Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106
03/23/2016 08:00 AM House EDUCATION
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HB 298-LAYOFF OF TENURED TEACHERS 9:36:02 AM CHAIR KELLER announced that the final order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 298, "An Act relating to school districts; and relating to layoff plans for tenured teachers." 9:36:27 AM REPRESENTATIVE CATHY TILTON, Alaska State Legislature, introduced HB 298, paraphrasing from the sponsor statement, which read: HB 298 provides an optional tool for school districts to manage personnel costs through "Reductions In Force" (RIF). Currently, AS 14.20.177 stipulates that in order for a district to be able to even consider a personnel reduction plan for tenured teachers, one of two triggers have to be met: 1. School attendance in the district has decreased; or 2. The basic need of the school district decreases by three percent or more from the previous year. For a number of school districts, especially the more populous ones, this is simply a standard that cannot be met in order to even consider the option for personnel reductions. HB 298 simply eliminates the student attendance or basic need as requirement in order to proceed with the consideration of a layoff plan. While it is important to provide districts with greater flexibility to manage their finances in our new fiscal paradigm, it is also essential to provide robust protections for Alaska's teachers so that any RIF is not done arbitrarily or irresponsibly. AS14.20.177 (b)-(h) provides that protection through a very thorough process up to and including arbitration. HB 298 does nothing to remove or weaken that process. HB 298 is an option that allows Alaska's school districts greater flexibility to manage expenses. 9:38:38 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked whether there is a threshold to be considered, regarding a decrease in student attendance. HEATH HILYARD, Staff, Representative Cathy Tilton, Alaska State Legislature, responded that, in accordance with AS 14.20.177, in terms of the actual school attendance only a decrease needs to exist. The basic needs formula carries a percentage threshold, he pointed out. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON noted that the intent of the proposed legislation is to gain flexibility for laying off teachers. MR. HILYARD concurred and said it removes the two existing layoff triggers while retaining robust protections for tenured teachers. 9:40:00 AM REPRESENTATIVE COLVER asked about any support from the districts, and underscored the importance to have input from the trenches. Tenure is a sensitive issue, he reminded, which must be tread lightly while gaining a full breadth of understanding from those effected, as well as from the policy and budget promulgators. 9:42:02 AM REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND referred to the committee packet handouts titled, "District Enrollment by Grade as of October 1, 2015, FY 2016" and "District Enrollment by Grade as of October 1, 2014, FY 2015, compiled by the Department of Education & Early Development (EED), to note that there doesn't appear to be an existing urgency. The numbers indicate that enrollment has increased, she pointed out, and questioned the grounds for the bill. 9:43:31 AM REPRESENTATIVE TILTON deferred. 9:43:45 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON noted that the proposed legislation allows for reduction in tenured staff, and asked whether it allows for the retention of non-tenured teachers, at the same time. MR. HILYARD responded that the bill is silent on the question of non-tenured teachers. 9:44:41 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON noted that at some point he will be declaring a conflict of interest, as a parent and in-law of non- tenured teachers. 9:45:34 AM DEENA PARAMO, PhD, Superintendent, Matsu-Borough School District (MBSD), stated support for HB 298, paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read: I am speaking to you today on behalf of the Mat-Su School District to express support for HB 298. Even though Mat-Su is a rapidly growing District, we continue to be faced with some difficult realities that these times of limited resources present. We are a growing District and have not experienced a reduction in the component of the funding formula known as basic need. Without having these two triggers, we are unable to reduce the tenured workforce, no matter how large our deficit becomes or what programs we determine should not continue. For us this has created two realities. We have been forced to place tenured teachers in positions for which they were not qualified to comply with the current law and we are limited when exploring innovative and specialized programs as we may be required to retain an individual beyond the existence of the educational need. The proposed changes to AS 14.20.177 recognize that there are scenarios where a reduction in the number of tenured teachers may be necessary beyond the narrow scope currently in law. Let me be clear, Mat-Su values highly its talented workforce. We pride ourselves on offering a top notch education. However, fiscal realities require that we at times make difficult choices. We have no intention or desire to reduce the number of tenured teachers in our district without careful and deliberate consideration and even then only when necessary. We support the proposed bill not because we hope to issue notices of layoff, but because we appreciate the ability to consider the needs of the students in our district and the educational offerings we provide, not just the tenure status of teachers. Our current budget, which is based on the assumption that the Base Student Allocation is increased by $50 and that our contributions to PERS/TRS remain unchanged, would not require us the issue notices of layoff to tenured teachers. However, as both the State and our local Borough have not yet finalized the funding allocation, we are prepared for a multitude of scenarios. Realistically, I expect that this would affect Mat-Su as early as next year, but only on a limited scale. 