Legislature(2021 - 2022)SENATE FINANCE 532

02/15/2022 09:00 AM Senate FINANCE

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09:04:47 AM Start
09:06:55 AM SB111
10:39:56 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Invited Testimony - Department of Education &
Early Development
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                 SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                     February 15, 2022                                                                                          
                         9:04 a.m.                                                                                              
9:04:47 AM                                                                                                                    
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
Co-Chair Bishop called the  Senate Finance Committee meeting                                                                    
to order at 9:04 a.m.                                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Click Bishop, Co-Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Bert Stedman, Co-Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
Senator Natasha von Imhof                                                                                                       
Senator Bill Wielechowski                                                                                                       
Senator David Wilson                                                                                                            
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
Heidi Teshner, Deputy  Commissioner, Department of Education                                                                    
and Early  Development; Deborah Riddle,  Division Operations                                                                    
Manager,  Division   of  Innovation   Education  Excellence,                                                                    
Department  of   Education  and  Early   Development;  Susan                                                                    
McKenzie,   Director,  Division   of  Innovation   Education                                                                    
Excellence, Department  of Education and  Early Development;                                                                    
Senator Shelley Hughes; Senator Tom Begich.                                                                                     
SB 111    EARLY EDUCATION; READING INTERVENTION                                                                                 
          SB 111 was HEARD and HELD in committee for                                                                            
          further consideration.                                                                                                
SENATE BILL NO. 111                                                                                                           
     "An Act relating to the duties of the Department of                                                                        
     Education and Early Development; relating to public                                                                        
     schools;   relating   to  early   education   programs;                                                                    
     relating  to  funding  for  early  education  programs;                                                                    
     relating  to   school  age  eligibility;   relating  to                                                                    
     reports  by  the  Department  of  Education  and  Early                                                                    
     Development; relating  to reports by  school districts;                                                                    
     relating to  certification and competency  of teachers;                                                                    
     relating   to   assessing  reading   deficiencies   and                                                                    
     providing  reading  intervention   services  to  public                                                                    
     school   students  enrolled   in  grades   kindergarten                                                                    
     through three; relating to  textbooks and materials for                                                                    
     reading intervention  services; establishing  a reading                                                                    
     program  in  the  Department  of  Education  and  Early                                                                    
     Development;  relating   to  school   operating  funds;                                                                    
     relating  to   a  virtual  education   consortium;  and                                                                    
     providing for an effective date."                                                                                          
9:06:55 AM                                                                                                                    
HEIDI TESHNER, DEPUTY  COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION                                                                    
AND  EARLY DEVELOPMENT,  relayed that  the testifiers  would                                                                    
discuss  the departments   ideas  for  implementation of  SB
111.  The  legislation  was   called  the   Alaska  Academic                                                                    
Improvement  and  Modernization  (AAIM) Act.  The  bill  had                                                                    
multiple  components  for  implementation,  and  they  would                                                                    
share what was  being done and the steps  for moving forward                                                                    
to fully  implement the bill.  She elaborated that  the bill                                                                    
provided  an  exciting  opportunity to  make  important  and                                                                    
positive  changes  to  Alaskas  educational  system  and  if                                                                    
enacted,  the bill  would ensure  success  for all  Alaskas                                                                     
students.  The  bill  established  a  statewide  policy  for                                                                    
ensuring  access  to  universal  voluntary  Pre-Kindergarten                                                                    
(pre-K),  a statewide  Parents   as  Teachers  program,  and                                                                    
guarantee  early learning  reading intervention  services to                                                                    
ensure universal  culturally responsible  access to  every K                                                                    
through  third grade  reader. In  addition,  SB 111  ensured                                                                    
that  the proposed  virtual education  consortium builds  on                                                                    
current  efforts. She  pointed  out that  the Department  of                                                                    
Education  and Early  Development  (DEED)  valued and  would                                                                    
rely  on the  states   Board of  Education extensive  public                                                                    
process for  writing regulations to implement  statutes. She                                                                    
notified the committee that the  department did not have all                                                                    
the answers regarding who qualified  for the early education                                                                    
grant program  or which districts  were qualified  to enroll                                                                    
into  the  foundation  formula as  half-time  Average  Daily                                                                    
Membership  (ADM)  due  to processes  and  regulations  that                                                                    
needed  implementation  to  fully   provide  the  data.  She                                                                    
furthered that DEED would work  closely with the state board                                                                    
and  other  education  stakeholders.  The  department  would                                                                    
embrace  the   state  boards   public  process   because  it                                                                    
resulted  in  more   effective  implementation  with  school                                                                    
district  partners. She  indicated  that bill  had 5  fiscal                                                                    
notes  with fiscal  impact and  was  a  huge  lift  for  the                                                                    
department  that required  it  to expand  its capacity.  She                                                                    
furthered  that  she provided  the  committee  a high  level                                                                    
outline for the meeting and  planned to discuss the areas of                                                                    
the bill  that directly  impacted students:  early education                                                                    
programs, comprehensive  reading intervention  programs, and                                                                    
the virtual educational consortium.                                                                                             
9:10:53 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Teshner  stated that  there were  two components  of the                                                                    
