Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/20/2004 02:15 PM House HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 179-CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS/TEACHERS                                                                                    
Number 0098                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON announced  that the  next order  of business  would                                                               
beCS FOR SENATE  BILL NO. 179(FIN), "An Act  relating to criminal                                                               
history records and background checks;  allowing persons to teach                                                               
in the  public schools for up  to five months without  a teaching                                                               
certificate if the  person has applied for a  certificate and the                                                               
application  has  not  been  acted  upon  by  the  Department  of                                                               
Education  and Early  Development  due to  a  delay in  receiving                                                               
criminal  history  records;  allowing teacher  certification  for                                                               
certain  persons based  on a  criminal  history background  check                                                               
without fingerprints; and providing for an effective date."                                                                     
Number 0139                                                                                                                     
ZACK  WARWICK, Staff  to Senator  Gene  Therriault, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, presented SB 179 for  Senator Therriault, sponsor of                                                               
SB 179.                                                                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF asked what version is before the committee.                                                                 
MR.  WARWICK  said  that  the version  before  the  committee  is                                                               
version V; however, he understands  that the committee also wants                                                               
to  consider a  blank CS,  version W,  which is  also before  the                                                               
members.   He pointed out that  version V is the  CS which passed                                                               
out of the House Special Committee on Education.                                                                                
CHAIR  WILSON asked  for Mr.  Warwick to  review the  differences                                                               
between the two versions.                                                                                                       
Number 0246                                                                                                                     
MR. WARWICK  explained that  the bill  was introduced  to provide                                                               
teachers  who  do   not  have  fingerprints  an   avenue  to  get                                                               
background checks  so that they  could continue to  teach without                                                               
having  to  go through  the  fingerprinting  process every  three                                                               
months.   He told the members  that a lot teachers  have worn out                                                               
their fingerprints over time and do  not have the ability to give                                                               
adequate fingerprints.   There are currently 42  people in Alaska                                                               
that  consistently experience  this problem.   Mr.  Warwick added                                                               
that  last year  the  Department  of Law  and  the Department  of                                                               
Public  Safety pointed  out that  Alaska's statutes  were not  in                                                               
compliance with federal law  regarding criminal background checks                                                               
in all  professions including the Alaska  Bar Association, liquor                                                               
licenses, or teachers.  That  conforming language is the majority                                                               
of the bill that is before the committee, he stated.                                                                            
MR. WARWICK  said that in  addition to the  federal noncompliance                                                               
issue,  Representative  Gatto  brought  a  situation  to  Senator                                                               
Therriault's  attention  that  exists  in  the  Matanuska-Susitna                                                               
Borough School  District with  respect to  teachers who  were not                                                               
getting  their criminal  background checks  returned in  a timely                                                               
manner.    He  explained  that   teachers  have  submitted  their                                                               
fingerprints  and have  not received  the  background check  back                                                               
within the three-month period required,  so they were required to                                                               
resubmit their fingerprints.   In some cases  these teachers were                                                               
laid  off,  rehired  as  substitute   teachers,  and  lost  their                                                               
benefits  and  pay, he  added.    There  was  the hope  that  the                                                               
timeframe could be changed from three  to five months.  There was                                                               
opposition to that change from  legislators and some staff at the                                                               
Department of Education  and Early Development so  it was decided                                                               
to leave the three month  timeframe, but allow the department the                                                               
authorization to grant  another 60-day extension if  the delay in                                                               
returning  the fingerprint  was  due  to a  backlog  at the  U.S.                                                               
Department of Justice.                                                                                                          
Number 0361                                                                                                                     
MR. WARWICK explained  that the difference between  version W and                                                               
version U is  that version U has a 60-day  extension provision in                                                               
Section 8.  He said he  understands that there is some opposition                                                               
to  this provision  because some  people believe  teachers should                                                               
not be in  the classroom without a  fingerprint background check.                                                               
He told  the members that he  has letters of support  for the 60-                                                               
