Legislature(2021 - 2022)ADAMS 519

04/01/2022 09:00 AM House FINANCE

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Audio Topic
09:06:31 AM Start
09:07:17 AM HB272 || HB273
10:16:43 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony Limited to 2 Minutes--
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony Limited to 2 Minutes--
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                  HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                       April 1, 2022                                                                                            
                         9:06 a.m.                                                                                              
9:06:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Merrick called the  House Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 9:06 a.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Neal Foster, Co-Chair (via teleconference)                                                                       
Representative Kelly Merrick, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Dan Ortiz, Vice-Chair (via teleconference)                                                                       
Representative Ben Carpenter                                                                                                    
Representative Bryce Edgmon                                                                                                     
Representative DeLena Johnson                                                                                                   
Representative Andy Josephson                                                                                                   
Representative Bart LeBon                                                                                                       
Representative Sara Rasmussen                                                                                                   
Representative Steve Thompson                                                                                                   
Representative Adam Wool                                                                                                        
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Representative  Andi  Story,  Sponsor;  Emily  Ferry,  Self,                                                                    
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
Norm  Wooten, Director  of Advocacy,  Association of  Alaska                                                                    
School Boards,  Texas; Douglas Gray, Alaska  Association for                                                                    
Elementary School  Principals, Anchorage; Katie  Botz, Self,                                                                    
Juneau;  Tom   Klaameyer,  National   Education  Association                                                                    
Alaska,  Anchorage; Jennifer  Sonne,  Self, Anchorage;  Josh                                                                    
Branstetter,  Self, Anchorage;  Barb Jewell,  Cordova School                                                                    
District,  Cordova; Bessie  Weston,  Lower Kuskokwim  School                                                                    
District,  Board   Member,  Mekoryuk;  Andy   DeGraw,  Chief                                                                    
Operations  Officer,  Fairbanks  North Star  Borough  School                                                                    
District,  Fairbanks;  Marla Statscewich,  Self,  Fairbanks;                                                                    
Kelly  Lessens,  Anchorage  School  Board,  Anchorage;  Bill                                                                    
Hill, Superintendent,  Bristol Bay School  District, Naknek;                                                                    
Rick Dormer, Principal,  Petersburg High School, Petersburg;                                                                    
Clayton Holland,  Superintendent, Kenai School  District and                                                                    
Superintendent   Association,   Soldotna;  Nathan   Erfurth,                                                                    
History  Teacher,  Kenai;   Bridget  Weiss,  Superintendent,                                                                    
Juneau  School  District,  Juneau;  Elisabeth  Nadin,  Self,                                                                    
Fairbanks;   Margo   Bellamy,    Anchorage   School   Board,                                                                    
Anchorage;  David  Boyle,  Self, Anchorage;  Katie  Parrott,                                                                    
Business   Manager,   Ketchikan   Gateway   Borough   School                                                                    
District,  Ketchikan;  Rebecca   Ingalls,  Teacher's  Union,                                                                    
Bristol Bay School District, Naknek.                                                                                            
HB 272    INCREASE BASE STUDENT ALLOCATION                                                                                      
          HB 272 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
HB 273    INCREASE BASE STUDENT ALLOC. INFLATION                                                                                
          HB 273 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
Co-Chair Merrick  reviewed the  agenda for the  meeting. She                                                                    
indicated the  committee would  be hearing  public testimony                                                                    
on HB 272 and HB 273 together.                                                                                                  
HOUSE BILL NO. 272                                                                                                            
     "An Act relating to education; increasing the base                                                                         
     student allocation; and providing for an effective                                                                         
HOUSE BILL NO. 273                                                                                                            
     "An Act relating to education; increasing the base                                                                         
     student allocation; and providing for an effective                                                                         
9:07:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ANDI  STORY, SPONSOR,  explained that  HB 272                                                                    
would  increase  the  base  student  allocation  (BSA).  She                                                                    
reminded  members that  the BSA  increase was  for only  two                                                                    
years  and  was  a  modest   increase  to  help  with  fixed                                                                    
expenses. It  would allow school  districts to plan  for the                                                                    
future and prevent laying off  teachers. It would also allow                                                                    
legislators to invest in  certain initiatives for education.                                                                    
She  suggested  that  a  modest   BSA  increase  would  help                                                                    
districts focus on students' needs.                                                                                             
Representative Story  explained that  HB 273 allowed  for an                                                                    
