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28th Legislature(2013-2014)

Committee Minutes


HOUSE EDUCATION
Mar 01, 2013

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	               HJR 1-CONST. AM: EDUCATION FUNDING                                                                           

8:41:56 AM

CHAIR GATTIS announced that the final order of business would be
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 1, Proposing amendments to the
Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to state aid for
education.

8:42:37 AM

JOSHUA DECKER, Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of
Alaska (ACLU-Alaska), said he previously submitted written
testimony on February 21, 2013 and did not have any additional
testimony.

8:43:04 AM

KRISTINA JOHANNES, read from the following prepared statement,
[original punctuation provided]:

My name is Kristina Johannes and I am in favor of HJR
1. I represent myself.

This amendment will remove a clause from our
constitution that unnecessarily restricts the right of
the legislature to define public purpose in view of
the conditions prevailing at each time in our history.
There is no good reason to keep this restriction on
our legislature in place. It is not required by the
federal constitution.

Our legislators should have the maximum freedom to
make decisions. This is a great opportunity to effect
that change. Legislators already have this freedom in
regards to the other public purposes; why should
education be any different? Barrie White, a
constitutional convention delegate, urged the removal
of this clause warning that it would lead us into
trouble. I think his warning was prophetic. Because of
this clause, the Alaska Supreme Court has restricted
the right of the people to debate the issue of
educational reform. That's why it is necessary to not
only remove this clause but to also insert the clause
that clarifies to the Courts that the people want
their freedom back. I ask you to support this
amendment.

8:44:41 AM

AMY WALKER provided a brief background, noting she has been an
Alaska resident since 1969 and a property owner and Palmer
resident since 1982. She said that she home schooled her
children. However, during the same timeframe she and her
husband paid taxes for public schools as well out of pocket
expenses for home schooling their children. She offered her
support for equal freedom for all parents, including ones who
choose educational choices outside the public school system.
All parents should have the opportunity to choose the best
education for their children. Therefore, parents who wish to
use private schools should receive tax credits or vouchers to
enable them to enroll their children in the school of their
choice without necessitating any additional financial burden.
In conclusion, she offered her support for HJR 1 as well as SJR
9, which would help establish equal educational freedom in
Alaska [through vouchers].

REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked for clarification on whether she is
testifying that private schools should receive vouchers or if
she believes individual home school parents should receive funds
to provide education at home.

MS. WALKER responded that she supports funds being distributed
to parents who send their children to any type of private
school, including home school parents.

8:47:07 AM

JENNIE HAMMON said she testified last week but offered her
support for HJR 1. She offered her belief that she is
responsible for the education of her children, but also to
understand the cost of education. As the parent of a special
needs child, she expressed concern over the cost to educate her
daughter. She found a more effective way of educating her
daughter even though this choice costs her family approximately
$8,000 in educational expenses for her special needs child and
other child. Still, she and her husband decided this is the
best solution to educate their children, which is one reason she
supports HJR 1. She emphasized that all children and parents
should have the opportunity [to choose]. She pointed out some
families who also attend Cook Inlet [Academy] are not wealthy
and experience a daily [financial] burden [to educate their
children]. She concluded that this resolution will help other
families.

8:48:31 AM

RICHARD KOMER, Senior Attorney, Institute for Justice (IAJ),
stated the IAJ has been in existence for 21 years and he has
been an advocate for school choice programs for 20 years,
including any legal impediments to them. He said he has
testified during the past several sessions in Alaska on the need
to pass a resolution to remove the constitutional bar - or
rather an interpretation of the bar by the Alaska Supreme Court
(ASC) [for vouchers]. While there are compelling reasons to
believe the ASC has misinterpreted the Alaska Constitution, it
is the nature of the judicial system that the ASC's decisions
are final unless their decision is reversed by the court or the
people overrule the court's interpretation by amending Alaska's
Constitution. He stated that HJR 1 would amend the Alaska
Constitution to open up the possibility of school choice
programs in the state that are currently precluded by two
erroneous decisions by the ASC. On a national scale, three
other states have repealed the Blaine Amendment, [which bans the
use of public funds to support sectarian private schools],
similar to HJR 1, including Louisiana, North Carolina, and
Arkansas. The New York's highest court also has overruled its
earlier decision on a much more restrictive Blaine Amendment.
In fact, this [resolution] is not unprecedented and would allow
the legislature to consider whether to create school choice
programs to provide additional educational opportunities for
Alaskans.

