Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205

03/28/2017 05:30 PM EDUCATION

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony <Time Limit May Be Set> --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled: TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 87(EDC) Out of Committee
           SB 96-EDUCATION: SCHOOLS/TEACHERS/FUNDING                                                                        
5:35:19 PM                                                                                                                  
CHAIR HUGHES announced the consideration of SB 96.                                                                            
5:35:47 PM                                                                                                                  
CHAIR HUGHES opened public testimony on SB 96.                                                                                  
CHAIR HUGHES noted the presence of Representative Ortiz.                                                                        
CHAIR  HUGHES  encouraged those  not  able  to testify  today  to                                                               
submit comments  to senate.education@akleg.gov  and they  will be                                                               
distributed  to  members.  She  commented  that  it  has  been  a                                                               
pleasure to  work with  so many stakeholders  and the  members of                                                               
the  committee to  make various  changes to  the bill.  She noted                                                               
there may  be concern about  the school size adjustment,  but the                                                               
committee  is currently  at step  one in  the process.  Also, she                                                               
said  the fiscal  note represents  the worst  case scenario  - if                                                               
districts  were  to  do  nothing. Some  districts  might  not  be                                                               
impacted at all. She said the  committee is working on another CS                                                               
and she appreciates the input. It is a joint effort.                                                                            
She pointed out that this hearing on  version T of SB 96 does not                                                               
relate to any action of a Finance Committee.                                                                                    
5:37:18 PM                                                                                                                    
CASS   POOK,  President,   Sitka  School   Board,  testified   in                                                               
opposition to SB  96. She related the problems SB  96 would cause                                                               
the  20 districts.  Sitka School  District's enrollment  does not                                                               
support  SB 96.  She  stated that  consolidation  of schools  and                                                               
class-size increase  would hurt the  district. She did  not think                                                               
stakeholders  supportive of  education would  support this  bill.                                                               
Education  decisions should  be up  to local  control, not  state                                                               
5:40:31 PM                                                                                                                    
BEN  WHITE,  Principal,  Blatchley Middle  School,  testified  in                                                               
opposition to SB 96. He thanked  the members of the committee for                                                               
their service. He said the bill  would cut about $68 million from                                                               
20  districts, and  Sitka,  alone, would  lose  $4.1 million.  He                                                               
maintained that the bill was  not done with stakeholder input. He                                                               
said  decisions  should  be  made  at the  local  level.  He  had                                                               
concerns  about   security  and   privacy.  He  was   opposed  to                                                               
consolidation of schools and maintained  it would not save money.                                                               
Section 16 is a dramatic shift  away from Sitka's goals. He urged                                                               
the committee to consider Alaska's children first.                                                                              
CHAIR HUGHES  said she appreciates  his information and  they are                                                               
still working on sections of the bill.                                                                                          
5:43:56 PM                                                                                                                    
DEENA  BISHOP, Superintendent,  Anchorage School  District (ASD),                                                               
testified  in opposition  to  SB  96. She  found  issue with  the                                                               
provisions of the bill which  place Alaska students at the bottom                                                               
of priorities.  The changes proposed  to the 80  percent capacity                                                               
provision  and   subsequent  decrease  in   funding  inequitably,                                                               
penalize   the  educational   goals   of   Anchorage  and   other                                                               
communities. ASD calculates an additional  loss of $15 million in                                                               
revenue due  to the  bill, given  that it  would not  qualify for                                                               
hold harmless. The decision to impact  a small portion of the BSA                                                               
formula,  increases  or impacts  other  areas  of revenues.  A  5                                                               
percent reduction of statewide funding  over the next three years                                                               
is proposed, yet  only 20 of 53 school districts  may be affected                                                               
by this plan.                                                                                                                   
She  said  while SB  96  does  include innovative  thinking  with                                                               
regard to instruction,  it does not protect  Alaska's future. ASD                                                               