bill  that  would  not be  addressed  in  the  presentation:                                                                    
teacher  training and  preparation, and  accountability. The                                                                    
components were still under development.                                                                                        
9:11:42 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman remarked that he  was not familiar with the                                                                    
intricacies of  education but observed from  a prior hearing                                                                    
on  the bill  that the  state  ranked last  in eighth  grade                                                                    
reading and  fifth in  third grade  reading and  towards the                                                                    
bottom in  mathematics out of  50 states. He wanted  to know                                                                    
if  the proposals  were a  solution to  the problem  that he                                                                    
wanted  to  fix.  He  requested  information  regarding  the                                                                    
districts'  statewide rankings  and  their  trends over  the                                                                    
last several  years. He wanted  to appropriate the  money to                                                                    
where it was most needed.  He was confident the problem laid                                                                    
in the rural northern areas  of the state. He encouraged the                                                                    
department  to  share  its  solutions  to  the  problem.  He                                                                    
characterized the  states  schools scores as   alarming.  He                                                                    
found it  unacceptable that  Alaskas  students  were scoring                                                                    
last out  of 50 states.  Ms. Teshner replied that  she hoped                                                                    
that the  other department  staff would  be able  to provide                                                                    
the  answers. She  agreed that  students   scores needed  to                                                                    
9:15:31 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator von  Imhof remarked that  one of the steps  of being                                                                    
able  to  address  the  problem is  to  first  identify  the                                                                    
problem of  students  not reading to  the national standard.                                                                    
She  wanted to  know the  reason why  and where  the problem                                                                    
existed. She remarked  that the solution in  the bill called                                                                    
for  reading   interventions  and  to  identify   the  worst                                                                    
performing schools and provide  more resources. She wondered                                                                    
whether  DEED knew  if the  approach worked.  She referenced                                                                    
the  national  data that  from  2003  to 2019  eighth  grade                                                                    
reading was steady  and dropped precipitously as well as  4                                                                     
grade reading. She deduced that  COVID affected Alaska worse                                                                    
than  other  states  according  to  the  data  and  wondered                                                                    
whether it  was COVID  or something  else. She  stressed the                                                                    
sharp  drop in  4   grade reading  levels and  asked why  it                                                                    
happened and  why DEED believed  that its  intervention plan                                                                    
would solve the problem.                                                                                                        
9:17:28 AM                                                                                                                    
DEBORAH  RIDDLE, DIVISION  OPERATIONS  MANAGER, DIVISION  OF                                                                    
INNOVATION  EDUCATION  EXCELLENCE, DEPARTMENT  OF  EDUCATION                                                                    
AND  EARLY  DEVELOPMENT,  replied  that in  2012  the  state                                                                    
adopted new  content standards  for reading  and mathematics                                                                    
and in 2013 a new assessment  based on the new more rigorous                                                                    
standards was  implemented. She believed  that was  a reason                                                                    
for the drop in scores.                                                                                                         
9:18:10 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  von Imhof  ascertained  that if  the state  adopted                                                                    
more  rigorous standards  the  teaching  should have  become                                                                    
more rigorous, and students would  be closer to the National                                                                    
Assessment  of  Educational  Progress  (NAEP)  average.  She                                                                    
wondered  how  a more  rigorous  curriculum  could make  the                                                                    
students perform worse than before they were adopted.                                                                           
9:18:56 AM                                                                                                                    
SUSAN MCKENZIE,  DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF  INNOVATION EDUCATION                                                                    
EXCELLENCE, DEPARTMENT  OF EDUCATION AND  EARLY DEVELOPMENT,                                                                    
appreciated  the question  regarding why  it was  happening.                                                                    
She  pondered  the same  question  and  spent the  last  six                                                                    
months researching  for the answer.  She was  still learning                                                                    
all the reasons.  She referenced a reading  survey DEED sent                                                                    
out to all  districts that alluded to what  was happening at                                                                    
different district  and school levels. She  was also engaged                                                                    
with the  states  education  service agency  to disaggregate                                                                    
all the assessment data to  determine where it was happening                                                                    
and discern why it was happening.  She felt that there was a                                                                    
lot left to learn.                                                                                                              
Senator von Imhof asked what the results of the survey was.                                                                     
Ms. McKenzie  replied that  she did not  have the  survey in                                                                    
front  of her  but remembered  that there  was a  variety of                                                                    
curriculum  being used  in the  state by  different schools,                                                                    
which  might  offer  useful information.  She  learned  that                                                                    
there was  a variety of different  screening assessments for                                                                    
the  K-3  district  students and  some  districts  were  not                                                                    
progress  monitoring.  She  discovered that  districts  were                                                                    
using a  variety of interventions and  offering professional                                                                    
development.  She  questioned  whether  consistency  was  an                                                                    
9:21:54 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Wilson   determined  that  there  was   a  lack  of                                                                    
standardization  and consistency.  He  wondered whether  the                                                                    
department  was still  in  favor of  local  control. He  had                                                                    
heard inconsistency was a problem.                                                                                              
Ms. Teshner  responded that local  control was  necessary in                                                                    
some  respects  but  might  not  be  the  best  method  when                                                                    
ensuring reading  success. She  offered that  the department                                                                    
would discuss the issue if the bill was enacted.                                                                                
