Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/17/2004 11:03 AM EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 338-ENTRY INTO SCHOOL                                                                                                      
Number 2175                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO  announced that the  next order of business  would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  338, "An  Act relating  to attendance  at public                                                               
school; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   LESIL   McGUIRE,   Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
testified as  the sponsor of HB  338.  She told  the members that                                                               
HB  338 is  a  simple  bill which  is  being  introduced to  help                                                               
address a problem a constituent  brought to her attention and the                                                               
Department  of  Education  and Early  Development  with  a  minor                                                               
technical  change.     The  bill  does  two   things,  she  said.                                                               
Currently state law stipulates that  a child under school age may                                                               
be admitted only by a vote of  the entire school board.  This law                                                               
makes the  process of  admitting an  under age  child cumbersome.                                                               
She explained  that this  bill would not  change anything  in the                                                               
statutes  of  standards  by  which   admittance  into  school  is                                                               
permitted.    The  law  would  still require  that  a  child  can                                                               
demonstrate   "minimum   standards   prescribed  by   the   board                                                               
evidencing  that   the  child  has  the   mental,  physical,  and                                                               
emotional capacity...", she added.   This bill would provide that                                                               
the chief  school administrator can  make that  decision, thereby                                                               
relieving the administrative burden.                                                                                            
Number 2267                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE  explained that  the next change  the bill                                                               
would  implement  is  the  date   by  which  children  may  enter                                                               
kindergarten.   This bill  provides that  children who  reach the                                                               
age of  five years old  before September  1st may be  enrolled in                                                               
kindergarten.   Currently the  law provides  an August  15 cutoff                                                               
date.   Representative  McGuire commented  that what  this change                                                               
does is  provide for Alaska  to keep pace with  changes occurring                                                               
in the  rest of  the United  States.  There  are 19  other states                                                               
that use  September 1st as the  cutoff date.  Part  of the reason                                                               
for this change is that there  are a lot of military families who                                                               
have come into Alaska and  the different cutoff date is confusing                                                               
for them.   Representative  McGuire pointed  out that  the fiscal                                                               
note  is   indeterminant  because   it  is  impossible   for  the                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development to  predict [the                                                               
change in the number of] students.   There may be a little bit of                                                               
a fiscal note, she added.                                                                                                       
Number 2354                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE  asked the members to  consider whether or                                                               
not  Alaska  should  join  eight   other  states  in  having  the                                                               
compulsory age be five years old.   She suggested it is something                                                               
to think about,  but does not want  it to be an  issue that would                                                               
hold  up the  bill's [movement  from  committee].   She said  she                                                               
thought  this  would  be particularly  helpful  to  lower  income                                                               
families [who have day care issues].                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE  MCGUIRE shared  a personal  experience where  her                                                               
brother,  who  is a  traumatic  brain  injury survivor,  has  two                                                               
children with  someone with whom  he is  not married.   These are                                                               
two beautiful  children, she stated.   One of the  children, Zoë,                                                               
turned five  years of age,  and the mentality in  some low-income                                                               
families, is  that it is not  important to take your  children to                                                               
school until it  is required by state law.   They live in Russian                                                               
Jack  and her  brother spent  a lot  time driving  [his daughter]                                                               
across town  to get her  to school when  he could.   However, the                                                               
child's mother  did not  feel compelled [to  get her  to school].                                                               
Now she  is six  years old and  in school every  day.   There are                                                               
checks and  balances once  school attendance  becomes compulsory,                                                               
she said.  A  child growing up in a middle  to upper class family                                                               
[is  in an  environment where]  the  impetus is  to be  educated.                                                               
There is a pressure  that is built in.  These  are the people who                                                               
want  the start  date to  be pushed  forward so  that when  their                                                               
child turns  five [years  of age]  on August  17, they  can start                                                               
school and  get going, so  there is no  need to be  concerned for                                                               
those kids,  she said.   Representative McGuire  pondered whether                                                               
it  might be  helpful  to create  more of  an  impetus for  other                                                               
families that might not have that built in emphasis.                                                                            
Number 2477                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO  responded that  he has some  concerns about                                                               
[requiring] a  five-year old  [to attend school].   He  said that                                                               
his comments may  be viewed as a sexist, but  he does not believe                                                               
boys should start  school earlier than six [years old].   He told                                                               
the members that there are  good reasons for that opinion because                                                               
the  biological rate  of  maturity [for  boys  is different  than                                                               
girls].   It may be okay  for girls, and there  may be individual                                                               
differences.  Chair  Gatto stated that he has a  problem with the                                                               
