Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/04/2004 01:32 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                  SB 239-LENGTH OF SCHOOL TERM                                                                              
The committee took up SB 239.                                                                                                   
MR.  WES  KELLER,  Staff  to   Chair  Dyson,  presented  SB  239,                                                               
explaining   that   the   bill   redefines   the   school   year,                                                               
traditionally  defined to  be  180  days.   If  the local  school                                                               
district agrees to  something less than the  180-day school year,                                                               
with  the  approval of  the  commissioner  of the  Department  of                                                               
Education [and Early Development], then  a shorter number of days                                                               
could  be used  and this  would  be consistent  with the  state's                                                               
standards.    This  maintains  accountability  by  requiring  the                                                               
commissioner's approval.   Included in the committee  packet is a                                                               
memo from  Anchorage School District Superintendent  Carol Comeau                                                               
to the  School Board, requesting  that a resolution be  passed in                                                               
support of this, and also a  copy of the Anchorage School Board's                                                               
Resolution in support of this.   He said that members should have                                                               
version  A [23-LS1269],  and  pointed  out that  page  2, line  3                                                               
reflects the change of "different"  rather than "of not less than                                                               
170  days" and  also that  the  last sentence  on page  2 is  not                                                               
proactive,  but  rather  intends  to avoid  problems  with  labor                                                               
issues and contracts.                                                                                                           
CHAIR DYSON  said the bill  was submitted  at the request  of the                                                               
Anchorage School  District but  in subsequent  conversations, the                                                               
commissioner of the  Department of Education wanted  this bill as                                                               
MR. KEVIN  SWEENEY, Legislative liaison, Department  of Education                                                               
and  Early Development,  (DEED),  said the  commissioner and  the                                                               
department  support the  overall intent  of  the bill.   With  No                                                               
Child   Left  Behind   (NCLB)  and   the   monitoring  of   state                                                               
assessments,  the  department  is  better able  to  look  at  the                                                               
performance  of education  programs.   With that,  a case  can be                                                               
made for flexibility  and inputs that school programs  have.  The                                                               
department  believes the  legislation strikes  a good  balance of                                                               
allowing  for  creativity  while   maintaining  state  and  local                                                               
oversight.   The  department would  like to  reserve judgment  on                                                               
page  2,  lines  8 -  10  in  order  to  hear from  local  school                                                               
districts on how  contract negotiations will be  impacted.  Also,                                                               
the  commissioner  would  like  to have  a  clear  definition  of                                                               
implementation.  He said the  department would follow this in the                                                               
legislative process and talk about it later.                                                                                    
MR.  SWEENEY referred  to page  2, lines  3 and  4, and  said the                                                               
commissioner  would like  to have  some definition  of a  minimum                                                               
amount of school days.  In  current statute, page 1, when schools                                                               
go to a term  of less than 180 days, there is  still a minimum of                                                               
150 days.   The commissioner  wants to  ensure that some  sort of                                                               
oversight  can be  agreed on,  that  school boards  will have  to                                                               
follow.   The commissioner's concern  is that one  school board's                                                               
idea of an  equivalent of 180 days could  vary significantly from                                                               
another's, and  there's really no  way to prove exactly  what 180                                                               
days means.   The  most popular  idea is  to go  to a  4-day week                                                               
rather than a  5-day week, and when you do  the math, four-fifths                                                               
of 180 days is 144 days.  He  reiterated that it would be good to                                                               
include a minimum, and this  would be discussed with the sponsor.                                                               
He said  the commissioner's office  had some difficulty  with the                                                               
statute, and  apologized for  not bringing  this up  earlier, but                                                               
the department  had thought  that the  150-day minimum  was still                                                               
CHAIR DYSON  asked how long it  would take for [Mr.  Sweeney] and                                                               
the  commissioner  to  become  comfortable  with  the  bargaining                                                               
MR. SWEENEY  replied that what  was needed  was to hear  if there                                                               
were  any  concerns  from the  local  districts;  the  department                                                               
hadn't  as yet  heard  any concerns.   He  said  they would  just                                                               
monitor  the  bill  as  it  goes  forward,  that  there  were  no                                                               
individual  concerns  but  the   department  was  just  reserving                                                               
CHAIR DYSON pointed  out that there were no  further referrals in                                                               
the  process, so  perhaps the  bill  would be  held in  committee                                                               
until the department had the information that was needed.                                                                       
MR.  SWEENEY said,  "Right now  we don't  have a  concern but  we                                                               
haven't  heard anything,  and  maybe  today we  will."   As  it's                                                               
written  right now,  this could  be tough  for the  department to                                                               
implement, he added.                                                                                                            
SENATOR GREEN  referred to lines  [page 2], 8  - 9, and  said, "I                                                               
would really  like to  have a  good review  and really  what that                                                               
means, in  every possible  version of  who might  be interpreting                                                               