day  extension  from  the Fairbanks  North  Star  Borough  School                                                               
District and the Anchorage School District.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  asked how many  teachers have not  been able                                                               
to  receive  their fingerprint  background  checks  [in a  timely                                                               
MR.  WARWICK  replied  the  Department  of  Education  and  Early                                                               
Development reports  that during a  nine month time  period there                                                               
were 42 teachers who had to  resubmit three sets of prints.  This                                                               
bill  would   allow  a  name-based  or   social  security  number                                                               
background  check to  done on  them to  ensure that  there is  no                                                               
criminal history.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF  asked for clarification  that version  U was                                                               
approved  by  the  House Special  Committee  on  Education  which                                                               
allows the 60-day extension.                                                                                                    
MR. WARWICK replied that is correct.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF replied that he is  one of the members in the                                                               
House Special Committee on Education  who had concerns about this                                                               
provision.   He commented  that even through  the number  is low,                                                               
only 42  persons in the entire  education field, all it  takes is                                                               
one predator.                                                                                                                   
Number 0555                                                                                                                     
MR. WARWICK  pointed out that this  bill does provide for  a name                                                               
based [or  social security number] background  check.  Currently,                                                               
these  teachers  are  in  the school  with  no  background  check                                                               
because it  is possible for  them to resubmit their  prints every                                                               
three  months.   He  suggested  that review  of  a person's  work                                                               
history is  a good  way to  verify that a  person is  suitable to                                                               
work around children.                                                                                                           
CHAIR WILSON asked for Mr. Warwick  to explain if this bill would                                                               
prohibit a  teacher from being in  the school until some  kind of                                                               
background check is completed.                                                                                                  
MR.  WARWICK responded  that he  is  not completely  sure of  her                                                               
question.   Version V  has the  federal conforming  language, the                                                               
60-day  extension, and  the section  that allows  individuals who                                                               
roll three  sets of prints to  get a background check  based upon                                                               
their name.   The Department  of Public Safety has  the technical                                                               
ability to deem  whether the fingerprints are  just poor quality,                                                               
smudged, or no  ridges for fingerprints.  Mr.  Warwick added that                                                               
staff from the Department of  Public Safety is on-line to testify                                                               
to this fact.                                                                                                                   
MR.  WARWICK   explained  that  version  W   removes  the  60-day                                                               
extension if  the U.S.  Department of Justice  has a  backlog and                                                               
cannot  get the  background checks  back within  that three-month                                                               
CHAIR WILSON asked if teachers  are required to have a background                                                               
check before working in the classroom.                                                                                          
MR. WARWICK replied that is  better answered by the Department of                                                               
Education and Early Development.                                                                                                
Number 0692                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON  commented  that  she  has  serious  concerns  that                                                               
individuals could  be in  schools before  it is  ascertained that                                                               
he/she is safe to be around children.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON asked  Mr.  Warwick to  clarify that  this                                                               
background check which  is being referred to is  the one required                                                               
by  the  Department of  Education  and  Early Development  before                                                               
issuing a teaching certificate.                                                                                                 
MR. WARWICK agreed that is correct.                                                                                             
Number 0724                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON commented  that he does not  have a version                                                               
U in his packet.                                                                                                                
MR. WARWICK  corrected his  earlier statement  by saying  that it                                                               
was version V  that passed out of the House  Special Committee on                                                               
Education, not version U.                                                                                                       
Number 0771                                                                                                                     
DAVID   SCHADE,  Director,   Division   of  Statewide   Services,                                                               
Department of Public Safety, testified  on SB 179.  He introduced                                                               
Kathryn  Monfreda, Chief,  Criminal  Records,  and suggested  she                                                               
provide  the committee  with some  background  information.   Mr.                                                               
