Legislature(2009 - 2010)CAPITOL 106

03/02/2009 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved Out of Committee
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 126-FOSTER CARE/CINA/EDUCATION OF HOMELESS                                                                                 
10:08:46 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                                                               
10:09:09 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  LES  GARA,   Alaska  State  Legislature,  availed                                                               
himself to the committee.                                                                                                       
10:09:42 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON opened public testimony.                                                                                           
10:09:50 AM                                                                                                                   
LAUREN RICE,  Director of Public  Affairs, Covenant  House Alaska                                                               
(CHA), stated  support for  HB 126  paraphrasing from  a prepared                                                               
statement,   which   read   as  follows   [original   punctuation                                                               
     Nearly 50%  of CHA  youth have  been involved  with the                                                                    
     foster care system at some  point in their lives.  They                                                                    
     arrive on  our door step with  a plastic bag full  of a                                                                    
     few belongings.  Many of  these youth survive for a few                                                                    
     months after being released from  care, but find at the                                                                    
     young age of 18 they  don't have the resources and life                                                                    
     skills  required to  live  completely independently  on                                                                    
     their own.   After  living traumatized lives,  they are                                                                    
     faced with a  new trauma and a new set  of dangers that                                                                    
     homelessness presents.                                                                                                     
     We know  more today  about what  our foster  care youth                                                                    
     need than  we have  ever known  in the  past.   Some of                                                                    
     this is research based, some  learned from hard, tragic                                                                    
     lessons,  but the  vast  majority  of this  information                                                                    
     comes directly  from the graduates  of the  foster care                                                                    
     system.  They've come back  to us, as advocates for the                                                                    
     new generation,  telling us  exactly what  they needed,                                                                    
     exactly what did  not work and exactly how  we can help                                                                    
     fix the  system.  To  fail to hear their  crystal clear                                                                    
     voices would be huge disservice  to them as well as the                                                                    
     little ones  who are still  navigating and  coping with                                                                    
     the foster care system.                                                                                                    
     We know we  can lesson trauma by  ensuring our children                                                                    
     may  attend  their  home  school  despite  foster  care                                                                    
     placement changes.  Allowing  youth to have consistency                                                                    
     with their  teachers and  schoolmates when  every other                                                                    
     aspect of  their life  is uncertain  is essential.   We                                                                    
     know monthly visits increase  the likelihood that abuse                                                                    
     and neglect do  not go undetected.   This is absolutely                                                                    
     essential to keeping  our kids safe.  We  know that our                                                                    
     older   youth,  just   like   any   other  teen,   need                                                                    
     transitional   assistance   to   make  it   safely   to                                                                    
     This  legislation is  fundamentally about  providing to                                                                    
     our foster care youth  the resources we would naturally                                                                    
     provide to  our own children.   Few of us cut  the cord                                                                    
     when  our  kids  turn  18 and  refuse  to  assist  with                                                                    
     educational,  occupational  and  housing needs.    This                                                                    
     bill ensures that while we  cannot completely erase the                                                                    
     trauma endured  by foster care children,  we can lesson                                                                    
     it.   We  can actively  take steps  to help  them in  a                                                                    
     responsible, reasonable fashion.                                                                                           
     CHA  supports  this  bill   and  supports  the  ongoing                                                                    
     conversation  about  improving  the lives  of  Alaska's                                                                    
     foster care youth.                                                                                                         
10:14:25 AM                                                                                                                   
CAROL COMEAU,  Superintendent, Anchorage School  District, stated                                                               
support for  the bill,  with two  areas of  concern.   First, she                                                               
said,  transportation  may  not   be  adequately  addressed,  and                                                               
requires  further definition.   Then,  directing attention  to HB
126  [Version S],  page  2, subsection  (b),  paragraph (2),  she                                                               
     the  superintendent  of  the school  district  makes  a                                                                    
     written finding  that a waiver  of the  requirements is                                                                    
     in  the  student's  best   academic  interest  and  the                                                                    
     finding  is  mailed to  the  school  board and  to  the                                                                    
        person in charge of children's services for the                                                                         
     Department of Health and Social Services.                                                                                  
MS. COMEAU rhetorically  asked what the criteria will  be and how                                                               
the decision  will be made.   She offered  to work with  the bill                                                               
sponsor on these concerns.                                                                                                      
10:17:03 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GARDNER   said  she  shared  the   same  concern,                                                               
regarding  paragraph  (2),  and  pointed out  that  it  has  been                                                               
addressed in an amendment before  the committee.  If adopted, the                                                               
amendment will serve to delete that language.                                                                                   
10:18:14 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GARA explained that  the two amendments allay both                                                               
of superintendant  Comeau's concerns.  Amendment  1 addresses the                                                               
question, "What is [the] new process  we're going to come up with                                                               
to allow an exception if we think  the child should move to a new                                                               
school?"   During  the  school  year a  foster  child may  change                                                               
residences 5-15 times,  and the effort is primarily  to keep them                                                               
in  the  same school.    A  measure  should  exist to  allow  the                                                               
appropriate decision  to be made.   The  McKinney-Vento [Homeless                                                               
Education   Assistance  Improvement   Act  of   2001]  is   being                                                               
incorporated  into   HB  126,  and  it   provides  the  necessary                                                               
standards.   McKinney-Vento allows  transportation support  for a                                                               
student to remain  in the school of origin  throughout the school                                                               
year.   The procedures  under this act  stipulate that  the youth                                                               
should  be  kept  in  the  school of  origin  unless  the  youth,                                                               
