Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/25/1998 09:08 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE February 25, 1998 9:08 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Gary Wilken, Chairman Senator Loren Leman, Vice-Chairman Senator Lyda Green Senator Jerry Ward Senator Johnny Ellis MEMBERS ABSENT None COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 257 "An Act relating to academic performance and accreditation of public schools; relating to state aid to school districts and regional educational attendance areas; and providing for an effective date." HEARD AND HELD SENATE BILL NO. 238 "An Act extending the termination date of the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives." MOVED SB 238 OUT OF COMMITTEE SENATE BILL NO. 306 "An Act relating to the authority to claim a child who is the subject of a child support order as a dependent for purposes of a federal income tax exemption; relating to certification of child support arrears; amending Rule 90.3, Alaska Rules of Civil Procedure." MOVED SB 306 OUT OF COMMITTEE PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 257 - No previous action. SB 238 - No previous action. SB 306 - No previous action. WITNESS REGISTER Commissioner Shirley Holloway Department of Education 801 W. 10th St., Suite 200 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1894 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 257. Dr. Nick Stayrook Fairbanks North Star Borough School District 520 Fifth Avenue Fairbanks, Alaska 99701 POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions about SB 257. Carl Rose Association of Alaska School Boards 316 W 11th Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports the intent of the Quality Schools Initiative only if the funding mechanism is included. John Cyr NEA-Alaska 114 Second St. Juneau, Alaska 99801 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports specific sections of SB 257. Ed McLain Assistant Superintendent, Instruction Kenai Peninsula Borough School District 148 N. Binkley Street Soldotna, Alkaska 99669 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 257 Betsy Turner-Bogren Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Alaska PTA P.O. Box 343 Ester, Alaska 99725 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 257 Dan Sheehan Craig, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Commented on teacher certification Catherine Reardon, Director Division of Occupational Licensing Department of Commerce and Economic Development P.O. Box 110806 Juneau, Alaska 99801-1108 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 238. Pam Weaver P.O. Box 671427 Chugiak, Alaska 99567-1427 POSITION STATEMENT: Supports SB 238. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 98-17, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN WILKEN called the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 9:08 a.m and announced the committee would hear was SB 257 first, then SB 306 and SB 238. Present were Senators Ellis, Green, and Wilken. SB 257 - ACADEMIC PERFORM/ACCREDITATION/STATE AID CHAIRMAN WILKEN announced the committee would be addressing pages 1 through 6 of SB 257. COMMISSIONER SHIRLEY HOLLOWAY, Department of Education (DOE), explained the purpose of SB 257 is threefold: it raises the bar for each Alaskan student in reading, writing, and mathematics; it provides schools with financial and technical assistance to ensure each student can meet the higher expectations; and it holds schools and communities accountable for student learning. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY referred to bullets in the Accountability/Accreditation Section of the Quality Schools & Foundation Formula booklet. The first proposed change in SB 257 is to establish mandatory standards in reading, writing, and mathematics adopted by the State Board of Education. The second element would develop a comprehensive assessment system to test those standards throughout the K-12 systems. Last year the Legislature passed exit exam legislation which requires students to meet high academic math, reading, and writing standards prior to graduation. SB 257 will enable schools to determine how well students are achieving the standards by completing a comprehensive assessment system that begins at the kindergarten level. When and if students are not meeting those standards, programs will be modified to ensure that students get the kind of instruction they need to successfully complete the qualifying exam at the secondary level. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY introduced Dr. Nick Stayrook from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District who is helping the Department of Education develop the qualifying exam. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY informed committee members the third component of SB 257 concerns the report card. At present, DOE produces an annual report card for each district; SB 257 requires DOE to report on each school. The focus of change in recent literature is on schools because communities and schools come together and work hard at improvements. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY explained the next element of SB 257 provides for the designation of how schools are doing beginning in the year 2002. The designation would be a formula developed by DOE for reviewing multiple student measures including achievement data, drop out rates, absenteeism, and other factors. The year 2002 is the first year graduating seniors will have to take the qualifying exam. If SB 257 is enacted this session, DOE will have time to collect good data to make the designations. Schools designated as distinguished or successful will automatically get state accreditation; DOE is working with the Northwest accrediting body to make sure the accreditation process is dual so as not to place an extra burden on school districts. Those schools designated as deficient or in crisis will have two years to develop a school improvement plan based on Alaska's school standards. Teams, comprised of local school board members, distinguished educators and others, will be put into place to support struggling schools. Funds to begin that process were requested in the FY 99 budget request. DOE believes that if schools and communities begin work right now, very few schools will be designated in the lower two categories because this task is not insurmountable. Many schools could meet the distinguished and successful categories right now but some schools are struggling. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY felt the important element of this legislation is that it holds schools and communities accountable. DOE believes it can encourage communities to get further involved with their schools and help promote higher academic achievement of students. When a school is designated as a low performing school, it can ask DOE for assistance. DOE will not automatically take action during the following two-year improvement process period; the option to invite DOE's participation will remain with the locality. If, after the two-year improvement period, a school does not move into a successful category, the DOE Commissioner will be able to manage a school's fiscal or academic affairs, or implement other emergency measures after consulting with parents and the community. SB 257 will require the State Board of Education to establish a series of progressive measures to help schools that continue to perform poorly. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY stated this effort will take some resources, both at the department level and within the school systems. Number 152 CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked whether Alaska can follow models of implementation from any other states that have done a good job of accrediting public schools. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY answered 24 states have academic bankruptcy legislation; the success stories are varied. DR. NICK STAYROOK informed committee members that Education Week recently published a story about a lawsuit filed against the State of Texas for taking over a school district. The lawsuit alleged violations of free election laws. He recommended getting the Attorney General's Office to review this matter. He did not think SB 257 speaks to takeovers of school districts; instead it provides incentives to the districts to improve themselves. CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked if the consultation with the community language, on page 5, line 15, means consultation with the school board. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY said yes it does, but the word "community" was used in its broadest sense to include parents and faculty. If DOE has to manage the school's fiscal or academic affairs, it would do so in partnership with them. CHAIRMAN WILKEN referred to a document provided by DOE entitled Migrant School Improvement Sites, which is a list of schools performing in the two lower levels. He asked if the schools on that list would be considered deficient if this legislation was in place now. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY responded that document must be considered a snapshot because it contains very limited data which does not provide an accurate picture. If SB 257 were in place, DOE would require a school improvement plan for all of the schools reporting the low scores and that plan would be based on the quality school standards adopted by the State Board of Education. DOE believes one of the best improvement models is to have successful school staff, community members, and school boards work with struggling schools because people are much more apt to learn from others who do the same type of work. CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked if, according to the "Migrant Schools Improvement Sites" scores, the Point Hope school would be considered in crisis whereas Dimond High School would be considered deficient. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY remarked Dimond High School scored the way it did because the students did not take a particular part of the exam. By adding more data, Dimond High School would be eliminated from the list. She believed Point Hope would probably be considered a deficient school but repeated it is hard to determine with limited data. DR. STAYROOK explained the analysis was based on a single test measure, the California Achievement Test. SB 257 proposes to use multiple indicators of success and deficiencies, not one instrument. In addition to looking at standardized test scores, assessments based on Alaska standards, attendance, graduation, and dropout rates will provide a more accurate picture of school success. Number 228 CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked Dr. Stayrook to update the committee on his work on the qualifying exam