Legislature(2019 - 2020)ADAMS ROOM 519

05/07/2019 09:00 AM FINANCE

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 68(FIN) Out of Committee
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                        May 7, 2019                                                                                             
                         9:00 a.m.                                                                                              
9:00:04 AM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Wilson  called the House Finance  Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 9:00 a.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Neal Foster, Co-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Tammie Wilson, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Jennifer Johnston, Vice-Chair                                                                                    
Representative Dan Ortiz, Vice-Chair                                                                                            
Representative Ben Carpenter                                                                                                    
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Gary Knopp                                                                                                       
Representative Bart LeBon                                                                                                       
Representative Kelly Merrick                                                                                                    
Representative Colleen Sullivan-Leonard                                                                                         
Representative Cathy Tilton                                                                                                     
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
David  Scott,  Staff,  Senator   Bert  Stedman;  Captain  Ed                                                                    
Sinclair,  Deputy Marine  Pilot,  Southeast Alaska  Pilotage                                                                    
Area,  Juneau;   Representative  Sara   Rasmussen,  Sponsor;                                                                    
Krysten Walker,  Staff, Representative Sara  Rasmussen; Lisa                                                                    
Skiles Parady, Executive Director,  Alaska Council of School                                                                    
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Daniel  Walker,   Superintendent,  Lower   Kuskokwim  School                                                                    
District, Bethel;  Laura Hylton, Finance Director,  Lake and                                                                    
Peninsula  School District,  Alaska  Peninsula; Sam  Jordan,                                                                    
Self, Juneau.                                                                                                                   
HB 68     LABOR STDRS/SAFETY; WORKER COMPENSATION                                                                               
          CSHB 68(FIN) was REPORTED out  of committee with a                                                                    
          "do pass"  recommendation and with one  new fiscal                                                                    
          impact  note  from  the Department  of  Labor  and                                                                    
          Workforce    Development   and    one   previously                                                                    
          published zero note: FN1 (LWF).                                                                                       
HB 75     INTERNET FOR SCHOOLS; FUNDING                                                                                         
          HB 75 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                     
SB 29     EXTEND BOARD OF MARINE PILOTS                                                                                         
          SB 29 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                     
HOUSE BILL NO. 68                                                                                                             
     "An  Act relating  to the  division of  labor standards                                                                    
     and  safety;  relating  to  the  division  of  workers'                                                                    
     compensation;  establishing  the division  of  workers'                                                                    
     safety   and  compensation;   and   providing  for   an                                                                    
     effective date."                                                                                                           
9:00:33 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Johnston MOVED  to  REPORT CSHB  68(FIN) out  of                                                                    
committee   with   individual    recommendations   and   the                                                                    
accompanying fiscal  note. There being NO  OBJECTION, it was                                                                    
so ordered.                                                                                                                     
CSHB 68(FIN) was REPORTED out  of committee with a "do pass"                                                                    
recommendation and with one new  fiscal impact note from the                                                                    
Department  of  Labor  and  Workforce  Development  and  one                                                                    
previously published zero note: FN1 (LWF).                                                                                      
9:00:59 AM                                                                                                                    
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
9:02:04 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATE BILL NO. 29                                                                                                            
     "An Act extending the termination  date of the Board of                                                                    
   Marine Pilots; and providing for an effective date."                                                                         
9:02:23 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID SCOTT, STAFF, SENATOR BERT STEDMAN, introduced the                                                                        
bill with the sponsor statement:                                                                                                
     The Board of Marine  Pilots (Board) protects the safety                                                                    
     of  the public  and  the environment  by licensing  and                                                                    
     regulating  marine   pilots  for  almost   all  foreign                                                                    
     vessels  and vessels  over a  certain  size in  Alaskan                                                                    
     waters.  Board  activities  provide  a  good  level  of                                                                    
     assurance  that marine  pilot  licensees are  competent                                                                    
    and able to safely pilot passenger and cargo ships.                                                                         
     As required under  Title 24 and Title 44  of the Alaska                                                                    
     statutes,  the Legislative  Budget  and Audit  Division                                                                    
     reviewed  the actions  of the  Board of  Marine Pilots.                                                                    
     The  audit found  a continued  need for  the Board  and                                                                    
     that  the  Board  is   following  the  law,  processing                                                                    
     investigations    timely,    and   actively    changing                                                                    
     regulations  to   "improve  the  industry   and  better                                                                    
     protect   the  public."   The  audit   recommended  the                                                                    
     Legislature  extend  the  Board's termination  date  to                                                                    
     June 30, 2027.                                                                                                             
