Legislature(2003 - 2004)
02/17/2004 11:03 AM EDU
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 353-JURY DUTY EXEMPTION FOR CERTAIN TEACHERS Number 2350 CHAIR GATTO announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 353, "An Act relating to jury duty; and amending Rule 15(k), Alaska Rules of Administration." Number 2353 REPRESENTATIVE MARY KAPSNER, Alaska State Legislature, testified as the sponsor of HB 353. She explained that HB 353 precludes teachers from having to serve as part of a jury pool if the school where they work is not meeting adequate yearly progress (AYP). It has been a concern over the years, particularly in rural Alaska, but the concern is greater with the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act and the exit exams that seniors will be required to pass, she added. For example, the Lower Kuskokwim School District is in the 4th Judicial Court, but the Bethel Court has a lot of pressure on it, she said. The jury pool includes a 30-mile radius of Bethel which in turn puts a lot of pressure on the teachers in many of the outlying villages. She pointed out that the jury is not really a jury of their peers, because most of the teachers come from outside and are new to the region. Another problem is that there is a major shortage of substitute teachers in the region. This is especially true in villages. There just aren't a lot of certified teachers hanging around the villages waiting to be called in case a teacher is sick or has been called for jury duty, she commented. Representative Kapsner referred to e-mails that she has received from teachers from the Lower Kuskokwim School District who discuss these particular [problems] and how that effects the classrooms. Number 2247 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER shared an e-mail from one constituent, Felecia Griffith-Kleven, who said that when a teacher is out the best that can be done is to bring in a high school graduate who is not otherwise employed. Representative Kapsner told the members that students are the ones who suffer from the interruption of their learning because sometimes teachers do not have time to prepare lesson plans for the substitute teacher. Another facet of the issue is that during the winter months, planes can only fly during daylight hours so as a result it is often not possible for the teachers to fly back before the school day ends. Number 2171 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER added that one concern that was expressed is what [other job classification] is next. Would policemen, firemen, or Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs) be exempted from serving on jury duty. She pointed out that there is such stress on the education system right now that it is a real hardship to be pulling teachers out. For example, one school has 11 teachers and 5 were called out for jury duty which can last as long as 3 months, she said. Representative Kapsner relayed that the Lower Kuskokwim School District said that from September 1st through December 15th of 2003, payroll records show a total of 107.5 days that teachers were out of the classroom performing jury duty. This is a significant toll on a school system, she added. Number 2136 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON agreed with Representative Kapsner on the [seriousness of the problem]. She shared that in the last two years she has been called to jury duty every three months. Representative Wilson said it is important to think about what would be best for kids. She stated that this bill is best for kids. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER explained that the requirements for substitute teachers is almost non-existent. Only a high school diploma is needed now, she commented. When she went to school in the Lower Kuskokwim School District most of the substitute teachers were cab drivers because it would be possible for them to make more money [substitute teaching] than driving cab, Representative Kapsner said. Another substitute teacher that she recalls was the wife of the minister who had English as her second language. There was no effort to teach, she just brought her knitting and did babysitting. CHAIR GATTO asked what the average number of teachers is in the 27 villages that are listed. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that there probably would be at least two teachers in each village. In Platinum, for example, she told the members that her dad taught every grade and every subject in high school and another teacher taught every grade and subject in elementary school. A larger village could have 10 or 11 teachers. CHAIR GATTO said that an important point to be made is that in a small village with two teachers, if one is gone [for jury duty], then half the teachers are gone, possibly for three months. He asked the members to imagine any district that said half their teachers are gone. Chair Gatto told the members that he supports this legislation. Number 2013 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON explained that many of the schools in the small villages are not on the list of those who failed to make adequate yearly progress because [of privacy concerns] in that the school is so small a child could be identified. She questioned whether the language should be changed in a way that will ensure that these small schools are considered under this legislation. Representative Wilson told the members she supports this bill. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER agreed with Representative Wilson's point. She noted that Eddie Jeans is indicating his agreement with Representative Wilson's suggestion as well. REPRESENTATIVE OGG expressed his concern with Representative Kapsner statements about a particular area of the state, with a particular circumstance. He pointed out that during testimony taken last fall with respect to schools that are not making AYP, it was found that metropolitan schools were found to be the ones with the more serious problems. Representative Ogg questioned whether there could be a different way of approaching this problem. He suggested that the language would say something like, "jury duty would not be required if not on the road system connected to the court house." He told the members that he believes that would be a better approach than affecting a whole class of teachers in the state of Alaska. Representative Ogg stated that he feels strongly that no matter what someone's profession is, he/she should have an opportunity to serve on juries. That is what makes the jury system work. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER said she appreciates Representative Ogg's concerns. She offered to list the schools in Anchorage that are not meeting adequate yearly progress. CHAIR GATTO asked if that is pertinent. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that she believes it is because these are schools that are on the road system within driving distance of the [court house], but said she does not believe that their substitute teacher pool is any more qualified to meet the concerns of AYP [than those in small communities]. CHAIR GATTO commented that this is public information and asked Representative Kapsner to proceed. Number 1818 REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER listed the following schools in Anchorage that are not meeting AYP: Bowman Elementary, Campbell Elementary, Central Middle School of Science, Chinook Elementary, Chugiak Elementary, Chugiak High School, Clark Middle School, College Gate Elementary, and Creekside Park Elementary. There are probably 50 schools in Anchorage that are not meeting AYP, she stated. Representative Kapsner told the members that she believes the kids in Fairview deserve to have a teacher there to teach them, just as much as the [kids in] Nunapitchuk. Number 1801 REPRESENTATIVE GARA said that he agrees with the approach of the bill, and in fact, would be alarmed if the bill said that it only applies to certain parts of the state. He said he believes it is important to keep this bill non-discriminatory. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON told the members that he believes that AYP is important, and there should not be a gap in schools being identified because of the number of students. He said he would like to see this bill amended to address both issues. CHAIR GATTO commented that there is quite a bit of time when school is not in session, and asked if that is addressed in the bill. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER responded that probably 98 percent of the teachers leave during the summer. CHAIR GATTO said he is unfamiliar with the process of identifying persons for jury duty. For instance, couldn't a teacher serve on jury duty elsewhere in the state [during summer months when school is not in session]. He asked if jury duty is assigned by where a person resides. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that persons get called for jury duty depending on where he/she lists [their permanent] address for the permanent fund dividend check. In response to Representative Ogg's earlier comments, she said the point is that "highly qualified" teachers should not be taken out of the classroom. Substitute teachers do not qualify as highly qualified teachers, she added. Number 1613 REPRESENTATIVE WILSON explained that when a person is called to jury duty, there is adequate advance notice so the individual can explain his/her circumstances. Number 1600 REPRESENTATIVE SEATON offered the following conceptual amendment: On page 1, line 7 After the word "progress" Insert the words "or a school that was exempt from classification." REPRESENTATIVE SEATON explained that this additional language would ensure the inclusion of schools that failed to meet AYP or those that were of such a size that they were exempt from classification. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER responded that she believes this amendment needs to be in writing and have the department and the [Legislative Legal and Research Services] look at it. Representative Kapsner pointed out that once AYP is met, this legislation would be a moot. At that point, teachers would not be exempt [from jury duty], she said. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON said that her primary concern is what is best for kids. In schools where there are no highly qualified substitute teachers to help the kids get the education that is needed, she told the members she believes the teacher should be in the classroom as much as possible. Representative Wilson questioned how the bill could be changed to address those concerns. In summary she said that what is best for kids is for the teacher to stay in the classroom. REPRESENTATIVE OGG commented that he has heard testimony that the effort to have "highly qualified" teachers in rural areas is very difficult. He said he believes this bill is too broad and would be more comfortable with a bill that just addresses a specific issue. For instance, if the court system in Bethel is bringing in people to serve on jury duty from villages that are not on the road system, that jury pool would be difficult to fill. He suggested language that would address teachers in rural areas, not on a road system, that are called to [serve on jury duty] be exempt. Representative Ogg said that tying exemption from jury duty to schools' classification on AYP appears to be too broad a stroke. He said he is uncomfortable with the way the bill is written. Number 1322 CHAIR GATTO asked if there is a perimeter beyond which an individual would not have to serve on jury duty. REPRESENTATIVE KAPSNER replied that in Bethel's case there is a 30-mile radius. There are seven or eight villages within that radius in the Bethel area. She explained that there are no communities in the Bethel region that are linked by roads. In the winter it is possible to travel by ice road, but not a lot of people new to the region, such as teachers, have cars. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON told the members that he does not believe this is only a rural issue. In schools that failed to meet APY, it is especially important that there is continuity of teachers in the classroom. He stated he does not care what the location, teachers should not be pulled out of classrooms, especially in schools that are not meeting AYP. This committee's concern has to be for the schools that are failing, not what the jury pool is doing, he said. This bill will probably go to the House Judiciary Standing Committee where the members there may or may not like it. He emphasized the importance of members to focus on the education of kids, and making sure kids and schools have every opportunity to succeed. REPRESENTATIVE GARA pointed out that this bill has two more committees of referrals where Representative Ogg's concerns could be addressed. He asked if the sponsor would confer with the individual who has the question [before the next committee hears the bill], and asked that the bill be passed out of committee today. REPRESENTATIVE WILSON commented that the next committee of referral is the House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee, of which she is chair. She asked Representative Kapsner to talk with the Department of Education and Early Development and others to address questions raised in committee [today] before the bill comes before the House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee. She said she believes this is a good bill and has merit. REPRESENTATIVE SEATON told the members that he will withdraw his conceptual amendment if the sponsor will work with the department to include the language for consideration in the House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee. In response to Representative Kapsner affirmative response, Representative Seaton withdrew his conceptual amendment. Number 1036 REPRESENTATIVE GARA moved to report HB 353, Version A, out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 353 was reported out of the House Special Committee on Education.