Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/10/2004 09:51 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 Committee. 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 schools. 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 first. 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 procedural. 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 kindergarten. 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.