Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

04/25/2017 03:00 PM House STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Moved HB 125 Out of Committee
-- Public Testimony --
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
        HB 224-REEMPLOYMENT OF RETIRED TEACHERS & ADMIN                                                                     
3:07:03 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that  the next order  of business                                                               
would be HOUSE BILL NO. 224,  "An Act relating to reemployment of                                                               
persons who retire under the teachers' retirement system."                                                                      
3:08:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SEAN DUSEK, President,  Alaska Superintendents Association (ASA),                                                               
testified that  he is the  superintendent of the  Kenai Peninsula                                                               
Borough  School  District  (KPBSD);   the  district  has  a  good                                                               
retention rate and successful recruitment  practices.  He relayed                                                               
that he anticipates problems finding  high quality candidates for                                                               
positions  in schools  accessed by  only  boat or  plane and  for                                                               
special education positions.   He offered that he  is speaking in                                                               
behalf  of ASA  when he  says recruitment  and retention  for all                                                               
educator  positions is  a serious  issue for  many of  the school                                                               
districts.   He maintained that the  members of ASA are  the ones                                                               
making the ultimate  hiring decisions in their  districts and are                                                               
confronted  with  increased  difficulty  in doing  so;  for  ASA,                                                               
preparing,  attracting, and  retaining qualified  educators is  a                                                               
high priority.   He  asserted that  quality education  depends on                                                               
effective educators for all students.                                                                                           
MR. DUSEK related  that all of Alaska is  experiencing a shortage                                                               
of   educators,   which   include   teachers,   principals,   and                                                               
superintendents.    He  said  that   in  response,  ASA  strongly                                                               
encourages  the development  of comprehensive  statewide programs                                                               
to  prepare,  attract,  and retain  high  quality  educators  and                                                               
professionals.  He  maintained that HB 224 would  offer one piece                                                               
in  that  effort.   He  relayed  that  a  pressing issue  is  the                                                               
unfilled vacancies  after the school  year begins.   The proposed                                                               
legislation would  address this  issue by helping  districts fill                                                               
vacancies for which they have  advertised but have been unable to                                                               
fill  by the  start of  the school  year.   He asserted  that the                                                               
choice  comes  down  to  having  either  larger  class  sizes  or                                                               
qualified,   competent,    consistent   teachers    for   quality                                                               
personalization  with  the  students.   He  emphasized  that  the                                                               
situation  will only  get worse,  as evidenced  by the  fact that                                                               
this  year's Alaska  Teacher Placement  (ATP) job  fair had  more                                                               
hiring  personnel  than  applicants.     He  declared,  "This  is                                                               
MR. DUSEK  maintained that due  to the state  budget uncertainty,                                                               
the contraction of the Alaska economy,  and the law of supply and                                                               
demand,  fewer educators  will  make Alaska  their  home for  the                                                               
long-term.   He stated that ASA  is in strong support  of HB 224;                                                               
the proposed  legislation would offer  school districts  one tool                                                               
to help  them attract  teacher and  leadership talent;  the state                                                               
has a  long way to  go to once  again become the  most attractive                                                               
destination for education.   He maintained that HB  224 would not                                                               
address  cost of  living (COL)  or  the competitive  compensation                                                               
necessary for  long-term recruitment and retention;  it would not                                                               
offer much,  if any,  cost savings; however,  it would  help with                                                               
the  most  pressing  issue  of   opening  schools  with  unfilled                                                               
positions.  He asked for the committee's support for HB 224.                                                                    
3:11:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL referred to  the "supply and demand" problem.                                                               
He asked, "How  much of that is linked to  the number of teachers                                                               
that Alaska's  producing, and how  much of  it is just  linked to                                                               
people not  going into education  because there's  better options                                                               
that probably pay more money?"                                                                                                  
3:11:50 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. DUSEK  opined that this  is a problem nationwide,  and Alaska                                                               
used  to be  the most  competitive in  terms of  compensation and                                                               
quality  of life.   He  said that  in 1988,  even coming  off its                                                               