required by legislation passed last year. DR. STAYROOK replied he has worked closely with DOE since last October to design a plan for the construction of a high school graduation qualifying exam and to put together a request for proposals. The legislation requires high school graduates to meet existing requirements and pass a qualifying exam in order to receive a diploma. His approach to the creation of the exam has been to hire a nationally recognized test publishing company with expertise and experience in this field to work with DOE to develop the test. These kinds of tests require careful planning in order to avoid the kind of litigation that has occurred in other states when diplomas where denied to students based on the test results. The validity and reliability of the exams are critical in court cases. Only one response was received to the first request for proposals. DOE felt that response was unacceptable because it proposed a multiple choice test. DOE wants to not only test knowledge through a multiple choice test but it also wants to test student performance, similar to the drivers' examination. DOE would like to test the ability of students to read, reflect on the reading, and write, and to solve mathematical problems they might confront in real life. He has rewritten the scope of work, and a second request for proposals has been publicized. The due date for proposals is next week. DR. STAYROOK maintained the process of creating this type of exam is not something that can be whipped out; the test will have to be field tested to ensure fairness and that it contains no cultural bias. DOE is requesting additional funds in the amount of about $1 million for the continued development of this examination next year. About 17 states have created similar exams. They have spent two to three years constructing the exams and in excess of $2 to $3 million. Last year's legislation provided one year and $500,000 to do this project. The test must be credible to the public, teachers and students for this approach to work. DOE expects to administer the first exam in the year 2000 for the class of 2002. Students will be given the opportunity to take the exam twice each year, beginning in the spring of their sophomore year, so that they will have an opportunity for remediation where necessary. DR. STAYROOK thought the assessment piece is a significant linchpin to any kind of education improvement because if the status of student performance is not measured now, so that it can be monitored over the years, there will be no way to evaluate whether the changes made will have the expected results. Number 300 ED McLAIN, Assistant Superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, made the following comments via teleconference. The Kenai School District is very interested in SB 257. He extended his appreciation to DOE staff for their work with participants in the state to develop a program that will work for all. He stated the Kenai School District looks forward to seeing this legislation pass, although it has some concerns about a few of the details. SENATOR WARD asked Mr. McLain to elaborate on the details of concern. MR. McLAIN stated, as Dr. Stayrook pointed out, testing is a complex matter. He shares Dr. Stayrook's concern that the project be adequately funded so that the test is credible and useful to improving instruction. Mr. McLain also stressed the need for multiple indicators to determine which schools are in crisis. When the list of schools in crisis was first released, concern was raised by various parties around the state that basing that determination on one indicator was overly simplistic. His last concern was the reference to the phrase "working with the community" to improve the quality of a school. He believed DOE should clarify its intent because in some situations it is overly simplistic to think DOE could work with two or three people in a community and turn a school around in two years. Some schools have long histories of failure. BETSY TURNER-BOGREN, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the Alaska State PTA, thanked the committee for working on the Governor's proposal and read the following remarks for the record via teleconference from Fairbanks. "Members of the Alaska PTA applaud the Governor and the Legislators who have worked to find ways to improve the quality of public education in Alaska and the method in which our state provides funding for public education. Improving education for Alaska's children is a very important issue, not an issue that belongs to Republicans, to Democrats, just the Governor or a legislator. The issue belongs to all Alaskans. The Alaskan PTA has an annual membership of over 16,000. Our association has organized to include representation from the six geographic regions covering the entire state, and four active councils representing Ketchikan, the Mat-Su Borough, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. Delegates from across the State meet annually to review our legislative program and about five or six legislative priorities. The need for renewed confidence in our public schools is one of our top concerns this year. Supporting adequate state funding for public education has always been one of the Alaska PTA legislative priorities. In our view, these two are linked. Delegates to the 1997-98 issues conference last November adopted legislative priorities for the Alaska PTA that include support of: 