Schade  told the  members that  he would  be available  to answer                                                               
Kathryn Monfreda, Chief, Criminal  Records, Division of Statewide                                                               
Services, Department of Public Safety,  testified on SB 179.  She                                                               
asked  for clarification  on Chair  Wilson's  question about  the                                                               
CHAIR WILSON  asked for clarification  as to when  the background                                                               
check occurs.  She questioned  whether the background check would                                                               
occur  after a  school district  hires a  teacher or  when he/she                                                               
applies for a teaching certificate.                                                                                             
Number 0847                                                                                                                     
CYNDY CURRAN,  Teacher Education and Certification,  Teaching and                                                               
Learning Support, Department of  Education and Early Development,                                                               
testified  on SB  179 and  answered questions  from the  members.                                                               
She explained  that when a teacher  comes to the state  of Alaska                                                               
he/she  submits an  application for  certification.   As part  of                                                               
that  application  two sets  of  fingerprint  cards are  required                                                               
which  are  sent  to  the  Department  of  Public  Safety  for  a                                                               
background  check.    The  Department   of  Education  and  Early                                                               
Development waits  for that  background check to  come back.   If                                                               
the  background  check  comes back  clear,  then  the  department                                                               
issues a  teaching certificate.  In  the past it has  taken up to                                                               
four  months, the  process has  now  been streamlined,  so it  no                                                               
longer takes that long, she added.                                                                                              
MS. CURRAN  explained that when  a teacher goes to  an individual                                                               
school district and  is hired that district, in  many cases, will                                                               
also  do a  background check.    Ms. Curran  emphasized that  she                                                               
cannot speak  for every  district because she  is not  sure every                                                               
district  does  a  background  check.    She  explained  that  if                                                               
fingerprints  are returned  [because it  is unreadable]  then the                                                               
department sends  the applicant another set  of fingerprint cards                                                               
to be redone.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR WILSON  asked if background checks  are returned separately                                                               
from fingerprint results or are the two returned together.                                                                      
MS. CURRAN  replied that if  nothing was found in  the background                                                               
check the department  receives a notice which says  no record was                                                               
found  for the  individual.    She explained  that  the FBI  will                                                               
occasionally return  fingerprint cards which will  be accompanied                                                               
by  a  letter  detailing  the problem  and  requesting  a  second                                                               
fingerprint card.                                                                                                               
CHAIR WILSON asked if the  fingerprint check and background check                                                               
are two different things.                                                                                                       
MS.  CURRAN responded  that  the fingerprints  are  used for  the                                                               
background check.  When the  department receives clearance for an                                                               
individual it is based on the fingerprint check.                                                                                
Number 1048                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON clarified  that  a  teacher applicant's  background                                                               
check cannot proceed  without a readable fingerprint  card.  This                                                               
bill would  provide that if  a background check is  not completed                                                               
in  a  timely way,  then  the  department  could give  a  teacher                                                               
applicant an additional 60 days.                                                                                                
MS. CURRAN  responded that  she is  looking at  version H  and is                                                               
aware of the  fact that the committee is  considering a different                                                               
version.    The version  she  is  looking  at provides  that  the                                                               
department may  issue a  60-day extension  which would  allow the                                                               
applicant  to teach  another 60  days.   The department  has been                                                               
issuing a conditional certificate to  allow teachers to remain in                                                               
the  classroom, but  only when  the fingerprint  cards have  been                                                               
CHAIR WILSON commented that if  a teacher applicant does not have                                                               
readable fingerprints and  only a name based  background check is                                                               
done, if the person is not  who he/she says he/she is there could                                                               
be a problem.                                                                                                                   
MS.  CURRAN  responded  that Kathryn  Monfreda  would  be  better                                                               
qualified to answer that question.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked for  clarification that what is being                                                               
discussed is not employment background checks.                                                                                  
MS. CURRAN replied that is correct.                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON stated  that  the  background checks  that                                                               
