Legislature(2017 - 2018)ADAMS ROOM 519
04/02/2018 01:30 PM FINANCE
Note: the audio and video recordings are distinct records and are obtained from different sources. As such there may be key differences between the two. The audio recordings are captured by our records offices as the official record of the meeting and will have more accurate timestamps. Use the icons to switch between them.
Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL NO. 221 "An Act relating to the duties of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education; relating to a statewide workforce and education-related statistics program; relating to information obtained by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development; and providing for an effective date." 3:41:38 PM REPRESENTATIVE HARRIET DRUMMOND, SPONSOR, introduced herself. She read from a prepared statement: Thank you, Finance Committee Co-Chairs, members of the House Finance Committee For the record, my name is Harriet Drummond, Chair of the House Education Committee, and with me are my aide, George Ascott, and Stephanie Butler, Executive Director of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education. I am honored to sponsor HB 221 as part of ongoing efforts in the legislature to take a detailed look at ways to improve how we as a state spend money on education and job training in Alaska. HB 221 will help the Legislature to best allocate and utilize increasingly scarce resources available for education and workforce training by clarifying the authority of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE) to receive and analyze existing data from state entities through a statewide workforce and education related statistics program. HB 221 also changes the law to permit the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to share Unemployment Insurance data for the purposes of the statistics program, as permitted in federal regulation, and contingent upon a written agreement with ACPE. HB 221 is not at all about tracking or collecting data on individuals. It is about statistical outcomes. It is about taking a bird's eye view of spending results based on analyzing and aggregating data we already have to create outcomes statistics. HB 221 will help policy makers in the following ways: It provides a more secure method to transport data between agencies It lowers costs to access and analyze information It combines multiple processes into a highly secure, automated, and cost-effective process It provides greater access to longitudinal information It reduces the time and cost required to perform program outcomes reporting Alaska spends more than $2 billion annually on education and workforce training, but we do not know which programs produce trained Alaskans who are more like to remain in Alaska and contribute to our economy. What is the return we receive on these huge investments? HB 221 will allow for more meaningful assessment of program outcomes across K-12, postsecondary programs, and into the workforce. And it has no additional cost to the state. I would note that we will have invited testimony from Stephanie Butler, Executive Director of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, who will provide more detailed technical information about HB 221. At this time, if it pleases the committee, my aide, George Ascott will provide a brief sectional analysis of the bill. 3:44:46 PM GEORGE ASCOTT, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE HARRIET DRUMMOND, introduced himself and read the sectional Analysis: Hello and good afternoon Chairs Seaton and Foster, members of the House Finance Committee. For the record, my name is George Ascott, staff to Representative Harriet Drummond. I am here to provide a brief sectional analysis to describe what actual changes will occur to state law under HB 221. If you take a look at the bill you will notice it has five sections. Section 1: The first section of the bill is mostly existing statute and goes to the beginning of the third page. Under existing law, the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education is allowed to adopt regulations to administer financial aid programs, institutional authorization functions, and interstate compacts - which includes the collection and confidentiality of data. HB 221 creates additional authority for the Commission to adopt regulations. These are: Regulations relating to the collection and analysis of K-12 data, as approved by the Department of Education and Early Development, under its current authority to collect that information (Page 2, Line 2) AND regulations for a new purpose: Administering a statewide workforce and education related statistics program (Page 3, Line 4) Section 2: (All new statutory language) Beginning Page 3, line 6 - is all new statutory language. Currently the law allows the Commission to collect data and share it with the governor, the legislature and other state and federal agencies, but they don't have clear authority to maintain and analyze the data. Section 2 of HB 221 changes the law by adding three new subsections so that: (b) The commission can maintain a database for the purposes of administering a statewide workforce and education related statistics program and enter into cooperative agreements regarding education and employment, with other agencies (c) The Commission is required to remove personally identifiable information before it is entered into the database, and it may not provide personally identifiable information to the Federal Government (d) A "unit record" is defined as information pertaining to an individual Section 3: (All new statutory language) Currently the Department of Labor & Workforce Development is not allowed to share data regarding unemployment insurance with other agencies. Beginning on page 3 line 22, Section 3 changes the law to permit the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to share such data for the purposes of the statewide workforce and education related statistics program, as permitted in federal regulation, and contingent upon a written agreement with ACPE Section 4: Beginning on page four, line five. This makes it clear that the department of Labor and workforce development can share data obtained before the effective date of HB 221. Section 5: The section is just an immediate effective date. With that, I will turn the microphone over to Stephanie Butler, Executive Director of ACPE. Thank you, Representatives Seaton and Foster, members of the committee. 