     SB  29 extends  the termination  date of  the Board  of                                                                    
     Marine Pilots to June 30, 2027.                                                                                            
9:04:23 AM                                                                                                                    
CAPTAIN ED SINCLAIR, DEPUTY MARINE PILOT, SOUTHEAST ALASKA                                                                      
PILOTAGE AREA, JUNEAU, supported the bill and believed that                                                                     
the board was performing well.                                                                                                  
SB 29 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 75                                                                                                             
     "An Act  relating to funding for  Internet services for                                                                    
     school  districts; and  relating to  the Alaska  higher                                                                    
     education investment fund."                                                                                                
9:05:08 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SARA RASMUSSEN, SPONSOR, introduced the                                                                          
legislation. She read from prepared remarks:                                                                                    
     Thank you,  Madam Chair and  members of  the committee.                                                                    
     For  the  record,   Im   Sara  Rasmussen,  representing                                                                    
     District  22, the  Sand Lake  area of  Anchorage. I  am                                                                    
     here with my staff, Krysten Walker.                                                                                        
     I  appreciate the  committee taking  the time  today to                                                                    
     hear  House  Bill  75. This  bill  raises  the  minimum                                                                    
     standard for  internet in schools from  10 megabits per                                                                    
     second  to  25  megabits  per  second.  This  works  to                                                                    
     provide  equal access  to  education  for all  children                                                                    
     regardless  of where  the  student  lives by  improving                                                                    
     access  to bandwidth.  This  gives teachers  additional                                                                    
     tools,   including  access   to  resources   and  other                                                                    
     The Federal  E-Rate program  allows districts  to apply                                                                    
     for  discounted   internet  services  based   on  their                                                                    
     participation  rate  in  the free  and  reduced  school                                                                    
     lunch programs, which  covers up to 90% of  the cost of                                                                    
     internet.  The state's  Broadband Assistance  Grant, or                                                                    
     BAG program, fills the remaining  gap to get schools up                                                                    
     to the minimum  speed, which is 25  megabits per second                                                                    
     under HB 75.                                                                                                               
     The  House Education  Committee Substitute  made a  few                                                                    
     changes to the bill, as outlined in your packet.                                                                           
     First, the phrase  "a minimum of" was  removed to clear                                                                    
     up ambiguity  identified by the Department.  This makes                                                                    
     it clear  that the BAG  program will only  fund schools                                                                    
     to get up  to the 25 megabits per  second benchmark and                                                                    
     will not fund schools to go higher than 25.                                                                                
     Second,  the  last  two  sections   of  the  bill  were                                                                    
     removed. These  sections identified the  funding source                                                                    
     as  the Alaska  higher education  investment fund.  The                                                                    
     current version funds the program with general funds.                                                                      
     Moving to the  fiscal note   There is a  small error in                                                                    
     the  fiscal note.  Currently, it  shows funds  would be                                                                    
     needed in FY  2020. The application period  for the BAG                                                                    
     program ends  in March each  year for  applications for                                                                    
     funds for the following school  year. Because it is now                                                                    
     past March and the bill  has not passed, the funds will                                                                    
     not be needed until FY 2021.                                                                                               
     There  is one  issue  flagged  by Legislative  Finance.                                                                    
     This bill  may cause Alaska  to fall out  of compliance                                                                    
     with the  federal Disparity  Test for  equalized school                                                                    
     funding.   The    Senate   Finance    Committee   added                                                                    
     conditional language  to the  senate companion,  SB 74,                                                                    
     allowing the bill  to take effect only  after the state                                                                    
     has  received a  waiver. My  plan for  this bill  is to                                                                    
     match the senate companion and  would ask the committee                                                                    
    to consider a committee substitute or an amendment.                                                                         
     We  have   invited  representatives   from  Legislative                                                                    
     Finance  as well  as the  Department  of Education  and                                                                    
     Early Development for further explanation.                                                                                 
9:07:50 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Ortiz  inquired  whether  the  25  megabits  per                                                                    
second (Mbps)  was enough for  students  online  testing and                                                                    
met  the  states   needs. Representative  Rasmussen  replied                                                                    
that the federal recommendation was  100 (Mbps) and the bill                                                                    
was an incremental approach due  to costs. She was unsure if                                                                    
testing could be accomplished.                                                                                                  
Co-Chair Wilson asked what raising  the megabits to 25 would                                                                    
allow  the  schools to  do  that  they could  not  currently                                                                    
accomplish under 10 (Mbps).                                                                                                     
