Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

02/25/2009 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

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08:00:39 AM Start
08:01:58 AM Overview(s): University of Alaska, Mark Hamilton
09:35:10 AM HB126
10:03:15 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ Presentation by UA President Mark TELECONFERENCED
Hamilton: University of Alaska Overview
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 126-FOSTER CARE/CINA/EDUCATION OF HOMELESS                                                                                 
9:35:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON announced that the  final order of business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL NO. 126, "An  Act relating to continuing the secondary                                                               
public education of  a homeless student; relating  to the purpose                                                               
of certain laws  as they relate to children;  relating to tuition                                                               
waivers,  loans, and  medical assistance  for a  child placed  in                                                               
out-of-home care by the state;  relating to foster care; relating                                                               
to children  in need of  aid; relating to foster  care transition                                                               
to  independent living;  and relating  to  juvenile programs  and                                                               
9:35:29 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LES  GARA, Alaska  State Legislature,  speaking as                                                               
the sponsor,  said that  over the  past year  he and  others have                                                               
discussed what parts of Alaska's  foster care system are fixable.                                                               
He  then stressed  how  the state  is the  parent  of the  foster                                                               
children and has custody of  these children.  Representative Gara                                                               
related that  the Casey Family  Foundation and the  University of                                                               
Alaska have performed  some Alaska-specific studies.   In fact, a                                                               
recent university study  has reported that roughly  40 percent of                                                               
foster  care children  end up  homeless  at some  point in  their                                                               
life.  He asked the committee  to keep the aforementioned in mind                                                               
as if the committee was the  parent of these foster children.  He                                                               
then informed  the committee  that studies show  that one  of the                                                               
indicators a child is going to  underachieve is when the child is                                                               
moved  from  school-to-school.   Furthermore,  a  national  study                                                               
reports that on average foster  children nationwide will transfer                                                               
schools one  to two times during  their high school years.   Even                                                               
worse,   is  that   roughly  65   percent   of  foster   children                                                               
[nationwide] have  attended three or more  elementary schools and                                                               
many of  those school changes  occur in  the middle of  the year.                                                               
This  legislation   doesn't  change  the  Office   of  Children's                                                               
Services' (OCS) ability  to maintain a child in  one stable home,                                                               
he noted.                                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA related  that  the  national government  has                                                               
taken a certain  percentage of foster youth,  just those awaiting                                                               
foster care,  and provided  funding to  school districts  so that                                                               
youth  are given  transportation funds.   Therefore,  foster care                                                               
youth who  move within  the same  district can  stay in  the same                                                               
school.   The  aforementioned,  he clarified,  only covers  those                                                               
foster  youth who  are waiting  or in  emergency foster  care not                                                               
those foster youth who  go from one home to another.   One of the                                                               
studies provided in the committee  packet relates that the arrest                                                               
rate among  foster youth is 10  times the average of  those youth                                                               
not in  foster care.   The question for  all of these  issues is:                                                               
what can be done to provide  foster care youth with a more stable                                                               
educational experience  and what  can be  done to  provide foster                                                               
youth  with greater  opportunity than  they  have now.   He  then                                                               
mentioned  that nationally  foster care  youth attend  college in                                                               
about half the numbers as youth not in foster care.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA related  that a  foster care  conference was                                                               
held this fall  during which some very narrow  and cost effective                                                               
solutions  were found.   He  noted  that the  committee has  been                                                               
provided a proposed committee substitute  (CS) that corrects some                                                               
of the problems found in the original legislation.                                                                              
9:40:52 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  MUNOZ  moved  to  adopt  CSHB  126,  Version  26-                                                               
LS0309\S, Mischel, 2/24/09, as the working document.                                                                            
CHAIR SEATON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                            
9:41:11 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  explained that  Sections  4,  5, and  9  in                                                               
Version  S  includes  the statutory  definition  of  "out-of-home                                                               
care."    Section  10,  borrowed from  the  State  of  Minnesota,                                                               
provides an immunity  provision such that there's  no legal right                                                               
of action  against a social  worker should he/she miss  a monthly                                                               
[home] visit.  In order to  allow for the option to extend foster                                                               
care to  the age  of 21,  conforming language  in Section  13 was                                                               
necessary.   Sections  14  and 16  adopt  the "out-of-home  care"                                                               
definition.    Section  17 provides  a  monetary  living  expense                                                               
stipend  in an  amount  that  is not  less  than  the daily  rate                                                               
provided  to  a  licensed  foster  parent  for  necessary  living                                                               
expenses.  This stipend can be  received by the foster care youth                                                               
for up  to a year.   The language  in Section  17 is meant  to be                                                               
flexible in  terms of the  amount the foster care  youth receives                                                               
and its duration.                                                                                                               
9:44:52 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON removed  his  objection.   There  being no  further                                                               