9:23:37 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Hoffman asked  if there  was anything  in the  bill                                                                    
that eroded local control.                                                                                                      
Ms. McKenzie  replied that  there were  some options  in the                                                                    
bill  that provided  menus  for  intervention materials  for                                                                    
districts  that were  struggling in  addition to  curriculum                                                                    
support but still allowed the districts some local control.                                                                     
9:24:30 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Olson  wondered  whether the  information  included                                                                    
private schools.                                                                                                                
Ms. Teshner answered that it  was solely public school data.                                                                    
Senator Olson believed that the data was alarming.                                                                              
9:25:37 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms. Riddle  discussed the current plan  for early education.                                                                    
She  explained   that  currently  there  were   two  program                                                                    
managers for early learning: a  state funded program manager                                                                    
and a Head Start  liaison. The department provided oversight                                                                    
for four  different programs. She elaborated  that the pre-K                                                                    
grants were  voluntary and  comprehensive based  on 4  and 5                                                                    
year  old students  with 17  grantees serving  714 students.                                                                    
She mentioned  the Head  Start and  Early Head  Start grants                                                                    
that  DEED supported  with  a General  Funds  (GF) match  of                                                                    
about  13  percent. The  grants  served  17 grantees  in  98                                                                    
communities  serving  3,469  students. She  highlighted  the                                                                    
Parents  as  Teachers  program  supported  by  DEED  with  5                                                                    
grantees  serving  164  students. She  underlined  the  Best                                                                    
Beginnings program  that provided books to  students through                                                                    
the  Imagination Library  as well  as  Little Learner  Camps                                                                    
serving 324 students.                                                                                                           
She continued  with the  resources the  department provided.                                                                    
She  offered   that  in  the   prior  year   early  learning                                                                    
guidelines were adopted  by the State Board  of Education as                                                                    
a  set of  standards  from birth  through kindergarten  that                                                                    
were   culturally   responsive   and  aligned   to   current                                                                    
standards.  She elucidated  that the  department utilized  a                                                                    
pre-K assessment  called  Core Advantage  that  was provided                                                                    
to all pre-K grantees and  Head Start grantees in the state.                                                                    
The Alaska  Developmental Profile, which was  a kindergarten                                                                    
assessment, was  required for all kindergarteners  when they                                                                    
began  school.   The  department  also   had  pre-elementary                                                                    
activities  and  program goals  that  were  provided to  all                                                                    
9:28:12 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Olson voiced  that  his four  year  old twins  were                                                                    
enrolled  in Head  Start  and he  was  impressed with  their                                                                    
reading skills.                                                                                                                 
9:28:52 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Stedman wondered  whether DEED  would provide  the                                                                    
status  of   all  the  districts.  He   requested  that  the                                                                    
commissioner  attend a  future committee  meeting and  share                                                                    
the data in order to focus  on the solution. He wanted state                                                                    
funding to make a difference.                                                                                                   
9:30:13 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-chair  Bishop  referred  to the  programs  available  for                                                                    
early education  and asked if  they were all grants  and not                                                                    
programs  for all  children in  every  district. Ms.  Riddle                                                                    
answered  that when  DEED provided  pre-K grants,  they also                                                                    
provided  some  oversight  through a  program  manager  that                                                                    
approved  the budget  and programming.  She  added that  the                                                                    
funds  for  the other  grantees  were  in support  of  their                                                                    
specific programs.  Co-chair Bishop reiterated  his question                                                                    
regarding  whether   every  district  participated   in  the                                                                    
programs.  Ms.  Riddle  replied in  the  negative.  Co-chair                                                                    
Bishop deemed that it likely contributed to the problem.                                                                        
9:31:29 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Wielechowski was still listening for the answers to                                                                     
Co-Chair  Stedmans  and  Senator von  Imhofs  questions.  He                                                                    
wanted to hear a definitive  answer and believed that it was                                                                    
time  for  a  frank  discussion because  the  problems  were                                                                    
serious.  He  asked  what the  top  indicators  of  children                                                                    
performing well in school were.                                                                                                 
Ms.  McKenzie  replied that  there  were  many factors  that                                                                    
affected a  childs  progress at school.  She listed poverty,                                                                    
demographics,   adverse   childhood   experiences,   limited                                                                    
parental involvement, disabilities,  language barriers, etc.                                                                    
She emphasized that addressing the  problems was a  science                                                                     
that was  developed over  the last  40 years.  She discussed                                                                    
teacher development  and preparation as a  skillset based on                                                                    
the  science  of  reading  that   she  had  observed  helped                                                                    
children become successful  readers. She expressed certainty                                                                    
that what  was developed  for helping children  read worked.                                                                    
She  voiced that  many  of  the tools  from  the science  of                                                                    
reading  were included  the bill.  She  mentioned the  prior                                                                    
discussion  regarding  local  control  and  determined  that                                                                    
working with the districts on  their assessments and pairing                                                                    
the  needs with  an  intervention based  on  the science  of                                                                    
reading  and specific  to what  the individual  child needed                                                                    
was essential. She viewed it as  a first step in solving the                                                                    
9:35:49 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  von Imhof  surmised  that  teacher preparation  and                                                                    