word  "compulsory."   To provide  that it  be an  elective option                                                               
would be  tolerable, he  said.   He told  the committee  he would                                                               
like to  look at  the states that  have compulsory  attendance at                                                               
five years of age and see what the end result is.                                                                               
Number 2535                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE asked  the  members to  look at  Patricia                                                               
McRae's  letter.   She is  the Executive  Director of  Elementary                                                               
Education and  supports the  idea of changing  the entry  date of                                                               
children starting kindergarten to  September 1st.  Representative                                                               
McGuire  summarized her  comments by  saying that  there has  not                                                               
been any opposition to this bill.                                                                                               
Number 2575                                                                                                                     
CHAIR GATTO asked if superintendents  are considered a subsection                                                               
under school administrators.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE responded  that it  is her  understanding                                                               
that the language is interchangeable.                                                                                           
CHAIR GATTO  commented that there is  a letter of support  for HB                                                               
338 from  Robert Doyle, the  Chief School Administrator  from the                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District.                                                                                      
CHAIR GATTO asked for [definitive]  clarification on the language                                                               
[related to superintendents and school administrators].                                                                         
Number 2617                                                                                                                     
HEATH  HILYARD, Staff  to  Representative  Lesil McGuire,  Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature, answered  questions  from the  members on  HB                                                               
338.  Mr.  Hilyard responded that Legislative  Legal and Research                                                               
Services drafted  the language and  it is his  understanding that                                                               
this is the existing statutory  language.  He emphasized that the                                                               
sponsor did not ask for any specific change in the language.                                                                    
Number 2629                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  said for the  record that it is  important to                                                               
note that there  is a spectrum of [cutoff] dates.   Alaska has an                                                               
August 15th  date, while  some schools in  other states  have its                                                               
[cutoff]  at  October  16th.   Other  than  conformity  to  other                                                               
states' cutoff dates, he asked if  there is a specific reason for                                                               
selecting September 1st.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE   replied  that   the  main   reason  for                                                               
selecting  September  1st is  to  comply  with the  mid-range  of                                                               
states.   A few states do  have October 16th as  the cutoff date,                                                               
she  commented,  but  not that  many  [states].    Representative                                                               
McGuire told members that she  believes the September 1st date as                                                               
the  least  controversial  and most  predominant  date  [used  by                                                               
states].    However,  she  said,  she would  be  amenable  to  an                                                               
amendment to  change the date.   She emphasized that  her primary                                                               
purpose in  introducing this bill is  to get kids into  school as                                                               
soon as possible.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG commented  that he  has no  problem with  the                                                               
date.   He agreed  with Representative  McGuire that  the earlier                                                               
that children get into school the better.                                                                                       
Number 2697                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON shared  that  her  daughter's birthday  is                                                               
September 30th  and the state that  she lived in [at  the time of                                                               
her entry into  kindergarten] required children to  be five years                                                               
old by  September 30th, so  she just made it  in.  There  was the                                                               
consideration that if her daughter  was in school there would not                                                               
be the expense  of day care.   To this day, she  said, she wishes                                                               
that she had  held her out another year because  she was the very                                                               
youngest person  in her  class.   Representative Wilson  said her                                                               
daughter  experienced problems  along  the way  and she  believes                                                               
that if she had been held  out another year [those problems might                                                               
have been avoided].                                                                                                             
Number 2759                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  summarized  that  while  she  understands                                                               
Representative McGuire's purpose in  sponsoring the bill, she has                                                               
mixed  feelings  about it  because  of  those experiences.    She                                                               
stated that she will not vote against the bill.                                                                                 
CHAIR  GATTO  pointed  out  that the  language  does  say,  "may"                                                               
[rather than shall].                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE  told the  committee that  she appreciates                                                               
Representative Wilson's  comments.  She reiterated  Chair Gatto's                                                               
point that the language in the  bill is clearly a "may" [option],                                                               
not a "shall" [requirement].                                                                                                    
Number 2806                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF agreed that the  language which keeps the age                                                               
of  entrance into  school as  an  option [not  a requirement]  is                                                               
good.   He  shared that  both of  his children  were kept  out of                                                               
school until the age  of six because he and his  wife felt it was                                                               
most appropriate for their children.   He said that while he will                                                               
not vote  against the bill,  he will be giving  no recommendation                                                               
[on the bill].                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE commented that  there are some states that                                                               