inflation  increase. It  would  set  a three-year  inflation                                                                    
average  with a  one-year lag.  There was  a large  spike in                                                                    
inflation in 2021  and the bill would help  smooth out large                                                                    
spikes like this. The bill  also recognized that costs would                                                                    
increase over  the years.  She thought  the bill  would give                                                                    
some  stability to  school  districts  and help  legislators                                                                    
meet the  constitutional obligation to maintain  the state's                                                                    
schools.  She  thought  the  legislature  had  been  falling                                                                    
behind  on this  obligation.  The BSA  had  remained a  flat                                                                    
funding since  fiscal year  (FY) 17  which had  put downward                                                                    
pressure  on education  as schools  had been  forced to  cut                                                                    
classroom  services to  cover  fixed  costs. She  emphasized                                                                    
that  members  had received  over  60  letters of  testimony                                                                    
supporting the bill. The letters  spoke about the impacts of                                                                    
the loss  of programs  that were  main motivators  for kids,                                                                    
such as  music and art. She  wanted Alaska to have  a strong                                                                    
workforce and attract and retain families to the state.                                                                         
9:11:57 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick OPENED public testimony.                                                                                       
EMILY FERRY,  SELF, JUNEAU, noted  that she worked  with the                                                                    
Association of  Alaska School Boards  (AASB). She  had three                                                                    
middle school  aged children that were  directly impacted by                                                                    
school  funding.  She  compared   the  reduction  in  school                                                                    
funding to  a person going into  hypothermia because schools                                                                    
were forced  to conserve resources and  cut "extremities" to                                                                    
save funds  for the  most important  things. The  impacts of                                                                    
low  school  funding were  felt  throughout  the state.  She                                                                    
relayed  that  Alaska's  post-secondary  outcomes  were  the                                                                    
lowest in  the nation.  Students from Alaska  were enrolling                                                                    
in and completing college at  the lowest rate in the nation.                                                                    
Other   states  were   investing  in   things  like   school                                                                    
counselors  and  advisors  to increase  students'  workplace                                                                    
readiness,  while the  schools  in Alaska  had been  cutting                                                                    
counselors.  She  spoke  of  the  high  rates  of  attempted                                                                    
suicide in  her son's class.  She relayed that  two students                                                                    
in her son's  class of 30 students had  attempted suicide in                                                                    
the current year, and that it was a long-term crisis.                                                                           
Representative Wool asked what grade her son was in.                                                                            
Ms. Ferry responded that her son was in eighth grade.                                                                           
9:15:48 AM                                                                                                                    
NORM  WOOTEN, DIRECTOR  OF ADVOCACY,  ASSOCIATION OF  ALASKA                                                                    
SCHOOL BOARDS, TEXAS (via  teleconference), spoke in support                                                                    
of HB 272  and HB 273. He indicated that  the BSA was placed                                                                    
into  Alaska's  educational  foundation funding  formula  to                                                                    
meet  the  statutory requirement  to  maintain  a system  of                                                                    
public education. It  was designed to create  a standard for                                                                    
the   legislature  to   ensure  that   education  would   be                                                                    
adequately funded each  year. However, the BSA  had not been                                                                    
adjusted since 2017 to  account for cost-of-living increases                                                                    
and other  changes. It was  unfair to expect an  increase in                                                                    
student  achievement while  continuing to  cut programs.  As                                                                    
costs  continued  to  rise,  classrooms  were  impacted  and                                                                    
students  suffered.  He  thought  it  seemed  reasonable  to                                                                    
increase  the  BSA  to  reflect rising  costs  based  on  an                                                                    
accepted  standard.  He  indicated  that  AASB  had  several                                                                    
resolutions with  regard to HB 272  and HB 273 and  he would                                                                    
provide the information to the committee in writing.                                                                            
9:18:15 AM                                                                                                                    
DOUGLAS  GRAY,  ALASKA  ASSOCIATION  FOR  ELEMENTARY  SCHOOL                                                                    
PRINCIPALS, ANCHORAGE  (via teleconference), spoke  in favor                                                                    
of HB  272 and HB  273 as a  way to increase  and inflation-                                                                    
proof the BSA. He explained  that there had been significant                                                                    
learning loss  in schools during the  COVID-19 pandemic. One                                                                    
of the ways  to address this loss was to  implement a system                                                                    