teacher development  was important  and wondered  whether it                                                                    
was  being done  since 2015,  when fourth  grade and  eighth                                                                    
grade reading  began to significantly decline.  She wondered                                                                    
what efforts were  done in the areas statewide  from 2015 to                                                                    
the  present.  Ms. McKenzie  remarked  that  she could  only                                                                    
answer  from  the  time  she began  working  for  DEED.  She                                                                    
thought that  what had been  done in  the last 6  months was                                                                    
significant. She noted that the  Alaska Reading Playbook was                                                                    
recently completed  with a  series of  webinars contributing                                                                    
to  professional   development.  She  elaborated   that  the                                                                    
division was working with NWEA  [it did not correspond to an                                                                    
acronym] and the  Consortium on Reading Sciences  to offer a                                                                    
science of reading  class online that was  currently full at                                                                    
100 participants.  The department  was offering  two classes                                                                    
based on the science of  reading, one for administrators and                                                                    
one for teachers.  In addition, the department  would host a                                                                    
science of reading symposium at the end of April 2022.                                                                          
9:38:49 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator von  Imhof asked for  the department to  provide the                                                                    
answer prior  to Ms. McKenzies   tenure. She  commented that                                                                    
the  school  district  had the  Performance  Evaluation  for                                                                    
Alaska's Schools  (PEAKS) data,  which was the  annual April                                                                    
school assessment.  She shared that her  office obtained the                                                                    
data from 2016 to 2021  that was available per district, per                                                                    
school,  and per  grade from  third through  tenth grade  in                                                                    
math and  language arts. She  noted that DEED  collected all                                                                    
types of demographic  data. She assumed that  DEED looked at                                                                    
the  data and  its trends  over time.  She wondered  whether                                                                    
anyone had  analyzed the  data and seen  trends up  or down,                                                                    
and then had  discussions with the teachers  to identify the                                                                    
strengths and  weaknesses across the state.  She shared that                                                                    
she   had  engaged   in  the   conversations,  and   it  was                                                                    
illuminating  and   detailed.  She  wondered   whether  DEED                                                                    
performed  that  detailed analysis  and  if  so, could  they                                                                    
present the  information. Ms. McKenzie replied  that she was                                                                    
currently engaged  in the analysis  and would present  it in                                                                    
the future.                                                                                                                     
9:41:43 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator Wilson  queried what  barriers the  school districts                                                                    
faced for  applying the  techniques. Ms.  McKenzie responded                                                                    
that many  of Alaskas  teachers came  from different states,                                                                    
and some were  not well educated in the  science of reading.                                                                    
She addressed leadership and offered  that if school leaders                                                                    
were versed  in the science  of reading it  enabled teaching                                                                    
it  in  the  school.  She emphasized  that  teachers  needed                                                                    
leadership and training and that curriculum played a role.                                                                      
9:43:52 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Bishop interjected  that  she  described a  hiring                                                                    
issue at the  local level regarding reviewing  the resume of                                                                    
the teacher.                                                                                                                    
Senator Wilson  suggested teaching school board  members the                                                                    
newest science  of reading practices so  that districts know                                                                    
their  importance  and  adopt them  as  best  practices.  He                                                                    
wondered  whether  the  state   board  was  engaged  in  the                                                                    
process. Ms. McKenzie strongly  agreed with Senator Wilsons                                                                     
comments. She stated  that was the reason  for the symposium                                                                    
where one of the goals  was to instruct participants on what                                                                    
the science of  reading was, and the second goal  was how to                                                                    
move   the  dial.   Senator   Wilson  recommended   required                                                                    
attendance   and  thought   that  more   accountability  was                                                                    
necessary  to  justify more  spending.  He  asked about  the                                                                    
early  reading programs  and wondered  which one  worked the                                                                    
best since they all had a different price tag.                                                                                  
9:46:17 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms.  Riddle   responded  that  Head   Start  was   the  most                                                                    
successful early  childhood program  and the  department had                                                                    
the most  data on the  program. Senator Wilson spoke  of the                                                                    
cost  of each  program. He  referenced statistics  that Head                                                                    
Start  cost $2  thousand  per student,  Parents as  Teachers                                                                    
cost $3 thousand  and Pre-K cost $4.5  thousand per student.                                                                    
He wondered why  Head Start was not being  expanded since it                                                                    
was effective,  and it  cost less.  Ms. Riddle  relayed that                                                                    
she  had not  heard him  include pre-K  in Senator  Wilsons                                                                     
question and answered that the  department had the most data                                                                    
and oversight  over pre-K and  obtained the Head  Start data                                                                    
from the  federal government. Senator Wilson  stated that he                                                                    
did not receive  a clear answer regarding  which program was                                                                    
most effective and asked for the department to follow up.                                                                       
9:48:31 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator von Imhof cited that as  of FY 2022, $3.2 million in                                                                    
funds  for 714  students  in 17  school  districts had  been                                                                    
awarded.  She  wondered about  data  for  pre-K grants.  She                                                                    
asked what data  was available and whether  it was collected                                                                    
and  compared to  Head Start  grants. Ms.  Riddle agreed  to                                                                    
provide  the information  to the  committee and  stated that                                                                    