1. legislation and funding of programs that will hold school districts accountable for high standards for educational programs, staff professionalism, and student performance; 2. the creation of a new funding mechanism that will meet all rising costs of public education, including those associated with inflation and increased enrollment and provide equitable distribution of those funds; 3. funding public education at sufficient levels to enable school districts to support a cap on pupil-teacher ratios for each grade level and provide safe and adequate pupil transportation. During the debate, delegates to the November issues conference also expressed concerns that efforts to find equitable distribution of state funds should not provide funding solutions for any school district at the expense of other school districts. In the past, the Alaska PTA has also supported education funding measures and reform that include legislation that would substantially increase the level of state funding for public education and legislation that would protect the level of education funding from the negative impact of inflation. I realize that today you are just reviewing the first six pages of SB 257, however I wanted to indicate that the issues of quality schools and funding in the view of the Alaska PTA are definitely linked. On behalf of the Alaska PTA we would like to express our sincere appreciation for the work of the Senate Health, Education, and Social Services Committee and encourage committee members to support education reforms that address all the concerns that have been identified by the Alaska PTA. Thank you for your time." Number 404 DAN SHEEHAN, a teacher from Craig, made the following comments via teleconference. We cannot raise the bar for student learning if students are being taught by teachers who are not trained in their subject areas. The report in Education Week showed that less than 54 percent of our teachers are now teaching a subject that they hold a degree in. That means that nearly 36 percent are teaching outside their subject area. Alaska needs to have a regulation that requires that teachers not just be certified in endorsed areas, but that they are assigned to those appropriate areas. CHAIRMAN WILKEN acknowledged that committee members received faxed letters from Mr. Sheehan on that point. He thanked Mr. Sheehan for his participation. CHAIRMAN WILKEN noted the Anchorage School District provided him with a binder and updates to fill it with. The latest document was called Assessment Evaluation Department. He asked if this effort is similar to the program the Administration wants to implement, and whether SB 257 would duplicate what school districts are currently doing. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY responded DOE is referring to an assessment based on the standards the Legislature expects students to meet when they take the qualifying exam. She explained those assessments are very different from those in a norm-referenced test. DR. STAYROOK added the Anchorage School District's assessment does include norm-referenced tests as well as criterion referenced tests, based on a measure of Anchorage's curriculum in various areas. SB 257 proposes to base assessments on statewide standards of acceptable levels of performance of basic skills at various age groups. Anchorage has staff with the expertise to do its own program; many districts do not have that staff. CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked if any other school districts do this. DR. STAYROOK answered the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District produces an annual report that contains a school by school analysis. The results are primarily based on the California Achievement Test which is administered in grades 2-11. A reading performance assessment is also administered at the first grade level. Fairbanks, like many other districts, simply does not have the resources to mount the effort to create its own standards-based or criterion-referenced testing programs. Anchorage has worked on its system for many years, and has two experts in this area. Anchorage could be used as a model of how to collect and report this kind of information to assist in decision making. RICK CROSS, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Education, noted two questions have come before DOE repeatedly: why standards in the basic schools should be mandated; and why districts should not be allowed to set their own standards as long as they meet the basic standards. He illustrated DOE's response to the first question with the following analogy. A person taking the drivers' license exam has to demonstrate an ability to parallel park. Doing so successfully is a clear definition of meeting a performance standard. The Division of Motor Vehicles imposes that standard across the state even though some village residents could argue that they will never need to parallel park. The Division of Motor Vehicles continues that requirement because a driver's license can be used throughout the whole state and country therefore a driver should be able to parallel park in case they choose to drive outside of their village. Likewise, the basic standards of reading, writing, and computing are necessary anywhere so establishing uniform standards should not unfairly burden or disadvantage any school district. Number 499 SENATOR GREEN questioned why a whole new test needs to be created to determine