Legislature(2009 - 2010)HOUSE FINANCE 519
04/14/2010 08:30 AM House FINANCE
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HOUSE BILL NO. 69 "An Act establishing in the Department of Education and Early Development a voluntary parent education home visiting program for pre-elementary aged children; and establishing a rating system for early childhood education." 11:51:50 AM REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TUCK, SPONSOR, explained that the bill was also known as the "Parents as Teachers Act." He described parents as a child's first and most important teachers. House Bill 69 would empower parents with the knowledge and resources to help their children develop into successful students with stronger scholastic achievements. Research has shown that the early years are critical in a child's development and lay the foundation for later success in school and life. The bill would allow the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEED) to offer early childhood learning methodology to parents as an education option for families with children ages zero to five. Parents who choose to participate would be supported by local childhood development specialists. Parents as Teachers uses a research-based model that helps parents and other family members understand what to expect during each state of development, how to promote the best development in children, and how to prepare children for success in learning in the future. The program can save money for schools by helping families detect problems that can be corrected before starting school. The program fits with many educational philosophies. Representative Tuck noted that the program would offer resources to families to help parents learn about child development and opportunities to network with other parents in groups. Children are also given opportunities to develop social skills through interactions with peers. Referrals are made with the consent of the family and are based on the family's needs. Currently the program is serving nearly 50 communities throughout the state and is funded through federal grants, in-kind donations, and public/private partnerships. Parents as Teachers works through any local entity, including school districts, tribal councils, and other community organizations. The bill intends to develop local partnerships that will increase local control, maximize in-kind support, and more fully integrate early education into communities. Representative Tuck informed the committee that the average cost would be $3,000 per family, reflected in the fiscal note as a total of $4 million per year for state-wide coverage. About 12 percent of the amount would go to materials for the parents and 4 percent would go to overheard. 11:56:26 AM Co-Chair Hawker MOVED to ADOPT Work Draft CSHB 69(FIN) (Version 26-LS0281\W) as a working document before the committee. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. Representative Tuck detailed that the CS was a simplified version of the CS forwarded by the Education Committee. Both versions establish a Parents as Teachers early childhood education system through DEED for ages 5 and under; however, the previous version was more prescriptive. The proposed CS before the Finance Committee would give DEED the flexibility to do the program as it works best in various communities while still meeting quality standards. Representative Tuck noted that Section 1 provides the title. Section 2 establishes a statewide voluntary learning system; subsection (a) requires that there is evidence- based education, parental involvement, and adherence to accepted best practices and early learning guidelines; subsection (b) directs DEED to develop local partnerships to implement the program; and subsection (c) adds a three- year sunset clause. He underlined that a previous version provided that the bill would serve 650 children for the first two years and then be expanded statewide; the current CS would take a more simple approach by providing for the program state-wide and providing for a sunset date in 2013. He believed extending the date for three years would allow for measurable results in childhood education. Co-Chair Stoltze acknowledged the number of people who support the bill. 11:59:39 AM Representative Fairclough asked whether Representative Tuck had attended budget discussions for a K through 12 pilot program. Representative Tuck responded that he had not. Representative Fairclough queried results from the pilot program. Representative Tuck replied that he did not have the results immediately available but he understood that the program provided many early education opportunities; he viewed the bill as one more tool. AURAH LANDEAU, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TUCK, responded that the pilot program serves several hundred children state wide. The two-year program is in its second year and the results would be forthcoming. She pointed out that a main difference between the pilot program and the Parents as Teachers program is that through the later families are offered resources to create an early environment wherever families are. Representative Fairclough asked for a comparison with the Best Beginnings program. Ms. Landeau answered that Best Beginnings provides the Imagination Library and other things while Parents as Teachers is a model that entity could provide. Representative Fairclough pointed out that the federal government is ramping down funding