objection, Version S was before the committee.                                                                                  
9:45:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA then reviewed  various sections of Version S.                                                               
Section 1  specifies that transportation  funds will  be provided                                                               
for those  students who  move to another  school within  the same                                                               
school district.  Furthermore, when  feasible the student will be                                                               
kept in  the same school in  order to avoid foster  care students                                                               
from bouncing  between various schools.   A similar  program, the                                                               
McKinney-Vento Homeless  Education Assistance Improvement  Act of                                                               
2001,  is  being successfully  utilized  in  the Municipality  of                                                               
9:46:28 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  pointed out  that the  requirements don't                                                               
apply if  a student  changes district,  or if  the superintendant                                                               
doesn't  find it  to be  in a  student's best  academic interest.                                                               
She inquired as to the sponsor's  view on other types of waivers.                                                               
She explained that she is  a big believer in neighborhood schools                                                               
and a  foster child might benefit  from doing all the  things the                                                               
foster family  does.  Although  it may  be in the  foster child's                                                               
academic interest  to stay  at their  original school,  often the                                                               
academic issue  isn't the primary  concern for a child  trying to                                                               
fit into a new environment.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   GARA  suggested   that  Representative   Gardner                                                               
consult with  some of  the experts  on this  issue.   However, he                                                               
offered that  many foster youth  are changing schools  during the                                                               
school year.   The academic  consequences of  the aforementioned,                                                               
especially with the trauma associated  with a foster care change,                                                               
is terrible.   Representative  Gara said  that although  he could                                                               
imagine cases in which it may  be desirable to place foster youth                                                               
in a neighborhood school, he  expressed concern about a flat rule                                                               
that would  always place the  youth in  a new school  when he/she                                                               
changes foster care parents.                                                                                                    
9:48:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER clarified  that  she is  interested in  a                                                               
waiver based  on something other than  academic interest, perhaps                                                               
the youth's best interest.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA  said  that  would likely  make  sense,  but                                                               
expressed the need to speak with  experts in the area in order to                                                               
address such.                                                                                                                   
9:49:02 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON inquired  as to  whether [Section  1] only                                                               
affects a single school year or is forever.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA,  referring to  page 2, highlighted  that the                                                               
language refers to  the standard of "the  student's best academic                                                               
interest".  The  legislation, as written, would allow  a child to                                                               
attend  another school  the  next  school year,  if  it's in  the                                                               
student's  best   interest.    Adding  the   neighborhood  school                                                               
preference as  suggested by Representative Gardner  would require                                                               
language specifying  that such could occur  when it's appropriate                                                               
for  the youth  and  in the  best  interest of  the  youth.   The                                                               
problem,  however,  is  that  it's  not always  that  neat.    He                                                               
highlighted  the difficulty  in specifying  which placements  are                                                               
stable.   Representative  Gara clarified  that the  desire is  to                                                               
avoid  the school  changes during  the  semester, especially  for                                                               
those youth who are transferring to many foster families.                                                                       
9:50:57 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SEATON inquired  as to  who determines  the best  academic                                                               
interest of the youth.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE GARA answered that  the school district would make                                                               
the determination.   He  suggested that  the committee  hear from                                                               
two individuals  who make these  determinations in  the Anchorage                                                               
School District  for those  foster youth  and homeless  youth who                                                               
aren't in permanent foster care.                                                                                                
9:51:49 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER surmised that  the sponsor has implied that                                                               
OCS  is  moving  children  around,  which  is  problematic.    He                                                               
questioned whether  limiting waivers to  only youth who  move and                                                               
the  academic considerations  would  eliminate  OCS's ability  to                                                               
make a determination based on social matters.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA   replied  no.    He   specified  that  this                                                               
legislation doesn't attempt to micromanage  what OCS considers to                                                               
be the  most appropriate placement  for a youth.   The OCS  has a                                                               
duty to serve  the best interest of the youth.   This legislation                                                               
doesn't stop  OCS from  doing a placement  as it  currently does,                                                               
rather Section 1  only specifies that if a change  is made by OCS                                                               
such  that   the  foster  youth   would  go  to   another  school                                                               
transportation funding  would provided, if it's  determined to be                                                               
in  the  child's  best  interest  to stay  in  the  same  school.                                                               
Representative  Gara reiterated  that  [Section 1  of Version  S]                                                               
doesn't impact  OCS placement decisions; rather  it merely speaks                                                               
to funding to the school district after a decision is made.                                                                     
9:54:13 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA, continuing  his sectional analysis, informed                                                               
the  committee that  nationally  only half  of  all foster  youth                                                               