whether a student has learned basic skills. She also asked whether the idea of cultural bias conflicts with Mr. Cross's analogy. DR. STAYROOK stated specific measuring tools are used for specific purposes. The request for proposals circulating now allows test vendors to use existing test items they have constructed for other states under the condition that those items match the performance standards for Alaska and that those items are secure. One of the other issues in this kind of testing is that the test cannot be made publicly available so that test takers know what is on the test ahead of time. Number 522 SENATOR GREEN asked if there was any indication of why only one response was received to the first request for proposals. DR. STAYROOK thought there were several reasons. He believed many vendors thought the funds available for the project were inadequate. Second, the holidays interfered with the timing of the request for proposals which was let December 1 and had a due date of January 1. Also, there has been a plethora of requests from other states so vendors are picking and choosing. SENATOR GREEN asked if DOE expects a better response to the second request. DR. STAYROOK said at least three or four vendors have already indicated they will be responding. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY pointed out the Anchorage School District is concerned about the results of the norm referenced tests it uses and that the test is not tied to standards. The School Board is debating whether to use a different test. SENATOR GREEN stated she received many phone calls from groups expressing concern about the Quality Schools Initiative when it was first released. She asked if those groups' concerns have been addressed. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY maintained many groups initially reacted to the initiative with fear, particularly to the component that addresses the designation of schools. The fact that a school might be publicly designated as deficient, and that DOE could intervene, caused concern among teachers who thought the responsibility would be placed on them. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY said that is the reason the initiative was designed to hold the school and community responsible. The reality is that whether SB 257 passes or not, DOE will have to continue to identify low performing schools and make improvements to continue to receive Title 1 funds. SENATOR GREEN asked whether SB 257 contains a reference to teacher accreditation, appraisal or assessment. COMMISSIONER HOLLOWAY clarified HB 465 (Chapter 31) passed and required that evaluations based on standards be completed. The State Board of Education then adopted both teacher and administrative standards effective July 1, 1997. School districts have just begun to implement that law. CARL ROSE, Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB), made the following comments. He comes before the committee with some trepidation because only a portion of the bill is being discussed and that has an affect on AASB's position. Regarding accountability, several mechanisms are already in place, such as report cards, competency tests, and Chapter 31, but those mechanisms only address the issue partially. The issue of statewide standards and assessment is a good idea, however it involves the development of a curriculum correlated to an assessment, and professional development. These costs will be passed on to school districts; that issue is in the remainder of the bill which is not up for discussion. MR. ROSE indicated AASB agrees in part with what the Quality Schools Initiative is attempting to do and is trying to work out its concerns with DOE. The Quality Schools Initiative is an attempt to identify what we want our children to learn and to make an investment in how we go about it. It is a systemic effort, but in the absence of the funding part of the initiative, there is no attempt to address the state's needs systemically. AASB's qualified position is that it believes the items discussed by Commissioner Holloway are important, and need to be worked out via regulations or amendments, however a funding component to implement these concepts is critical. Otherwise, the initiative is another unfunded mandate. SENATOR WARD asked Mr. Rose if he had the list of unfunded mandates for the committee. MR. ROSE replied he would have that available next week. NUMBER 578 STEVE MCPHETRES, Alaska Council of School Administrators (ACSA), stated it is risky to support a piece of legislation that has two parts to it: one being the accountability package, the other being the funding package, because ACSA sees the importance of both parts together. The Senate HESS committee is addressing only one piece of the puzzle today. The accountability legislation is very complex; ACSA believes additional resources are necessary to make the accountability part happen. ACSA is very familiar with accreditation, especially the Northwest accreditation process and the expenses involved. If an accreditation process is developed on a state basis, Alaska needs to be cautious that it meets the Northwest standards. The accountability factor in regards to quality schools has been in place for at least three years with no additional funding to school districts. Those factors include exit examinations, reading, writing and math assessments, teacher evaluations, increased public involvement, charter schools, and