Legislature(1997 - 1998)

02/25/1998 09:08 AM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
      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.                            

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