3:48:12 PM STEPHANIE BUTLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKA COMMISSION ON POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND EARLY DEVELOPMENT, read a prepared statement: Thank you, Mr. Chair, Mr. Ascott. For the record, this is Stephanie Butler, Executive Director at ACPE. With me in the audience is Kerry Thomas, Operations Director at ACPE. Some very brief background information: ACPE is charged with providing Alaska's citizens with tools and resources to access and experience success in college and career training. Some of the ways we accomplish that are by managing the Alaska Performance Scholarship and Alaska Education Grant programs (APS and AEG), offering low-cost student loans, among other activities. But are these the most effective ways to increase access and success? In this time of severely constrained resources, are we using the state's increasingly limited resources in ways that produce the best return for our students and for the Alaska public to whom we are responsible? What is the return on investment in programs like the APS and the AEG? The things that we can currently easily measure, like the number of program participants or even the numbers of program completers, cannot answer that return on the public investment question. To answer that ROI question, we need to know the long-term outcomes across different public sectors, such as: Alaska spends approximately $5 million annually on the Alaska Education Grant program. Do recipients graduate at higher rates than non-recipients? Does it help recipients enter the workforce sooner than similarly situated non-recipients? Do they earn more? Or earlier in this session we had questions about whether loan forgiveness was successful, given the costs of that forgiveness. If we had a cross-sector outcomes database back then, we could know: Did students who took forgivable loans complete their degrees and return to Alaska at rates higher than other students? And did they work in Alaska? Did they stay in Alaska at higher rates than others? In other words, are we spending public money in smart ways that make the most difference for students, and for the Alaska economy? The University and DEED indicate they want to answer similar questions about their programs. The challenge to answering questions like this is not that we don't have the data: we do have it. The challenge is that the data is currently housed in separate transactional databases. Each time we have a question like this, about long-term outcomes, agencies have to put together a data-sharing MOU, extract the relevant data from our various systems, match it and link it up, and then get the answers to the questions. And in accordance with federal law, once we have those answers to our questions, we have to destroy the linked data to protect individual privacy, which means if we have a follow-up question, the process has to start again. This process can be inefficient and expensive, and it can result in the need to duplicate identifiable citizen data. HB 221 streamlines this process by allowing the Department of Labor to share unit-level employment and wage records with the Outcomes database, which is maintained by ACPE. This database securely houses de- identified linked statistics from ACPE, from UA, from DEED, and from Labor, but right now only training and GED data form Labor. With HB 221, it would also house the employment and wage record statistics. Once data is linked, personally identifiable information (PII) is stripped off, and that PII is never stored with the resulting statistics. What this Outcomes database offers us is a faster, more cost-efficient way to do longitudinal outcomes assessments, and a key part of doing this is minimizing the proliferation of personally identifiable data. Also, it allows us to retain the de-identified linked statistics, so we can respond to follow-up questions or efficiently perform future analyses. As previously noted, Alaska currently spends more than $2 billion dollars annually on our K-12, postsecondary, and technical/workforce training, but we don't currently have a database that can fully provide efficient, cost-effective and secure statistics to the Legislature and the Administration on the value received from these public investments. HB 221 enhances Alaska's ability to provide that feedback in several ways: It allows the Department of Labor to provide unit-level employment and wage data to the Outcomes database for longitudinal analysis, something 28 other states already do, It prohibits sharing of any unit-level data from the Outcomes database with the federal government, It codifies in law that data in the database must be de-identified and sets out what that means, and It clarifies ACPE's authority to maintain longitudinal statistics of this nature. HB 221 does not commit any funding for these purposes; it just allows for the inclusion of these additional statistics in the Outcomes longitudinal database, which was created a few years ago under a federal grant. Specific to funding, you will note that this bill has a zero fiscal note. The Outcomes database was created to accept the workforce data, so