Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/10/2004 09:51 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 338(HES)                                                                                             
     "An Act relating to attendance at public school; and providing                                                             
     for an effective date."                                                                                                    
This  was the first  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair  Wilken  explained   that  were  this  legislation,  CS  HB                                                            
338(HES),   Version   23-LS1258\U,   adopted,  the   public   school                                                            
attendance  policy requirement that  a student be five years  of age                                                            
by August 15th  would be changed to allow attendance  by a child who                                                            
turns five years  of age by September first. In addition,  he stated                                                            
that the  bill would  allow early  admittance  for students  younger                                                            
than the required age upon approval by the superintendent.                                                                      
RYAN MCKINSTER,  Staff to Representative  Lesil McGuire,  the bill's                                                            
sponsor, stated  that this legislation was developed  in response to                                                            
a request  by the  Anchorage school  district  and constituents.  He                                                            
noted that the Anchorage  School Board (ASB) is primarily interested                                                            
in the section  of the bill that would allow a school  administrator                                                            
to make a determination  regarding early entry into kindergarten, as                                                            
currently  each request of  this nature must  be brought before  the                                                            
ASB.  The  proposed  language,  he noted  would  allow  for  swifter                                                            
action,  as  the requests  would  be  divvied  amongst  the  various                                                            
Mr. McKinster also noted  that changing the age requirement deadline                                                            
to September  first would  align Alaska with  25 other states.  This                                                            
change,  he noted,  would  assist  those families  who  move to  the                                                            
State,  especially  military  families.  He  communicated  that  the                                                            
current August  15th cutoff  has prompted some  families to  move to                                                            
another state  and enroll their children in that state's  school for                                                            
a  few weeks  as,  upon  return to  Alaska,  that  enrollment  would                                                            
qualify that student to  attend an Alaska school. He noted that this                                                            
act is costly and disruptive to families.                                                                                       
Mr. McKinster  noted that an indeterminate  fiscal note accompanies                                                             
this legislation.  He referred the  Committee to a memorandum  [copy                                                            
on  file] addressed  to  Representative  McGuire from  Larry  Wiget,                                                            
Executive  Director,  Public  Affairs  Committee  of  the  Anchorage                                                            
School Board,  dated May 6, 2004 that  expressed that, from  the ASB                                                            
perspective, there  would be "no increased cost associated  with the                                                            
passage of this bill."                                                                                                          
Mr.  McKinster stressed  that  this legislation  would  not incur  a                                                            
monetary  expense to a school  district based  on the premise,  that                                                            
whether an education  is provided to a student one  year or the next                                                            
year has no monetary  consequence. He noted, however,  that it would                                                            
cost a  family desiring  an early admittance  hearing approximately                                                             
$500, as a private early education consultant is required.                                                                      
Senator Bunde  admitted to being "a  little bit prejudiced"  on this                                                            
issue,  as he  is familiar  with situations  in  which children  are                                                            
enrolled "far  too early" in kindergarten in order  for their family                                                            
to  avoid  childcare   expenses.  He  requested  that  kindergarten                                                             
teachers  weigh in on whether  enrolling children  early "is  a good                                                            
idea  or  not."  He opined  that  enrolling  children  who  are  too                                                            
immature for kindergarten  could be a disservice to the child and is                                                            
costly to the  State in that there would be more beginning  students                                                            
and, he continued,  oftentimes, those children might  have to repeat                                                            
a grade and would therefore be in the school system longer.                                                                     
Co-Chair Wilken  asked for confirmation that the time  element issue                                                            
in the bill  is a two-week difference  between what is currently  in                                                            
effect and what is proposed.                                                                                                    
Mr. McKinster concurred  that the legislation would delay the cutoff                                                            
date  by two weeks  by changing  it  from August  15th to  September                                                            
Senator  Dyson acknowledged   that due  to the  fact  that 30  other                                                            
states have a September  first deadline, that date might be a better                                                            
arbitrary  date than the  August 15th deadline.  However, he  agreed                                                            
with Senator  Bunde's  comments regarding  the  negative aspects  of                                                            
enrolling a  child too early, especially  "when a parent  objects to                                                            
it." He questioned  whether the early  enrollment decision  would be                                                            
better  served  at the  school  board  level  or by  an experienced                                                             
administrator. He voiced  that the issue of parents using the system                                                            
as a babysitter is not a factor in this bill.                                                                                   
Co-Chair Green pointed  out that Senator Dyson makes a good point in                                                            
regard to  having the early  admission decision  being changed  from                                                            
being  a school  board  decision  to being  a  school administrator                                                             
decision. She asked whether this would be "a good thing."                                                                       
Mr.  McKinster  stated  that  the Anchorage  School  Board  and  the                                                            
Anchorage  School District  are  on record  in support  of  allowing                                                            
school administrators,  rather than  the school board, to  decide on                                                            
whether a child should  be granted early admittance, as the position                                                            
is that school administrators have more experience in this area.                                                                
Co-Chair Green noted that  no other school district in the State has                                                            
weighed in  on the legislation.  She asked  whether the changes  are                                                            
Senator  Dyson characterized  the changes  to be  permissive as  the                                                            
language includes the word "may."                                                                                               
Co-Chair Wilken  pointed out that  language in Section 2,  page one,                                                            
line 14 of  the bill specifies that  the school board "may  delegate                                                            
the authority granted to the chief administrator."                                                                              
Mr. McKinster informed  the Committee that both the City and Borough                                                            
of Juneau  and the  Fairbanks North  Star Borough  school  districts                                                            
support the legislation.                                                                                                        
Senator   B.  Stevens  declared   a  conflict   in  that  a   school                                                            
administrator  granted his  five-year-old child  early admission  to                                                            
Senator  Bunde commented  that while  the timeframe  in question  is                                                            
only a  two-week difference,  that time to  the maturity level  of a                                                            
five-year-old  child is significant. He voiced support  for allowing                                                            
children  to  mature a  bit  more before  they  are faced  with  the                                                            
challenge of being in public  schools. Therefore he does not support                                                            
the date change language.                                                                                                       
Senator  Dyson  moved  to  report  the  bill   from  Committee  with                                                            
individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal note.                                                                        
Senator Bunde objected.                                                                                                         
A roll call was taken on the motion.                                                                                            
IN FAVOR:  Senator  B. Stevens,  Senator Olson,  Senator Dyson,  Co-                                                            
Chair Green, and Co-Chair Wilken                                                                                                
OPPOSED: Senator Bunde                                                                                                          
ABSENT: Senator Hoffman                                                                                                         
The motion PASSED (5-1-1)                                                                                                       
CS  HB 338(HES)  was  reported  from  Committee  with indeterminate                                                             
fiscal  note  #1  Corrected,  dated   February  17,  2004  from  the                                                            
Department of Education and Early Development.                                                                                  

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