school districts  do when hiring teachers  is totally independent                                                               
of this background  check.  He emphasized  that these fingerprint                                                               
background checks  are done  by the department  as it  relates to                                                               
the issuance  of a permanent  teaching certificate for  the state                                                               
of  Alaska.   It certifies  that the  person has  the appropriate                                                               
educational background, and et cetera for teaching in Alaska.                                                                   
MS. CURRAN agreed with Representative Seaton statement.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked if the  school districts are notified                                                               
that  the  temporary  teaching certificate  does  not  include  a                                                               
completed background check.                                                                                                     
MS.  CURRAN  said  that  is  correct.    The  temporary  teaching                                                               
certificate is a different color  than the permanent certificate,                                                               
and it lists the conditions of the certificate on it.                                                                           
Number 1199                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON pointed  out that  not  all school  districts do  a                                                               
background check before hiring teachers.                                                                                        
MS. CURRAN responded  that she could not speak  for the districts                                                               
since each one  has its own hiring policy; however,  she said she                                                               
has seen teachers hired without background checks.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA  noted  that  this bill  only  applies  to                                                               
teachers.   Version  W appears  to apply  to more  than teachers.                                                               
She  asked if  teaching positions  are  the only  ones in  school                                                               
districts where this kind of emergency provision applies.                                                                       
MR. WARWICK  replied that the  language Representative  Cissna is                                                               
referring to is language inserted in  the bill to bring the state                                                               
into  compliance with  federal  law.   He  referred  to a  letter                                                               
[dated  April 11,  2003] in  the  members' packet  from the  U.S.                                                               
Department of  Justice which  says that the  state will  lose its                                                               
authorization  to  receive  federal   background  checks  on  any                                                               
occupation in  the state unless  the state comes  into compliance                                                               
with federal law.                                                                                                               
MR. WARWICK  told the  members that no  one in  other occupations                                                               
has come  to Senator Therriault  about a problem  with unreadable                                                               
prints.   He said that the  Department of Public Safety  told him                                                               
that teachers  and nurses  have the  two highest  occupations for                                                               
wearing  out fingerprints.   One  comment that  was made  is that                                                               
women have softer  fingers so the ridges on the  fingers wear out                                                               
easier,  he  added.    He   suggested  that  the  people  at  the                                                               
Department of  Public Safety may  be able  to offer more  on that                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA surmised  that  other  occupations in  the                                                               
school system would not warrant this kind of allowance.                                                                         
MR. WARWICK  responded that  not all  school districts  allow for                                                               
every employee to get a  background check.  Teachers are required                                                               
at  the  state level.    Some  schools  such as  Valdez  requires                                                               
janitors  to get  a  background check,  he added.    Some of  the                                                               
village schools do not require anything.                                                                                        
Number 1406                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON suggested  that the  members focus  on the                                                               
fact  that  obtaining  a  teacher certificate  is  not  a  hiring                                                               
policy.  He commented that it might  be a good idea to put a bill                                                               
in requiring every school districts  to go through certain hiring                                                               
procedures  before putting  employees around  children.   He told                                                               
the members he believes that it  would be a mistake to substitute                                                               
obtaining  a   teaching  certificate  for  a   hiring  mechanism.                                                               
Representative  Seaton  said that  he  believes  this bill  makes                                                               
sense by  allowing the background  check on the  applicant's name                                                               
when the fingerprints are not  readable.  He emphasized that this                                                               
bill would not  remove the school districts  responsibility to do                                                               
background checks.   All it does is allow for  a background check                                                               
for a  teacher applicant to  get a permanent certificate  [with a                                                               
name-based  background check  when fingerprints  are unreadable].                                                               
He asked  if version W and  version V could be  reviewed one more                                                               
Number 1481                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WILSON said as she understands  it, version V has Section 8                                                               
in it, version W does not.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  questioned if that is  the only difference                                                               