attend college as  compared to their peers.  He  noted that there                                                               
is some  college aid available,  including scholarships  from the                                                               
Casey  Family Foundation,  the university,  and OCS.   Section  2                                                               
provides needs-based aid  to foster youth in order  that they can                                                               
attend  higher education.   He  reminded the  committee of  a few                                                               
years ago  when legislation,  commonly know  as the  aspire bill,                                                               
passed to provide  college aid for youth.   The legislation aimed                                                               
to  provide  college  scholarships   to  foster  youth,  but  the                                                               
fundraising  effort to  obtain private  funds hasn't  happened at                                                               
this  point.   The  legislature  has  made a  determination  that                                                               
foster  youth would  need assistance  in attending  college.   He                                                               
highlighted that  many college  students have  a parent,  a "life                                                               
line," to call  during the college years, but  foster youth don't                                                               
have that opportunity once foster care  ends.  He noted that part                                                               
of the effort is to  include living expenses for higher education                                                               
because  living expenses  are a  large  part of  the problem  for                                                               
foster youth.                                                                                                                   
9:56:54 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON,  referring to page  2, line 2, inquired  from where                                                               
the language "under 29 years of age" came.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  noted that the language  originally referred                                                               
to "under 23  years of age."  The question,  he specified, is how                                                               
long an  individual who  was in  foster care  should be  given to                                                               
complete  college.   The availability  of the  grant program  has                                                               
been extended to 10 years after high school.                                                                                    
9:57:55 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER,   referring  to  page  2,   lines  25-26,                                                               
inquired  as  to  where  the  term  "state-supported  educational                                                               
institution" is defined.                                                                                                        
9:58:24 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA explained  that the  program proposed  in HB
126 likely  won't have  enough funds  to send  a foster  youth to                                                               
Harvard.   The grant program  is limited to the  state university                                                               
system,   including  the   Alaska  Vocational   Technical  Center                                                               
(AVTEC).  He  mentioned that AVTEC representatives  want to bring                                                               
in  youth.   In  response to  Chair  Seaton, Representative  Gara                                                               
confirmed that the intent is to  limit [the grant program] to the                                                               
State of Alaska university system.                                                                                              
9:59:55 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA then turned  the committee's attention to the                                                               
other  main sections  of Version  S.   One provision  extends the                                                               
option  of foster  care  to age  21 for  which  there is  federal                                                               
funding available.  The notion is  that if a youth finds a foster                                                               
care placement,  why take them out  if the youth and  the parents                                                               
believe   the  placement   is   beneficial.     Similarly,   this                                                               
legislation would  extend Medicaid benefits  to age 21,  which is                                                               
essentially  the  current practice.    The  last major  provision                                                               
provides  a year  of living  assistance, if  necessary, when  the                                                               
youth leaves  foster care.   The fiscal note from  the Department                                                               
of Health and Social Services  specifies an estimate of $130,000,                                                               
which  the  department  has  said  is a  low  estimate.    Still,                                                               
doubling that  estimate is a  small amount,  he opined.   He also                                                               
pointed out  that half of the  state's 2,000 foster youth  are in                                                               
the homes  of relatives  and the other  half are  in non-relative                                                               
homes.  Therefore,  he estimated that maybe  100-200 foster youth                                                               
would  come out  of foster  care in  a year,  of which  a certain                                                               
amount would be [stable].                                                                                                       
10:02:04 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON,  noting that HB 126  has a House Health  and Social                                                               
Services Standing  Committee referral, reminded the  committee it                                                               
would primarily focus on the educational impacts of HB 126.                                                                     
10:02:30 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER  asked  if  foster youth  can  refuse  to                                                               
remain  in state  custody the  extended timeframe.   She  further                                                               
asked  if there  is  a requirement  for the  foster  youth to  be                                                               
employed or  attending school rather  than just merely  living in                                                               
someone's house.                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  clarified that there is  no requirement that                                                               
the foster  youth has  to stay  in foster  care to  age 21.   The                                                               
aforementioned would  be up  to the foster  youth and  the foster                                                               
family.  Therefore, it's an  option.  Furthermore, Representative                                                               
Gara related that no standards  have been developed regarding how                                                               
to qualify for foster care up to age 21.                                                                                        
[HB 126 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
hb 126 materials.pdf HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 3/9/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 126
Link to UA workforce development programs (health).doc HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
Link to University of Alaska Budget Request and performance summary.doc HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
UA Training tomorrow's workforce today 2008.pdf HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
U A FactSheet_lifescience.pdf HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
UAA-Sports-Arena.pdf HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
UAS-Auke-Lake-Fact-Sheet1.pdf HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
workdraft HB 126.pdf HEDC 2/25/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 3/9/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 126