Legislature(2015 - 2016)HOUSE FINANCE 519
04/04/2016 01:30 PM House FINANCE
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|Confirmation Hearing: Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority: Laraine Derr|
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 156 "An Act relating to compliance with federal education laws; relating to public school accountability; and providing for an effective date." 3:07:54 PM REPRESENTATIVE WES KELLER, SPONSOR, explained that he would be happy to provide a general overview of the bill and answer any questions members might have. However, he wanted to first address the issue of the bill's fiscal note. Representative Keller began by asking for serious consideration of and action on the bill. The bill addressed three sections of law. The first had to do with the reporting requirements for school districts. The second was the accountability section which laid out the assessments and different issues related to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the duties of the commissioner. He explained that much of the bill addressed housekeeping issues. For example, with the ESSA there was a new emphasis on local control and local input. He referred to Section 6, page 3, line 26 where it talked about the assessment process. It required the local input of the local school district and the teachers. The most colorful part of the bill was in the last section where it pushed the pause button on standards based assessments until the Department of Education and Early Development and the school board could come back with a report on the totality of the state's section of law, Title 14, as it related to accountability and assessments and with recommendations for any changes. Most importantly the group would come back with an assessment plan that could be implemented. He pointed to page 6 of the bill. Representative Keller next wanted to address the question as to whether the bill would cost the state money. He contended that it would not. However, he was not confident enough in bringing a zero fiscal note from the DEED. He had supporting opinions from various entities. He had a memo from the U.S. Department of Education that he would be passing out to members (Copy on file). He relayed that he and Senator Dunleavy had met telephonically with Adam Honeysett [Managing Director of state and local outreach for the U.S. Department of Education] and Ann Whalen [Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education]. They subsequently sent a memo that was forwarded to the State of Utah. He wondered what would happen if the state did not fulfill the requirements laid out in NCLB and ESSA. He mentioned a handout that members had in their packets (Letter dated February 3, 2016 from Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle to Commissioner Mike Hanley: copy on file). He pointed to number 3 on page 3. He read the question about the consequences of a state or district that failed to adhere to the federal assessment requirements. Representative Keller explained that in order to have a fiscal note, there had to be a decision somewhere that the state failed to comply. He contended that it would be a difficult step for the U.S. Department of Education to get over because the intent of the bill was to take a break and do a better job of complying in terms of accountability and assessment issues. In other words, if there was a failure to comply enforcement actions could be taken. There were 7 things that could be done if the state refused to comply with the requirements. He argued again that it was not the case. 3:13:36 PM Representative Guttenberg asked Representative Keller to identify the full document. Representative Keller responded that the full document was a memo from Deborah Delisle, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. The memo was addressed to Commissioner Mike Hanley. He thought it was the best response to the question about what happened to states that did not comply. He was happy to supply the letter to the committee. Co-Chair Thompson relayed that he would have the letter dispersed. Representative Keller continued to explain that taking a break would not be a new precedence. The State of California took a 3-year break to review its laws and was receiving reports. The difference for California was that it negotiated the process as it went along. The State of Alaska was in a situation where there were failed tests and angry parents. He relayed that the ESSA would go into effect in August 2016. He referred back to the U.S. Department's letter indicating that it was early in the process of implementing the ESSA and many decisions had not been made yet. He thought that it was logical for the State of Alaska to take a break to develop an assessment plan and to conduct a review of the state's laws and regulations having to do with ESSA. He reported that ESSA afforded more local control. Representative Keller next referred to page 4 of Ms. Delisle's letter that addressed the specific enforcement actions. He read directly from the letter: "The specific enforcement action (s) the Department of Education would take depends on the severity of non- compliance." Representative Keller surmised that Alaska would unlikely experience severe enforcement actions based on the intention of taking a break to get things accurate. He noted that the state would not be refusing to do anything. Rather, the state was taking a break. He also informed the committee that the money was Title "A" money: federal money designated to be dispersed to states with the attempt to make things equitable for disadvantaged students. In the act of applying for Title A money the state promised that it would follow all of the rules. One of the rules was that Alaska had to test grades 3 to 8 and a grade in high school. He thought Alaska was in an uncomfortable position because The Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) failed. He noted that in the previous week in Education Weekly there was a report on different states and it discussed state school boards across the nation feeling the urgency to flex muscle. He claimed that what Alaska was trying to do was to reinsert itself back into the education policy business. He continued that the money had gone directly into the department and, in turn, the department had given it to the districts. He believed that having input in the education process was critical. 