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 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.