Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/25/2004 03:04 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 338-ENTRY INTO SCHOOL                                                                                                      
Number 0745                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WILSON announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                               
HOUSE  BILL NO.  338, "An  Act relating  to attendance  at public                                                               
school; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                   
[While no  motion was made,  Chair Wilson announced  that version                                                               
S,  23-LS1258\S, Mischell,  3/4/04, was  before the  committee as                                                               
the working document.]                                                                                                          
CHAIR  WILSON  told the  members  it  is  her intention  to  take                                                               
testimony today, but not move the bill from committee.                                                                          
Number 0786                                                                                                                     
RYAN  MAKINSTER, Staff  to Representative  Lesil McGuire,  Alaska                                                               
State   Legislature,  testified   on  behalf   of  Representative                                                               
McGuire,  sponsor  of HB  338  and  answered questions  from  the                                                               
committee.   He told  the committee  that this  bill accomplishes                                                               
two small  but necessary things.   First,  it moves the  date for                                                               
entry  into kindergarten  from August  15 to  September 1.   This                                                               
change  would  bring the  entry  date  in  line with  most  other                                                               
states.   Mr. Makinster  shared that  there are  approximately 35                                                               
states  that have  September 1  or later  as the  entry date  for                                                               
kindergarten.   It is  important for Alaska  because there  are a                                                               
lot  of  people  moving  into the  state,  particularly  military                                                               
MR.  MAKINSTER said  a second  benefit of  this bill  is that  it                                                               
allows school  boards to  name an  administrator to  oversee this                                                               
process and to  the review the applications for  early entry into                                                               
kindergarten.   Currently  the statute  provides that  the school                                                               
board must review  every single early entry request.   This would                                                               
make the process much more efficient, he added.                                                                                 
Number 0886                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF  asked how  many  other  states allow  early                                                               
entry into kindergarten.                                                                                                        
MR. MAKINSTER  replied that there  are currently 35  states which                                                               
allow  early  entry into  kindergarten.    If this  bill  passes,                                                               
Alaska would be the 36th state.   He explained that there are two                                                               
or three states which have August  15 or before as the cutoff for                                                               
entry  into kindergarten  and the  rest of  the states  are later                                                               
than August 15.  He commented  that one state leaves the decision                                                               
entirely up to the parents.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF  questioned  what  dates  other  states  use                                                               
beyond August 15th.                                                                                                             
MR. MAKINSTER  replied that there  are 15 states that  have entry                                                               
dates after  September 1.  The  latest is California which  has a                                                               
December  2 early  entry date.    The states  before September  1                                                               
include Alaska  which has  August 15,  Delaware which  has August                                                               
31,  Indiana which  has  July 1,  and other  states  that do  not                                                               
delegate  a specific  date,  he  said.   Five  states have  dates                                                               
before Alaska,  ten are  optional, and  the rest  after September                                                               
1st, he summarized.                                                                                                             
Number 0983                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked  what time of the  year most schools                                                               
start in Alaska.                                                                                                                
MR. MAKINSTER  responded that most schools  start [classes] after                                                               
September 1; however, the [actual] school year starts on July 1.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL commented that  it has been his experience                                                               
that most  of the schools  start the  third week in  August which                                                               
would  make  the  August  15   date  more  appropriate  than  the                                                               
September  1  date.   He  said  he would  like  to  know how  the                                                               
districts determined the  third week in August  as an appropriate                                                               
time to start school.                                                                                                           
MR. MAKINSTER replied  that he has not looked at  the start date.                                                               
Changing the start date will not  change the mix of students very                                                               
much, he  added.  In a  school district the size  of Anchorage it                                                               
is  estimated  that this  change  will  mean less  than  one-half                                                               
student per class.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  asked if  there is  a problem  that would                                                               
merit the change of the current date.                                                                                           
MR. MAKINSTER said  that he does not have a  specific incident to                                                               
site, but  that there  is research in  the members'  packet which                                                               
reflects  that  starting  students  at  an  earlier  age  can  be                                                               
beneficial.   He added that  the benefits  may not be  evident in                                                               
the  first couple  of years,  but in  the long  run studies  have                                                               
shown that  by starting  students at an  earlier age  the student                                                               
may  progress at  a  faster  rate of  growth  in the  educational                                                               
system and  end up being  more involved  with school at  the high                                                               
school level.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL commented that he  does not see how a two-                                                               
week difference is worth arguing over.                                                                                          
Number 1093                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  WOLF said  he believes  there are  a lot  of Head                                                               
Start programs in Alaska which would address early education.                                                                   
MR.  MAKINSTER replied  that he  has not  looked into  Head Start                                                               
programs.    He  emphasized  that  this  bill  would  just  align                                                               
Alaska's kindergarten  starting date  with that  of the  lower 48                                                               
Number 1123                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF commented that  the Head Start program starts                                                               
kids at the age of three and goes  through five years of age.  He                                                               
said  he  does not  believe  children  are  being harmed  by  the                                                               
current start date.                                                                                                             
MR. MAKINSTER  agreed with Representative  Wolf, but  pointed out                                                               
that not every school district has a Head Start program.                                                                        
Number 1155                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KAPSNER  said  she   would  like  to  comment  on                                                               
Representative  Coghill's  earlier   question  about  why  school                                                               
districts start school  in August.  She explained  that the Lower                                                               
Kuskokwim  School District  opts to  start earlier  in August  so                                                               
they can  get off earlier  in May for  spring hunting or  get off                                                               
earlier for Russian Orthodox Christmas.                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  commented Representative Kapsner  makes a                                                               
good point.                                                                                                                     
Number 1195                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  how  many  students have  birthdays                                                               
which fall between  August 15 and September 1.   He said he would                                                               
also like  to know the  number of  students who have  applied for                                                               
early entrance into kindergarten.                                                                                               
MR. MAKINSTER replied  that he checked with  the Anchorage School                                                               
District  and still  does  not have  an exact  count,  but it  is                                                               
estimated  that there  would be  less than  one-half student  per                                                               
class added to the system.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON   asked  if   that  is   per  kindergarten                                                               
MR. MAKINSTER responded that is correct.                                                                                        
Number 1245                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON asked  if  the Department  of  Education and  Early                                                               
Development has any opposition to this bill.                                                                                    
Number 1256                                                                                                                     
MR.  MAKINSTER  responded  that the  department  actually  has  a                                                               
letter  of support  from the  Anchorage School  District on  this                                                               
CHAIR  WILSON  announced  that  the   HB  338  will  be  held  in                                                               

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