between the two versions.                                                                                                       
MR. WARWICK said yes.                                                                                                           
CHAIR WILSON  restated that  in version V,  Section 8  allows the                                                               
department to  give a 60-day  [extension on a  temporary teaching                                                               
certificate], and version W does not.   She told the members that                                                               
she  would prefer  that  no teacher  would ever  go  back to  the                                                               
school system without a complete  background check.  Version W is                                                               
a compromise, she said.                                                                                                         
Number 1540                                                                                                                     
MR. WARWICK told  the members that the sponsor of  the bill is in                                                               
favor of  version V, but  does not  know how strongly  he opposes                                                               
version W.   He  explained that Senator  Therriault's constituent                                                               
came to him with the problem  of having no fingerprints and asked                                                               
for an  alternative route in  obtaining the  necessary background                                                               
check.  Senator  Therriault is also very concerned  that the U.S.                                                               
Department of  Justice continues to  allow Alaska to  get federal                                                               
background checks.  He  supports Representative Gatto's amendment                                                               
to the bill and believes it has merit.                                                                                          
CHAIR WILSON  commented that  the original  bill did  not include                                                               
[the 60-day extension].                                                                                                         
MR. WARWICK replied that was not discussed.                                                                                     
CHAIR WILSON  restated the differences  between the  two versions                                                               
of  SB 179.    She  explained that  the  only difference  between                                                               
version V and  version W is that version V  offers the department                                                               
the extra 60 days  on top of the three months  that a teacher can                                                               
be in the classroom without receiving a background check.                                                                       
Number 1620                                                                                                                     
MR.  WARWICK clarified  Chair Wilson's  statement that  version V                                                               
does not give  teachers an extra 60 days [to  be in the classroom                                                               
without  a  background  check],   it  allows  the  Department  of                                                               
Education  and Early  Development  the discretion  to extend  the                                                               
temporary teaching  certificate an  extra 60 days  if there  is a                                                               
backlog at the U.S. Department of Justice.                                                                                      
CHAIR WILSON asked Senator Therriault  if he would have a problem                                                               
if  the   committee  adopted  version  [W}   without  the  60-day                                                               
Number 1641                                                                                                                     
SENATOR GENE  THERRIAULT, Alaska  State Legislature,  as sponsor,                                                               
testified on SB 179 and answered  questions from the members.  He                                                               
responded  that the  bill is  intended  to make  this a  workable                                                               
system.   If the U.S. Department  of Justice gets a  backlog will                                                               
the state have  the same problem because there is  no ability for                                                               
the department  to extend temporary certificates,  he questioned.                                                               
Senator Therriault told the members  that it was his thought that                                                               
if  the commissioner  of the  Department of  Education and  Early                                                               
Development  controlled   this  extension  then  that   would  be                                                               
adequate oversight.  This is a  fail-safe for things that are out                                                               
of our control, he commented.                                                                                                   
Number 1672                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  reminded  the members  of  communications                                                               
from the  Anchorage School  District and  the North  Star Borough                                                               
School District  which said  it could take  between 110  days and                                                               
120 days  [to receive background  checks].  Given that  length of                                                               
time, it would  appear that giving the department  the ability to                                                               
extend to  the average time it  is taking the school  district to                                                               
receive these  background checks  makes sense.   Pulling teachers                                                               
from the  classroom because the Federal  Bureau of Investigations                                                               
(FBI)   is    backlogged   seems   disruptive,    he   commented.                                                               
Representative  Seaton said  he assumes  the department  will use                                                               
the  extension judiciously  and  only in  circumstances where  it                                                               
could not get the background  checks back.  Representative Seaton                                                               
said  he  believes it  would  be  better  to  have version  V  go                                                               
Number 1751                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  WILSON asked  if  it accurate  to say  that  there are  42                                                               
people in the state that have not been able to get fingerprints.                                                                
MS. CURRAN replied that is approximately correct.                                                                               