of  multiple tiers  of support,  which was  a research-based                                                                    
approach  to  address  students' needs  by  identifying  and                                                                    
imparting skills  for success. In many  cases, students were                                                                    
able to  gain the necessary  skills in  less than a  year by                                                                    
engaging in  the tiered system. Unfortunately,  schools were                                                                    
being  forced  to  prioritize funds  that  could  erode  the                                                                    
effectiveness  of the  model as  class  sizes increased  and                                                                    
staff decreased due to budget  cuts. These two factors alone                                                                    
had  significantly impacted  schools'  ability to  establish                                                                    
schedules to  provide the targeted  instruction that  was so                                                                    
important  for  student  improvement. He  urged  members  to                                                                    
support both bills.                                                                                                             
Co-Chair Merrick asked for clarification  that he was with a                                                                    
group that represented elementary school principals.                                                                            
Mr. Grey responded in the affirmative.                                                                                          
Co-Chair  Merrick  asked if  there  were  other groups  that                                                                    
represented middle and high school principals.                                                                                  
Mr.  Grey  responded  that there  was  an  association  that                                                                    
represented secondary school principals.                                                                                        
9:21:20 AM                                                                                                                    
KATIE  BOTZ, SELF,  JUNEAU  (via  teleconference), spoke  in                                                                    
support of  HB 272 and  HB 273.  She was concerned  with the                                                                    
students'  wellbeing coming  out of  the COVID-19  pandemic.                                                                    
She was a school bus driver  and had witnessed the effect of                                                                    
the  pandemic.  She  wanted  to   know  that  students  were                                                                    
receiving the  support that they  needed. She  urged support                                                                    
for both bills.                                                                                                                 
9:23:10 AM                                                                                                                    
TOM  KLAAMEYER,   NATIONAL  EDUCATION   ASSOCIATION  ALASKA,                                                                    
ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), supported  the passage of HB
272 and HB 273. He  suggested that funding education was the                                                                    
single    most     important    constitutionally    mandated                                                                    
appropriation  by the  legislature. Increasing  the BSA  and                                                                    
protecting  it  against  inflation   was  long  overdue.  He                                                                    
thought that  the logic  that the  state could  not increase                                                                    
funding  until   it  had   better  financial   outcomes  was                                                                    
fundamentally  flawed.  He  stated  that  it  could  not  be                                                                    
ignored  that other  states  that  were doing  fundamentally                                                                    
well were  investing in education.  He agreed  that Alaska's                                                                    
outcomes relative  to other states  had decreased  in recent                                                                    
years,  but  he  thought  that   should  not  be  surprising                                                                    
considering  that was  the same  timeframe during  which the                                                                    
state   "gutted"   teacher   retirement  and   flat   funded                                                                    
education.  When the  state was  investing in  education, it                                                                    
ranked  competitively amongst  other states.  He noted  that                                                                    
other  states had  improved  student  outcomes by  investing                                                                    
further in  education. He thought Alaska  should attract and                                                                    
retain high-quality  educators and  administrators necessary                                                                    
to support  the academic  success of students.  He suggested                                                                    
that rather  than just  provide for  basic needs,  the state                                                                    
should invest  in education to  inspire students  to explore                                                                    
their creativity  and become successful members  of society.                                                                    
He  thought  expecting  increased  student  performance  was                                                                    
futile unless  the state increased investment  in education.                                                                    
He urged passage of both bills.                                                                                                 
9:25:28 AM                                                                                                                    
JENNIFER  SONNE,   SELF,  ANCHORAGE   (via  teleconference),                                                                    
supported HB 272  and HB 273. She noted that  with the cost-                                                                    
of-living increases in the state,  the cost of education had                                                                    
risen as  well. Without  proper funding,  impossible choices                                                                    
would  arise,  such  as deciding  whether  a  school  should                                                                    
designate  money   towards  rising  costs  of   heating  the                                                                    
building,  towards  keeping  class sizes  down,  or  towards                                                                    
retaining counselors. She thought  schools should be able to                                                                    
