  sponsor's  view,  and                                                               
questioned whether the intent is to include Anchorage.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM responded that  the intent is to include                                                               
Anchorage as well as the entire state.                                                                                          
9:59:06 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  opined  then  that  more  of  [the  WWAMI                                                               
graduates] will return to Anchorage to receive loan forgiveness.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM  offered that  there are those  who will                                                               
consciously choose  to teach  in rural settings.   She  said that                                                               
she  didn't   believe  all  [WWAMI  graduates]   will  return  to                                                               
10:00:45 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON directed  attention to the language on  page 2, line                                                               
8,  which  refers  to  "employment  in the  state  in  a  medical                                                               
residency  program".    The only  medical  residency  program  is                                                               
offered in  Anchorage.   If there  are a  number of  Medicare and                                                               
uninsured patients  served at the  hospital [providing  a medical                                                               
residency  program],  would the  language  mean  that any  [WWAMI                                                               
student] at such  an institution would be reimbursed  at the high                                                               
rate, as if they were serving in rural Alaska.                                                                                  
MR. DIX said that the medical  residency program would have to be                                                               
considered  by  DHSS  as  serving  a  significant  percentage  of                                                               
Medicare and uninsured patients.                                                                                                
10:02:05 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON expressed the need  to answer the aforementioned and                                                               
how it works into this  legislation, although he said he wouldn't                                                               
hold the  legislation based on that  matter.  If the  hospital at                                                               
which a  physician is  serving has a  high incidence  of Medicare                                                               
and/or uninsured  patients, then  this legislation seems  to open                                                               
the  possibility of  everyone in  their  residency program  being                                                               
reimbursed  as if  they're serving  in rural  Alaska.   He opined                                                               
that that's not  the intent, and therefore he  suggested that the                                                               
sponsor work on that matter.                                                                                                    
10:03:00 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  BUCH  expressed  concern  with the  [lack  of  a]                                                               
definition  for  the  terms   "medically  underserved  area"  and                                                               
"significant percentage" and the lack of a fiscal note.                                                                         
10:03:44 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON stated that HB 204  would be held over.  [The motion                                                               
to  adopt CSHB  204, Version  26-LS0778\R, Mischel,  3/31/09, was                                                               
left pending per Chair Seaton's objection.]                                                                                     
10:04:21 AM                                                                                                                   
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Education Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 10:04 a.m.                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
Carol J. Schaeffer and Lou Pondolfino.pdf HEDC 4/1/2009 8:00:00 AM
cshb204 WORKDRAFT.pdf HEDC 4/1/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/3/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 204
HB 204 information.pdf HEDC 3/30/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/1/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/3/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 204
HB 197.pdf HEDC 4/1/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 197
Linda Lee Gillam Black.pdf HEDC 4/1/2009 8:00:00 AM