on the Parents as Teachers program the state currently has; the education subcommittee had looked at that and did not want to start new pilot programs until results were received from DEED regarding the pre-K pilot program, which was in the current operating budget at $2 million. She did not believe there were results from the $2 million investment. She voiced caution about investing in another pre-K program in spite of fact that Parents as Teachers does a good job. Representative Fairclough referred to an amendment that Representative Gara had proposed at a subcommittee meeting for $600,000 that included Parents as Teachers. She questioned additional funding of another pre-K program. In addition to the $2 million for the pre-K pilot, funding for the Best Beginnings programs was increased from $200,000 to $380,000 as well as adding $600,000 for another pre-K amendment. Representative Fairclough emphasized her support of early childhood education but reiterated concerns about additional spending. 12:04:16 PM Representative Tuck informed the committee that the bill was first introduced the year previously in order to expand the program statewide to respond to a need. Because of the success rate, other communities wanted the program. Expansion is limited by the federal funds. He referred to experience serving on a school board, where people knew that providing early learning opportunities leads to later success. He had proposed using school facilities that were empty during the summer period for early childhood programs. The Alaska Association of School Boards wanted to implement the program statewide. He asserted that the Parents as Teachers program was the right program, as it involves the parents and provides opportunities for communities. He pointed out that the recent Moore vs. State case demonstrated that pre-K with parental involvement is a key factor. Vice-Chair Thomas spoke as a co-sponsor and supporter of the bill. He reported that five parents from his district had flown to Juneau to speak to him in support of the program. He referred to another $42 million program that has not been successful. He wanted to start education earlier to improve graduation rates. He pointed out that in a small community, everyone can help the children. 12:08:04 PM Representative Fairclough agreed that the Parents as Teachers program was wonderful; constituents had advocated to her about the program as well. However, she reiterated concerns that almost $3 million new funding was already being allowed in the operating budget for pre-K programs. She also worried about choosing money for an individual program rather than letting communities decide what programs are best for their particular location. She pointed out that Head Start, Best Beginnings, Campfires of Alaska, and others were also trying to get state money. Co-Chair Hawker opened public testimony. DEBBIE BALDWIN, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT, RURAL ALASKA COMMUNITY ACTION PROGRAM (RURAL CAP) (via teleconference), spoke in support of the legislation. She informed the committee that RurAL CAP serves over 1,500 children between the ages of zero and five and their families in 29 communities throughout the state. The program provides early childhood education and family support services through Head Start, Early Head Start, Parents as Teachers, child care, and the pre-K program. She stated that RurAL CAP believes the Parents as Teachers is one of the best early childhood and family support programs offered in the home environment. The program is internationally recognized as a program that serves families from pregnancy until kindergarten through voluntary visits and group socialization conducted by a certified parent educator. Ms. Baldwin asserted that the family environment can be a major predictor of cognitive, social, and emotional abilities; some believe it can be a predictor of crime and educational attainment. Parents as Teachers provides parents with information and age-appropriate activities based on brain research and windows of opportunity for development, which improves parent practices and leads to both school readiness and educational achievement. The program has existed for over 25 years in the country and RurAL CAP has over 11 years of experience offering Parents as Teachers programs in Alaska. In 1999, the program started with 27 families; today 450 families are being served in 19 communities. Ms. Baldwin reported that the program works because pre- and post-screening and assessment results show children achieving gains in all areas of development. In addition, developmental data and interviews with kindergarten teachers show that Parents as Teachers children are transitioning to kindergarten with key indicators of school readiness as defined by the Alaska Early Learning Guidelines. Pre- and post-parent surveys document changes in parental attitudes and beliefs about child-rearing. The results are used to individualize parent education. Ms. Baldwin stressed that the program is results oriented. RurAL CAP can demonstrate the number and frequency of positive interactions between parent and child upon entering and exiting the program and how many parents are reading to their children more often. Parents report having more confidence in their parenting practices as a result of learning about early brain development and other age- appropriate information. Ms. Baldwin stated that a voluntary, high-quality early learning