there is no new cost there. Longer term, it is our intent to seek resources, potentially through another federal grant, to provide outcomes reports once these additional statistics are available in the Outcomes database. In this time of such severely constrained resources, we believe there is significant opportunity to attract grant dollars to this project, recognizing that tough budget times make it even more important than ever that policy-makers be able to access the cross-sector statistics needed to be able to evaluate program outcomes. I would also like to be clear for the record that we do not anticipate that we would be able to produce these reports and outcomes analyses immediately upon passage of HB 221 since we would need funding to use the data and do those analyses; however, HB 221 does get us a step closer a very important step closer, and a step without additional cost to being able to provide you with those kinds of outcomes analyses, as we seek grant or other funds. In summary, the long-term goal is to have the ability to quickly and easily and inexpensively produce reports like the APS outcomes report to look at the outcomes of other programs, K-12 programs as well as collegiate and career training programs and provide you with the information to know not just how much the program costs, but what the return is on that cost investment. Thank you for this opportunity to present this information. I hope it has been useful to you, and I would be happy to respond to any questions. 3:55:13 PM Co-Chair Foster asked about additional testifiers. Ms. Butler responded that she would engage additional testifiers if there were technical questions from the members. Vice-Chair Gara liked the bill. He had a couple of concerns. He wanted to make sure the data was not misused. He relayed that folks from broken homes tended to get financial aid or needs-based loans and suggested that first-generation college students were not as successful as those students whose parents had gone to college. He was concerned that the statistics would be used in a way where it was determined that students with less resources wouldn't get help after not doing as well as those from traditionally college-bound homes. Ms. Butler responded stated that the statistical process compared "apples to apples," and compared high needs students with other high-needs students in the program. Vice-Chair Gara appreciated Ms. Butler's answer. He provided a hypothetical scenario, and considered the lower wages for those pursuing careers in writing or art. He wondered about the intrinsic value in education that was not related to money and wages. He reiterated that he wanted to make sure the data was not misused. Ms. Butler anticipated the comparison of groups at fairly high levels, looking at college graduates compared to other college graduates. She pondered that the more granular the data was at the college major level; the better the data would show greater earning power of certain majors. She stated it would be difficult to not consider the question of one's college major being a personal choice. Representative Thompson had talked with several people in labor and carpentry jobs from his district over the previous weekend. He was curious about the numbers of people in the state that graduated from colleges versus technical schools and apprenticeship programs. He noted the wage differences for various pathways. He wondered how to encourage more kids to go to vocational programs. He stated that the carpenters union was looking for young people to join its apprenticeship program. Ms. Butler thought the proposed database could aid in answering Representative Thompson's question. She referenced a counselor that wanted wage statistics from different occupations, but there was no such information specific for Alaskans. She spoke of using the database to provide to counselors and teachers with additional tools. 4:00:31 PM Representative Wilson stated she had been on the ACPE board and asked about the Answers Program that had been funded with $4 million in 2012. Ms. Butler responded that there was a 2012 grant used to create the Answers Program, but there had not been additional funding, so the program did not take off. She relayed that the proposed database had been created under the program. Representative Wilson asked how the proposed database would be different than the Answers Program. Ms. Butler stated that the Answers Program had bee a much broader scoped proposal that would have included research and analysis, as well as online databases with dashboards and informational products for parents. The bill proposed a much smaller scope database. Representative Wilson thought the proposal was talking about adults that might be receiving unemployment. She wondered about permission to use the data, and if there was an opt-out provision. Ms. Butler answered there was not currently an opt-out box on any paperwork. She elaborated that a provision to opt- out would require identification of individuals, and the primary premise of the database was that the information was de-identified. Representative Wilson suggested that if there was an opt- out box, the data would not be present in the first place. Ms. Butler replied in the affirmative. She added that individuals would need to be identified in order to be opted out of the database. Representative Wilson noted that there was a zero fiscal note. She asked about potential funding for utilization of the proposed database. Ms. Butler did not have exact figures but relayed that the department had been encouraged to apply for federal grants. Representative Wilson asked for approximate numbers. She noted the state had spent $4 million on a program that had been discontinued due to a lack of funding. She asked if there was a target amount for funding the program. Ms. Butler would follow up with the information. Representative Kawasaki asked about what information would be received from the Unemployment Insurance Division in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD). 