Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 106

03/23/2016 08:00 AM House EDUCATION

Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 156(EDC) Out of Committee
<Bill Hearing Rescheduled from 3/21/16>
Moved HCS CSSB 89(EDC) Out of Committee
               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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
     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                                                               
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                                                               
CHAIR KELLER announced HB 298 as held over.                                                                                     

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB298 Fiscal Note.pdf HEDC 3/23/2016 8:00:00 AM
HEDC 4/1/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 298
CS HB156 Sponsor Statment.pdf HEDC 3/23/2016 8:00:00 AM
HB 156