is already reducing  over 100 full-time employees  next year with                                                               
the most coming from administration.                                                                                            
5:46:30 PM                                                                                                                    
STARR  MARSETT,  Member,  Anchorage School  Board,  testified  in                                                               
opposition  to SB  96. She  described  problems that  SB 96  will                                                               
cause their  district, including  requiring higher  Praxis scores                                                               
to weed out  bad teachers. Alaska has  unique teacher recruitment                                                               
issues, a  poor retirement plan,  and teacher shortage.  She said                                                               
the  plan to  cut education  5 percent  is not  clear. She  urged                                                               
Alaskans to encourage the legislature to not cut education.                                                                     
5:49:02 PM                                                                                                                    
JIM   ANDERSON,  Chief   Financial   Officer,  Anchorage   School                                                               
District,  testified  in opposition  to  SB  96. He  stated  that                                                               
Anchorage  cannot survive  more cuts  to education.  He addressed                                                               
problems with proposed  cuts to the foundation  formula and their                                                               
effect on the local contribution.  The hold harmless provision in                                                               
the  foundation formula  only applies  to districts  that haven't                                                               
had a  5 percent reduction to  the ADM. Anchorage and  many other                                                               
districts  don't  fit  the  current   definition  and  will  have                                                               
unintended  consequences.  He  thanked the  committee  for  their                                                               
CHAIR HUGHES encouraged people to provide written testimony.                                                                    
5:51:26 PM                                                                                                                    
MIKE  HANLEY,  Superintendent,  Chugach  School  District  (CSD),                                                               
Former   Commissioner,   Department   of  Education   and   Early                                                               
Development (DEED),  testified in opposition  to parts of  SB 96.                                                               
He  addressed  Section   5,  the  reporting  of   the  number  of                                                               
administrators, and explained why it  would not work when funding                                                               
certain grants  due to  administrator requirements.  He suggested                                                               
to put  "state funded"  in front of  those administrators  so the                                                               
count would  recognize accountability, but not  be a disincentive                                                               
to receiving grants.                                                                                                            
He  spoke to  Sections  10 and  11 which  would  not affect  CSD,                                                               
however,  the   consolidation  of  schools  based   on  occupancy                                                               
percentage  will  not work  in  many  instances. He  provided  an                                                               
5:53:59 PM                                                                                                                    
DEENA  MITCHELL, Member,  Great Alaska  Schools, testified  on SB
96. She  found some things she  likes in the bill,  but also some                                                               
issues that need  work. There is not much in  the bill that would                                                               
help  schools  address  their fiscal  gap,  having  already  made                                                               
severe  cuts. She  suggested listening  to rural  districts about                                                               
how their administrators are serving students.                                                                                  
She   addressed   teacher   quality  provisions   and   suggested                                                               
consideration  of  all  factors.  She referred  to  an  audit  in                                                               
Anchorage that  suggested ideas for  improvement, but  noted that                                                               
resources would  be required to do  so. She hoped the  bill would                                                               
address some of the areas of Best Practices.                                                                                    
She  voiced concern  that the  bill  is very  heavy on  secondary                                                               
learning, but  contains nothing on early  learning, where dollars                                                               
are best  spent. She spoke of  the harm of a  potential 5 percent                                                               
reduction on  top of the  reductions from  not inflation-proofing                                                               
the BSA.                                                                                                                        
5:56:56 PM                                                                                                                    
DAVE  JONES, Assistant  Superintendent,  Kenai Peninsula  Borough                                                               
School District,  testified against  the proposed changes  to the                                                               
school  size  factor   adjustment  in  SB  96.   He  thanked  the                                                               
legislature for  previously funding K-12 education  as a priority                                                               
in  Alaska. He  provided the  history of  the school  size factor                                                               
adjustment and  all the favorable  reviews it has had.  He voiced                                                               
concern about SB 36, which uses  a capacity formula to adjust the                                                               