working with part-time students. At the same time, school personnel still have to do the daily work with parents and students. ACSA encourages the committee to discuss the whole package in SB 257 and to review the results of a survey conducted last October by the Alaska Municipal League, Alaska Conference of Mayors, the Alaska School Board Association and ACSA. The results positively reflect what is needed. JOHN CYR, President of the National Education Association of Alaska (NEA), stated in general NEA supports SB 257. It supports the reporting requirements in Sections 2-4, and believes that research and valid data should drive the decision making process for all schools. NEA believes these sections do not go quite far enough and that reports should include: 1. strategies used by school districts to reduce truancy; 2. the curriculum offered for students in at least grades 9- 12; 3. detailed budgeted and actual expenses for salaries, maintenance, and operation and debt service on a standard document approved by DOE, because discussing the expenses of schools without a standardized format ends up in a comparison of apples and bananas; 4. a reporting procedure for evaluating teachers. MR. CYR stated Section 5 of SB 257 is a step in the right direction; it provides a system of state accreditation for all public schools. NEA believes in mandatory standards because if children across the state must compete in a world class schools arena, they must all play by the same rules. NEA believes school districts need additional resources and technical assistance so that all schools can become successful. He suggested adding language to page 4, line 27, so that school employee professional development is in place. NEA would like to see emphasis placed on ongoing support and technical assistance for school employees, as well as activities that allow them to plan, collaborate, reflect, and evaluate practices and curriculum methodology. In the final analysis, education takes place in the classroom with that exchange between the teacher and the student. It is incumbent upon the Legislature to help school districts provide the resources they need to be successful. MR. CYR recommended that academic mentoring teams be identified in school improvement plans. NEA believes the local union should play a large role in the identification of those teams to provide teachers and support staff a direct opportunity to effect changes concerning curriculum and instruction, assistance to teachers and school employees, and to initiate strategies for specific child centered instructional practices. MR. CYR pointed out the areas in SB 257 that it does not address but would contribute to meaningful education reform. The first is class size; the Legislature should mandate a limit on class size for at least grades K-3. Enrollment in head start programs and kindergarten should be mandatory. Finally, attendance requirements should be mandatory in order for students to receive credit. MR. CYR asked committee members to not take action on the first portion of SB 257 because without the funding section, the bill will not work. He advised the school district he teaches at in the Mat-Su Borough is considering cutting 36 actual teaching positions next year because it does not have the resources to provide for that classroom support. To put an extra burden on school districts at this time will require schools to take resources from the classroom. The committee took a brief at-ease. SB 238 - BOARD OF CERTIFIED DIRECT-ENTRY MIDWIVES SENATOR LEMAN, Chairman of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee which sponsored SB 238, announced Pam Weaver, a member of the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives, was present to discuss the bill. He noted SB 238 merely extends the board's existence for four more years, and although there are other issues pertaining to midwifery that should be reviewed, they were not included in this legislation in the interest of time. Number 469 PAM WEAVER, a midwife operating a clinic in Wasilla, informed committee members that although the Division of Legislative Audit recommended that the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives be extended to June 30, 2004, the bill contains a four year extension to 2002, because a six year extension was highly unlikely to pass. MS. WEAVER discussed the licensing fees for certified midwives in the State of Alaska. As a member of the national certification board, she is aware that the fees in Alaska are the highest in the country. Alaska was second to Colorado, but recent legislation in Colorado reduced the fee from $1400 to $300. That legislation had a similar affect on other smaller professions such as naturopaths, acupuncturists, and chiropractors and created a general defense fund for all of the professions by collecting a tariff on every licensee. She suggested that approach be reviewed as a possible solution to licensure fee problems in Alaska. Ms. Weaver said midwives are willing to support their own board, but the problem is exacerbated by midwives' lack of access to the market, specifically to medicaid funds. In 1992 the Legislature unanimously voted for licensure and the licensing board. In 1993 Senator Leman sponsored legislation to put midwives on the medicaid provider list and for third party reimbursement from insurers. That legislation passed, however midwives still do not receive medicaid reimbursement. In