Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/22/2004 08:39 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 338                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     An Act relating to attendance at public school; and                                                                        
     providing for an effective date.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
RYAN MAKINSTER,  STAFF TO  REPRESENTATIVE MCGUIRE,  commented                                                                   
that the bill accomplishes two  small but significant changes                                                                   
to  the law.   He  explained that  the  minimum standard  for                                                                   
early entry is  very high and would require  most children to                                                                   
be in  the genius  level to qualify.  Under current  statute,                                                                   
the school board  must hear a request for early  entry, which                                                                   
is  inefficient   when  a   school  administrator   could  be                                                                   
designated for  the task. A  school administrator  would have                                                                   
more experience  in early education  and possess  the ability                                                                   
to determine if  a child is ready to enter school  early. The                                                                   
bill  was requested  by the  Anchorage  School District.  The                                                                   
date change  from August 15 to  September 1 would  put Alaska                                                                   
in line with 36 other states.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Chenault asked  how many  children this  bill                                                                   
would  affect. Mr.  Makinster  replied it  would affect  less                                                                   
than one  child in  each classroom,  or one  for every  three                                                                   
kindergarten   classes.  It  would   not  negatively   affect                                                                   
classroom size.   Representative Chenault stated  he was more                                                                   
concerned  with the  cost,  noting the  indeterminate  fiscal                                                                   
note, and  he asked the best estimate  of the cost.   He also                                                                   
asked  if it  is the  local or  the state  school board  that                                                                   
currently makes the decision.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Mr. Makinster replied that the  legislation may cost a little                                                                   
more this  year but  these children  would  be out of  system                                                                   
earlier and the  cost of education would be  higher later on.                                                                   
Currently the local school board  makes the determination and                                                                   
a  parent meets  with  either the  school  psychologist or  a                                                                   
private   psychologist.   The    school   districts   request                                                                   
appointment of an  administrator so that the  board would not                                                                   
have to meet on these cases.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Chenault asked  whether the Anchorage  School                                                                   
District  is planning  to hire  another  administrator.   Mr.                                                                   
Makinster replied that it is not.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
LARRY WIGET, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR  OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, ANCHORAGE                                                                   
SCHOOL DISTRICT, spoke in support  of the bill. The Anchorage                                                                   
School  Board  believes  that  once  it  has  adopted  policy                                                                   
standards,  it should  have the  discretion  to delegate  the                                                                   
responsibility   for    implementation   to    the   District                                                                   
administration.  The  District   would  not  hire  additional                                                                   
administrators to  deal with this  task, and the  Board would                                                                   
still  serve as a  body of  appeal. Mr.  Wiget discussed  the                                                                   
provisions of the bill.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Vice-Chair Meyer  asked why the  date has been set  at August                                                                   
15. Mr. Wiget did  not know but he thought  it was arbitrary.                                                                   
Vice-Chair  Meyer asked  if  Anchorage makes  exceptions  for                                                                   
children close to the August 15  date if they pass the tests.                                                                   
Mr. Wiget said  that the date is relatively  firm but parents                                                                   
assume the  extra cost of  testing and evaluating  the child.                                                                   
The bill  would put  Alaska more  in line  with the  national                                                                   
average.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
In  response to  a question  by Vice-Chair  Meyer, Mr.  Wiget                                                                   
replied that Anchorage has all-day kindergarten classes.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
HB  338  was   heard  and  HELD  in  Committee   for  further                                                                   
consideration.                                                                                                                  

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