KRYSTEN  WALKER,   STAFF,  REPRESENTATIVE   SARA  RASMUSSEN,                                                                    
deferred  the answer  to  Lisa  Parady (Executive  Director,                                                                    
Alaska Council of School  Administrators) for specifics. She                                                                    
knew  that  streaming video  on  Netflix  or You  Tube  took                                                                    
Co-Chair  Wilson  did not  believe  video  was the  same  as                                                                    
testing. She reiterated her  question regarding what raising                                                                    
the internet speed  from 10 (Mbps) to 25  (Mbps) would allow                                                                    
students  to accomplish.  Representative Rasmussen  deferred                                                                    
the question  to Dr.  Parady. Co-Chair  Wilson asked  if the                                                                    
sponsor  had   done  the  research  regarding   raising  the                                                                    
internet  speed. Representative  Rasmussen replied  that she                                                                    
had included the  list of schools currently  operating at 10                                                                    
(Mbps) that would increase to  25 (Mbps) and superintendents                                                                    
from rural districts were available to testify.                                                                                 
Co-Chair   Wilson  asked   the   sponsor   to  provide   the                                                                    
information to the committee.                                                                                                   
9:11:23 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Ortiz asked  how many  districts were  operating                                                                    
under 10 (Mbps).  Ms. Walker answered with a  reference to a                                                                    
document in  member's packets [2017-2018 School  Year School                                                                    
District  Bandwidth  Counts  less  than  25  Mbps  (copy  on                                                                    
file)]. She  noted that the  list included two  schools that                                                                    
were under 10 (Mbps).                                                                                                           
Co-Chair Wilson wondered  why the two schools  were not able                                                                    
to utilize  the grant program.  Ms. Walker assumed  that the                                                                    
schools  did  not  apply  and deferred  the  answer  to  the                                                                    
Department of  Education and  Early Development  (DEED). Co-                                                                    
Chair Wilson wondered  how a school that could  not reach 10                                                                    
(Mbps)  could  increase  its bandwidth  to  25  (Mbps).  Ms.                                                                    
Walker answered that the  internet service providers ensured                                                                    
the  sponsor that  they had  the  current infrastructure  in                                                                    
place to  get all  schools to  25 (Mbps)  if they  choose to                                                                    
apply.  Co-Chair Wilson  asked if  the sponsor  had included                                                                    
information  that listed  the cost  per  school to  increase                                                                    
bandwidth to  25 megabytes.  She wondered  if it  would save                                                                    
districts money in the long  run and why districts could not                                                                    
utilize BSA  (base student  allocation) funding.  Ms. Walker                                                                    
answered that the department had  calculated the fiscal note                                                                    
based on the  districts  costs for 10  (Mbps) and multiplied                                                                    
the  amounts  by 2.5.  Co-Chair  Wilson  clarified that  her                                                                    
question was  why BSA  funds were  not utilized.  Ms. Walker                                                                    
deferred the answer to superintendents.                                                                                         
Co-Chair Wilson  questioned whether the increase  would move                                                                    
the  state   any  closer   to  utilizing   virtual  schools.                                                                    
Representative  Rasmussen answered  in the  affirmative. She                                                                    
said  that  it  would  move  the  state  closer  to  virtual                                                                    
learning opportunities. Co-Chair Wilson  asked if there were                                                                    
any  current  state laws  that  prevented  that from  taking                                                                    
place.    Representative   Rasmussen    answered   in    the                                                                    
affirmative. She believed that  a statute required a teacher                                                                    
to be physically  present in a classroom.  She reported that                                                                    
she   requested   clarification   from   Legislative   Legal                                                                    
Services. Co-Chair Wilson reasoned  that some districts were                                                                    
having  a difficult  time recruiting  teachers and  believed                                                                    
the bill would help.                                                                                                            
9:15:04 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative   Knopp   asked   whether  the   funds   were                                                                    
explicitly  for  increased  broadband width  or  whether  it                                                                    
included infrastructure  upgrades. Ms. Walker replied   that                                                                    
the   legislation  did   not   include  any   infrastructure                                                                    
upgrades, which was  why 25 (Mbps) was  chosen. The internet                                                                    
providers  were  able  to  provide  service  to  that  level                                                                    
without  major  capital  investments.  Representative  Knopp                                                                    
asked  whether  all  the  schools   had  the  capability  to                                                                    
increase its  bandwidth to  25 (Mbps).  He noted  that Vice-                                                                    
Chair Ortiz  was shaking his  head negatively. He  wanted to                                                                    
know what districts were eligible.                                                                                              
Representative Rasmussen  responded that they had  been told                                                                    
by various internet  providers that they had  the ability to                                                                    
provide  up to  25  megabits per  second  to the  districts.                                                                    
Increasing  speeds  above  the  number  in  rural  districts                                                                    
would require major capital investment from the providers.                                                                      
Representative  Carpenter  asked  what the  agreement  would                                                                    
look like between districts and the internet provider.                                                                          