foundation formula  which has  known weaknesses.  Any adjustments                                                               
to  the foundation  funding need  to be  based on  empirical data                                                               
derived from  studies. SB 96  reduces funding of  buildings below                                                               
80 percent  capacity and within 25  miles of each other.  This is                                                               
arbitrary  and  does  not  provide  a  sound  basis  for  funding                                                               
education. He  urged the committee  not to take action  to change                                                               
the school size factor adjustment.                                                                                              
5:59:48 PM                                                                                                                    
JACK WALSH,  Superintendent, Craig School District,  testified in                                                               
opposition to  SB 96.  He spoke  of his  history in  rural Alaska                                                               
with bills such as this one.  He voiced concern about the unsound                                                               
methods  of  determining  the  foundation  formula  funding.  The                                                               
process of consolidation  of schools is also a  concern. He spoke                                                               
of  how the  district  uses  virtual learning  in  the state  and                                                               
locally. He  said he is concerned  with the process this  bill is                                                               
going  through. He  appreciated the  committee's work  to try  to                                                               
find solutions.                                                                                                                 
6:01:51 PM                                                                                                                    
ROBERT  BOYLE, Superintendent,  Gateway Borough  School District,                                                               
testified  in opposition  to SB  96. He  described what  the bill                                                               
would do to  his district. The 80 percent  occupancy provision is                                                               
highly   intrusive  and   counterproductive.   The   bill  is   a                                                               
micromanagement mandate for schools and  creates a Senate PTR. It                                                               
does not reflect  quality education in Ketchikan.  He pointed out                                                               
that DEED determined  the size of the  school buildings currently                                                               
in  place  and  the  bill penalizes  the  district  because  they                                                               
maintained those  schools. The  bill is  a brutal  intrusion into                                                               
local control and limits the  district's ability to use research-                                                               
based programs.                                                                                                                 
6:04:24 PM                                                                                                                    
SHAWN ARNOLD,  Superintendent, Nome Public Schools,  testified in                                                               
opposition to  SB 96. He  focused on Section  11 of the  bill. He                                                               
described how  that section  would play out  in Nome  where there                                                               
are two buildings, Nome Elementary  School at 74 percent capacity                                                               
and Nome  Jr./Sr. High at 14  percent. He related how  they could                                                               
transfer  the  Jr./Sr. High  to  the  Elementary School  to  save                                                               
money, but  it is not the  right decision for their  district. He                                                               
described what  would result  - no  money would  be saved  and it                                                               
would cost  to add  modulars to the  existing school.  He pointed                                                               
out  that  they already  make  better  use  of the  Jr./Sr.  High                                                               
capacity  by  bringing  in the  Northwestern  Alaska  Career  and                                                               
Technical Center (NACTE) program  where students from other areas                                                               
use  their learning  space. None  of  this is  factored into  the                                                               
6:07:25 PM                                                                                                                    
ROB   PICOU,  Superintendent,   Lower   Yukon  School   District,                                                               
testified  in  opposition  to  SB  96.  He  suggested  that  some                                                               
elements  of the  bill could  lead  to cost  savings, but  others                                                               
could  have  unintended  consequences.   In  light  of  past  and                                                               
proposed  cuts, the  district  has already  taken  means to  save                                                               
money  and he  listed them.  The language  regarding school  size                                                               
adjustment  in  SB  96  would  result  in  another  $1.5  million                                                               
reduction,  and an  additional 5  percent cut  would bring  their                                                               
structural  deficit  to  about  $4.7  million.  He  said  virtual                                                               
education  is  not  transformative   in  their  district  without                                                               
increased broadband and staff development  and an emphasis on the                                                               
importance of the teacher.                                                                                                      
He concluded that the district  is not oblivious to the financial                                                               
crisis,   nor   to   their  responsibilities   to   help   reduce                                                               
expenditures. They  are aware of  what is needed in  education to                                                               