economic  downturn,  Alaska  was   very  attractive,  and  school                                                               
districts were able to support teachers  in a way that is getting                                                               
more difficult  today because  of Alaska's  economic uncertainty.                                                               
He maintained that  ASA is grateful for all the  support that the                                                               
legislature has provided,  but what is needed now is  a plan.  He                                                               
relayed that he is waiting to  find out what will happen with the                                                               
[state] budget  process before advertising 30  positions; knowing                                                               
that would allow school districts to  hire educators in June.  He                                                               
claimed that  not being able to  plan for hiring is  bad business                                                               
and bad for  students.  He stated that school  districts did well                                                               
with recruitment and  retention across the state  when Alaska had                                                               
the  cost differential  funding  formula in  place,  which was  a                                                               
three- to five-year  funding plan.  He maintained  that with that                                                               
certainty, he could attract educators  from the Lower 48; and not                                                               
having it, contributes to the recruitment and retention problem.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL summarized  the two issues:  in  the old days                                                               
Alaska could  attract teachers, because  it paid  higher salaries                                                               
than  other states;  and the  budget uncertainty  prevents school                                                               
districts from knowing  how much money they will have  to hire or                                                               
retain teachers.  He asked if these were the two primary issues.                                                                
MR. DUSEK  said, "Yes, that's  my opinion."   He added  that last                                                               
year, he  did not know what  KPBSD's budget would be  until July,                                                               
and this  year does  not appear  to be  different.   He mentioned                                                               
that  Alaska  is  not  producing  enough  teachers  to  fill  the                                                               
positions.    He expressed  his  appreciation  for University  of                                                               
Alaska  (UA) Strategic  Pathways  goal to  supply  90 percent  of                                                               
Alaska's teachers  [by 2025] but  maintained "that's a  few years                                                               
off."   He asserted  that the uncertainty  makes it  difficult to                                                               
recruit prospective  teachers from out  of state.  He  said large                                                               
school  districts have  issues,  but rural  school districts  are                                                               
"definitely feeling  the pain";  there were a  significant number                                                               
of openings at the beginning of  last school year.  He maintained                                                               
that  there  are  many  retired  teachers  living  on  the  Kenai                                                               
Peninsula, because it  is a great place to live.   He offered his                                                               
belief that  many of them  would be interested in  teaching under                                                               
the  provisions  of  HB  224, and  especially  be  interested  in                                                               
teaching temporarily in a rural area.                                                                                           
3:16:12 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KNOPP expressed  that  he was  curious about  the                                                               
need for  the legislation.   He stated  that currently  there are                                                               
retired  Alaska teachers  employed  as contract  teachers in  the                                                               
Interior who are receiving the federal  per diem rate.  He asked,                                                               
"What keeps  us from  just continuing down  that path  instead of                                                               
putting them back on payroll?"                                                                                                  
MR. DUSEK replied  that there are some retired  teachers who will                                                               
do contract  work, but they  are limited  for the length  of time                                                               
they can work,  and those who can work in  a specialized area can                                                               
leverage a  better contract.   He  stated that  under HB  224, if                                                               
teachers  can work  long  term and  keep  their retirement,  they                                                               
would be  more likely to sign  a full year contract,  which would                                                               
provide consistency for the students.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  KNOPP asked  if under  the proposed  legislation,                                                               
the retired  rehired teacher would receive  additional retirement                                                               
pay,  since  the school  district  would  be contributing  [12.6]                                                               
percent to  the retirement system on  their behalf.  He  said his                                                               
understanding  was  that  the retirement  benefit  would  not  be                                                               
affected  by  the  additional  contribution;  he  questioned  the                                                               
necessity for the contribution.                                                                                                 
MR.  DUSEK  answered  that  he  has  not  explored  the  proposed                                                               
legislation in depth, and his  understanding is that HB 224 would                                                               
be a  short-term measure  to help  fill a  position that  has not                                                               