she  misspoke earlier  and  had as  much  data about  pre-K.                                                                    
Senator von  Imhof requested  trend lines  over time  and an                                                                    
analysis that compared and  contrasted programs to determine                                                                    
what  program provided  the  best  bang  for  the buck   and                                                                    
analysis on how dollars were used.                                                                                              
9:49:59 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair Stedman  recognized that solving the  problem would                                                                    
be  expensive  and  wanted  the   funding  directed  at  the                                                                    
solution. He  referenced the  significant amount  of funding                                                                    
coming to Alaska for broadband  and he wanted the department                                                                    
to examine  whether lack  of communication  was part  of the                                                                    
issue in some school districts.  He hoped to direct funds to                                                                    
areas  of   the  state   that  experienced   more  broadband                                                                    
challenges. He wondered whether there was a correlation.                                                                        
Ms.  Teshner responded  that the  department reached  out to                                                                    
school  districts   asking  about  broadband   capacity  for                                                                    
assessments. She  offered that  the department had  not done                                                                    
an  analysis   of  the  correlation  between   learning  and                                                                    
bandwidth and would investigate the issue.                                                                                      
9:51:46 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms. McKenzie spoke to how  the department would implement SB
111 as  it pertained to  early learning. In addition  to the                                                                    
already   adopted  early   learning  guidelines   for  early                                                                    
education, the state Board of  Education would need to adopt                                                                    
standards  for  approving   early  education  programs.  She                                                                    
delineated that  the standards  would be  a set  of criteria                                                                    
DEED  would  use  to  measure  and  approve  early  learning                                                                    
education  programs.  She   exemplified  that  one  standard                                                                    
would align an  early learning program with  the emphasis on                                                                    
early literacy  concepts. Besides adopting  standards, other                                                                    
steps for  implementation would include compiling  a list of                                                                    
early learning programs  that would be evaluated  by the set                                                                    
of standards adopted by the  state board. A process would be                                                                    
developed for  providing .5 ADM  to districts  that utilized                                                                    
approved  programs and  funding  would  be implemented.  She                                                                    
furthered that  a supervision  and monitoring  process would                                                                    
be developed for approved early education programs.                                                                             
9:53:35 AM                                                                                                                    
Ms.  McKenzie  continued  her remarks.  She  indicated  that                                                                    
another  step  taken would  be  to  begin or  improve  early                                                                    
education  programs  by  determining  which  districts  were                                                                    
eligible  for a  three year  grant. Prioritizing  the grants                                                                    
would  be determined  by using  the existing  accountability                                                                    
system and keeping within the  $3 million annual budget. She                                                                    
reminded the committee that districts  were eligible if DEED                                                                    
determined that an insufficient  number of children attended                                                                    
high  quality  childcare  programs. High  quality  would  be                                                                    
determined by the programs  meeting  or exceeding the set of                                                                    
standards.  She noted  that the  last factor  in eligibility                                                                    
was  to  ensure  the  existing programs  would  continue  to                                                                    
operate  after  a  district   early  education  program  was                                                                    
established.  The  goal  was not  to  replace  high  quality                                                                    
programs. She provided  an example of grant  eligibility - a                                                                    
village program  that had high  quality standards  but could                                                                    
not accommodate all  its children. She stated  that how long                                                                    
it took  to establish early  learning pre-K programs  in all                                                                    
of  Alaskas   schools   depended  upon  approval,  priority,                                                                    
funding, and interest as participation was voluntary.                                                                           
9:55:33 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator  Wilson asked  about the  standards  and what  would                                                                    
happen if  some districts opted out.  Ms. McKenzie responded                                                                    
that  DEED  would  adopt  a   set  of  criteria  that  would                                                                    
determine  whether an  existing  program  was approved.  She                                                                    
explained that  the department  would examine  each existing                                                                    
program  and  use the  criteria  to  decide whether  it  was                                                                    
acceptable.  Senator Wilson  reported that  currently school                                                                    
districts  were  not  required to  submit  daily  attendance                                                                    
records to the state. He  wondered how DEED would obtain the                                                                    
records.  Ms.  McKenzie replied  that  she  did not  discuss                                                                    
daily  attendance however,  she acknowledged  that districts                                                                    
were required to submit attendance records.                                                                                     
Ms. Teshner interjected that when  DEED took the regulations                                                                    
to  the  state  board,  they would  include  the  steps  the                                                                    
districts had to take to be accountable.                                                                                        
9:57:45 AM                                                                                                                    
Co-Chair  Bishop  asked  how  long  Ms.  McKenzie  had  been                                                                    
working  in education  and  her  background information.  He                                                                    
wondered  whether  she  was  new   to  the  department.  Ms.                                                                    
McKenzie  answered   that  she   worked  for  39   years  in                                                                    
education.  She  listed  the positions  she  held:  teacher,                                                                    
special  education  teacher,  Title  1  reading  specialist,                                                                    
principle at  all grade levels, special  education director,                                                                    
and  district superintendent.  She clarified  that this  was                                                                    
her  first year  with DEED.  Commissioner Bishop  recognized                                                                    
that she  worked for the  department for 5 months  but spent                                                                    
her lifetime in education.                                                                                                      