it."   She  said this  doesn't specify  if a  school employee  is                                                               
full-time, permanent, or  not.  She stated that  said some fences                                                               
should  be  built around  this,  adding  that  this needs  to  be                                                               
"dissected and diagramed pretty well."                                                                                          
2:52 p.m.                                                                                                                       
MR. TIM  STEELE, Anchorage School  District, (ASD)  testified via                                                               
teleconference    and    referred   to    the    superintendent's                                                               
recommendation and  the school board's  resolution on  this issue                                                               
from last year,  which he said is still relevant  today.  He said                                                               
the ASD is  mainly looking for flexibility, and  is interested in                                                               
time-banking as  a way to  comply with NCLB's  necessary training                                                               
and  mentoring pertaining  to "highly  qualified teachers."   ASD                                                               
wants to  ensure that there  is the  equivalent of 180  days, and                                                               
was looking  at this  in terms  of flexibility,  greater planning                                                               
time,  and having  more contact  between teacher  and student  by                                                               
moving  some   of  the  training  and   professional  development                                                               
necessary for NCLB through bank  time.  Although ASD supports the                                                               
concept and  hopes it  goes through the  process, it  hasn't been                                                               
run by the  bargaining unit and he doesn't know  what "their take                                                               
is  on  it."    He  said  that from  ASD's  point  of  view,  the                                                               
flexibility   is  certainly   a  good   idea,  adding   that  the                                                               
superintendent is fully in support of increased flexibility.                                                                    
SENATOR  WILKEN  voiced that  the  bill  reflects the  notion  of                                                               
"benefit of  students, perhaps" whereas the  memo [ASD Memorandum                                                               
188(2002-2003)] prepared  by Jan  Christensen, approved  by Carol                                                               
Comeau,  refers to  bank time,  restructuring of  school days  to                                                               
provide for professional development,  and collaboration time for                                                               
all staff; this  sounds like giving teachers more  time away from                                                               
students rather  than spending time  with students.  He  said the                                                               
intent was to streamline government  and this concept injects the                                                               
idea of keeping track of 15-minute  pieces of time that go into a                                                               
bank which sounds like the  creation of a bureaucratic nightmare.                                                               
He asked what was motivating the ASD to ask for this change.                                                                    
MR.  STEELE responded  that alternative  programs with  different                                                               
schedules  have gotten  waiver approval  for different  schedules                                                               
and there  are also a number  of charter schools that  would like                                                               
flexible schedules.   One student  benefit, proven by  the middle                                                               
school  model,  is  that  teachers  working  together  allow  for                                                               
ensuring alignment  of the  curriculum.   For example,  a history                                                               
lesson with  some English or math  tied to it is  a reflection of                                                               
teachers   working   together;   bank  time   allows   for   that                                                               
collaborative  time.     NCLB  requires  that   there  be  highly                                                               
qualified  teachers   and  support  staff   -  paraprofessionals.                                                               
Currently  substitute  teachers  are  hired  during  professional                                                               
development  trainings.     Bank  time  could   ensure  that  the                                                               
student's own  teacher is there  with that contact, which  can be                                                               
argued as  a better option  than substitute teachers.   Bank time                                                               
could be used for professional development, he said.                                                                            
SENATOR WILKEN asked if professional  development was the same as                                                               
in-service training.                                                                                                            
MR. STEELE said  yes, adding that NCLB  has certain requirements,                                                               
and "highly qualified" is currently being defined.                                                                              
SENATOR WILKEN asked for comment  about banking and keeping track                                                               
of 15-minute segments of time  and cashing those in for shortened                                                               
or alternative days of education.                                                                                               
MR. STEELE  said this would  be school-by-school,  not teacher-by                                                               
teacher.  The schedule would be  set up and the number of minutes                                                               
would  be  extended  for  classes  so  that  there  would  be  an                                                               
additional    day   per    month    or    so,   for    in-service                                                               
training/collaboration.  This would not  be a huge record-keeping                                                               
issue, he said.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR   WILKEN  noted   that  Superintendent   Comeau's  letter                                                               
indicates  that this  would be  kept  track of  on a  student-by-                                                               
student basis in 10 or 15-minute segments.                                                                                      
MR. STEELE  responded that  his understanding  was that  this was                                                               
not  student-by-student, but  that a  period  or a  day would  be                                                               
extended by  10 minutes and then  once a month there  would be an                                                               
in-service day when teachers could collaborate.                                                                                 
SENATOR WILKEN asked  if a class would be extended  'x' amount of                                                               
time so that  when that amount of time reached  the equivalent of                                                               
one day  off, there wouldn't  be instruction that day  because of                                                               
the in-service/professional development day.                                                                                    