fund all of these items,  but it was not currently possible.                                                                    
She urged members to support both bills.                                                                                        
9:26:52 AM                                                                                                                    
JOSH BRANSTETTER, SELF,  ANCHORAGE (via teleconference), was                                                                    
a parent of a child  in the Anchorage School District (ASD).                                                                    
He was  also a  member of  the Coalition  for Neurodivergent                                                                    
Students.  There were  many neurodivergent  students in  the                                                                    
district  including  his  son   who  was  autistic  and  had                                                                    
dysgraphia. He  explained that it was  difficult to navigate                                                                    
his  son's needs  when  the schools  did  not have  adequate                                                                    
resources.  He had  talked to  several  parents that  agreed                                                                    
that when schools faced reductions,  the cuts resulted in an                                                                    
adverse educational  experience for  students like  his son.                                                                    
He thought  accommodating for  inflation was  necessary, and                                                                    
that having extra  resources in the classroom was  a step in                                                                    
the right  direction. He thought  the moderate  increases in                                                                    
the bill would  make a huge difference. He  urged passage of                                                                    
both bills.                                                                                                                     
9:29:22 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Merrick  asked Mr. Branstetter  to repeat  the name                                                                    
of the coalition he mentioned.                                                                                                  
Mr. Branstetter  responded the Coalition  for Neurodivergent                                                                    
9:29:40 AM                                                                                                                    
BARB   JEWELL,  CORDOVA   SCHOOL   DISTRICT,  CORDOVA   (via                                                                    
teleconference), spoke in support of  HB 272 and HB 273. She                                                                    
thought the bills would begin  to address gaps that had been                                                                    
created due  to long-term  flat funding of  education. There                                                                    
had  been significant  negative impacts  to the  students of                                                                    
the  state.   The  state   had  experienced   difficulty  in                                                                    
recruiting  and  retaining   teachers  and  maintaining  the                                                                    
school buildings.  In Cordova, the  flat funding of  the BSA                                                                    
had  resulted  in  a  higher   number  of  students  in  the                                                                    
classrooms and  fewer staff in  the building. The  school no                                                                    
longer had  a librarian or  a pre-school. The cost  of doing                                                                    
business in Alaska was more  expensive than in other states,                                                                    
and the  cost of education  was also higher. She  noted that                                                                    
the BSA had  not been increased since 2017, and  that HB 272                                                                    
and  HB 273  would  start  to address  the  impacts of  this                                                                    
stagnation. She urged members to pass both bills.                                                                               
9:32:45 AM                                                                                                                    
BESSIE  WESTON,  LOWER   KUSKOKWIM  SCHOOL  DISTRICT,  BOARD                                                                    
MEMBER,  MEKORYUK (via  teleconference), indicated  that the                                                                    
school  district  needed  every  penny  it  could  get.  Her                                                                    
community  of  Mekoryuk  had  a  total  of  41  students  in                                                                    
kindergarten through twelfth grade  (K-12). She relayed that                                                                    
HB  272 and  HB 273  would provide  an extra  $2,255 to  the                                                                    
school,  which  was low  but  would  still be  helpful.  The                                                                    
increase in fuel prices would  be about 60 percent according                                                                    
to  quotes  she  received  from   the  local  government  in                                                                    
Mekoryuk.  She recalled  that the  average annual  inflation                                                                    
parentage was about two percent,  but she was confident that                                                                    
the percentage would spike and  would have crippling effects                                                                    
on the  educational system. She  reiterated her  support for                                                                    
both  bills  and  thanked  the  legislators  sponsoring  the                                                                    
9:35:29 AM                                                                                                                    
ANDY DEGRAW, CHIEF OPERATIONS  OFFICER, FAIRBANKS NORTH STAR                                                                    
BOROUGH  SCHOOL  DISTRICT, FAIRBANKS  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
spoke  in support  of both  bills. He  noted that  there had                                                                    
been  much   discussion  within   the  districts   about  an                                                                    
impending  fiscal  cliff  and   expressed  that  schools  in                                                                    
Fairbanks  were   already  going  "down  the   side  of  the                                                                    
mountain." He  noted that the  district was going  through a                                                                    
two-year step-down  approach due  to the fiscal  deficit. He                                                                    
relayed  that  the  district's FY  23  budget  included  the                                                                    
closure  of  three schools  within  the  district and  would                                                                    