CHAIR GATTIS asked if he had written testimony to submit.

MR. KOMER answered no, but offered to submit testimony he
previously presented to other committees.

8:51:35 AM

REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked for a percentage of states that
repealed the Blaine Amendment through popular initiative who
have subsequently enacted a voucher system.

MR. KOMER said only three states have repealed the Blaine
Amendment and of those, two states implemented school choice
legislation: Louisiana and North Carolina. North Carolina
implemented a special education scholarship program funded
through tax credits provided to taxpayers. Louisiana
implemented a variety of programs and expanded statewide a
program previously limited to New Orleans. Additionally,
Louisiana has a special education program for those with certain
disabilities, as well as offering a tax deduction program.

8:53:08 AM

REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked how long it took for these two
states to implement their programs.

MR. KOMER answered that it took some decades before school
choice bills were passed, although in Louisiana it took a threat
to a textbook program that provided textbooks to all Louisiana
students to challenge the Blaine Amendment. In fact, fear that
the program might be repealed led to the state repeal the Blaine
Amendment. The Louisiana Supreme Court upheld the program, he
said. He recalled the timeframe was 1920 and the newest program
for school choice occurred in the 1990s.

8:54:39 AM

PAT MORETH spoke in opposition to HJR 1. She stated that she
also believes in choice and attended a private school; however,
she is concerned about the process. She expressed concern that
this resolution has a heavy urban slant and does not consider
rural areas. She explained that urban areas have choices
available through neighborhood schools, local charter schools,
and private schools choices, although parents may need to pay
for private schools. She said that the economies of scale of
larger urban communities in Alaska make those choices possible.
She expressed further concern that money earmarked for education
could be diverted if educational choices are offered outside the
public system. Further, she expressed additional concern on the
effect of reduced funding for established schools, especially in
rural parts of the state. She understood the challenges schools
face and the desire for additional educational choices.
However, a better approach might be to promote support to help
local schools meet the needs of local communities statewide. In
Alaska, each school district is different so it's important to
proceed carefully with a statewide outlook to ensure that
Alaska's Constitution covers all education in existing schools.
It's important, but also challenging to ensure the same
opportunities exist in rural and urban school districts in
Alaska. She emphasized that the Alaska Constitution should not
be casually amended. In conclusion, she stressed the need for
legislators to keep the "big picture" in mind.

8:57:59 AM

DAVID BOYLE spoke in support of HJR 1 since he believes HJR 1
will foster competition within the educational system and loosen
the grip of special interests in education. He offered his
belief that education is a monopoly and the Blaine Amendment has
a sordid history such that it represents an anti-Catholic, anti-
Irish, and anti-immigrant background and in the early 1900s it
was even supported by the Ku Klux Klan. He said, "Alaska is
better than that. This is a battle between those who support
the best education for all Alaska's children and those who want
to maintain their stranglehold on the education industry to the
detriment of many Alaskans." Further, he suggested this issue
is about power and control. He recalled that Bob Chanin, the
general counsel for the NEA-Alaska said in his farewell speech
in 2009:

It is not because of our creative ideas. It is not
because of the merit of our positions. It is not
because we care about children. And it is not because
we have a vision of a great public school for every
child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates
because we have power and we have power because there
are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to
pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each
year because they believe that we are the union that
can more effectively represent them.

MR. BOYLE said:

Ask me about the Alaska Native grandmother who wanted
to get her two daughters out of a failing neighborhood
school. Ask me about the African American father who
had just enrolled his son in a failing middle school.
Ask me about a father who called me late at night who
was being told he should enroll his daughters in a
failing school. Ask me about the failing principal
who stated he gets the leftover "crap" from the
charter schools. These are known stories. There are
hundreds of unknown stories. Some previous speakers
have said that allowing Alaskans to vote on this
constitutional amendment is a "lousy idea." Was the
PFD a lousy idea? Was lowering the voting age to 18 a
lousy idea? I don't think so. Please let Alaskans
vote. Pass HJR 1 out of the committee. I thank you
for the opportunity to speak on this very important
resolution.