transform education  in rural Alaska.  They are leaning  into the                                                               
challenge of  reduced revenue and working  with regional partners                                                               
to transform education. He urged  the legislature to give careful                                                               
consideration to unintended consequences  of legislation that may                                                               
harm children.                                                                                                                  
6:11:18 PM                                                                                                                    
PAUL KENDALL,  representing himself,  testified in  opposition to                                                               
SB  96.  He did  not  approve  of  using children  for  political                                                               
6:13:44 PM                                                                                                                    
SCOTT MACMANUS,  Superintendent, Alaska Gateway  School District,                                                               
testified in  opposition to SB  96. He applauded  the legislature                                                               
for  their  efforts. He  liked  seeing  support for  virtual  and                                                               
distance education and  the emphasis on having  good teachers. He                                                               
discussed Section 5, which  attempts to eliminate administration,                                                               
but instead  increases the work  for administrators.  There needs                                                               
to be  language that differentiates between  general revenues and                                                               
special revenues  like grant funds, especially  in small schools.                                                               
He maintained that the fiscal note  related to Sections 10 and 11                                                               
is based on flawed information.  Many schools will be impacted by                                                               
this and the capacity formula provision.                                                                                        
6:16:09 PM                                                                                                                    
TRACIE  WEISZ,  Director,   Curriculum  and  Instruction,  Alaska                                                               
Gateway School  District, testified in  opposition to SB  96. She                                                               
thanked the committee for hearing  her testimony and said she was                                                               
glad to  see the inclusion  of virtual and distance  education in                                                               
the  bill. Many  districts  already have  their  own digital  and                                                               
virtual learning  initiatives and have cooperative  agreements to                                                               
share these  services. She  took issue with  Section 5  and noted                                                               
that it  is not at  all unusual for  small districts to  have the                                                               
appearance of  being top heavy. The  administrators have multiple                                                               
duties and already provide cost savings.                                                                                        
She addressed  detrimental cuts  as a result  of Sections  10 and                                                               
6:18:33 PM                                                                                                                    
LISA  CONRAD,  Chair,  Alaska   Gateway  Regional  School  Board,                                                               
testified in  opposition to  SB 96.  She said  she is  opposed to                                                               
Sections  10  and 11,  which  would  cut  $1.7 million  from  the                                                               
district. She would like to see  more work done on attracting and                                                               
keeping  quality  teachers.  She  provided  examples  of  teacher                                                               
shortages.  She   spoke  in  support  of   the  Alaska  Education                                                               
Challenge and suggested the committee  work together and not pass                                                               
SB 96 until the issues are resolved.                                                                                            
6:20:43 PM                                                                                                                    
BARB  JEWELL, Chair,  Cordova Board  of  Education, testified  in                                                               
opposition to  SB 96.  She voiced concern  with all  the proposed                                                               
changes and the  short time to consider them.  She concurred with                                                               
the  previous  speakers,  especially  Superintendents  Jones  and                                                               
She  addressed Sections  5 and  7 related  to administration  and                                                               
management. She also  had concerns about Sections 10  and 11. She                                                               
said the  numbers for school  size and square footage  in Cordova                                                               
are  not correct.  School spaces  are already  being shared  with                                                               
businesses,  non-profits, and  other organizations.  She provided                                                               
examples. She  asked them to  not use the incorrect  numbers. She                                                               
cautioned the committee to carefully consider the cuts.                                                                         
6:23:46 PM                                                                                                                    
PETE  HOEPFNER, Member,  Cordova Board  of Education,  President,                                                               
Alaska Association  of School Boards, testified  in opposition to                                                               
SB 96.  He said he  is concerned about  the lateness of  the bill                                                               
and that it contains many problems.  He said he will focus on the                                                               
