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 390-LENGTH OF SCHOOL TERM                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
[Contains discussion of SB 239.]                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0977                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO announced  that the final order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE BILL  NO. 390, "An Act  relating to the required  number of                                                               
days in a school year."                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO,  Alaska State Legislature,  sponsor of HB  390, told                                                               
the members  that if  this bill  could be spoken  of in  a single                                                               
word, it  would be "flexibility."   He told the members  that the                                                               
Anchorage  Police  Department went  from  a  40-hour week,  using                                                               
five, eight-hour days, and moved to  four, ten-hour days.  It was                                                               
a  change  that   was  welcomed  by  the  police   and  has  been                                                               
successful.   In  looking at  the schools,  HB 390  allows school                                                               
districts  to look  at school  terms in  a more  flexible manner.                                                               
Chair Gatto told  the members that current law  requires 180 days                                                               
of  school;  however, if  approved  by  the Commissioner  of  the                                                               
Department of  Education and Early Development,  school districts                                                               
would be allowed  to adjust their school terms  within statute to                                                               
meet  the  needs  of  their  students,  teachers,  families,  and                                                               
location.   He said that  rather than  focusing on the  number of                                                               
days, the focus would be on  the amount of attendance.  Recently,                                                               
an  Anchorage charter  school proposed  a plan  to the  Anchorage                                                               
School Board  for something less  than 180  days.  This  plan was                                                               
approved in  concept, but is now  on hold pending the  passage of                                                               
this legislation,  he said.   The increased  flexibility provides                                                               
for  a stronger  focus on  academic performance  instead of  just                                                               
accounting for seat time.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0835                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO said  that while allowing for a four-day  week is not                                                               
the  specific  intent  of  HB  390,  passage  would  provide  for                                                               
meaningful dialogue  on this  and other plans.   This  bill would                                                               
specifically   effect  boarding   and  residential   students  by                                                               
allowing  them a  flexible schedule.   Year  round schools  could                                                               
also be introduced,  he remarked.  This bill is  supported by the                                                               
superintendents  of   the  Anchorage  School  District   and  the                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0833                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE OGG  moved to  report HB  390, 23-LS1522\A  out of                                                               
committee with  individual recommendations, and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON objected  to  the motion  for purposes  of                                                               
discussion.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON shared that  her niece and niece's husband,                                                               
who  are teachers  in Colorado,  work a  four-day workweek.   The                                                               
response  from  teachers and  the  administration  has been  very                                                               
positive.  The  district likes it because of  the flexibility [in                                                               
hours] and it has been shown to save money.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO pointed  out  that  this bill  does  not mandate  or                                                               
require anything,  it only  allows for  flexibility.   There have                                                               
been some  studies on the savings  of a four-day school  week and                                                               
the savings  have been  shown to be  much less  than anticipated.                                                               
He  remembers  from personal  experience  that  when his  son  is                                                               
traveling  with  the basketball  team,  there  will be  a  missed                                                               
school day, usually Friday.  He  said that is what he believes is                                                               
behind some  of the drive for  the bill.   If a school is  on the                                                               
road system,  they can  travel early,  or if  it is  necessary to                                                               
fly, it provides for  a make up if the plane  is late getting in.                                                               
There  are many  reasons  the school  districts  would love  this                                                               
flexibility, he commented, but it is not a requirement.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 0661                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY  told the  members that  the Department  of Education                                                               
and Early  Development testified  on the  senate version  of this                                                               
bill.   There were a  couple of  suggestions that could  make the                                                               
bill a bit stronger, but over  all the department agrees with the                                                               
intent  of  the  bill  in allowing  some  flexibility  in  school                                                               
districts to look at innovative  ideas in calendaring.  There are                                                               
still  some checks  and balances  in that  the school  board must                                                               
approve  the  plan and  the  commissioner  of the  Department  of                                                               
Education and Early Development must also approve the plan.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY referred to the new  version of SB 239 [the companion                                                               
bill to  HB 390, offered in  the senate].  The  department wanted                                                               
to have some sort of minimum  proposed.  The problem, he said, is                                                               
that while  it says the  approximate educational equivalent  in a                                                               
180-day  term, it  does not  define that  it has  to be  180 days                                                               