9:17:36 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative Rasmussen deferred the answer to DEED.                                                                           
Co-Chair  Wilson asked  if every  district  could afford  to                                                                    
take on  the cost. She  acknowledged that it would  give the                                                                    
districts  an increased  opportunity because  the state  was                                                                    
essentially providing  a grant. Ms. Walker  answered that up                                                                    
to 90  percent of  the internet service  was covered  by the                                                                    
federal  E Rate  program. The  local share  of the  internet                                                                    
service  was  covered  by the  School  BAG  grant.  Co-Chair                                                                    
Wilson asked  if they were  providing free  internet service                                                                    
to  every school  in  the  state. She  did  not believe  the                                                                    
statement was accurate.                                                                                                         
Representative LeBon  cited the  list of schools  and school                                                                    
districts. He was surprised to  see schools in Anchorage and                                                                    
Fairbanks included  on the list.  He noted that  two schools                                                                    
in Fairbanks  had bandwidths at  20 (Mbps). He  assumed that                                                                    
the school district  could cover the increase  to 25 (Mbps).                                                                    
He   wondered   whether   his  conclusion   was   incorrect.                                                                    
Representative Rasmussen  answered that she could  not speak                                                                    
to the intentions of every school without speaking to them.                                                                     
9:20:10 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative LeBon  realized his  question was  unfair. He                                                                    
did not  expect to  see any Fairbanks  schools on  the list.                                                                    
Representative   Rasmussen  was   surprised   to  see   some                                                                    
Anchorage schools  included on the  list as well.  She noted                                                                    
that  bandwidth   was  a   statewide  issue   that  deserved                                                                    
Co-Chair   Wilson  relayed   that  the   Fairbanks  district                                                                    
schools, including  the schools  that have a  bandwidth over                                                                    
25  (Mbps), could  not  perform  testing without  scheduling                                                                    
schools over  a number of  days. She identified that  as the                                                                    
reason   she  was   asking  what   school  districts   could                                                                    
accomplish  at 25  (Mbps) versus  10 (Mbps).  Alternatively,                                                                    
she considered whether  the bill would help  the state offer                                                                    
virtual  learning,  especially  in districts  where  it  was                                                                    
difficult  to recruit  teachers.  She believed  that it  was                                                                    
necessary  to consider  whether  25 (Mbps)  was enough.  She                                                                    
noted that  even with  the grant  program bandwidth  was not                                                                    
free to the schools.                                                                                                            
Representative  Sullivan-Leonard  wanted  to hear  from  the                                                                    
9:21:50 AM                                                                                                                    
LISA SKILES  PARADY, EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR, ALASKA  COUNCIL OF                                                                    
SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, spoke in  support of the legislation.                                                                    
She  believed that  the issue  was extremely  important. She                                                                    
recapped  that  the bill  raised  the  minimum standard  for                                                                    
internet  in  schools from  10  megabits  per second  to  25                                                                    
megabits per  second and helped  the districts  pay  for the                                                                    
increase  through  the  state's Broadband  Assistance  Grant                                                                    
program. She shared  that she had been working  on the issue                                                                    
for  a  long   time.  In  2015,  she  worked   as  a  school                                                                    
administrator for  the North  Slope Borough  School District                                                                    
when   the  first   broadband  increase   to  10(Mbps)   was                                                                    
implemented.   She  elucidated   that   the   plan  was   to                                                                    
incrementally  start  increasing  the  broadband  capability                                                                    
with the  leverage of the  BAG program for  federal dollars.                                                                    
She understood that  the cost to  connect   the entire state                                                                    
was  over $2  billion and  was unattainable.  She considered                                                                    
the  incremental approach  an  exceptional opportunity.  She                                                                    
relayed that increasing the bandwidth  to outlying areas was                                                                    
one of  the association's  highest priorities.  She referred                                                                    
to  the organization's  joint  position  statement and  read                                                                    
from the document (copy not on file):                                                                                           
     Alaska's   students   need   and   deserve   the   full                                                                    
     transformative  power   of  technology   and  equitable                                                                    
     access  to  online  resources. Students,  teachers  and                                                                    
     school  leaders of  Alaska, some  of whom  live in  the                                                                    
     most  remote  areas of  the  world,  require access  to                                                                    
     modern  technology  in  order  to  transform  learning,                                                                    
     create  efficiencies, provide  online health  services,                                                                    
     and keep pace with their peers globally.                                                                                   
     ACSA  supports  continuing   the  Broadband  Assistance                                                                    
     Grant (BAG)  and increasing the  level of  state funded                                                                    
     bandwidth for  schools to a  minimum of 25  megabits of                                                                    
     download per second. This  funding leverages federal e-                                                                    