MR.  STEELE  said  this  was  correct,  adding  that  it  may  be                                                               
something  like one  half  a  day; it  would  be  built into  the                                                               
schedule and figured ahead of time.                                                                                             
SENATOR  GREEN   asked  if  this   was  the  intention   of  this                                                               
legislation, and if  this wasn't a different view of  what was to                                                               
be addressed.                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  DYSON said  no,  that  his intention  was  to allow  local                                                               
districts to  craft what would  fit a specific group  of students                                                               
or  a  school.    He  wanted  to  accommodate  boarding  schools,                                                               
regional schools,  and the significant interest  by rural schools                                                               
that kids not  be gone a long  time away from home.   It might be                                                               
that kids  go to  school for  10 days  straight or  perhaps there                                                               
would be longer  days, followed by a week off,  resulting in kids                                                               
not losing  contact with  their families.   He told  members that                                                               
his children did a time and  motion study at their school and out                                                               
of  the 7  hours  at school,  the  most that  was  logged was  89                                                               
minutes of contact  in a day with the teacher,  once the time for                                                               
announcements,  going  back  and  forth  to  classes,  and  other                                                               
administrative  details   were  discounted.    He   said  he  was                                                               
interested in schools being flexible,  and this has the safeguard                                                               
of the commissioner having to agree with what a district does.                                                                  
CHAIR DYSON said he had not  anticipated this banking of time for                                                               
professional  development, although  he does  not have  a problem                                                               
with that,  as long as it  meets the school board's  criteria and                                                               
is producing results.  He  emphasized getting out of the business                                                               
of  managing  inputs  and  using the  approach  of  managing  for                                                               
results instead.   Managing  for the  wanted results  is managing                                                               
for well-educated kids.   He said he wouldn't pass  SB 239 out of                                                               
committee today.   He told  the committee  that he bears  some of                                                               
the responsibility for not making  sure that the bargaining units                                                               
had a chance to be active in  the discussion at this point and he                                                               
apologized.  He said he  shared Senator Green's concern regarding                                                               
the last 3 lines on page 2.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  WILKEN referred  to page  2,  line 6  and asked  whether                                                               
removing  the  word "approximate"  from  that  sentence would  be                                                               
MR. SWEENEY  said he didn't  see a problem with  eliminating that                                                               
3:05 p.m.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR  WILKEN commented  on the  school districts'  creativity,                                                               
noting that in some cases you "give  them an inch and they take a                                                               
mile" and  he cited examples  as the kindergarten fiasco  of last                                                               
year,  being  embroiled  in the  correspondence  issue  in  which                                                               
schools are skirting the edges of  the law and need to be reigned                                                               
back in, and [1998] SB 36,  in which school districts were on the                                                               
very edges  of manipulating the  instructional unit formula.   He                                                               
said  he  was worried  that  this  was  like handing  someone  an                                                               
opportunity to manipulate to his/her  own benefit rather than for                                                               
the  benefit of  the system;  this was  something that  over time                                                               
could get out of hand, "because  we trusted somebody."  What he's                                                               
seen is that some, or all  school districts can't be trusted.  He                                                               
suggested that if  someone had a specific plan,  such as desiring                                                               
"3 - 12's or  a 4 - 10", then that plan should  be brought to the                                                               
Legislature so it could go through  the process to either pass or                                                               
not; this  would also  make sure  that "this  doesn't get  out of                                                               
control."  At  the same time, he suggested including  a sunset to                                                               
allow  for returning  to it  for  a "gut  check" to  see if  it's                                                               
working or not.   He said to open this up scares  him and is "bad                                                               
law"; he  hopes the  bill gets  worked to  avoid getting  to some                                                               
place that would be better avoided, ten years from now.                                                                         
CHAIR DYSON  asked Mr. Steele  to relay the substance  of today's                                                               
discussions  to  Superintendent  Comeau and  to  the  [Anchorage]                                                               
School Board.                                                                                                                   
MR. KELLER pointed out that the  use of the word "approximate" on                                                               
line 6 was also on line 1 and was part of the original language.                                                                
CHAIR DYSON  said the hearing  on SB  239 would be  suspended and                                                               
would be taken up [at a later date].                                                                                            
CHAIR  DYSON  told  members  that   possibly  next  week  he  was                                                               
interested  in   scheduling  a   departmental  overview   on  the                                                               
accommodations  being made  on high  stakes tests  for kids  with                                                               
IEPs and whether or not this was consistent with the laws.                                                                      
CHAIR  DYSON  announced  there  was  another  quick  item  to  be                                                               
discussed  by   the  HESS  committee.  [This   took  place  after                                                               
CHAIR DYSON adjourned the meeting at 3:09 p.m.                                                                                  

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