3:18:42 PM Representative Keller continued to discuss the issue of the assessment. He talked about dealing with the parents of students. He thought it was a mistake to choose the wrong people to handle the subject. He believed people working for the state wanted a good assessment plan. He had also had the opportunity to get to know some of the new members of the State Board of Education and was impressed. He urged the committee to proceed with the legislation. He had no problem with the indeterminate fiscal note. Representative Gattis thanked Representative Keller for bringing the legislation forward. She thought it was an ideal time to be looking at the state's assessment. She thought it was a good idea to think about pushing the pause or reset button and mentioned the state might be eligible for a waiver. She liked the option of applying hind sight. Other states had been able to do so. She thought the timing was perfect. Representative Keller responded that the worst case would be that the legislature would pass the law and the U.S. Department of Education would not approve of it. It would take some time before the state received any notice of disapproval. He supposed that by such time the state would be able to complete its own assessment. 3:23:14 PM Representative Kawasaki referred to the letter that was handed out during the meeting. The letter indicated that the U.S. Department of Education could withhold a portion of the state's Title 1 Part A administrative funds and programmatic funds. He wondered what the value equated to. Representative Keller suggested Representative Kawasaki direct his question to the DEED. He pointed out that the letter specifically stated "administrative funds" would be at risk. He relayed that administrative funds would be withheld before program funding was revoked. He had been told by the Department of Education that 70 percent of the revenue for the department was federal money. He did not know what portion was Title 1A. Representative Gara asked about the implementation of the ESSA adopted in the prior year. He wondered if the bill reestablished the designation of schools. Representative Keller responded that the legislation did not change the state's law regarding the designation process. One of the requirements was for the school system to give a grade to schools and to assign a designation and a grade to the state education system. However, the state had never set any guidelines for grading. There was one slight change in the bill that required the DEED to assign a designation for the state public school system based on the proficiency of students compared to other states. Representative Gara wondered if the designations under state law were adopted because of the passage of the NCLB Act. Representative Keller responded in the affirmative and added there was not a lack of interest in knowing how the state's school system was performing. 3:26:51 PM Representative Gara remembered one of the largest flaws of the federal designation system was that although teachers and a school's administration were doing a good job and students were making improvements, given where the students were starting or their home life, some of them were still failing. The designation was influenced. He wondered if the state still maintained the same grading system. Representative Keller admitted that in some ways the bill kicked the can down the road. However, it called for a review process. Representative Gara asked if it was more feasible to come up with a better school ranking system rather than the one from the NCLB Act. Representative Keller indicated that it would be a monumental task. The bill was an attempt to look at things more closely and get further input from local school districts, parents, and students. There were many people in the state that had a lot invested in the current system. He suggested that the bill provided a step forward to get collaborative input on how to proceed, but it would not fix all of the problems. Representative Wilson relayed the state did not currently use the same system to grade the state's schools as was used when the NCLB Act was in place. She reported that the state changed it with a waiver, imposed more teacher accountability, and switched to a star rating system for school performance. She had just read an article that stated that the new testing that was most recently imposed was a failure because of technical and computer issues. She wanted Representative Keller's take on classroom time and teaching versus continuing tests. Representative Keller restated that it was a time of crisis with several loose ends needing resolution. He believed testing was critical and important in education in order to better understand the educational needs of each student. From a teacher's perspective student learning was extremely important, and from the state's perspective in spending money, accountability was very important. He felt that the legislation provided an opportunity to come together. 