do not have a compulsory start  date until the age of eight years                                                               
old.     There  is  an   interesting  balance  between   the  two                                                               
[requirements], she added.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  said that this  choice should be  a personal                                                               
one.  He shared that he has a  special needs child that is now 23                                                               
years   old,  who   started   school  at   the   age  of   three.                                                               
Representative  Wolf told  the  committee that  he  also has  two                                                               
small children who  went through Head Start.  One  daughter is an                                                               
"A"  student who  is  reading at  4th grade  level  while in  2nd                                                               
grade.  He  reiterated that both of the younger  children did not                                                               
start school until six years of age.                                                                                            
Number 2897                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GARA asked what is  the compulsory start [age] for                                                               
first grade.                                                                                                                    
Number 2933                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE replied that  she believes [the compulsory                                                               
start age] is six years of age.                                                                                                 
MR. HILYARD confirmed  that the members are looking  at version H                                                               
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GARA responded that he is looking at version D.                                                                  
MR.  HILYARD pointed  to  version H  that makes  a  change for  a                                                               
compulsory date  for [entrance]  to first  grade, which  now says                                                               
August 15th  for the year  the child  turns six [years  old], but                                                               
will change to September 1st.                                                                                                   
[While no motion  was made to adopt version H,  it was treated as                                                               
the working document.]                                                                                                          
TAPE 04-10, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2955                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE   GARA  followed   up   on  a   comment  made   by                                                               
Representative  Ogg that  the date  chosen should  be the  "ideal                                                               
date."  He said that perhaps  September 1st is the ideal date, or                                                               
maybe it  should be October 16th,  which would allow for  as many                                                               
[children]  as possible  to enter  school early.   He  asked what                                                               
Representative McGuire's  views are on  putting the date  back to                                                               
October 16th.  It would still be  an option for people to wait an                                                               
extra year if they chose to.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE responded  that she  looked at  materials                                                               
from  National  Conference  of   State  Legislatures  (NCSL)  and                                                               
something from Dr. Deborah Stipek  from Stanford University.  She                                                               
said she does  not have any problem changing the  date to October                                                               
16th because  there is  still a  "may" option in  the bill.   She                                                               
said that Representative Wilson's comment  about the high cost of                                                               
child care being an issue, leads  her to consider that moving the                                                               
date back might benefit financially strapped families.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE GARA told  the members that he would  not offer an                                                               
amendment, but  asked Representative McGuire to  think about this                                                               
question as  the bill goes  through the process.   Representative                                                               
Gara said  that the earlier  admission date is attractive  to him                                                               
because the  funds are  not available to  fully fund  Head Start,                                                               
and maybe  this bill would help  a months worth of  kids get into                                                               
school when it may not be otherwise possible.                                                                                   
Number 2815                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO pointed  out that  a great  reference on  this issue                                                               
would  be school  nurses who  have  screened kids  over and  over                                                               
again.   Often times a  parent will  believe that their  child is                                                               
gifted  and should  be  entered  into school  at  the  age of  4;                                                               
however, once the nurse has screened  the child, it will be found                                                               
that the  child really does  not qualify for early  entrance into                                                               
Number 2777                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE   told  the  members,  in   follow-up  to                                                               
Representative Gara's comment, that she  will contact a couple of                                                               
kindergarten teachers in  her district to get their  views on the                                                               
Number 2757                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER posed  a hypothetical  example where  the                                                               
cutoff  date  is October  16th,  and  a  child's birthday  is  on                                                               
[October] 14th.   If that child  is in a low-income  family which                                                               
qualifies  for a  federal subsidy  for  day care,  if the  family                                                               
decides not to place the  child in kindergarten would this change                                                               
[in law] disqualify  the family from getting  the federal subsidy                                                               
[for day care assistance], she asked.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE responded that she does not know.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON told  the member  that at  this time  [the                                                               
federal government] does not look  at that issue [with respect to                                                               
federally subsidized day  care].  She commented that  the idea of                                                               
pushing  the date  back too  far  should be  viewed with  caution                                                               
because the reality is that  teachers have more students in their                                                               
classrooms than in  the past.  The more immature  the children in                                                               
the classroom are,  the more difficult for the  other children to                                                               
learn, and the teachers' to teach, she said.                                                                                    
CHAIR GATTO commented that it  would be especially difficult if a                                                               