9:00:27 AM

GLENN PRAX stated he has reviewed the language in Alaska's
Constitution, with respect to education, which he thinks is
defective. He said it is impossible to avoid "sect" control
with a central funding source, which is Alaska's current funding
mechanism. He said it is pretty evident that the NEA controls
the school system, which is a sect of the population. Thus a
small group controls the educational funding. He suggested one
way to change this is to disperse the control, which should be
held by parents in order to avoid a takeover of the system. He
offered his belief that the goal in creating [educational
funding in] Alaska's Constitution was sensible, but he did not
think it was possible to achieve [fairness] with the centralized
school system. Currently, the centralized system is the public
school system, which he maintained is controlled by a "sect".
He expressed concern that novel ways to approach education are
not being pursued, recalling ones a previous testifier found to
educate her special needs child. He maintained that numerous
ways to provide education are not being explored due to the
aforementioned centralized school system. He concluded that the
best way to solve this is to disperse educational funds other
than by using centralized sources. He thanked the committee.

9:03:03 AM

PAIGE HODSON spoke in opposition to HJR 1. She said her three
children went through the Anchorage public school system and she
did not think Alaska's educational system is broken. She became
involved in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) since she
believes community involvement and in involvement in education.
She offered her belief that if something isn't working it can be
"built up", but she viewed HJR 1 as "tearing down" education.
The state has shortchanged education in the budget process since
it has not inflation proofed education. She expressed concern
that HJR 1 would remove funds from public schools which could
damage children and the community. She related a scenario in
which the school district couldn't afford to fix school
facilities, including a crumbling ice rink and pool which were
unsafe so the PTA raised money to fix them. She suggested a
better approach is to "build up" the public schools. She
emphasized the importance of separation of church and state.
she expressed concern that the majority of the schools [this
resolution will affect are religious based schools]. She stated
that public schools enroll all children, regardless of religion,
disability, or language since public schools are charged to
provide education. Further, she anticipated legal challenges
will happen with passage of HJR 1. In conclusion, she said she
did not believe most people want to amend Alaska's Constitution,
recalling that voters recently rejected a constitutional
amendment.

COURTNEY MARCHESANI, Administrator, Bridgeway Educational
Services (BES), stated that BES targets at-risk youth with
learning differences. She related that she attended public
school. She suggested that education needs to be owned
collectively and every family wants the best education for their
children. In fact, as children are growing up, parents
continually question whether they are obtaining the best
education for their children. She characterized this issue as a
heated topic statewide, one that is also being discussed
throughout the nation. Parents "cross their fingers" when
lotteries for charter schools are held, hoping that their
children will be selected for the one or two slots open slots.
Parents continually try to improve school processes and parental
involvement equals vested interest so these parents invest
energy to provide the best education possible for their
children.

MS. MARCHESANI reminded members that everyone has the same goal.
She said she is honored to work at BES to support teachers,
families, and students. The BES serves 18 students who have not
been able to seek the traditional school setting or attend
charter schools in Anchorage. In this small but effective
program teachers offer language arts, math strategies and many
curricula, as well as providing field trips for students. The
program has taught students classroom survival skills, which are
priceless for students who cannot learn in traditional ways.
She cautioned that even highly intelligent students who cannot
learn in conventional ways can get left behind. In fact, even
Albert Einstein was dyslexic and autistic, but he developed his
solutions are created real world solutions through music and his
equations are still used today.

MS. MARCHESANI said that BES exists as an ancillary support to
the Anchorage School District (ASD). She explained the BES is
not a stand-alone school, but provides resources, through a
vendor partnership that helps exhausted parents and hopeless
kids who are looking for effective learning solutions. Some of
the BES parents have been desperate to find the best education
for their children. She described some of the problems these
educationally-challenged children face. Thus the voucher system
could provide a valuable asset to these families currently being
served. She offered her belief that vouchers are not the
problem; instead, the real problem is that some children fall
through the cracks when their parents cannot afford a private
school education. The voucher system could provide an answer
for some parents, but would not cripple the local school
district. In fact, the voucher system has been used in other
districts to serve children with special needs and allow them to
thrive. She reiterated the voucher system will not hurt the
local school district, but would make it stronger and more
resilient. She concluded that this [resolution] could create a
"win-win" situation. She thanked members for their time,
commitment, and service.

REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked her to forward her written
testimony.