guardian, or parents  represent the need to change.   The Alaskan                                                               
school  system has  already  been using  this  procedure for  the                                                               
class of students  who are covered; homeless,  and those awaiting                                                               
foster care.                                                                                                                    
10:20:18 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEATON interjected  a word  of caution  when incorporating                                                               
federal law into state statute, and asked for further details.                                                                  
10:20:35 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GARA directed attention to  HB 126 page 1, section                                                               
1, which  incorporates the McKinney-Vento Act  [lines 12-13], and                                                               
said the goal of the section is this:                                                                                           
     Right now  there's federal funding to  keep children in                                                                    
     the same  school, with the  exceptions that are  in the                                                                    
     federal statute ....  There's  a federal law that says,                                                                    
     for children who are homeless,  and ... foster children                                                                    
     in emergency  care, or awaiting foster  care, ... there                                                                    
     is  federal funding  to provide  transportation to  ...                                                                    
     the ... school [of origin].   There has been a national                                                                    
     movement  in the  foster care  field to  ... allow  all                                                                    
     foster youth,  as they get bounced  between placements,                                                                    
     to stay in  the same school, under  the same standards.                                                                    
     This  legislation would  ... provide  funding to  allow                                                                    
     school  districts to  keep all  foster youth,  not just                                                                    
     those awaiting  foster care, but  those also  in foster                                                                    
     care  who  get  bounced  between  homes,  in  the  same                                                                    
     school.   Rather than  come up  with a  different state                                                                    
     standard  ...  we're  going   to  ...  incorporate  the                                                                    
     standards that  the school districts have  already been                                                                    
     using  with McKinney-Vento,  for  those [children]  who                                                                    
     are already covered.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  explained that  this eliminates the  need to                                                               
generate  new standards.    It also  eliminates  the conflict  of                                                               
standards  for  determining  eligibility  of  children  awaiting,                                                               
versus already  in, foster care.   He pointed out that  there has                                                               
been no indication that McKinney-Vento doesn't work.                                                                            
10:22:41 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON  stated his concern  for the scope of  the McKinney-                                                               
Vento Act, and asked what aspects would be adopted.                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  agreed that  the Act is  expansive, however,                                                               
the  bill  only  incorporates  the language  "that  says  funding                                                               
available   to   keep  children   in   the   same  school   where                                                               
appropriate."   Section 1 expands  the class of  foster children,                                                               
to   include  all   foster  children,   who   are  eligible   for                                                               
transportation services.                                                                                                        
10:23:49 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER  offered her understanding of  the federal                                                               
aspect being  adopted.  She  said, currently, a  student awaiting                                                               
foster care  placement is covered under  McKinney-Vento, but once                                                               
placed, they are  no longer eligible and  lose the transportation                                                               
benefit; possibly necessitating a change of school.                                                                             
10:24:48 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER asked about  the recovery of transportation                                                               
costs, and  whether HB 126, incorporating  McKinney-Vento, is the                                                               
vehicle  required to  recuperate the  $175,000, deficit  that the                                                               
Anchorage school district experienced.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE   GARA    explained   that   the    foster   youth                                                               
transportation  program experienced  a shortfall  of $175,000;  a                                                               
deficit paid by the Anchorage school district.                                                                                  
MS. COMEAU interjected  that the district used  $175,000 from the                                                               
district's general fund  allocation.  Although the  youth met the                                                               
federal criteria, additional funding was  not received.  The bill                                                               
represents  an expansion,  and  should be  valid  to recoup  this                                                               
year's deficit, she opined.                                                                                                     
10:26:43 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEATON  recalled a competitive  grant of  $170,000 received                                                               
by the state, and asked for comment.                                                                                            
MS. COMEAU clarified that the  district exceeded the general fund                                                               
appropriation by $175,000, to pay  transportation costs for these                                                               
youth.   She deferred  to Mr.  Jeans to  explain the  receipt and                                                               
disbursement of  the Title I funding,  under which McKinney-Vento                                                               
is allotted.                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEATON  said this  question would be  reviewed at  a future                                                               
meeting.  He then requested information on Amendment 2.                                                                         
10:28:26 AM                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA explained  that  Amendment 2  funds the  two                                                               
non-state entity requirements  established in HB 126.   The first                                                               
is the  provision to keep  children in  the school of  origin, as                                                               
they  are bounced  between  foster  homes, and  the  second is  a                                                               
request for the university to  provide financial assistance.  The                                                               
requirements  of these  provisions are  contingent on  receipt of                                                               
legislative funding.   If the  legislature provides  funding then                                                               
the  university and  school  districts must  comply,  but if  not                                                               
funded, the mandate ceases.                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEATON made  a request  for further  information regarding                                                               
financing procedures.                                                                                                           
10:30:07 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEATON stated  that public  testimony  would remain  open.                                                               
Further,  he noted  that the  amendments are  extensive and  said                                                               
time  will  be  allowed  at  the next  hearing  to  consider  the                                                               
10:30:14 AM                                                                                                                   

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 126 amendment.pdf HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 126
HB 126 amendment II.pdf HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 126
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
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
HB 147 material.pdf HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 147
HB 58 material.pdf HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 58
new HB 126 material including new fiscal notes.pdf HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 126
HB 58 fiscal note.pdf HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 58
HB 58 amendment.pdf HEDC 3/2/2009 8:00:00 AM
HB 58