require  laying  off  130 employees.  Many  schools  in  the                                                                    
district were  already experiencing fiscal  challenges prior                                                                    
to COVID-19 due to the lack  of increase to the BSA. Many of                                                                    
the fixed  cost pressures  the district  was facing  were in                                                                    
the  areas   of  transportation,  technology,   and  utility                                                                    
increases. Health insurance was  also a constant stressor on                                                                    
the  budget   and  constituted  about  20   percent  of  the                                                                    
district's  budget. He  relayed  that the  district was  not                                                                    
looking for  a handout and  it had already  made significant                                                                    
reductions. He urged support of both bills.                                                                                     
Co-Chair Merrick asked if Mr.  DeGraw had seen a significant                                                                    
loss in students in Fairbanks.                                                                                                  
Mr. DeGraw responded that there  was an initial decrease due                                                                    
to the  pandemic, but the  district had recouped  about half                                                                    
of  the students  lost. There  had been  significant student                                                                    
decline prior  to the  pandemic, but  he suggested  that the                                                                    
pandemic brought the issue to a head.                                                                                           
9:39:43 AM                                                                                                                    
MARLA  STATSCEWICH,  SELF, FAIRBANKS  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
urged support of  the passage of HB 272 and  HB 273. She was                                                                    
a parent  of two elementary  school children. She  noted how                                                                    
the BSA had not been increased  for more than five years and                                                                    
needed to increase  to keep up with the cost  of living. She                                                                    
spoke  of the  importance of  retaining quality  teachers in                                                                    
the state.  She encouraged  members to  pass both  pieces of                                                                    
9:40:51 AM                                                                                                                    
KELLY  LESSENS,  ANCHORAGE   SCHOOL  BOARD,  ANCHORAGE  (via                                                                    
teleconference), was  a parent  of two  children in  ASD and                                                                    
the   chair  of   the  Anchorage   School  Board's   finance                                                                    
committee. She  supported HB 273  and HB 272  but emphasized                                                                    
that the two  bills would not address the full  needs of the                                                                    
district without the  additional passage of HB  259. The low                                                                    
teacher  to student  ratio could  only be  addressed through                                                                    
adequate funding.  Without federal  funding as  a "band-aid"                                                                    
solution, ratios would have been  much worse. The student to                                                                    
teacher ratio  would have been  40 to  1 in ASD  without the                                                                    
federal  funding.  The district  was  projected  to lose  60                                                                    
teachers  according  to  the following  year's  budget.  She                                                                    
reviewed the  schools that would  be losing  teachers. Since                                                                    
the BSA had been  adjusted, ASD had implemented efficiencies                                                                    
including closing two  schools. Flat funding in  the face of                                                                    
inflation and  enrollment changes  meant that  students have                                                                    
had to "do more with  less." Increased class sizes would not                                                                    
facilitate  educational goals.  She thought  it was  telling                                                                    
that  every one  of the  three finalists  for superintendent                                                                    
stressed  grave concerns  about  the state  of ASD's  fiscal                                                                    
cliff.  She asked  members to  support  student learning  by                                                                    
passing both bills.                                                                                                             
9:44:10 AM                                                                                                                    
BILL  HILL,  SUPERINTENDENT,  BRISTOL BAY  SCHOOL  DISTRICT,                                                                    
NAKNEK (via teleconference), testified  in support of HB 272                                                                    
and HB 273.  He assured members that the  Bristol Bay School                                                                    
District had  taken great care  in spending the  monies that                                                                    
the  state provided  to ensure  that students  would receive                                                                    
the  best  education  possible.  He  reviewed  the  multiple                                                                    
tactics the  district had used to  make the best use  of the                                                                    
funding it received, such as  reducing staffing by combining                                                                    
elementary classes and reducing  district office staffing by                                                                    
50 percent.  He stressed that  the district was  running out                                                                    
of creative  solutions and he advocated  for stable funding.                                                                    
The high  teacher turnover  was significantly  affecting the                                                                    
classrooms  and  had a  direct  negative  impact on  student                                                                    
performance. New teachers often left  the state by the fifth                                                                    
year of  their employment  with the district  and recruiting                                                                    