9:12:04 AM

KELLY WALTERS spoke in opposition to HJR 1. He offered his
belief that HJR 1 is a misnomer since parents currently have
choices with respect to their children's education. Under
current law, parents who wish to send their child to a private
school have the right to do so but they must pay for it. He
stated that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
crafts legislation that serves to put forward a radical ideology
that isn't necessary. He expressed concern that the Anchorage
School District (ASD) lost $25 million in funding. He also
expressed concern that the resolution, if passed, would use
public funds for private religious schools, which represents
political action on the part of churches. He expressed further
concern that some churches and institutions don't pay taxes,
which was addressed in an opinion piece by one of the authors of
Alaska's Constitution, Vic Fisher. He maintained that HJR 1 is
a solution for a non-existent problem and could limit funds for
public schools. He suggested this issue is related to other
legislative issues, including the reduction to oil taxes, which
reduces state revenues, and would limit education funding. He
characterized the [voucher] decisions as a "comedy of errors",
which stemmed from the ALEC organization. He viewed ALEC as an
organization that crafts "boiler plate" draft legislation for
partisan use. He summarized that the state cannot afford to
change the Alaska Constitution or deteriorate public dollars by
using public funds for private, religious schools, which blurs
the line of church and state.

9:16:12 AM

TAMMY SMITH stated her opposition to HJR 1. She suggested that
placing a referendum on the ballot to amend the Alaska
Constitution would allow public funds to be used for private
schools, corporations, or church schools without the benefit of
a full public discussion. She said this is unacceptable.
Legislators, as stewards of the Alaska Constitution, have the
responsibility to ensure entities are administered appropriately
and are protected, including the public school system. Further,
legislators are obligated to the state's interest. Therefore,
allowing a poorly vetted bill to move to a vote of the people
would be short-sighted, when little or no information regarding
its impact is known.

MS. SMITH asked a series of questions, including what costs
would be associated with a voucher program, if state regulations
would be required, if other states' voucher programs are
functioning, and whether protections exist for special education
or discrimination. She further asked for the voucher program's
student achievement and successes as compared to public schools
or religious-based schools. She expressed concern that these
are unknowns. She agreed that the public's opinion is
important, but only when Alaska's citizens are fully informed
and assured that the public schools are kept from great harm.
Certainly, there are many ways to improve public education,
including working with educators to improve teacher education
programs and creating opportunities for innovative practices.
She supported the concept of a four-day week. She suggested
other approaches could be taken instead of passing HJR 1, such
as increasing the length of time students are learning,
reinforcing family and school partnering, and delivering a rich
and varied curricula, all of which are better choices for public
schools than instituting a voucher system.

9:18:25 AM

REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND queried about the parameters for the
vouchers.

MS. SMITH responded that HJR 1 doesn't place limits on the type
of school that could benefit from public funds. She suggested
that the parameters should be developed prior to a public vote
on the resolution. In response to Representative P. Wilson, she
clarified that the legislature is responsible for the protection
of public education system in Alaska and to ensure adequate
funding for public schools in each community.

REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD stated numerous states have implemented
voucher systems. She recommended reviewing Florida's model of
reforms since children who were previously poor performers
benefited the most.

CHAIR GATTIS asked her to submit written testimony.

MS. SMITH offered to do so.

9:21:23 AM

WANDA LAWS spoke in opposition to HJR 1. She stated that she
has lived in Alaska since 1974, but her father was in the
military for 30 years so she traveled a lot and has attended a
number of other schools. She said Alaska's public school system
has served her well and she was able to participate in numerous
programs, including many after school programs. She offered her
belief Alaska's public school system is a good system even
though many programs she benefited from have since been cut.
She surmised these programs would be especially beneficial to
single parents. She questioned Alaska funding private schools
at a time when the public school funding is shrinking; however,
she pointed out she did not object to private schools, just the
concept of funding private schools with public funds. She
wondered whether the private school voucher system would be
affordable for low-income families in the event all costs for
private schools could not be covered by vouchers. She
questioned whether criteria would be developed to avoid
discrimination in terms of race, special education, or religion.
After all, public schools admit everyone, she said. She asked
whether teacher certification for private schools would be equal
to public teacher certification standards. For these reasons
she questioned the wisdom of funding the voucher system. She
acknowledged the benefits of giving parents some options;
however, she wondered if the public understood what school
choice and voucher systems actually mean or if parents will only
learn this when families must provide out-of-pocket supplemental
funding to cover the costs of private schools. In conclusion,
she also wondered if the voucher schools actually will benefit
the parents who can afford to send their children to private
schools and currently choose to do so.

9:26:24 AM

REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked whether she serves as an officer for
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) and if so, whether the NAACP has an opinion on the
Blaine Amendment or voucher systems, in general.