been filled by  the beginning of the school year.   He maintained                                                               
that there would  be little or no cost savings  under HB 224; the                                                               
intent is to provide a high-quality instructor in the classroom.                                                                
3:18:41 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  opined that the proposed  legislation would                                                               
be an  excellent option for a  school district.  He  asked if the                                                               
duration of the hire under HB 224 would be limited.                                                                             
MR. DUSEK  responded that he did  not believe there was  a cap on                                                               
the duration of the contract.   He said that from his perspective                                                               
as a superintendent,  he would work as hard as  he could to limit                                                               
the duration  to one  year, because  he would  want to  fill that                                                               
position  with  a long-term  employee;  he  would  use it  in  an                                                               
"emergency" situation for one year.                                                                                             
3:19:52 PM                                                                                                                    
PETER   HOEPFNER,  Cordova   School  District   (CSD)  Board   of                                                               
Education, testified  that he is  currently the president  of the                                                               
Alaska Association  of School  Boards (AASB).   He  expressed his                                                               
belief that  the proposed legislation would  benefit all schools.                                                               
There is a nationwide shortage  of teachers, and school districts                                                               
are  not able  to  fill  all the  open  teaching  positions.   He                                                               
referred  to information  from the  U.S. Department  of Education                                                               
(DOE)  Office of  Postsecondary Education  (OPE):   from 2005  to                                                               
2011, Alaska  had shortages in Mathematics,  Science, and Special                                                               
Education;   from  2012   to  2014   Alaska   had  shortages   in                                                               
Mathematics, Science, Special Education,  and Social Studies; and                                                               
from 2015 to 2016 Alaska  had shortages in English Language Arts,                                                               
Mathematics,  Science,  Social  Studies, Special  Education,  and                                                               
MR.  HOEPFNER  relayed  that  at  last year's  ATP  job  fair  in                                                               
Anchorage,  there were  265  applicants  for teaching  positions;                                                               
this year the number declined to  213.  He said that 35 districts                                                               
were represented; there  were 538 open teaching  positions and 70                                                               
support  positions.   He concluded  that  Alaska is  not able  to                                                               
attract as many people  to the ATP fair as in the  past.  He said                                                               
that nationwide, fewer individuals  are entering the teaching and                                                               
education  field; increasingly  teachers  are  leaving the  field                                                               
mid-career.  He  mentioned some of the cities  that Alaska school                                                               
districts  recruit in  - Seattle,  Minneapolis, Phoenix,  Dallas,                                                               
and Austin.                                                                                                                     
MR.  HOEPFNER  maintained that  HB  224  could help  address  the                                                               
teacher  crisis that  is already  developing.   He asserted  that                                                               
retired  teachers who  are living  in rural  communities and  are                                                               
available  in  a  crisis  -  when a  teacher  abruptly  leaves  -                                                               
understand the community  and the culture.  He  relayed that AASB                                                               
has  supported the  proposed legislation  through its  resolution                                                               
4.10 - urging  the State of Alaska to continue  the retire rehire                                                               
MR.  HOEPFNER  summarized  by  saying   that  some  teaching  and                                                               
administrative  positions are  difficult  to  fill; the  proposed                                                               
legislation would be  one more tool in  the districts' toolboxes;                                                               
it would be helpful for  late resignations and filling a position                                                               
due to late  year maternity leave.  He maintained  that a retiree                                                               
is not interested in a long-term commitment.                                                                                    
3:23:45 PM                                                                                                                    
MARY MCMAHON, President, Alaska  Council of School Administrators                                                               
(ACSA),  testified that  she is  the Principal  of Colony  Middle                                                               
School  (CMS) in  the Matanuska-Susitna  Borough School  District                                                               
(MSBSD) and the president of  the Alaska Association of Secondary                                                               
School Principals  (AASSP).  She  said that ACSA is  the umbrella                                                               
organization   for    four   of   Alaska's    premier   education                                                               
organizations:    AASSP;  the Alaska  Association  of  Elementary                                                               
School   Principals    (AAESP);   the    Alaska   Superintendents                                                               
Association (ASA); and the Alaska  Association of School Business                                                               