new  staff   had  become  a  crisis.   Forward  funding  was                                                                    
necessary in order  to provide stable funding  and allow for                                                                    
schools to  plan for  upcoming school  years. He  hoped that                                                                    
members would support both bills.                                                                                               
Co-Chair  Merrick  asked  how  many  schools  and  how  many                                                                    
students were in the school district in Naknek.                                                                                 
Mr. Hill responded that there  were two schools housed under                                                                    
the same roof.  There were just over  100 students attending                                                                    
in  person   and  another   dozen  students   attending  via                                                                    
9:47:24 AM                                                                                                                    
RICK DORMER,  PRINCIPAL, PETERSBURG HIGH  SCHOOL, PETERSBURG                                                                    
(via teleconference), testified in support  of HB 272 and HB
273.  He  expressed  that the  schools  in  Petersburg  were                                                                    
battling  increased  costs  and  flat  funding.  The  school                                                                    
building  also housed  other community  events,  such as  an                                                                    
assembly in the  prior week to support  veterans. He thanked                                                                    
members for looking at the  legislation and appreciated both                                                                    
pieces of legislation.                                                                                                          
9:49:12 AM                                                                                                                    
CLAYTON HOLLAND,  SUPERINTENDENT, KENAI SCHOOL  DISTRICT AND                                                                    
SUPERINTENDENT  ASSOCIATION, SOLDOTNA  (via teleconference),                                                                    
supported both bills. The Kenai  School District (KSD) had a                                                                    
strong  history  of  providing great  outcomes  to  students                                                                    
despite  facing  staffing  difficulties,  COVID-19,  and  an                                                                    
ongoing opioid crisis. He  expressed commitment to improving                                                                    
literacy   rates  and   increasing   career  and   technical                                                                    
education  opportunities.   However,  there  needed   to  be                                                                    
consistent  and   predictable  funding  in  order   to  make                                                                    
improvements.  The  impacts  of   inflation  had  been  felt                                                                    
acutely due  to the lack  of a  BSA increase. He  noted that                                                                    
KSD would have  had to cut many more teachers  if it did not                                                                    
receive federal  funding. He  suggested that  strong schools                                                                    
correlated  with a  strong economy.  Predictable and  stable                                                                    
funding  was necessary  to cultivate  strong schools  and he                                                                    
urged support for both bills.                                                                                                   
Co-Chair  Merrick commented  that  it  was disheartening  to                                                                    
hear  that KSD  was  experiencing problems  with opioid  use                                                                    
among students.                                                                                                                 
Mr.  Holland  clarified that  students  were  growing up  in                                                                    
households that  were impacted by  opioids. There was  a lot                                                                    
of  work   to  be  done   for  students  who  had   been  in                                                                    
dysfunctional situations.                                                                                                       
Co-Chair Merrick thanked him for his clarification.                                                                             
9:52:27 AM                                                                                                                    
NATHAN    ERFURTH,     HISTORY    TEACHER,     KENAI    (via                                                                    
teleconference), spoke  in favor  of HB 272  and HB  273. He                                                                    
relayed that  he has watched the  opportunities available to                                                                    
his  students dwindle,  such as  music, sports,  and classes                                                                    
beyond  the bare  minimum required  to graduate.  He thought                                                                    
that the  state was  now "cutting  into the  muscle" because                                                                    
the  teacher workforce  was not  being replaced  as teachers                                                                    
retired.  He had  heard legislators  repeat the  phrase, "we                                                                    
deserve a better  return on our investment."  He stated that                                                                    
this  argument  relied  on testing  scores,  but  a  child's                                                                    
learning  was unquantifiable  in many  ways. However,  there                                                                    
was no  other measure other  than testing available  at this                                                                    
time. Standardized tests  were not a test  of competency and                                                                    
were constantly  changing. He  argued that  children thrived                                                                    
in  a  stable educational  environment  with  a richness  of                                                                    
opportunity and inquiry, not a  scarcity. Students would not                                                                    
thrive  when they  were shuffled  in and  out of  schools to                                                                    
learn  the  bare  minimum  of   education  and  take  tests.                                                                    
Students and schools cut to  bone would perform accordingly,                                                                    
and  students' mental  health  would  suffer. When  properly                                                                    