3:31:58 PM Representative Gattis responded to Representative Gara's comment. She asserted that there were several things the state placed into statute that dealt with the NCLB Act. She thought the state would definitely have to conduct another review. She added that with the signing of the ESSA in December 2015 states were still trying to figure out their options and what was allowed. She believed there were several things at play and that the state should not get ahead of itself. She thought the bill helped press the pause button and to come together. There would be huge changes in reporting, the statute, how the state graded its schools, and how it held its teachers and students accountable. She agreed with Representative Gara that there was a flaw in the system. There were folks that were not graded on their progress. Teachers that could help to advance a student from a second grade proficiency to a third or fourth grade proficiency were not given due credit because of the student not being proficient in an expected grade. There were huge challenges for the state. She thought in going through the process and slowing down, the state would have an advantage. Vice-Chair Saddler referred to Section 2, page 2, lines 9- 10 of the bill. It described that the department would inform the governing body of the designations assigned to the district and to the state public school system. He wondered who applied the designation to the state public school system. Representative Keller clarified that there was a section of the law that drove the designation that was not in the legislation. He referred to AS 14.03.123a. Vice-Chair Saddler read from statute AS 14.03.123a: (a) By September 1 of each year, the department shall assign a performance designation to each public school and school district and to the state public school system in accordance with (f) of this section. Vice-Chair Saddler relayed that later on in (g) it defined "state public school system." He asked for the representative to provide a couple examples of the elements of a public school system by which Alaska's system could be compared to those of other states. Representative Keller responded that in drafting the legislation he did not want to get specific about what would be used. It stated that the state board would make the regulations for the determination. He relayed that the only tool that did a proficiency comparison was National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The bill did not designate what was to be used other than it had to be based on proficiency. There were tests that were comparable that the board could look at using. He left the language broad on purpose. 3:36:49 PM Vice-Chair Saddler referred to the indeterminate fiscal note. He highlighted a couple of places in the analysis section of the fiscal note that stated that the fiscal impact could not be determined because of a lack of measures necessary to estimate costs. He expressed his concerns about going ahead with an assessment without knowing the designations or measures or the price of the assessment. Representative Keller highlighted that the bill placed a tool in the tool box for the commissioner and the state board in interpreting and figuring out how the state would respond to forthcoming regulations. It was not that the state would be incurring a cost by some federal enforcement act that worried him. It was more that the state would be at the table with the federal government trying to figure out what was going on. Vice-Chair Saddler did not want to lose the $200 million of federal money in impact aid. Representative Keller responded that it happened one year at a time. If there was a threat of losing millions of dollars of federal money legislation would be before the committee again. He was not particularly worried about the federal money but he wanted it to show up on the fiscal note as indeterminate rather than zero. However, at present he would be comfortable with a zero fiscal note. Representative Guttenberg referred to Section 8, page 6, on line 16. He wondered if the bill placed the standards - based assessment on hold between July 1, 2016 and July 1, 2018. The bill would not allow the first administration of whatever plan that was developed until the school year of 2020. There was always a contradiction between having assessments and not having assessments and standards when speaking with teachers. He wondered if students fall between the seams by not having something when they were applying for college. He was concerned that colleges would reject Alaskan students because they did not have testing or grades to compare with those of students from other states. He thought the change being proposed in the legislation was significant. He asked if Alaska's students would fall through the cracks. Representative Keller responded that members of the committee understood the dynamics of what happened in the districts better than he did. He mentioned the most recent education chairman and deferred to a district expert. 3:41:32 PM Representative Munoz asked if school districts were supportive of the bill. Representative Keller stated that districts were concerned with anything that might threaten federal money. However, he received positive responses from many districts about a possible change. He thought that districts' fears were over-rated. Representative Munoz asked if there was enough flexibility for states to figure things out by 2020 with the new ESSA law. Representative Keller responded that in his opinion he thought yes. He added that the state did not know what the response of the federal government would be. The state was not simply refusing to comply. Rather, the state was wanting to do it correctly with some time to do so. Representative Munoz clarified that all testing would be discontinued from third grade when testing began. Representative Keller responded that she was incorrect. The department would not be able to require assessment-based testing. He elaborated that when a school took Title 1 monies it was a promise to conduct testing. The requirement did not go away. The state was halting the state department from using the sanction on the mandate on local districts to administer the assessment-based test. Representative Munoz asked whether the district would continue with the testing if it received federal funding. She wondered if the state department could not require the testing. Representative Keller responded affirmatively. He indicated that the Department of Education and Early Development agreed to require the testing. The federal government required the state to offer the test to everyone. It required districts to administer the tests. It did not require parents to take the test. The requirement stated that the test had to be administered to everyone fairly. No group of people could not be excluded. It was part of the NCLB Act which was in effect until August 2016. 