CHAIR WILSON  asked how many  of those 42 people  have repeatedly                                                               
submitted  fingerprints,  but  are unable  to  obtain  background                                                               
checks because the prints are unreadable.                                                                                       
MS. CURRAN  responded that  there are probably  at least  a dozen                                                               
who are on their fifth submission of fingerprints.                                                                              
CHAIR WILSON asked what will happen to those 12 people.                                                                         
MS. CURRAN explained  that the Department of  Education and Early                                                               
Development currently has  a regulation in place  that allows for                                                               
a name-based criminal history background  check if a statement is                                                               
received from a  physician saying that the person  has a physical                                                               
disability or a permanent skin  condition that makes their prints                                                               
unreadable.   She told the members  that those 12 people  are now                                                               
in the  process of  following through with  that provision.   The                                                               
provision just went into effect on [April] 16th.                                                                                
CHAIR WILSON inquired about the status of the other 30 people.                                                                  
MS.  CURRAN replied  that she  is not  sure.   There are  varying                                                               
degrees  of fingerprint  resubmissions.   The  FBI has  stringent                                                               
rules  on what  is necessary  for resubmissions.   She  explained                                                               
that the department  is not privy to know if  the U.S. Department                                                               
of Justice is backlogged.                                                                                                       
CHAIR  WILSON asked  for clarification  that  Ms. Curran  doesn't                                                               
know if  the FBI is  backlogged or if  some of these  people just                                                               
signed up last week and the results have not been returned yet.                                                                 
Number 1872                                                                                                                     
MS. CURRAN replied that the group  of people she is talking about                                                               
are those  who are between  having to be reprinted  between three                                                               
to six or  seven times for whatever reason.   There are a variety                                                               
of  reasons why  fingerprints  background checks  are not  coming                                                               
back.   For some of these  people it is because  it is impossible                                                               
to get fingerprints,  some because whoever is  doing their prints                                                               
is not doing a good job.                                                                                                        
Number 1901                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO told the members  that he believes this bill                                                               
is indirectly  about children.   When elementary kids have  had a                                                               
teacher in the  classroom for several months and  that teacher is                                                               
pulled for any  reason that affects the quality  of education for                                                               
those children.  He said if  a thorough background check has been                                                               
done on a teacher and the only  thing that is not complete is the                                                               
fingerprint back  ground check,  isn't that sufficient  reason to                                                               
say there  should be  a 60-day  extension.   Representative Gatto                                                               
said he believes the answer is yes.   He bases that answer on the                                                               
evidence  presented  by   the  Matanuska-Susitna  Borough  School                                                               
District which  shows that in  the course  of eight years  all of                                                               
the background  checks done have been  entirely satisfactory, not                                                               
once in  eight years has  the fingerprint background  check shown                                                               
to  them anything  other  than its  original  decision that  this                                                               
teacher was  okay to employ.   Representative Gatto said  he does                                                               
not like to think of the  number of teachers that might have been                                                               
pulled from  a classroom for lack  of a fingerprint.   These kids                                                               
in  first  and  second  grade  grow to  love  their  teachers  so                                                               
anything  that interferes  with that  relationship better  have a                                                               
solid  basis.   He  said he  does  not see  the  solid basis  and                                                               
suggested that it  is a good idea to extend  the rule because the                                                               
human resource directors are doing a good job.                                                                                  
Number 1985                                                                                                                     
CHAIR WILSON  explained that the  reason she feels  strongly that                                                               
fingerprint background  checks are  so important  is that  in the                                                               
Wrangell School District  someone who should not  have been there                                                               
was found.   She commented  that she  has only lived  in Wrangell                                                               
six years.   When the  person was completing  his/her application                                                               
the person said  that he/she had not committed  any felonies, but                                                               
it  was a  lie.   This  person had  been convicted  of harming  a                                                               
child, she said.  It probably  does not happen very often, but if                                                               
it happens one time that is too much, Chair Wilson stated.                                                                      