9:58:36 AM                                                                                                                    
Senator von Imhof ascertained that  the committee wanted the                                                                    
testifiers to start with a   story.  She suggested the story                                                                    
start  with  what was  currently  happening  in Alaska,  its                                                                    
successes,  weaknesses,  and  progress  and  identify  where                                                                    
additional resources  would help. She asked  Ms. McKenzie to                                                                    
share data and stressed that  the state had limited funding.                                                                    
She  wanted to  make targeted  investments. She  wanted more                                                                    
much more relevant details regarding  the  key and strategic                                                                    
investments  the  bill offered to  move  the needle  towards                                                                    
improvement.  She  asserted  that  she  had  not  heard  the                                                                    
answers  in the  discussion  and offered  to  work with  Ms.                                                                    
Co-Chair  Bishop opined  that the  departments  commissioner                                                                    
or  deputy  commissioner  should   testify  in  response  to                                                                    
Senator von Imhofs request.                                                                                                     
10:01:48 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator  Wielechowski   agreed  with  Senator   von  Imhofs                                                                     
remarks and wanted  to better understand the  history of the                                                                    
issue. He  relayed that Senator  Begich was involved  in the                                                                    
Moore lawsuit and  believed that an explanation  of the case                                                                    
would be helpful.                                                                                                               
10:02:56 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  TOM BEGICH,  SPONSOR, observed  that the  testimony                                                                    
lacked the  larger context of  the lawsuit. He  related that                                                                    
the  Moore  lawsuit  was  filed  by  the  Citizens  for  the                                                                    
Educational  Advancement of  Alaskas  Children  of which  he                                                                    
was a  member. The lawsuit  was successful, but it  took two                                                                    
years of  litigation. He  elaborated that  experts testified                                                                    
from all  over the state  and DEED testified at  length. The                                                                    
federal judge,  Judge Sharon Gleason,  ruled that  the state                                                                    
had failed  to meet its responsibility  to public education.                                                                    
He emphasized  that SB 111  came from those involved  in the                                                                    
Moore   lawsuit  and   not  the   department.  The   lawsuit                                                                    
identified that  the state  had failed  to ensure  that each                                                                    
school   districts   curriculum   aligned  to   the  states                                                                     
standards.   He  noted   the   prior  discussion   regarding                                                                    
consistent standards and  stated that inconsistent standards                                                                    
were  part of  the reason  the lawsuit  was successful.  The                                                                    
ruling  stated that  the state  failed to  pay attention  to                                                                    
content areas that  were not covered by  the states  testing                                                                    
and programs. In addition, the  court ruled that the states                                                                     
interventions were  limited in  scope and had  not addressed                                                                    
the specific strength and  weaknesses of the underperforming                                                                    
districts regarding meeting  the constitutional criteria for                                                                    
establishing an  education. The court  ruled that  the state                                                                    
had  not  considered  pre-K  and  other  intensive  learning                                                                    
designed  to  prepare  students to  learn  and  the  states                                                                     
intervention  failed to  address  teaching  capacity due  to                                                                    
high  turnover. He  emphasized that  all  the findings  were                                                                    
incorporated in the bill.  The current department leadership                                                                    
was not the leadership involved  in the original lawsuit. He                                                                    
indicated that what the bill  tried to achieve was to answer                                                                    
the  question why  the students  were performing  poorly and                                                                    
what  could be  done to  solve the  problem. He  shared that                                                                    
Judge Gleason  and the  experts had  outlined what  could be                                                                    
done to address the problems,  but the department had lacked                                                                    
the capacity to achieve  the solutions. He suggested viewing                                                                    
the  broader picture  that he  interpreted as  the solutions                                                                    
lied in the evidence of what was currently known to work.                                                                       
He continued  by addressing Senator von  Imhofs  request for                                                                    
data. He  stated that the state  had the data that  could be                                                                    
found in  the Early Learning Coordination  document that was                                                                    
on  BASIS.  He  emphasized   that  the  department  had  the                                                                    
information  and showed  all  the  early learning  outcomes,                                                                    
kindergarten  preparedness, and  pre-K  grants outcomes.  He                                                                    
countered that the  bill was built on exactly  the answer to                                                                    
the  question asked  in the  Moore lawsuit,  which was  what                                                                    
were the  things that could be  successfully accomplished to                                                                    
properly  educate Alaskas   children. He  furthered that  in                                                                    
analyzing  that  question over  the  last  decade the  state                                                                    
identified a number of areas  that were successful. The case                                                                    
spoke  to the  areas of  accountability, content  standards,                                                                    
and concluded  that local control  was important but  had to                                                                    
be  responsive to  the  requirements laid  out  by DEED.  He                                                                    
commented that  how local school  districts carried  out the                                                                    
departments  requirements was designed  locally but DEED had                                                                    
a role  to ensure the  curriculum met the  highest standards                                                                    
and that was  lacking. He offered to share his  notes on the                                                                    
case with the committee.                                                                                                        
10:08:04 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator  Hoffman wondered  what the  state was   purchasing                                                                     
for  the  significant  cost of  the  legislation.  He  asked                                                                    
whether the  proposal included evaluations,  benchmarks, and                                                                    
targets. He stated  that the state was  already spending the                                                                    
highest per capita  on education in the  country. He deduced                                                                    