Alaska, 40 percent of births are funded by medicaid. The Division of Legislative Audit has also recommended that the Legislature give consideration to that issue. MS. WEAVER referred to a letter sent to midwives from Catherine Reardon that contained suggestions to resolve the high license fees, and maintained that after reviewing the suggestions, the Board decided none would play out. Number 416 SENATOR LEMAN commented the Board of Direct-Entry Midwives has functioned appropriately since it was created and the profession is alive and well. He asked Ms. Weaver if she had any information to the contrary. MS. WEAVER replied from a national perspective, what Alaska has done legislatively for direct-entry midwifery is a banner that she holds proudly. In many states it is still illegal for a woman to choose to have a baby outside of the hospital. She affirmed midwifery has fared well in Alaska. SENATOR LEMAN indicated he is working on an approach to get funding for midwifery services under medicaid and through that process Alaska will lose the general fund component of the operating budget, so it will be a win-win situation. CATHERINE REARDON, Director of the Division of Occupational Licensing (DOL), Department of Commerce and Economic Development, stated strong support for the continuation of the Board of Direct- Entry Midwives. She clarified that although the Division of Legislative Audit did recommend a six year extension, the Legislature is more comfortable as a standard matter of course with four year extensions of boards. The board would be happy with either extension. She stated midwifery is a valued health care option for women in Alaska. The board has tried to be very frugal, and in FY 97, spent a total of $700 on travel. Its small budget is caused by the fact that there are very few people to spread the costs among. She explained the State of Colorado has a central licensing agency and a financial self-sufficiency mandate; the pool of money collected from fees pays for legal and disciplinary costs. The midwife license fee in Alaska is $1550 every two years. For those midwives who handle three to five births per year, that cost is prohibitive. Number 334 SENATOR LEMAN commented he is interested in working with Ms. Reardon and the Board to find a way to reduce the fee. He did not intend to include a solution to the fee problem in SB 238 but hopes to find another vehicle in which to do so. SENATOR LEMAN moved to report SB 238 out of committee with individual recommendations and its accompanying fiscal note. There being no objection, the motion carried. SB 306 - TAX EXEMPTIONS IN CHILD SUPPORT CASES SENATOR DAVE DONLEY, sponsor of SB 306, described the situation SB 306 addresses. If a non-custodial parent is awarded the ability to claim a child as a tax deduction and then fails to make child support payments, that parent continues to get the tax deduction because the IRS is unable to refute tax deductions established by court order. SB 306 will prevent the non-custodial parent from claiming the child as a tax deduction if that parent does not pay child support. BARBARA MIKLOS, Director of the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED), informed committee members she was available to answer any questions. She stated CSED will have a role in this matter if SB 306 passes, which CSED can fulfill. SENATOR WARD asked how many people this bill will affect. SENATOR DONLEY replied quite a few people will be affected. Three constituents called him in January about this situation. He noted this bill is proactive because the Legislature cannot pass legislation that will affect court orders issued in the past, so it will not help those people who called. Number 267 CHAIRMAN WILKEN asked Ms. Miklos if she knew how many people SB 306 will affect. MS. MIKLOS said CSED was not able to come up with a firm number. SENATOR GREEN asked if there is any other way to change a court order. SENATOR DONLEY explained a person has to hire an attorney and go back to court to amend the original child support order to redirect the tax exemption to the custodial parent. Attorney fees for such an action might cost $3,000 to $4,000. SENATOR GREEN asked how Senator Donley arrived at the four month arrearage requirement. SENATOR DONLEY replied he paralleled the existing statute regarding licensure revocation. SENATOR GREEN thought one would have to have a minimum of six months of nonpayment because that would equal less than one-half of a year of child support. SENATOR DONLEY explained under the existing statutory scheme, if one does not pay for four months, the person has the opportunity to negotiate a scheduled payment plan. If the person then fails to make payments under the scheduled plan for four months, this provision would go into effect. Essentially, a person could be in arrears for eight months. He added it is not economically reasonable for the custodial parent to go to court for a deduction because it costs more than the deduction is worth. SENATOR GREEN did not think that argument holds up. She questioned whether the bill goes far enough and whether the ability to renegotiate should hold for other provisions. SENATOR WARD moved to report SB 306 out of committee with individual recommendations and its accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, the motion carried. There being no further business to come before the committee, CHAIRMAN WILKEN adjourned the meeting at 10:32 a.m.