3:45:11 PM Representative Gattis wondered if she had heard Representative Keller correctly that the schools would be able to continue their testing. She recognized that other states had applied for waivers or the opportunity to slow the process down to get things right. She wanted to confirm that Alaska would not be jumping "out of the box" in comparison to other states. She thought the Title 1 dollars were a huge concern. She asked if it was his intent to decline the federal dollars or to just slow the process down to get things correct using the federal dollars while going through the process. She opined that the new ESSA was a moving target that needed to be better understood in terms of what it allowed. Representative Keller responded that by taking federal dollars the state was obligated to operate as it was currently operating - basically operating as an outpost for policy from the U.S. Department of Education. The legislation would allow the commissioner to have another tool in the toolbox to negotiate. Co-Chair Thompson indicated that the meeting would be recessed for 10 minutes. Upon reconvening representatives from the DEED would be testifying on HB 156. 3:48:08 PM AT EASE 3:57:26 PM RECONVENED Co-Chair Thompson relayed that Ms. MacKinnon and Deputy Commissioner Walter available from the DEED. BETTY WALTERS, INTERIM DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND EARLY DEVELOPMENT, introduced herself. MARGARET MACKINNON, DIRECTOR, ASSESSMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND EARLY DEVELOPMENT, introduced herself. Representative Kawasaki referred to the question he had asked the sponsor of the bill dealing with funding. In the memo members received written to Commissioner Hanley stated that failure to comply with the assessment requirements could place Title 1, Part A funds in jeopardy. He wondered how much funding could be at risk. Ms. MacKinnon replied that Title 1a funding was approximately $40 million which included money that went out to each of the districts in the state. Representative Kawasaki continued to reference portions of the memo to Commissioner Hanley that went on to say that the state could find itself out of compliance with a wide range of other programs that required the state assessment results. One of them was school improvement grants, ESSA Title III, Part B, which dealt with the Individuals with Disabilities Act. Another was programs for rural schools under ESSA Title IV. Additionally it could affect migrant education under ESSA Title 1, Part C. He wondered if she had a value for each listed. Ms. MacKinnon responded in the affirmative. She stated that based on the information in the letter, the total amount of funds that were represented would be over $99 million for FY 2017. 3:59:55 PM Representative Wilson asked if it was an opportunity to be able to reevaluate what kind of testing the state wanted to conduct. She wondered if it would provide more opportunity and flexibility to utilize the testing that school districts were already doing such as the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) testing. She suggested that it was a reset of sorts. She believed the bill's intent was to utilize the opportunity to do what was best for Alaskans. The most recent testing was not very successful. Ms. MacKinnon reported that she had had a recent conversation with Anne Whalen, the assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Education to clarify some of the requirements under the ESSA. She had provided Dr. McCauley, the department's interim commissioner, a letter. She continued that the passage of the ESSA did provide the state more flexibility in certain areas. Those areas primarily related to the design of the school accountability system that had some required indicators, including achievement on the state assessments, and also a measure of growth. In other words, not everything would be based only on the assessment. There was some flexibility in the assessment and a couple of new options. However, the state was still required to give the same statewide assessment to measure the state's standards to all students in grades 3 through 8 annually and at least once in school. There was an option allowing a state to approve districts to request a local choice of a nationally recognized high school assessment comparable to and reported similarly to the results on the state's assessment. The option only applies to high school and not to grades 3 through 8. Representative Wilson asked if other states had obtained waivers. She supposed other states were taking a slower approach to making the necessary changes and doing it correctly. Ms. MacKinnon reported having talked with people who had worked with the state department in California and also asked Anne Whalen at the U.S. Department of Education. The situation in California was that they were in the process of implementing the smarter balanced assessment. In the year in which the assessments were field tested, California used those assessments in a field test mode then transitioned into the regular assessment in the following year. Some of the transition might have had to do with when the assessments were used or growth from the assessments in California's accountability system. She thought having the assessment was different. Assistant Secretary Whalen had indicated that no state had been able to receive a waiver of the assessment requirements. 