Number 2031                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  commented  the Representative  Gatto  may                                                               
have missed earlier testimony.   He reiterated that this bill has                                                               
nothing to  do with hiring practices.   It is strictly  about the                                                               
background  checks associated  with teaching  certificates.   The                                                               
hiring  practices  of  districts  are  their  responsibility,  he                                                               
emphasized.   Janitors and administrators  are not  covered under                                                               
this bill.   If some districts do  not have the staff  or are not                                                               
capable of handling  the background checks then  perhaps it would                                                               
be  appropriate to  consolidate  some districts  to ensure  these                                                               
hiring   practices   are   addressed.     Representative   Seaton                                                               
summarized   that   this   bill,  which   deals   with   teaching                                                               
certificates, does not address the  hiring practices of districts                                                               
related  to  all the  employees  in  the  schools.   He  said  he                                                               
maintains that he believes the 60-day extension is warranted.                                                                   
MS.  CURRAN clarified  that  administrators  and special  service                                                               
providers are  also required to have  certificates and background                                                               
Number 2120                                                                                                                     
PAULA HARRISON, Director,  Human Resources Department, Matanuska-                                                               
Susitna  Borough  School  District,   testified  on  SB  179  and                                                               
answered questions from  the members.  She told  the members that                                                               
she is  the person who  contacted Representative Gatto  about the                                                               
problem   Matanuska-Susitna    Borough   School    District   was                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO  asked  if  she  would  comment  on  hiring                                                               
practices, certifications,  and other issues that  a fairly large                                                               
district  must face.   He  further asked  her to  comment on  the                                                               
value of this extension.                                                                                                        
Number 2151                                                                                                                     
MS. HARRISON commented that the  extension would be of tremendous                                                               
value.  She  explained that when hiring a teacher  it is not just                                                               
a matter of  doing fingerprints and providing  information to the                                                               
department for  teachers to get  their certificates.   Before any                                                               
teacher is hired a very thorough  background check is done on the                                                               
applicant.   She  told the  members  that the  district has  done                                                               
terminations prior  to the  fingerprint background  checks coming                                                               
back  based   on  the  information   obtain  in   the  district's                                                               
background check.                                                                                                               
Number 2193                                                                                                                     
MS. HARRISON  told the  members that  the big  issue is  that the                                                               
fingerprint and background  checks are just not coming  back in a                                                               
timely manner.   That  really creates an  issue for  districts in                                                               
placing teachers  in classrooms.   Ms.  Harrison shared  that the                                                               
Matanuska-Susitna Borough School  District requires a fingerprint                                                               
background check of  every single employee in the  district.  The                                                               
fingerprint cards are sent out  daily from the district, however,                                                               
she knows that  elsewhere when there is a shortage  of staff some                                                               
of the  fingerprint cards  may be  batched and  sent to  the FBI.                                                               
That may be the cause of some of the backlog, she added.                                                                        
CHAIR  WILSON   agreed  that  Matanuska-Susitna   Borough  School                                                               
District does  an excellent job of  screening; unfortunately, not                                                               
all school districts do.                                                                                                        
CHAIR  WILSON announced  that she  will  be holding  the bill  in                                                               
MR. WARWICK reminded the members that  if this bill does not pass                                                               
the  legislature  this  year  [because of  the  lack  of  federal                                                               
compliance], there  is a possibility  that Alaska will  no longer                                                               
receive criminal background checks on  anyone.  He commented that                                                               
there is one more committee of referral.                                                                                        
CHAIR WILSON  said she  would agree with  passing version  W from                                                               
committee, but it does not appear to have support.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said he  believes it  makes sense  to give                                                               
the   Department  of   Education   and   Early  Development   the                                                               
flexibility  to  do  the  60-day extension  [as  in  version  V];                                                               
however,  if it  is a  question of  not having  any FBI  criminal                                                               
background  checks for  Alaska,  then he  said  he would  support                                                               
version W.                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA commented  that something  is better  than                                                               