Officials  (ALASBO).   She relayed  that each  year, ACSA  drafts                                                               
joint  position  statements  to inform  legislative  policy;  the                                                               
position statements  address the education needs  considered most                                                               
urgent  by educators;  and the  positions  are voted  on by  each                                                               
organization's membership before they  are final.  She maintained                                                               
that  the  positions  before  the   committee  [included  in  the                                                               
committee packet]  are ones supported  by the full  membership of                                                               
the organizations.                                                                                                              
MS.  MCMAHON stated  that  preparing,  attracting, and  retaining                                                               
qualified  educators  is  a   high  priority;  quality  education                                                               
depends on effective educators for  all students.  She maintained                                                               
that Alaska is  experiencing a shortage of  qualified educators -                                                               
teachers,  principals, and  superintendents.   In response,  ACSA                                                               
strongly  encourages   development  of   comprehensive  statewide                                                               
programs to  prepare, attract, and retain  high quality educators                                                               
and  professionals.     She said  that  ACSA supports  innovative                                                               
pathways, which  are needed to  attract leadership and  talent to                                                               
the  education  profession.   She  asserted  that  HB 224  is  an                                                               
innovative  approach;  it  is  a   tool  that  will  help  school                                                               
districts at  a time when they  need help.  She  offered that the                                                               
HB  224  "retire rehire"  would  allow  for the  reemployment  of                                                               
retired  teachers and  administrators  to  help school  districts                                                               
fill vacancies  and is  a necessary tool  to help  meet personnel                                                               
needs in both urban and rural school districts.                                                                                 
MS.  MCMAHON  declared  that Alaska  is  experiencing  the  worst                                                               
educator shortage that it has  ever experienced.  She stated that                                                               
when  she went  to the  ATP  job fair  19 years  ago, there  were                                                               
thousands  of   people  in   line  for   an  Alaska   teacher  or                                                               
administrator job;  this year was  the first year that  there was                                                               
no  one at  the  job  fair for  the  MSBSD  interviewing team  to                                                               
interview.   She  urged  the committee  to  support the  proposed                                                               
legislation.    She maintained  that  "our  children deserve  the                                                               
best, and when we have no one to  choose from, we are not able to                                                               
give our students the best."                                                                                                    
3:28:05 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KNOPP  asked   for  clarification  regarding  the                                                               
[12.6]  percent for  TRS,  included  in the  bill  language.   He                                                               
referred to retired teachers in  the Interior earning the federal                                                               
per  diem  rate  of  $300-plus  per  day.    He  asked  why  that                                                               
arrangement is  not a  viable option  for addressing  the teacher                                                               
shortage  in  other  school  districts.    He  asked  if  rehired                                                               
teachers would be  eligible for the federal per  diem in addition                                                               
to the teacher salary.                                                                                                          
3:29:11 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JENNIFER  JOHNSTON,   Alaska  State  Legislature,                                                               
responded to  Representative Knopp's  first question  as follows:                                                               
the  retirement pension  programs -  PERS  and TRS  - charge  the                                                               
hiring government  entities a  percentage of  the salary  base of                                                               
all   defined   benefit   employees  and   defined   contribution                                                               
employees, to be fair across  all employers.  She maintained that                                                               
there  is no  way for  employers to  separate employees  out from                                                               
that salary base.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP stated that  the [12.6] percent contribution                                                               
to TRS  is a concern  as it  relates to terminations  studies and                                                               
reduction in staff.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHNSTON  replied  that from  her  background  in                                                               
termination  studies,  she  can  assure  him  that  the  proposed                                                               
legislation would have  no effect on that issue.   In response to                                                               
the second  question, she said she  would have to follow  up with                                                               
that information.                                                                                                               
[HB 224 was held over.]                                                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB190 Explanation of Changes Version J to CS ver O 4.25.17.pdf HSTA 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 190
HB 190 CS Version O 4.15.17.pdf HSTA 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 190