funded,  schools  were  full  of  qualified  experts  ready,                                                                    
willing,  and able  to  change lives.  He  urged members  to                                                                    
raise the BSA for the children.                                                                                                 
9:55:06 AM                                                                                                                    
BRIDGET  WEISS,  SUPERINTENDENT,   JUNEAU  SCHOOL  DISTRICT,                                                                    
JUNEAU (via teleconference), supported HB  272 and HB 273 as                                                                    
a means to  achieve adequate funding and  stability. She was                                                                    
a product of the Juneau  School District herself. She shared                                                                    
that  she had  a  strong emotional  reaction  to Ms.  Botz's                                                                    
earlier testimony when Ms. Botz  relayed the impacts she had                                                                    
seen  as  a school  bus  driver.  The required  expenses  of                                                                    
schools  continued to  increase  which  meant that  valuable                                                                    
support programs had to be cut.  There had been many cuts to                                                                    
schools in  Juneau, such as middle  school counselors. There                                                                    
was currently  one middle school counselor  for 550 students                                                                    
in Juneau.  Class size had  increased, and the  district had                                                                    
made  cuts  in  every   way  possible  to  manage  declining                                                                    
funding. The need was significant,  and the expectations put                                                                    
upon teachers  had increased. She  noted that the  state was                                                                    
obligated  by statute  to provide  the schools  with regular                                                                    
and  adequate funding.  She appreciated  the sponsor  of the                                                                    
bills  for bringing  them forward.  She appreciated  members                                                                    
support for both bills.                                                                                                         
Co-Chair Merrick noted she was  also a product of the Juneau                                                                    
School District.                                                                                                                
Ms.  Weiss  responded  positively  and  expressed  that  she                                                                    
wanted to facilitate successful careers for students.                                                                           
9:58:38 AM                                                                                                                    
ELISABETH  NADIN,  SELF,   FAIRBANKS  (via  teleconference),                                                                    
called to  support HB 272 and  HB 273. She had  two children                                                                    
in school in  Fairbanks. She emphasized that  she would like                                                                    
to see  better financial support  of local schools.  She had                                                                    
seen  a  focus  on   supporting  alternative  programs  like                                                                    
homeschool programs  but would like  to see more of  a focus                                                                    
on the public  school system. Every year there  seemed to be                                                                    
an  additional stressor  on the  schools  with the  constant                                                                    
possibility of  pink slips. She thought  the constant stress                                                                    
made education  seem like an  unsecure future  for potential                                                                    
teachers. She  thought the conversation should  be about how                                                                    
the state  and local  community could  do better  to support                                                                    
the schools,  not the other  way around. She  reiterated her                                                                    
support for both bills.                                                                                                         
10:01:31 AM                                                                                                                   
MARGO  BELLAMY,  ANCHORAGE   SCHOOL  BOARD,  ANCHORAGE  (via                                                                    
teleconference), testified in support of  HB 272 and HB 273.                                                                    
She  wanted to  emphasize  that all  children  in the  state                                                                    
deserved a great  education. She relayed that  ASD had three                                                                    
strategic goals: reading  proficiency, math proficiency, and                                                                    
college and  career readiness. The  bills would  provide the                                                                    
needed   funds    to   begin    implementing   multiple-year                                                                    
improvements.   The   pathway   in   meeting   ASD's   goals                                                                    
necessitated  a partnership  with the  legislature. She  was                                                                    
thankful  to  the  bill  sponsor  for  bringing  both  bills                                                                    
forward.  The  legislature  had  provided  one-time  funding                                                                    
twice in the  past five years which had  helped the district                                                                    
avoid   large-scale  reductions.   However,  this   was  not                                                                    
sustainable.  The federal  funds and  one-time relief  funds                                                                    
had hidden  a structural deficit  of $10 to $12  million per                                                                    
year. She  provided examples of actions  the school district                                                                    
had taken  to meet budget  constraints, such as  closing and                                                                    
merging schools  and discontinuing programs. She  thought it                                                                    
was time  for Alaska to  implement an inflation  proofed BSA                                                                    
in  order  to allow  the  district  to implement  multi-year                                                                    
improvement  strategies. Reliable  funding  was  the key  to                                                                    