that  the  committee  needed   the  answers  concerning  its                                                                    
expectations of success.                                                                                                        
10:10:36 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator  Begich  replied  that the  bill  was  replete  with                                                                    
strong   reporting   requirements  from   school   districts                                                                    
annually  and spoke  to the  establishment of  an evaluation                                                                    
team comprised  of early learning  experts. He  informed the                                                                    
committee that  it took four  years to  demonstrate adequate                                                                    
progress  in reading.  The annual  review would  provide the                                                                    
answers to what  was working on statewide  and district wide                                                                    
levels. He offered  that the provisions were  the first time                                                                    
measures  and  outcomes  were required  in  legislation.  He                                                                    
hoped that an amendment was  added to the bill that required                                                                    
the department to  be accountable to the public  as well. He                                                                    
agreed  that if  the bill  lacked accountability   it was  a                                                                    
waste of  money.  The annual review  process would determine                                                                    
whether the bill  was accomplishing what it  was designed to                                                                    
10:12:57 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator Hoffman  commented that regardless  of the  bill, he                                                                    
hoped that  DEED had  plans to  improve education  since the                                                                    
state  was  testing at  the  bottom.  He believed  that  the                                                                    
department  should find  the current  situation unacceptable                                                                    
and should adopt a plan regardless  of the bill. He asked if                                                                    
Senator  Begich agreed  with his  statement. Senator  Begich                                                                    
replied in  the affirmative.  He added that  DEED identified                                                                    
actions  they  were working  on  that  were built  from  the                                                                    
concepts in the  bill. Senator Hoffman stressed  that SB 111                                                                    
should   include  explicit   expectations  for   improvement                                                                    
targets  and  thought  that  was lacking  in  the  bill.  He                                                                    
reiterated  his  question   regarding  benchmarks  and  what                                                                    
defined success. Senator Begich  replied that he would defer                                                                    
to the  department whether it  was possible to  set specific                                                                    
benchmarks and added  that there was no limit  to what could                                                                    
be included in  the legislation. He deemed  that a realistic                                                                    
goal  could  be  established.   He  recommended  asking  the                                                                    
10:16:09 AM                                                                                                                   
Ms. Teshner interjected that the  Every Student Succeeds Act                                                                    
(ESSA)  provisions included  targets.  She exemplified  that                                                                    
the proficiency  for English language  should be  70 percent                                                                    
by the 2026  2027 school year.                                                                                                  
10:17:34 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR SHELLEY  HUGHES, SPONSOR, addressed the  concerns of                                                                    
the  Senators.  She  shared  that  the  state  had  not  had                                                                    
intensive  reading intervention  strategies,  so state  data                                                                    
was lacking. She  indicated that the data  for the solutions                                                                    
in the  bill came from  other states and the  sponsors found                                                                    
it  was  necessary to  identify  programs  that worked.  She                                                                    
exemplified Mississippi  and noted that the  state ranked in                                                                    
the bottom  10 percent and  within 5 years the  state ranked                                                                    
in the top ten. She stated that  it took at least 5 years to                                                                    
see   results  because   the  students   had  to   begin  in                                                                    
kindergarten and advance through  grade 4. She believed that                                                                    
it was reasonable  to set a goal of 5  years. She noted that                                                                    
impoverished  students and  students  from different  ethnic                                                                    
groups increased  their proficiency  in multiple  states and                                                                    
believed that  it demonstrated  evidence that  the proposals                                                                    
worked.  She  furthered  that the  teachers  in  Mississippi                                                                    
admitted  that they  lacked instruction  in  the science  of                                                                    
reading  and once  they received  the  training the  states                                                                     
improved ranking demonstrated that it helped students.                                                                          
10:20:51 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator Olson cited an opinion  published by the Bush Caucus                                                                    
on the  bill that  was unfavorable  towards the  approach in                                                                    
the  legislation.  He  wondered  whether  the  sponsors  had                                                                    
comments on the  issue. Senator Hughes replied  that she did                                                                    
not  question the  concerns raised  by the  caucus regarding                                                                    
the students in their  districts. However, she believed that                                                                    
the  information the  caucus had  was lacking  and incorrect                                                                    
regarding SB 111, which made  the conclusions erroneous. She                                                                    
deferred further answer to Senator Begich.                                                                                      
10:22:11 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator  Begich  specified  that   the  House  rural  caucus                                                                    
members and  the First Alaskans Institute  wrote the article                                                                    
for  the Alaska  Daily News  that made  incorrect statements                                                                    
and  he  wanted to  correct  the  record. He  indicated  the                                                                    
article stated that  the bill was English  language only and                                                                    
that   was  incorrect.   The   bill   supported  the   local                                                                    
development of  language education.  He cited  references in                                                                    
the  article to   high stakes  testing  and  noted that  the                                                                    
fault  for   that  perception  rested  with   the  bill  and                                                                    
testifiers  misusing the  words   tests  and   assessments.                                                                     
The provisions referred to  screeners   that were simple one                                                                    
minute tools  used to identify  if a student  was struggling                                                                    
with  a specific  task, whether  it was  in Yupik,  Spanish,                                                                    
English, etc.  and placed an  intervention for the  child if                                                                    
necessary. He emphasized that the  bill was not replete with                                                                    