     rate  funds at  8:1  to provide  Alaska's students  and                                                                    
     educators fair access to the digital world.                                                                                
Dr. Skiles  Parody pointed out  that technology had  been an                                                                    
add-on  to core  instruction but  was becoming  increasingly                                                                    
integrated  with  core  instruction;  without  it,  students                                                                    
lacked  equitable  access.   She  maintained  that  reliable                                                                    
access to  the internet was  a critical component  to modern                                                                    
learning.   Many Alaskan  students were unable to access the                                                                    
internet  at the  Federal Communications  Commission's (FCC)                                                                    
minimum  connectivity standard.  She characterized  the bill                                                                    
as  an  investment. She  emphasized  that  passing the  bill                                                                    
during the  current session was  important so  the districts                                                                    
could meet the  annual filing window that was at  the end of                                                                    
March  each  year.  If adopted,  the  following  spring  the                                                                    
Department  of Education  and Early  Development (DEED)  and                                                                    
school  districts could  apply for  the following  year. The                                                                    
association  wanted  to  ensure all  schools  had  equitable                                                                    
access  to educational  opportunities.  She emphasized  that                                                                    
quality  education required  connectivity  and ensured  that                                                                    
students received the education  they deserved regardless of                                                                    
where they lived.                                                                                                               
9:29:19 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Johnston asked about  why $1.8 million in funding                                                                    
was  left  available with  two  schools  remaining under  10                                                                    
(Mbps)  and  why  the  two  schools did  not  apply  to  get                                                                    
connectivity  up to  10 (Mbps).  Dr. Skiles  Parody answered                                                                    
that the cap  of 10 (Mbps) left money on  the table. She did                                                                    
not have the specific  information regarding the two schools                                                                    
that remained under 10 (Mbps).  She voiced that the increase                                                                    
still relied  on the individual districts  to contribute and                                                                    
acknowledged  that was  impossible for  some schools.  Vice-                                                                    
Chair Johnston stated  that the cost for  broadband had been                                                                    
decreasing in Alaska. She wondered  whether lower costs were                                                                    
a trend  and if  low orbital  satellites contributed  to the                                                                    
situation.  Dr.  Skiles  Parady replied  affirmatively.  She                                                                    
noted that a  map was created that showed  where  the fiber                                                                     
was located  in relation to  schools. She would  provide the                                                                    
map to members. She indicated  that the map demonstrated the                                                                    
need in  the state and pointed  to the schools that  did not                                                                    
have  access  to  satellites  or fiber.  She  spoke  to  the                                                                    
inadequacies  of the  current internet  speed. She  believed                                                                    
that increased bandwidth  could extend the reach  of good or                                                                    
specialized teachers  and help achieve equity.  She believed                                                                    
that a shift from 10 (Mbps) to 25 (Mbps) was beneficial.                                                                        
Co-Chair  Wilson reiterated  her question  regarding virtual                                                                    
teaching  related  to students  trying  to  qualify for  the                                                                    
states   performance scholarship  and  whether other  issues                                                                    
besides  inadequate broadband  would interfere  with virtual                                                                    
schools. Dr.  Skiles Parady  thought that  logistical issues                                                                    
would need  to be addressed.  She maintained that  the state                                                                    
was looking at virtual education  that would not be possible                                                                    
without increased bandwidth. She  noted that the joint House                                                                    
and Senate  Education Committee was  examining the  issue of                                                                    
virtual  schools.  She  was  uncertain  whether  they  would                                                                    
replace  teachers. Co-Chair  Wilson  contended  that no  one                                                                    
wanted to  replace teacher. She  maintained that  in schools                                                                    
with  a  small number  of  students  virtual learning  could                                                                    
ensure equity in education.                                                                                                     
Co-Chair  Foster  cited  a   document  included  in  members                                                                    
titled,   Household  Broadband  Guide(copy    on  file).  He                                                                    
pointed  out  that it  highlighted  what  could be  done  at                                                                    
various broadband  speeds. He noted the  chart showing Basic                                                                    
Service  at 3  (Mbps)   to  8 (Mbps)  for one  user and  one                                                                    
device could  have Basic  functions: email,  browsing, basic                                                                    
video, Internet  radio. He deduced  that only 2  users could                                                                    
utilize  basic functions  in  a school  with  10 (Mbps).  He                                                                    
turned to  the Medium Service  listing at  12 (Mbps)   to 25                                                                    
(Mbps)  that enabled  Basic functions  plus one  high demand                                                                    
application:   streaming   HD    video,   multiparty   video                                                                    
conferencing, etc.  He thought that the  document was useful                                                                    
to  see how  little  could  be done  with  basic and  medium                                                                    
service. He  referenced a document  showing the  annual cost                                                                    
of internet, e-rate portion, school  portion, and school BAG                                                                    
