Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/17/2004 11:03 AM House EDU

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                                                               
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]                                                               
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                                                               
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                                                               
     On page 1, line 7                                                                                                          
     After the word "progress"                                                                                                  
       Insert the words "or a school that was exempt from                                                                       
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                                                               
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.                                                                                    

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