child who qualifies is not yet potty trained.                                                                                   
Number 2627                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  noted that  the letter [dated  January 21,                                                               
2004, from  Robert Doyle, Chief School  Administrator, Matanuska-                                                               
Susitna Borough  School District]  points out that  the September                                                               
1st  school  cutoff  date  is   more  closely  aligned  with  the                                                               
beginning of the school year.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE McGUIRE replied that's correct.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON told the members  that he is concerned with                                                               
two portions of the bill.                                                                                                       
     On page 1, lines 4 and 5                                                                                                   
     A child who is six year of age on or before September                                                              
      1 [AUGUST 15] following the beginning of the school                                                                   
     year, ...                                                                                                                  
     On page 2, line 3                                                                                                          
         [A] child who is five year of age on or before                                                                     
     September 1 [AUGUST 15] following the beginning of the                                                                 
     school year...                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  noted  that  [the  language  could  be  a                                                               
problem  because]   some  districts   may  start   school  before                                                               
September 1st.  Representative Seaton said  he is not sure of the                                                               
effect of these definitional [changes].                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE  commented   that  Representative  Seaton                                                               
points out a need for an  amendment.  She said that when drafting                                                               
the bill,  the language  was just  fitted into  existing statute.                                                               
She suggested  striking the words  "following the beginning  of a                                                               
school year" [on page 1, line 5  and again on page 2, lines 4 and                                                               
5.]   She said  that she  believes the  existing language  in the                                                               
bill could  cause confusion.   The  Anchorage School  District is                                                               
moving  toward starting  school  after Labor  Day,  but if  rural                                                               
parts  of Alaska  are  starting  sooner, that  could  serve as  a                                                               
source of confusion.                                                                                                            
Number 2518                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  GATTO agreed  with Representative  McGuire's  point.   For                                                               
example,  a  parent could  enroll  a  child  in Bethel  prior  to                                                               
September 1st  for the  sole purpose of  defeating the  intent of                                                               
the legislation.   Then later move to Anchorage  on September 2nd                                                               
as a transfer and then say the child is already enrolled.                                                                       
MR. HILYARD pointed  out that is precisely one  of the situations                                                               
that the bill would remedy.   There are cases where people enroll                                                               
their children in  other states, for a week or  less for the sole                                                               
purpose of circumventing the law, he  said.  The new date is more                                                               
of a national standard so individuals  do not feel the need to do                                                               
that, he added.                                                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  if  the department  sees a  problem                                                               
with an amendment  which would strike the  phrases "following the                                                               
beginning of the school year".                                                                                                  
Number 2469                                                                                                                     
KEVIN SWEENEY,  Legislative Liaison, Office of  the Commissioner,                                                               
Department   of  Education   and   Early  Development,   answered                                                               
questions  from  the   members  on  HB  338.     In  response  to                                                               
Representative Seaton's  question he  replied that he  would look                                                               
into it and get back to the committee.                                                                                          
Number 2460                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  commented that  she is shocked  that there                                                               
are parents who have enough money  to go to another state, enroll                                                               
their child  [in school], and then  come back to Alaska,  just so                                                               
the child could go to school that year.                                                                                         
Number 2440                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  McGUIRE  responded  that  what  is  really  being                                                               
referred to  is military families  who are already living  in the                                                               
lower  48 states  and  are  preparing to  move  to  Alaska.   She                                                               
commented that  it is  possible that a  family could  be visiting                                                               
grandparents somewhere and enroll the child out of state.                                                                       
MR. SWEENEY spoke to the  discussed amendment [where the language                                                               
"following the beginning  of the school year"  would be deleted].                                                               
He told the  members that the language would not  have any impact                                                               
because the  beginning of the  school year  officially, according                                                               
to statute,  begins July 1st.   The change in language  would not                                                               
be a problem, he reiterated.                                                                                                    
CHAIR  GATTO noted  for the  record that  the fiscal  note is  in                                                               
determinant at this time.                                                                                                       
Number 2384                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON moved  to  report  CSHB 338,  23-LS1258\H,                                                               
Mischel,    1/21/04,   out    of   committee    with   individual                                                               
recommendations and  the accompanying fiscal notes.   There being                                                               
no  objection,  CSHB  338(EDU)  was reported  out  of  the  House                                                               
Special Committee on Education.                                                                                                 

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