portion  [document  with  no   title]  (copy  on  file).  He                                                                    
reported that St. Marys  School  District paid $428 thousand                                                                    
annually  for  internet  services,   the  E-rate  paid  $385                                                                    
thousand,  the   BAG  (Broadband  Assistance   Grant)  grant                                                                    
program paid $13 thousand and  the remainder of $30 thousand                                                                    
was paid by  St. Marys.  He calculated that  the school paid                                                                    
approximately 70 percent  of the remainder. He  moved to the                                                                    
column showing the St. Paul  school where the total internet                                                                    
cost was $139  thousand, the E-rate paid  $111 thousand, and                                                                    
the school paid $11 thousand  of the $28 thousand remaining.                                                                    
The school paid  40 percent for St. Paul and  60 percent was                                                                    
paid by  the BAG  program. He  wondered about  the disparity                                                                    
and what formula was used.                                                                                                      
9:39:05 AM                                                                                                                    
Dr. Skiles Parady  that the grant was based on  the free and                                                                    
reduced  lunch   poverty  formula   by  district   that  was                                                                    
different for each district.                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Ortiz asked  how many  districts  had access  to                                                                    
more than  one internet service provider.  He wondered about                                                                    
the level  of competition  in the  state. Dr.  Skiles Parady                                                                    
responded that  the council  had been  working on  the exact                                                                    
bill  for four  years.  The bill  died on  the  last day  of                                                                    
session  the  previous  year.  She   answered  that  it  was                                                                    
determined that  all providers  could increase  bandwidth to                                                                    
25 (MBPS)  and the number  was not a prohibitive  bar. Vice-                                                                    
Chair Ortiz clarified  that his question was  about the cost                                                                    
to   the  district.   He  imagined   that  the   absence  of                                                                    
competition   meant  one   district  may   have  to   pay  a                                                                    
substantial  amount,  more   than  districts  with  multiple                                                                    
internet  providers. He  inquired  about  the percentage  of                                                                    
districts that only  had access to one  provider. Dr. Skiles                                                                    
Parady deferred the answer to the providers.                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Wilson interjected  that the  bill would  be heard                                                                    
during the afternoon  meeting as well. She noted  that HB 75                                                                    
had a  $7 million  fiscal note, which  she reasoned  was why                                                                    
the bill had  not passed in the prior  year. The Legislative                                                                    
Finance Division  (LFD) would speak  to the fiscal  note and                                                                    
the disparity test.  Dr. Skiles Parady replied  that she was                                                                    
working with  DEED to  help them obtain  a waiver  to offset                                                                    
the formula used for the disparity test.                                                                                        
Co-Chair  Wilson  noted they  would  try  to have  the  DEED                                                                    
commissioner  available during  the  afternoon meeting.  She                                                                    
reiterated  her   strong  desire  to  ensure   that  virtual                                                                    
teaching  was  available in  order  to  give more  tools  to                                                                    
districts and meet the need  for specialized teachers in all                                                                    
areas of the state.                                                                                                             
9:43:56 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Wilson OPENED public testimony.                                                                                        
DANIEL  WALKER,   SUPERINTENDENT,  LOWER   KUSKOKWIM  SCHOOL                                                                    
DISTRICT, BETHEL  (via teleconference), supported  the bill.                                                                    
He echoed  support for comments  made by Dr.  Skiles Parady.                                                                    
He  shared  that  the  district  was  the  largest  Regional                                                                    
Educational  Attendance  Area  (REAA)   in  the  state  with                                                                    
approximately 4,100 students. He  provided details about the                                                                    
makeup of  the district.  He shared that  he worked  for the                                                                    
Lower  Kuskokwim School  District  (LKSD) for  27 years  and                                                                    
remembered when  there had  not been  internet connectivity.                                                                    
He believed  that access to  quality broadband  helped level                                                                    
the  playing   field  for   rural  districts.   He  strongly                                                                    
supported  internet access  for  LKSDs   schools to  provide                                                                    
tools  for students  and teachers.  He  elaborated that  the                                                                    
district  was  on  the  forefront   of  building  a  distant                                                                    
learning network.  The network was a  critical teaching tool                                                                    
to  engage students  in  the digital  age.  He stressed  the                                                                    
importance of internet access because  it was very difficult                                                                    
to  provide  qualified  teachers   for  every  subject.  The                                                                    
network  consisted   of  5  teaching  studios   offering  15                                                                    
different classes;  social studies, language  arts, science,                                                                    
math,  and   college  dual   credit  courses.   The  current                                                                    
bandwidth could  not support the  media rich  content needed                                                                    
for students.  Overall, the district  was woefully  short of                                                                    
the Federal  Communications Commissions   (FCC) target  of 1                                                                    
mb  per student.  The district  used its  video conferencing                                                                    
system to  connect to  remote villages  in the  district for                                                                    