improving  student  outcomes   by  stabilizing  schools  and                                                                    
reducing teacher turnover.                                                                                                      
10:05:14 AM                                                                                                                   
DAVID BOYLE,  SELF, ANCHORAGE (via teleconference),  did not                                                                    
support HB  272 but  supported HB  273. He  recalled earlier                                                                    
conversations on  the use of standardized  tests to quantify                                                                    
the  return on  investment.  He thought  tests measured  how                                                                    
well  students  understood  and  comprehended  material.  He                                                                    
argued  that rewarding  effective  classroom teachers  would                                                                    
help to improve classroom outcomes.  He argued there were no                                                                    
cost  controls within  the  school  districts. He  suggested                                                                    
that  school districts  negotiated their  own contracts  and                                                                    
would  then ask  the legislature  to pay  for the  increased                                                                    
costs in the contracts. All  of the previous testifiers were                                                                    
affiliated  with  the schools  in  one  way or  another.  He                                                                    
advocated  for improving  results  in reading  and math  and                                                                    
tying test results to the legislation.                                                                                          
10:07:43 AM                                                                                                                   
KATIE PARROTT,  BUSINESS MANAGER, KETCHIKAN  GATEWAY BOROUGH                                                                    
SCHOOL DISTRICT,  KETCHIKAN (via  teleconference), supported                                                                    
HB 272 and  HB 272. She had met  with superintendents around                                                                    
the state and one of  the superintendents expressed that she                                                                    
wished she was able to spend  more time in the classroom and                                                                    
less time acting as a  financial manager and budget advocate                                                                    
for the  school budget.  She indicated  that seven  years of                                                                    
flat funding  meant that schools  were now doing  "less with                                                                    
less." She  noted that health  insurance costs  in Ketchikan                                                                    
had doubled  over the  past several  years, and  that Alaska                                                                    
had  the  highest  healthcare  costs   in  the  nation.  She                                                                    
expressed that there was a  recruitment and retention crisis                                                                    
in  the state,  and  the number  of  unfilled positions  was                                                                    
terrifying. She  thanked the  committee for  considering the                                                                    
bills and urged support.                                                                                                        
10:11:43 AM                                                                                                                   
REBECCA  INGALLS,   TEACHER'S  UNION,  BRISTOL   BAY  SCHOOL                                                                    
DISTRICT, NAKNEK  (via teleconference), spoke in  support of                                                                    
HB  272 and  HB 273.  She indicated  there had  not been  an                                                                    
increase to the BSA in  over five years, yet education costs                                                                    
increased every  year. Schools  were battling  retention and                                                                    
recruitment  issues in  addition to  ever-increasing utility                                                                    
costs. She explained that the  schools in Bristol Bay had to                                                                    
consolidate  classrooms  in  order to  maintain  educational                                                                    
standards. There  were so few substitute  teachers that when                                                                    
a teacher was out sick,  other teachers were adding students                                                                    
to their  classrooms in order  to cover. She  reiterated her                                                                    
support for both bills.                                                                                                         
Co-Chair Merrick indicated there was no one else online.                                                                        
10:13:48 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Merrick CLOSED public testimony.                                                                                       
Co-Chair  Merrick  indicated  amendments  were  due  to  her                                                                    
office by the following day, April 2, 2022, by 6:00 p.m.                                                                        
10:14:17 AM                                                                                                                   
Representative Thompson  asked about a bill  on the schedule                                                                    
for the  following week. It  appeared to  be a new  bill. He                                                                    
wondered if it would replace the current capital budget.                                                                        
10:15:04 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
10:15:46 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Merrick  responded that  the bill was  a governor's                                                                    
bill that had not been introduced yet.                                                                                          
Co-Chair Merrick  relayed the  following meeting  agenda and                                                                    
noted the time change of 1:00 p.m.                                                                                              
HB  272  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
HB  273  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
10:16:43 AM                                                                                                                   
The meeting was adjourned at 10:16 a.m.                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 272 & HB 273 Public Testimony Rec'd by 040122.pdf HFIN 4/1/2022 9:00:00 AM
HB 272
HB 273
HB 273 Public Testimony Rec'd by 040122.pdf HFIN 4/1/2022 9:00:00 AM
HB 273