high stakes testing which was  antithetical to what the bill                                                                    
was  trying to  accomplish,  reading  proficiency. He  noted                                                                    
statements  that  the  bill  eliminated  local  control  and                                                                    
commented that on page 25, line  22 of the bill that allowed                                                                    
local  control  of  the  screeners.  Finally,  he  specified                                                                    
comments in  the article that  the bill took away  the power                                                                    
of parents.  He remarked that  it was  not the case  and the                                                                    
bill allowed  for parents input.  He believed that  a deeper                                                                    
issue was that the Moore  case demonstrated that there was a                                                                    
lack  of   faith  that  the  department   could  deliver  on                                                                    
education,   and  it   lacked   follow   through  on   prior                                                                    
legislation. He heard from school  districts asking what the                                                                    
proof  for  things  like  cultural  responsibility  was.  He                                                                    
assured  the   committee  that   the  bill   considered  all                                                                    
viewpoints.  He was  troubled that  the implication  was the                                                                    
sponsors were not paying attention  and emphasized that they                                                                    
had. He  shared that  Alaska had  standards from  the 1990s                                                                     
that   were   established   for   Alaska   Native   Cultural                                                                    
Responsibility  and Competency  in the  classroom that  were                                                                    
written by  elders but had  not been updated since  then. He                                                                    
spoke  to the  need to  update the  standards and  felt that                                                                    
could be accomplished  in the bill. He wanted  to update how                                                                    
the concepts of parent and  guardian were defined to reflect                                                                    
societal   changes.  He   suggested   that  increasing   the                                                                    
engagement  of  the  indigenous  population  in  formulating                                                                    
evaluations  would be  beneficial. He  offered that  reading                                                                    
specialists were an integral part  of the bill that would be                                                                    
DEED  employees  placed  in districts.  He  noted  that  the                                                                    
article  implied that  the positions  would  be an  unfunded                                                                    
mandate for  the districts. He  cited issues  around writing                                                                    
the  regulations  if  the bill  was  adopted  and  suggested                                                                    
including  a provision  requiring regulation  review by  the                                                                    
bills   stakeholders.  He  reported that  he  was  initially                                                                    
 embarrassed and  angered  by the article  until he realized                                                                    
that he  was not listening  very well and believed  the bill                                                                    
could  incorporate   ideas  outside   the  context   of  the                                                                    
10:29:07 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator Wilson asked whether all  districts had the capacity                                                                    
to  perform   the  reporting   requirements  or   would  the                                                                    
department   provide  technical   assistance  to   help  the                                                                    
Ms. Riddle answered that DEED  currently collected data from                                                                    
the districts  and had systems  set up to  provide technical                                                                    
assistance   and   training   and   the   bills    reporting                                                                    
requirements  would be  added  to  the established  systems.                                                                    
Senator Wilson  clarified that the department  would provide                                                                    
the  capacity for  the  reporting  requirements. Ms.  Riddle                                                                    
replied  in the affirmative.                                                                                                    
10:31:49 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Stedman followed up  on Senator Hoffmans  comments.                                                                    
He  was not  convinced  that the  states   scores could  not                                                                    
decrease  further, but  the rankings  would  not reflect  it                                                                    
since the  state was ranked  the lowest. He  recognized that                                                                    
the  state   had  severe   financial  constraints   and  was                                                                    
uncertain  whether that  affected  the  rankings. He  stated                                                                    
that there was interest  in increasing the states  education                                                                    
spending. He wanted to hear  from the commissioner regarding                                                                    
all that the  department was doing to address  the issue and                                                                    
its thoughts  on the  legislation and  how success  would be                                                                    
measured. He assumed that the  status quo was not acceptable                                                                    
to  the department  and wondered  whether it  was internally                                                                    
developing a response.                                                                                                          
10:34:40 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
10:36:25 AM                                                                                                                   
10:36:31 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator Wilson  wondered whether  the commissioner  would be                                                                    
agreeable to  setting up a  taskforce to  address increasing                                                                    
the Base  Student Allocation  (BSA), so it  was not  and  ad                                                                    
hoc increase and it benefitted all districts.                                                                                   
10:37:15 AM                                                                                                                   
Senator von  Imhof felt that  there should be a  question of                                                                    
how  the   Base  Student  Allocation  (BSA)   translated  to                                                                    
results. She  wanted to  discuss the  structural, financial,                                                                    
and  accountability elements  and how  it intermingled  with                                                                    
the BSA  formula. She did  not believe the issue  was solely                                                                    
the BSA.                                                                                                                        
10:38:17 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Bishop  requested historical data,  specifically to                                                                    
Alaska's rankings.                                                                                                              
10:38:40 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Bishop discussed committee business.                                                                                   
10:39:24 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
10:39:38 AM                                                                                                                   
Co-Chair Bishop cancelled the afternoon's meeting.                                                                              
SB  111  was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  committee  for  further                                                                    
10:39:56 AM                                                                                                                   
The meeting was adjourned at 10:39 a.m.                                                                                         

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