meetings  and  professional   development.  The  bill  would                                                                    
enable  the district  to continue  to increase  its internet                                                                    
capacity. He urged passage of the bill in the current year.                                                                     
9:47:48 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Carpenter   asked  how  much   the  district                                                                    
currently  spent for  internet  access.  Mr. Walker  replied                                                                    
that LKSD  spent approximately $3  million from  its regular                                                                    
budget.   Representative  Carpenter   asked  how   much  was                                                                    
subsidized in  state and federal money.  Mr. Walker answered                                                                    
that   the   subsidies    totaled   roughly   $28   million.                                                                    
Representative  Carpenter asked  what the  breakdown between                                                                    
federal  and state  dollars was.  Mr. Walker  indicated that                                                                    
the  district was  not eligible  for the  BAG grants  in the                                                                    
prior year because the district  was utilizing the 10 (Mbps)                                                                    
Co-Chair  Wilson  asked  how   much  more  regular  internet                                                                    
service would cost the district  if it increased speed to 25                                                                    
(Mbps). Mr.  Walker did  not know  off the  top of  his head                                                                    
what the cost  was. The fact that the district  was using $3                                                                    
million out  of its own current  funds said a lot  about the                                                                    
need  for   the  legislation.  Co-Chair  Wilson   asked  for                                                                    
verification that the district was  using $28 million in its                                                                    
district  on internet  service. She  wondered if  there were                                                                    
other beneficial  ways the district could  spend $28 million                                                                    
besides internet.  She stressed  the large expense  for only                                                                    
10 (Mbps). Mr. Walker answered  that the $28 million was the                                                                    
e-rate  subsidy and  $3 million  was the  districts expense.                                                                    
Co-Chair  Wilson understood,  but she  reasoned that  if the                                                                    
state and federal government was  going to spend $28 million                                                                    
on 4,100 students that there may  be a better way to use the                                                                    
funds  on   students  instead  of  giving   it  to  internet                                                                    
providers. She was  concerned that the money was  going to a                                                                    
service that could elevate learning  if used in other areas.                                                                    
She  understood  that  the  money  could  not  be  used  for                                                                    
teachers and  must be  used for internet.  She asked  how he                                                                    
could  better expend  the funds  to  benefit students  other                                                                    
than on internet services.                                                                                                      
9:51:43 AM                                                                                                                    
Mr.  Walker  answered  that  one  of  the  district's  major                                                                    
challenges was  finding enough teachers. He  did not believe                                                                    
the  district  would  have  the  ability  to  fill  all  its                                                                    
positions.  He communicated  that an  actual teacher  in the                                                                    
classroom was the  most beneficial scenario, but  he did not                                                                    
believe it was a realistic  goal. The ability to have access                                                                    
to broadband  internet  had  taken the  walls down   for the                                                                    
district's students - it broadened  their world. He believed                                                                    
a balance  was necessary.  He acknowledged that  the service                                                                    
was  expensive. The  district chose   terrestrial internet,                                                                     
which removed the satellite.  He delineated that terrestrial                                                                    
internet  was important  for the  distance learning  network                                                                    
because  it removed  the delay  and caused  a lower  quality                                                                    
experience for  the end  user. The  district needed  to make                                                                    
sure the  experience was on par  with a live teacher  in the                                                                    
classroom.  The  district had  chosen  to  have a  dedicated                                                                    
circuit, which meant that LKSD  was not sharing with all the                                                                    
other internet  users in the  area and provided  the ability                                                                    
for the schools to manage  their internet. He commented that                                                                    
bandwidth needed  to be managed  in order to  provide online                                                                    
testing and rich media experiences for the students.                                                                            
9:54:51 AM                                                                                                                    
Representative  Carpenter asked  for a  cost estimate  of 25                                                                    
(Mbps)  service  for  the  district.   Mr.  Walker  did  not                                                                    
presently have the estimate.                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair Johnston  asked if  greater connectivity  got the                                                                    
district  closer to  individual learning  plans and  had the                                                                    
district  considered teaching  coding.  Mr. Walker  answered                                                                    
that the  bill did get the  district closer to the  goal. He                                                                    
noted that the  district was currently at 10  percent of the                                                                    
per  student internet  capacity recommended  by the  FCC. He                                                                    
believed that  it would  take significant  growth to  get to                                                                    
that point.  He delineated  that there  were ways  to manage                                                                    
the  bandwidth  through  caching  and  prioritizing  certain                                                                    
services,  which the  district engaged  in. However,  online                                                                    
testing  remained problematic  and  LKSD  tested on  certain                                                                    