9:49:45 AM REPRESENTATIVE SEATON referred to the bill, page 1, lines 13-15, which read as follows: APPLICABILITY. AS 14.20.177(a), as amended by sec. 1 of this Act, applies to a contract or collective bargaining agreement entered into on or after the effective date of this Act. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked about the application of this language to tenured versus non-tenured teachers. DR. PARAMO said the intention is to work with the collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) and align the language, following the effective date of the bill. 9:51:00 AM REPRESENTATIVE COLVER noted that MBSD is facing a $9 million shortfall, and asked what other measures, outside of tenured staff layoffs, are being considered for controlling costs, such as freezing pay step increases or adjusting health care costs. DR. PARAMO explained that the district has previously taken action to reduce health care costs, and said the district's intent is to direct revenue to the classroom. She said more changes will be evident in the FY 18 negotiations. A comprehensive secondary school program is important and programs vary between high schools. The secondary schools are more costly, due to the type of services necessary to prepare students for college and technical careers. The district has established a resource sharing program allowing students to attend the high school which best suits their interests and goals. Some students may attend three different schools in a given year to benefit from the resources and services offered. An example are the welding programs, that are offered at only four high schools, as the transportation costs for students are less than the cost of offering welding in every school. Further, space is being optimized in every facility and private industry is being cultivated to provide programs. She emphasized the need to cultivate the best instructors and programs, which means allowing districts the ability to change the status quo of staff, as necessary. Districts that are seeing a decrease in enrollment, have the ability to layoff tenured teachers; however, due to the growth in the MBSD tenured teachers must be retained, regardless of what the identified needs are for the district. 9:57:56 AM NORM WOOTEN, Director, Association of Alaska School Boards, stated support for HB 298 paraphrasing from a prepared statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: I am speaking today in favor of HB 298. We in the Association have tremendous support for our teachers. Research clearly shows that the most important factor in a student's success is good instruction delivered by a teacher. Having said that we find ourselves in increasingly difficult times and which will likely get worse. As our states financial situation worsens we will need all the "tools" you can give us. We need the ability to keep the "right" teachers in front of students. This would be the first step in getting to that ability Our responsibility is to deliver the best instruction possible to every student. Thank you for your time today. I encourage you to pass this legislation out of committee. 9:59:05 AM KAREN GABORIK, Superintendent, Fairbanks School District, stated support for HB 298, agreeing with Dr. Paramo's testimony. It will assist in the decision making process, especially in situations that effect tenured teachers. The effective date in Sec. 2 presents a problem, she opined and recommended it be amended. 10:01:23 AM LISA SKYLES PARADY, Executive Director, Alaska Council of School Administrators (ACSA), stated support for HB 298, and said the bill arose from a list of items that would provide non-monetary support to school districts in a time of budgetary constraints. The list was generated through a joint effort of members from the Alaska Association of School Boards (AASB) and the Alaska Superintendents Association (ASA). The bill seeks to eliminate the narrow triggers currently allowed for teacher layoffs, which leaves the districts with a functional inability to staff as appropriately as possible. Certainly, tenured teachers are highly valued, she said, and the bill does not change the robust process of preferring and protecting seniority. The bill would provide an important tool for districts at these difficult times, and she provided a theoretical situation: A district decides to save money by closing a program, but it is unable to reduce staff of the tenured teacher carrying the terminated class. Although the teacher is not qualified to teach any other district offered curriculum the district must resort to transferring the tenured teacher into a position for which they are not qualified or effective. In the end, with the limited triggering, currently in statute, a negative impact results. She assured the committee that the layoff plan will be protected and have public accountability given the requirement for the local board review. Finally, the ACSA concurs with Superintendent Gaborik's recommendation to delete the Sec. 2 effective date, as unnecessary language. 10:05:19 AM DR. MARTIN MILLER, Superintendent, Juneau School District, stated support for HB 298, and said the only means to continue to meet budgetary constraints is through reduction in the work force. Costs increase each year primarily based on the step increases, which are an attraction for new teachers; however, with a static income and rising costs, measures must be taken, he opined. At the second level the specialized programs are the biggest challenge due to the specialty of the course work involved. CHAIR KELLER announced HB 298 as held over.
|HB298 Fiscal Note.pdf||
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|CS HB156 Sponsor Statment.pdf||
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