worth of hours.  The  commissioner was concerned that there would                                                               
be a huge range of interpretations  on the equivalent of 180 days                                                               
worth  of education.    Mr.  Sweeney told  the  members that  the                                                               
department came up  with 144 days, because if a  district went to                                                               
a four-day workweek schedule, four-fifths of 180 is 144 days.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY commented that there  was some confusion with respect                                                               
to  school employee  wages as  discussed  in one  section of  the                                                               
bill.  It was determined that  the drafter who wrote the bill for                                                               
the senate  version thought that  this bill dealt  with contracts                                                               
and used language  to make it more  uniform.  There was  a lot of                                                               
confusion about  that language  and the  department did  not know                                                               
how that  impacted current  contracts and  contract negotiations.                                                               
Upon looking  at this point  further, it was determined  it would                                                               
be better to leave that up  to the [individual] contracts as they                                                               
are negotiated.  He emphasized  that the removal of this language                                                               
would  not  impact  the  districts'   ability  to  come  up  with                                                               
innovative scheduling plans.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 0436                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  GATTO agreed  with Mr.  Sweeney's comments.   He  told the                                                               
members that  he would support  amending the bill to  remove that                                                               
language  and have  the  bill's language  agree  with the  senate                                                               
version.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked for  clarification of the language on                                                               
page 1,  subsection (4)(A) of [SB  239, the senate version  of HB                                                               
390], which reads as follows:                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     (A) the school board has submitted an acceptable plan                                                                      
     ...                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 0311                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  SWEENEY  replied  that  the  way  he  and  the  commissioner                                                               
envision this working  is that the school district  would come up                                                               
with a  plan at the beginning  of the school year.   The district                                                               
would layout  the new  calendar, which  doesn't meet  the 180-day                                                               
requirement the district use to have,  and show what will be done                                                               
to meet  the same  education equivalent of  the old  school year.                                                               
He pointed  out that the school  board would have to  approve the                                                               
plan before it is sent  to the commissioner, and the commissioner                                                               
would have to approve it as well.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  commented that the language  in the senate                                                               
version does not  reflect that the new calendar would  have to be                                                               
acceptable to  the commissioner of  [the Department  of Education                                                               
and Early Development].                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. SWEENEY pointed  to HB 390, page  2, lines 3 and  4, where it                                                               
says  "the school  board adopts  a  different school  term for  a                                                               
school if  the commissioner finds  that the school board..."   He                                                               
summarized that  the school board must  submit a plan of  no less                                                               
than 144 days,  and the commissioner must find  that the students                                                               
are still going to get the equivalent of 180 days of education.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR GATTO told  the members that he  would entertain amendments                                                               
to HB  390 that  would incorporate the  changes suggested  by the                                                               
Department  of Education  and Early  Development, and  which were                                                               
made to the senate bill [SB 239].                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Number 0203                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON clarified  that  the text  in brackets  on                                                               
page 2,  lines 3  and 4 was  deleted.  She  moved Amendment  1 as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Page 2, lines 3                                                                                                            
     After the words "school term"                                                                                              
     Insert "of not less than 144 days"                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WILSON  moved  Amendment 2  which  she  explained                                                               
would allow for  the completion of the previous  sentence on line                                                               
4.  The amendment is as follows:                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     On page 2, line 5                                                                                                          
     Delete "(A)"                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                              
[Due to technical  difficulties, the following was  not taped but                                                               
was reconstructed from the recording secretary's log notes.]                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, Amendment 2 was adopted.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON moved Amendment 3 as follows:                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     On page 2, delete lines 8 through 10                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, Amendment 3 was adopted.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON removed his objection.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  OGG  moved  to report  HB  390,  23-LS1522\A,  as                                                               
amended,  out of  committee with  individual recommendations  and                                                               
the accompanying  fiscal notes.   There being no  objection, CSHB                                                               
390(EDU)  was reported  out  of the  House  Special Committee  on                                                               
Education.                                                                                                                      

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