grade  levels  on  certain  days   at  certain  schools.  He                                                                    
emphasized  that  increasing  the bandwidth  would  be  very                                                                    
beneficial  for the  district  and would  get  it closer  to                                                                    
achieving  personalized  individual learning.  The  district                                                                    
was teaching coding and anticipated growth in the area.                                                                         
9:57:14 AM                                                                                                                    
Vice-Chair  Ortiz asked  if online  testing  had impacts  on                                                                    
test scores  - the student  had to know the  information and                                                                    
how  to  use  the  computer.  He wondered  if  there  was  a                                                                    
correlation  in  districts  that may  not  have  significant                                                                    
access to computers  in general and test  scores. Mr. Walker                                                                    
answered  it was  challenging to  determine  the answer.  He                                                                    
believed for  the first  few years it  probably had  a small                                                                    
impact, but as students advanced  in school the tests became                                                                    
easier to take.                                                                                                                 
9:59:31 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Wilson noted that she  would leave public testimony                                                                    
open until the afternoon meeting.                                                                                               
Vice-Chair  Ortiz  spoke  to  a  districts   limitations  to                                                                    
deliver  a test  online.  He wondered  if  it impacted  test                                                                    
scores.  Mr.  Walker  replied that  the  district  had  some                                                                    
challenges  with  online  testing  that  led  to  incredible                                                                    
frustration  for students  and  teachers. He  noted that  at                                                                    
some  point, when  students got  frustrated it  led to  them                                                                    
shutting down  and performing poorly.  He believed  that the                                                                    
district had a decent experience  with state testing but had                                                                    
some challenges  with math testing that  was performed twice                                                                    
each year. He observed that the situation had an impact.                                                                        
10:02:19 AM                                                                                                                   
LAURA HYLTON,  FINANCE DIRECTOR,  LAKE AND  PENINSULA SCHOOL                                                                    
DISTRICT, ALASKA  PENINSULA (via  teleconference), testified                                                                    
in  favor of  the legislation.  She stressed  that bandwidth                                                                    
was  a  critical  piece  of  what  the  school  did  in  its                                                                    
classrooms  daily.  The  district had  offered  some  online                                                                    
instruction via  their master teachers  that was  limited by                                                                    
bandwidth. The  district worked carefully  around scheduling                                                                    
and  managing  internet.  She explained  that  most  of  the                                                                    
district had small  rural one, two, and  three teacher sites                                                                    
that  were K  through  12  with a  few  larger schools.  The                                                                    
ability for a  district teacher to teach  high level classes                                                                    
throughout the day helped the  small schools achieve more by                                                                    
exposure  to better  teachers  and  better instruction.  She                                                                    
stated  that they  barely  pulled  the work  off  at the  10                                                                    
(Mbps)  rate. Overall  the system  functioned, but  they had                                                                    
difficulties during testing and  students had times when the                                                                    
internet was  disconnected. The teachers used  many internet                                                                    
resources to  bring different learning experiences  into the                                                                    
classrooms. She  strongly believed that  increased bandwidth                                                                    
was critical and urged support of the legislation.                                                                              
10:05:30 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Wilson  asked how much  state funding  the district                                                                    
used,  how much  was  federal, and  the  number of  students                                                                    
served. Ms.  Hylton answered the  district had  300 students                                                                    
and their  cost was $1.17  million. The E-rate  covered over                                                                    
$1 million,  the BAG  grant paid just  over $5  thousand and                                                                    
the district paid $118 thousand.                                                                                                
10:06:20 AM                                                                                                                   
SAM  JORDAN, SELF,  JUNEAU  (via  teleconference), spoke  in                                                                    
support  of the  bill. He  spoke to  educational equity  and                                                                    
reported that  providing it was  challenging for  the entire                                                                    
country.  Equity provided  a  baseline  of common  education                                                                    
experience  no  matter  where a  student  resided.  Internet                                                                    
access had  become an equity  issue over the past  20 years.                                                                    
He noted that broadband  access was an important requirement                                                                    
for  a  good  education. He  supported  increased  broadband                                                                    
width across the state.                                                                                                         
10:08:18 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Wilson discussed the procedure and topics for the                                                                      
afternoon hearing.                                                                                                              
HB 75 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further                                                                               
10:11:01 AM                                                                                                                   
The meeting was adjourned at 10:10 a.m.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 29 Audit.pdf HFIN 5/7/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 29
SB 29 Sponsor Statement.pdf HFIN 5/7/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 29
SB 29 Fiscal Note Backup.pdf HFIN 5/7/2019 9:00:00 AM
SB 29
HB 75 Supporting Doc Broadband Networks map.pdf HFIN 5/7/2019 9:00:00 AM
HB 75