4:04:00 PM Ms. Butler responded that information on wage records (through the unemployment database) would be gathered in order to identify the amount being earned in various categories. Representative Kawasaki asked for verification the only additional information from DLWD would be wage and hour information. Ms. Butler responded in the affirmative. Representative Kawasaki asked for the reason the department needed the information up front. He wanted to reduce the number of places the personal information was seen. Ms. Butler answered that the proposed database would reduce the number of times the information needed to be passed around. For research related to workforce outcomes, currently the information had to be extracted from various systems and matched. One goal would be a long-term database free from personally identifiable information. She noted that there were a number of reports that could be produced in future years if the bill passed - at a lower cost and without having to link personally identifiable information. Representative Guttenberg shared that he was a retired laborer. He was always amazed that people who could not do math problems were able to do complex practical field work. He spoke about merging databases. He asked how much data was mergeable. He thought merging databases was problematic if everyone was not aligned and could create a huge cost. He asked for greater detail. Ms. Butler answered that the commission would only link select elements that would be relevant to measuring outcomes from each data systems. She stated that all the work to make the databases communicate had been done by the grant mentioned by Representative Wilson. A grant used in the future would be to do the research and analysis to use the data to develop the statistics to provide outcomes information. 4:08:08 PM Representative Guttenberg wondered why the state had not been doing the analysis before. Co-Chair Foster OPENED public testimony. DOUG WALRATH, DIRECTOR, NORTHWESTERN ALASKA CAREER AND TECHNICAL CENTER, NOME (via teleconference), testified in support of the legislation. He discussed data reporting that neglected to account for the impact of teaching students engaged and in school. He detailed that 75 percent to 80 percent of his organization's high school training population were students enrolled in grades 9, 10, and 11. Employment measures that were taken months after the training could present a skewed view of success as the data was missing one-third of the subjects. He reported that rural Alaska graduation rates tended to track lower. He considered that the bill was a tool for measurement purposes tracking employment. He thought the database could provide tracking from exploration-level training leading to certificated courses leading directly to employment. The bill protected identifiable student information and would be valuable. Representative Wilson asked if the program kept statistics of students in the Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Center. Mr. Walrath answered that the center kept records for purposes of programming. The program had a small staff and it was difficult to follow up on all former trainees. The bill would provide a tool to extend beyond the capability of the center. Representative Wilson thanked Mr. Walrath for his work. 4:12:54 PM Co-Chair Foster CLOSED public testimony. Representative Wilson asked what information unions used to follow students. Ms. Butler answered that generally unions engaged in tracking but did not know what specific elements were considered. Representative Wilson would appreciate the information. She referenced statistics from DLWD. She wondered about the data unions gathered to show success of apprenticeships. She asked about other issues unions might have finding students to do apprenticeships. Co-Chair Seaton appreciated the bill and the Alaska Performance Scholarship report in the packets (copy on file). He thought the information could be helpful in identifying effective programs. He referenced page 3 of the bill and asked about the removal of personal information from the database. He wanted to know if the bill was proposing to look at key elements. He asked about the meaning of "unit data." Ms. Butler responded that "unit data" simply meant data that referred to a specific individual. Co-Chair Seaton tried to understand how unit data would be organized. 4:16:31 PM Ms. Butler explained that as the unit data was received, the personally identifiable information would be stripped off, and the remaining statistics that would be used would be assigned a random number and moved into a separate database. She confirmed that an individual's personally identifiable information would never be stored in the same database as the statistics being used for outcomes reporting. Representative Guttenberg reiterated what he thought Ms. Butler was saying. He wondered about the assignment of an identifiable number. He wondered how new data would be identified to merge with existing data. Ms. Butler indicated that Representative Guttenberg had the right idea. She indicated that there was staff available to provide additional detail. Representative Guttenberg was fine. Vice-Chair Gara MOVED to report HB 221 out of Committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal note. Representative Wilson OBJECTED. She would be offering an amendment. Co-Chair Foster indicated that amendments were due Wednesday, April 2nd by 5:00 PM. Vice-Chair Gara WITHDREW his motion. Co-Chair Foster thanked the bill sponsor. HB 221 was HEARD and HELD in committee for further consideration.