MS. LAWS agreed she serves as the President of the NAACP [but
she is speaking on behalf of herself today.] She offered her
belief that the NAACP would oppose HJR 1. She explained that
her personal opinion is aligned with the association's
perspective on HJR 1.

9:27:37 AM

STEVE EVENSON, Vice President, Northwest Religious Liberty
Association - Alaska (NRLA), expressed his concern about HJR 1.
He referred to language in HJR 1 that is removed from existing
statute [page 1, lines 8-10], which read [original punctuation
provided]:

[NO MONEY SHALL BE PAID FROM PUBLIC FUNDS FOR THE
DIRECT BENEFIT OF ANY RELIGIOUS OR OTHER PRIVATE
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION.]

MR. EVENSON said he appreciates being an American and having the
separation of church and state. He expressed concern that if
public funds are channeled to private schools, especially a
church-oriented school, the line between church and state would
become blurred. He questioned whether the state would dictate
what and how the private school must teach. He observed that
private schools are often specialized with programs by funding
availability. In fact, there is a distinction between private
and public schools and the funding should be separated, he said.
He stated he would oppose the resolution if funding for the
private institutions would occur. In response to a question,
Mr. Evenson responded that he lives in Alaska and his
organization represents private religious schools.

9:30:02 AM

REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND requested additional information from
his organization and the stance that he and other members hold,
which she surmised is in opposition to mingling public and
private funds. She suggested a resolution from the membership
would be helpful to the committee.

MR. EVENSON offered to provide the information on the Northwest
Religious Liberty Association. He agreed that other members of
his organization also oppose HJR 1, due to the mingling of
public and private funds.

CHAIR GATTIS asked him to provide information to her office for
distribution to committee members.

9:31:13 AM

REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asked whether the membership list for the
Northwest Religious Liberty Association is public.

MR. EVENSON replied that membership names could be made
available.

CHAIR GATTIS clarified that Representative LeDoux is interested
in the names of the schools not a list of the entire membership.

9:32:13 AM

REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked whether private schools would be
required to adhere to national standardized tests, which are
based on the common core curriculum. He asked whether that
would be problematic for the Northwest Religious Liberty
Association (NRLA).

MR. EVENSON answered he is most familiar with the schools he has
been involved with for 30 years. These schools are accredited
and are being served by accredited teachers. He said the focus
has been to ensure the schools meet the standards. However, his
concern about HJR 1 stems from governmental funds being provided
to religious schools and blurring the separation between church
and state. He outlined his primary concern is that government
may ultimately impose constraints on private schools. He said
he values education and his sons have attended private school
systems and have earned masters' degrees. Thus he appreciated
the benefits of private schools, but he also recognized the
benefits of public schools and the advantages of each system.
However, he maintained his concern over the blurring between the
separation of church and state.

REPRESENTATIVE SEATON remarked he did not wish to imply the
schools Mr. Evenson is affiliated with are not accredited. He
specifically wondered how the new common core standards being
adopted, with national standardized testing on these curricular
standards and whether private schools would adhere to these
standards.

MR. EVENSON clarified that the schools he is most familiar with
administer the Iowa Basic Tests.

9:35:56 AM

REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON understood his concern is that future
state legislatures might dictate the curriculum for private
schools under [the voucher system] for HJR 1. She said she did
not object to teaching from the Bible so long as students learn
skills. She asked him to pinpoint his fears.

MR. EVENSON responded that private schools exist for a
particular reason and focus. Additionally, private schools face
challenges such as financial resources and typically special
education is not available. Certainly, the public funding would
be advantageous; however, government may raise issues over time
on how funding is spent and dictate how a school, such as a
church-operated private school, must operate, he said.

9:38:45 AM

REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD asked whether his organization is a
national or Alaska-based organization.

MR. EVENSON answered that the NRLA's headquarters is in
Battleground, Washington. He explained that the Capital Pastor
Network operates in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and
Alaska and participates in the NRLA. The NRLA participates in
discussions on private schools, employment issues that pertain
to religious beliefs. He related that he serves as Vice
President for Alaska.

REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD also asked for a list of schools and
organizations that the NRLA represents in Alaska. She asked if
he could mention any schools in Alaska.

MR. EVENSON answered that he pastors two churches in Sitka and
Juneau that operate small schools. In fact, the schools each
have one teacher. He offered his belief that the church sets
high standards and the school functions well. His organization
represents six schools in Alaska. He maintained that the reason
for the private schools is to have the freedom to educate and to
maintain religious freedom.