system for any state should have a variety of programs offering options in intensity, duration, and comprehensiveness. She recognized that not all families want or need a four-hours-per-day, four-days-per-week, out- of-the-home preschool experience for their young child. The wait list for the Parents as Teachers program indicates that there are many families who would like support and partnership developed in their home environment. Ms. Baldwin relayed experience in a small community outside Bethel where she attended a parent involvement meeting at the K-12 school. A parent from the early childhood program was sharing with other parents what a window of opportunity meant for parents working with a young child. Ms. Baldwin responded to earlier remarks by Representative Fairclough. She testified that the federal government is not ramping down support for Parents as Teachers; rather, all entities are competing for the money through the DEED Alaska Native Education Equity Programming Fund. The program supports increasing educational outcomes for Alaska Native students from birth to post-secondary. Grants have been awarded over the past two years. She stressed that money is available, but has already been earmarked. Ms. Baldwin maintained that there are results from the Parents as Teachers program and that the program is very different than the pre-K pilot program, as it focuses on the home environment. Ms. Baldwin supported the $600,000 increase to Best Beginnings and/or Parents as Teachers. She noted that RurAL CAP is looking at shutting down services in five communities to about 100 children and families starting in August 2010 because there is not sustainability under current federal funding. 12:17:35 PM Co-Chair Hawker closed public testimony. Co-Chair Hawker addressed the fiscal note. He pointed out that it was outdated and needed to be updated. EDDY JEANS, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL FINANCES AND FACILITIES, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND EARLY DEVELOPMENT, detailed that in the new fiscal note the numbers for FY 12 through FY 14 would be the FY 13 number from the old fiscal note, or $4,124,400. He explained that the previous version of the bill had a phase-in provision limiting the number of participants for the first couple of years. Co-Chair Hawker asked how the department determined the amount of money that would be required per student. Mr. Jeans replied that the fiscal note was based on the current Parents as Teachers program, which cost about $3,000 per family. Representative Foster spoke in support of the program and pointed out that there was higher unemployment in the Native community and that fewer young people make it to college or vocational school. He noted that more Native people went to jail and had to rely on public assistance. He emphasized the critical importance of early childhood development especially for Native Alaskans. He informed the committee that 60 percent of participants in the Parents as Teachers program were Alaskan Native. 12:20:53 PM Representative Gara queried the timing. Co-Chair Hawker felt time was needed for accurate analysis. He stated that one of the things he liked about early childhood programs such as Best Beginnings and the Imagination Library was that they were not government programs; parents were involved. He was concerned that the legislation was making the program a government program. Representative Gara stated that he supported Head Start and traditional pre-K programs. He acknowledged citizens who wanted programs like Parents as Teachers because government was less involved. He thought the program was a good compromise for many people. He acknowledged those who had supported the development of the program and the legislation. Co-Chair Hawker wondered whether the bill represented an acknowledgment that the current pre-K pilot program was a failure. Representative Gara did not believe so. He thought there were many ways to accomplish early childhood education. He pointed out that the program cost less than Head Start and was still effective. He noted that the legislation was not intended to make the program the state's model for pre-K education, but would be part of a range of options. 12:25:14 PM Vice-Chair Thomas voiced disappointment about funding for the programs that resulted in success. He hoped the program would help. HB 69 was SET ASIDE until later in the meeting. 12:27:20 PM RECESSED 1:45: 33 PM RECONVENED HOUSE BILL NO. 69 "An Act establishing in the Department of Education and Early Development a voluntary parent education home visiting program for pre-elementary aged children; and establishing a rating system for early childhood education." 4:03:28 PM Co-Chair Hawker expressed reservations about the $4 million per year fiscal note. Vice-Chair Thomas MOVED to report HB 69 out of Committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. Representative Fairclough OBJECTED for discussion. She noted that she and Representative Thomas had met regarding the bill and had agreed to address violence against children in the home. Representative Thomas agreed that he would do everything he could. Representative Fairclough removed her objection. There being NO further OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CSHB 69(FIN) was REPORTED out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with attached new fiscal impact note by the Department of Education and Early Development.