funding  issues,  which  is  a  substantial  change  to  a  well-                                                               
established  school  finance  methodology and  lacks  input  from                                                               
stakeholders. It  will drastically  cut Cordova's staff.  He took                                                               
issue with the  5 percent proposed cuts to  their district, which                                                               
is $68 million.  Only 20 of Alaska's districts are  being cut. In                                                               
addition,  there  is a  proposed  reduction  of $1.4  million  to                                                               
Cordova.  That is  a 37  percent reduction  in state  funding for                                                               
Cordova,  the highest  cut  of  any district  in  the state,  and                                                               
Cordova  has only  .255 percent  of  the students  in Alaska.  He                                                               
asked where  the equity is.  He spoke of  unintended consequences                                                               
of the bill.                                                                                                                    
He  said  he  wished  to  address the  defunding  of  the  Alaska                                                               
Education Challenge.                                                                                                            
CHAIR HUGHES said that is not related to SB 96.                                                                                 
MR. HOEPFNER reiterated  the question as to why  Cordova is being                                                               
cut 37 percent in four years.                                                                                                   
CHAIR  HUGHES  said she  will  be  considering all  the  comments                                                               
6:28:20 PM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK   MAYER,   Superintendent,   Wrangell   Public   Schools,                                                               
testified  in oppositions  to Sections  10 and  11 in  SB 96.  He                                                               
provided  the  history of  the  Wrangell  community when  it  was                                                               
thriving and  schools were at  capacity. Schools were  built with                                                               
expansion in  mind and were  approved by the state.  He described                                                               
the changes  in Wrangell  since then.  He said  SB 96  proposes a                                                               
community-wide issue of major  proportion and student disruption.                                                               
It  disproportionally impacts  some communities  over others.  He                                                               
said  Wrangell  Public  Schools  could lose  32  percent  of  its                                                               
funding  over four  years. SB  96 is  not a  solution and  is not                                                               
fair. He requested more reaction time to address concerns.                                                                      
6:30:14 PM                                                                                                                    
AMY  LUJAN,  Executive  Director, Alaska  Association  of  School                                                               
Business  Officials,  testified  in  opposition  to  SB  96.  She                                                               
focused  on Section  11 of  the  bill. She  maintained that  four                                                               
months is not  enough time to address that  reduction in funding.                                                               
She wondered where the 80 percent and 25 mile figures came from.                                                                
She used Nome as an example  of a district that would be affected                                                               
by  Section 11.  There are  two  schools operating  below the  80                                                               
percent  capacity. If  Nome were  to move  one group  of students                                                               
from one school  to the other, it would  save foundation funding,                                                               
but  students would  not be  in  the best  environment for  their                                                               
educational  needs,  it would  cost  money  to retrofit  the  one                                                               
school, and  there would be no  cost savings. She said  there are                                                               
several  other districts  where  this scenario  would apply.  She                                                               
requested more time to review the bill.                                                                                         
6:33:14 PM                                                                                                                    
CLAY KOPLIN, Mayor of Cordova,  testified in opposition to SB 96.                                                               
He noted  that Cordova has  a large population of  young families                                                               
with  future students.  He  said they  have  invested heavily  in                                                               
school programs, a strategic plan  to have a great school system.                                                               
It  attracts professionals  and other  workers to  the community.                                                               
Cutting education cuts deeper than the one line item.                                                                           
6:34:08 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  HUGHES  closed public  testimony  on  SB 96.  She  thanked                                                               
everyone for their testimony.                                                                                                   
CHAIR HUGHES held SB 96 in committee.                                                                                           

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 96 - Explanation of Changes - Ver. R to T.pdf SEDC 3/28/2017 5:30:00 PM
SB 96
SB 96 - Public Comment Lance Roberts.pdf SEDC 3/28/2017 5:30:00 PM
SB 96
SB 96 - Public Comment Jonathan Crocker.pdf SEDC 3/28/2017 5:30:00 PM
SB 96
SB 96 - Public Comment Melodie Wright.pdf SEDC 3/28/2017 5:30:00 PM
SB 96
SB 87 - Draft CS Ver. U.pdf SEDC 3/28/2017 5:30:00 PM
SB 87
SB 87 - Explanation of Changes - Ver. J to U.pdf SEDC 3/28/2017 5:30:00 PM
SB 87
SB 87 - Supporting Document - Fredeen Letter of Support.pdf SEDC 3/28/2017 5:30:00 PM
SB 87