9:41:29 AM

LIZ DOWNING spoke in opposition to HJR 1. She said that
vouchers are not a "win, win" situation, as previously suggested
by an earlier testifier. She stated Alaska is independent and
different. Alaska has experienced many years of budget cuts,
including significant cuts to career technology and electives,
such that students now have fewer choices. In the past five
years, the state has enhanced career technology and has
developed a forward thinking approach on funding, as well as
considering what will best serve students, she said. Vouchers
may work in some states with greater populations, but in Alaska,
a ten percent reduction to public education funding could
adversely impact the quality of education. Homer just approved
its fifth charter school and the district offers alternative
schools, home schools, and differentiated education. The public
school system is diverse, supportive, and implementation for
personalized education is on the rise. She just returned from
the Alaska Society for Technology in Education (ASTE) meeting,
where she held numerous great discussions. She cautioned
against spending resources on court battles over constitutional
issues [with passage of HJR 1], which would only deplete funds
from the currently successful schools. Instead, she preferred
an approach that would use educational resources to further
enhance the current system, which could become the best in the
world. She offered her belief that Alaska has the talent and
the small population to allow communities to quickly adapt. She
urged members not to pass HJR 1 and to move forward with
educational enhancements to the current public school system.
In response to a question, she indicated she currently serves as
Vice President of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School Board
(KPBSB) and chairs the KPBSB's legislative committee.
Additionally, she was just appointed to the ASTE Board and
serves as chair of that organization's advocacy committee.

9:46:12 AM

CHRYA SANDERSON, spoke in opposition to HJR 1. She related that
Governor Parnell came before the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce
recently. She had asked him why he was not in favor of
increasing the base student allocation (BSA) and he responded
that he did not want to fund something he did not feel would
provide good returns. However, she has worked in Fairbanks
since 1984 as a graduation success coach in education. She
worked for the Graduation Success Program for four years until
funding was cut, even though the program generated results.
This program provided 24 coaches who served elementary through
high school students. She described her work, noting her case
load was approximately 85 students, including some children who
had not been seen for 43 days. This program was designed to
engage families of at-risk students to help minimize behaviors
that interfered with learning, improve these children's self-
esteem, and raise their grades. Further, she partnered with the
Fairbanks Food Bank to ensure that her students received
appropriate meals, and school supplies. Some children even
needed clothes laundered and took showers at school. In fact,
graduation rates improved; however, in the last three years
without the program, student's rates have declined once again.
She offered to provide committee members with a report that
demonstrated the program's success. She described various
circumstances of students and how the program used various
learning styles to teach children. She emphasized the
importance of ensuring that Alaska's children receive the best
education and was reminded of the benefits of other programs,
such as the Head Start program. She spoke in opposition to the
resolution specifically since it will remove funding from the
school districts that already struggle. She reiterated her
offer to provide a report to demonstrate the improvements in
graduation rates during the nine years the program operated in
Fairbanks.

9:56:30 AM

REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON acknowledged the passage of HJR 1 could
be costly to the current state educational system. She asked
whether the aforementioned students would be candidates for
private schools if vouchers were available.

MS. SANDERSON surmised that the children she taught would likely
remain in the public school system.

9:57:35 AM

REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked for clarification on the comment
that "some children were not seen for 43 days."

MS. SANDERSON answered that several target students were not
sent to her classroom. She later discovered the students had
not been coming to school because they weren't able to live at
home. She described some of the efforts she made to assist
children in difficult circumstances.

REPRESENTATIVE DRUMMOND asked about her case load and asked
whether that affected her ability to help students.

MS. SANDERSON answered that she was able to move good students
to traditional classrooms to reduce her caseload and allow her
to focus on the core at-risk students.

10:01:00 AM

REPRESENTATIVE REINBOLD offered her belief that decisions about
graduation coach staff levels are made at the local school
district level. Also, she said the cost of a voucher system
would not necessarily cost the state any additional money. She
expressed concern that Alaska is investing large sums of money
[on education], yet student performance among the lowest in the
nation. She related her understanding that the goal is to
invest in education, obtain a rate of return, and review
programs to ensure the state's investment is sound.

10:02:01 AM

CHAIR GATTIS announced that public testimony would remain open
on HJR 1.

[HJR 1 was held over.]