4:03:35 PM Representative Wilson noted that she had requested previously that the state would not make up its own test or cut scores. She did not believe it was fair to Alaska's children. The State had not been successful again. She hoped that the state had learned that there were great assessments available. She contended that it was time to stop trying to reinvent the wheel and to start looking at assessments that were already available for less money and allowed for comparison of Alaska's kids to kids in other states. Representative Guttenberg asked about the department's evaluation of the bill. He also asked how difficult it would be to align assessment tests if they were different from school district to school district. Ms. MacKinnon responded that the state would have a high school assessment. The state could opt to allow individual districts to choose a nationally recognized high school assessment such as the ACT (American College Testing) or the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). The U.S. Department of Education was clear that the ACT and the SAT were not the only examples and that it would be up to the states to determine whether to allow a district to choose to give an alternate assessment. The test would have to be administered to all students in a district and would have to measure and be able to be reported comparably to the state's assessment (designed to measure the state's standards). It was a process of determining other assessments that could also be shown to measure the state's standards. Representative Guttenberg assumed that it was feasible and not as difficult as it could be. He asked about the department's consideration of the bill in terms of what it did, its implementation, and the risk of losing federal funding if it passed. Ms. MacKinnon responded that the way in which the bill was written would prohibit the department from requiring districts to take a test within the following 2 school years. She thought that it potentially put the state at risk for losing Title 1 federal funds. She reported receiving a letter that indicated the state would be out of compliance. She was working with district superintendents and stake holders to look at what kind of assessment the state would want to implement over the following 2 years. Alaska had choices and did not have to have a custom assessment, only one that measured the state's standards. She suggested that the state might end up with a system of assessments. There was some flexibility. She reiterated that the state would be out of compliance if it did not administer an assessment. Representative Guttenberg thought it would be a considerable risk. He wanted to weigh and measure the state's ability to do its own assessment and the risk of lost funding which would affect Alaska immediately. 4:08:34 PM Co-Chair Thompson OPENED HB 156 to public testimony. Co-Chair Thompson CLOSED public testimony. 4:09:24 PM Vice-Chair Saddler reviewed the indeterminate fiscal note from DEED. The appropriation was Teaching and Learning Support and the allocation was Student and School Achievement. The Office of Budget and Management component number was 2796. The amount was zero for FY 17 and in the future it was indeterminate. Vice-Chair Saddler MOVED to REPORT CHHB 156 (EDC) out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. Representative Kawasaki OBJECTED for discussion. Representative Kawasaki relayed having a discussion about the previous bill dealing with the BGCSB with a fiscal note indicating a cost of about $20 thousand for travel. He thought that there was a larger picture to look at. Although the fiscal note detailed potential loses of federal education funds and impact aide that could equate to $200.2 million. He had not seen an updated letter other than the one dated February 3, 2014 to Commissioner Hanley. It seemed like there might be more information from the department that they had received a subsequent letter stating that if, in fact, the state did not have a standardized test in 2017 and 2018 it could cost Alaska a large amount of money. He did not feel comfortable letting the bill out of committee without fully understanding its impact. He thought it was bad business to push legislation forward without knowing the consequences to the state. Representative Kawasaki WITHDREW his OBJECTION. Representative Guttenberg OBJECTED for discussion. Representative Wilson thought the state had a unique opportunity. She thought that the letter to Commissioner Hanley from the U.S. Department of Education conveyed that each school district could design a test to be used for the purpose of assessing state standards. She favored moving the bill forward. Representative Guttenberg spoke to his objection. He indicated that without having a better understanding of the true risk or implications of losing about $90 million per year in federal funding, he could not support the legislation. The bill sponsor had mentioned coming back in the following year to fix any issues. However, he mentioned that even a brief simple bill took months to travel through the legislature. He did not want to risk losing federal funding. Representative Gattis believed the state was in a "Catch 22" position and thought moving forward would be the right thing to do currently. She would be supporting the bill. 4:14:53 PM AT EASE 4:21:34 PM RECONVENED Representative Kawasaki discussed the letter from the United States Department of Education dated, April 1, 2016 (copy on file). He believed the letter conveyed that federal funds and impact aid could potentially be jeopardized and opposed the legislation. 4:22:24 PM Representative Gattis remarked that although she understood Representative Kawasaki's point of view, she hoped that prior to the bill getting to the floor there would be more of an opportunity to take a harder look at the legislation and some of the options other states had executed. She would be a "yes" vote. Representative Guttenberg MAINTAINED his OBJECTION. A roll call vote was taken on the motion. IN FAVOR: Gattis, Munoz, Pruitt, Saddler, Wilson, Edgmon, Thompson OPPOSED: Guttenberg, Kawasaki, Representative Neuman and Representative Gara were absent from the vote. The MOTION PASSED (7/2). CSHB 156 (EDC) was REPORTED out of committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a previously publish indeterminate fiscal note: FN1 (EED). 4:23:42 PM AT EASE 4:25:11 PM RECONVENED 4:25:24 PM Co-Chair Thompson called the meeting back to order and indicated that there was a committee substitute.