nothing in this case.                                                                                                           
CHAIR WILSON  reiterated that  version V  has a  60-day extension                                                               
and version W does not.                                                                                                         
Number 2351                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  asked  if  version  W  provides  for  the                                                               
fingerprints to  be submitted, then  resubmit them in  another 90                                                               
MS. HARRISON replied that after  the first 90 days, the districts                                                               
can no longer keep teachers in the classroom.                                                                                   
TAPE 04-34, SIDE B                                                                                                            
Number 2358                                                                                                                     
MS.  HARRISON  pointed  out  that after  90  days  the  temporary                                                               
teaching certificate  is no longer in  effect.  Many times  it is                                                               
the  case that  the  fingerprint background  check  has not  come                                                               
back.   There  have been  several  times when  the Department  of                                                               
Education and Early Development  had not received the fingerprint                                                               
background  check  back,  but  Matanuska-Susitna  Borough  School                                                               
District  had  already  gotten  it  back.   She  said  she  would                                                               
appreciate the department having the flexibility.                                                                               
CHAIR  WILSON asked  Ms. Curran  to comment  on the  department's                                                               
regulation  related  to  those  individuals  who  could  not  get                                                               
MS. CURRAN replied that the  department is working on regulations                                                               
that would provide a name-based background check.                                                                               
MS. HARRISON told  the committee of one employee  that worked for                                                               
the district  for three years  without certification  because she                                                               
could not provide fingerprints.  She  said she had to rewrite the                                                               
job description so that it  did not require certification to hire                                                               
this individual.   She said  she hopes that the  department could                                                               
be afforded that flexibility.                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE WOLF commented that  without a background check it                                                               
is not  known what  an individual  has done.   The  Department of                                                               
Education and Early Development has  testified that if there is a                                                               
medical reason  for inability to  provide fingerprints  the state                                                               
will  waive  that  requirement and  do  a  name-based  background                                                               
MS. HARRISON pointed out that has  not happened and the person is                                                               
still in a PERS position three years later.                                                                                     
Number 2247                                                                                                                     
MS. CURRAN  commented that  this regulation  went into  effect on                                                               
April  16, 2004,  and  individuals who  are  having trouble  with                                                               
their fingerprints have been notified.                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  asked  if  the bill  is  passed  will  it                                                               
supercede the new regulation.                                                                                                   
MS.  CURRAN commented  that the  department is  currently working                                                               
under that  regulation, but believes  the statute  will supercede                                                               
the department's regulation.   The bill does provide  for a name-                                                               
based background check, she added.                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  clarified that would occur  only after two                                                               
failures of fingerprint submissions.                                                                                            
MS. CURRAN said that is correct.                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON commented that  if the fingerprints did not                                                               
come back  within the 90 days,  the department does not  have any                                                               
flexibility other than to remove the teacher from the classroom.                                                                
MS. CURRAN  replied that  the district  would remove  the teacher                                                               
from the classroom.                                                                                                             
Number 2165                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to adopt HCS  CSSB 179, 23-LS0938\W,                                                               
Luckhaupt,  4/16/04, as  the working  document.   There being  no                                                               
objection, HCS  CSSB 179, version  W is before the  House Health,                                                               
Education and  Social Services Standing Committee  as the working                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON moved to report  HCS CSSB 179, 23-LS0938\W,                                                               
out  of   committee  with  individual  recommendations   and  the                                                               
accompanying fiscal  notes.  There  being no objection,  HCS CSSB
179 was  reported out of  the House Health, Education  and Social                                                               
Services Standing Committee.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  made  a   motion  to  move  a  conceptual                                                               
resolution to change the title of  HCS CSSB179, version W.  There                                                               
being no objection,  the conceptual resolution was  passed by the                                                               
House Health, Education and Social Services Standing Committee.                                                                 

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