Wednesday, May 20, 2015

CS HB 44, After Long Discussion, Passes Unchanged From Education Committee

Sens.  Stevens, Giessel, Dunleavy, and Huggins before the hearing

This was a long discussion.  My impression was that the committee wasn't planning on changing anything, but that there was enough heat on them that they had to listen to some objections - mainly from Cindy and Butch Moore, whose daughter was shot by her boyfriend last June, and Sen. Liesel McGuire, who had sponsored one of the Erin's Law bills and had added the 'Bree's Law' section which added teen dating violence education.

Basic objections from the Moores was changing from opt out to opt in.  That is, that instead of letting parents opt out of sex abuse education classes, they now would have to give permission before they can take the classes.  The second objection was to changing "school districts shall"  to "school districts may" adopt the sexual awareness training.
Butch Moore with Sen. Stevens before hearing

McGuire's objections were 1) that there were constitutional questions about whether the committee could amend the bill with unrelated issues and 2) on practical legislative procedures grounds about whether adding parts that hadn't been vetted before committees, some controversial, might doom the bill to fail. 

Committee Chair Dunleavy at various times defended the changes in the bill.  He pointed out that making amendments to bills was part of the legislative process and not some evil activity, comparing the changes the committee made yesterday to the changes that Sen. McGuire made to the bill to add the teen dating violence aspects.  Staffer Sheila Peterson related the gist of a legal opinion about whether the amended bill would survive in court:  Depends on whether the judge interprets 'same subject" broadly or narrowly.  If judge says the subject is education it should be ok.  If the judge says the subject is 'sex abuse education'  probably not.  Everyone was acting excruciatingly civil, being sure to acknowledge each others' integrity and good intentions.

Huggins called McGuire the great omnibus bill creator and passer - presumably saying that was all they were doing here.  McGuire said one tip is to leave out controversial parts that might cause trouble.  I would add that omnibus bills try to tackle large complex issues with many parts - like energy policy - and that isn't quite the case here.  Rather, these other issues from failed bills were jammed in, presumably to try to piggy back them onto this bill that was likely to pass.  At least before the amendments were added.  

Toward the end, Sen. Giessel said that the common theme was parental rights and that these were given by God, not by the state.  After the bill had been passed out of committee, Sen. Dunleavy did a soliloquy on the importance of parental rights, the threat from the state to take away those rights, and this was an excellent bill and he didn't understand how anyone could be opposed to it.  This is worth reading or listening to because I think it helps understand Dunleavy's logic here and some of his basic values.   I might note that no one addressed, during the meeting, the language  "prohibiting a school district from contracting with an abortion services provider" or the part "prohibiting a school district from allowing an abortion services provider to furnish course materials or provide instruction concerning sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases."

Now it's supposed to move on to the Finance Committee.

Warning:  Below are my rough notes as I sat and listened.  I've cleaned them up a bit with spell checker.  As always, I caution readers that this is not verbatim, that things are missing, and words might not be exact, but it gets the gist of what was discussed until a more accurate record is available.  Which will probably be tomorrow.  (Yesterday's video and transcript are available today. Here's the link, though I'm not sure how long it will be good.)

Senate Education Hearing On Erin's Bill, Special Session Anchorage, May 20, 2015

11:01 am - meeting opens - Huggins, Stevens, Giessel, Dunleavy  - Sen. McGuire in the audience

Dunleavy goes over minutes of yesterday's meeting.
Testimony for several hours.  Previous to this meeting several hours of testimony.  Except funding and work ??? [I'm pretty sure this was about cutting out funding for ACT and SAT exams as well as the WorkKeys exam] ??? Rep. Gaddis - brand new program, budget issue, wanted to end it as a cost saving measure.

Sen. Stevens:  Something happened, I need to explain.  Lisa Parady, with the Alaska Council of School Administrators, sent email upset with me.  I think Erin's law is excellent piece of legislation and should pass.  As the father of two daughters and one son.  Ms. Parady was talking about everything and unfunded mandates.  I focused on unfunded mandate on Erin's law.  Sure, it's unfunded.  Many districts already doing this.  The Rasmussen Foundation has come forward and said they'd help, online training, in person training, and materials.  There are obstructionists saying it is unfunded.  That's baloney.  I say just go ahead and do it.  Apologize if I offended.  Not my intention.  People dragging their heals on excuse of unfunded mandate.

Dunleavy:  Further discussion, questions, if not, I'd like to remove my objection for purpose of discussion.  Any objection to adopting the CS?  No objections.  People waiting online and in the audience.  Sheila has numerous notes, public testimony in your packets.  Many sections of the bill - Erin's law well vetted.  The teen dating component, the Moores are intimately tied to and we understand, and that's been well vetted.

The only issue is the bill that passed in the house - Gaddis - it doesn't preclude a school from helping a kid take the SATs, but the law was that every student had to take it.  That the only issue that I believe that was not vetted by this committee.  Are there any questions that committee members have at this point?   [Gets note]  Cindy and Butch Moore you want to come forward and give closing statement?

Cindy Moore:  Here because of my daughter, Worked with Sen McGuire and Rep Millett, want to talk to objections.  Proven fact, children who are physically and sexually abused are not operating normally in class, can't learn, truant, aggressive, all problems for teachers.  If we teach them preventive measures, this will free up teachers' time.
Unfunded mandate - we've had many organizations saying there are grants available to implement this.  So not unfunded mandate.  What all need to realize.  Having our kids take that first step and come forward to authority figure to say they are being abused is the first step in recovery.  They won't do that if they don't have education on how to do that and who to talk to.  The CS version yesterday is a real slap in the face to the mother of  daughter who was killed.  Why is it ok for the committee chair to make it mandatory, but take away the part on teen violence and sexual awareness making it optional.  A slap in the face to all parents who have had their children sexually assaulted and their children abused.  I want you to think about that.

Butch Moore:  I'm Breanna's father.  This is a special section.  The gov asked for Erin's Law and Medicaid.  I'm in construction, if you were asked to complete a task - two line items - this train is moving.  What you have done, Sen. Dunleavy, is added a bunch of junk that has nothing to do with this bill that will kill the bill.  When you say schools 'shall', they will do it.  You've changed it to' may'.  You've taken all the power out of the bill.  You are killing the entire intent of the bill.  Cindy and I have been very polite, particularly in the meetings.  I'm asking you to go back to the three page bill, to the senate, the governor will sign it and our kids will be protected.  10,000 kids a year and that doesn't count teen dating.  Our daughter was in Oregon when her sister was killed.  She has two daughters.  Not coming back to Alaska.  We lead the nation in these numbers.  How will it look nationally to learn that this bill was blocked by three Senators - Dunleavy, Giessel, and Huggins.  I'm a contractor, if I took this long to get my job done, it would be terrible.

Liesel McGuire:  Thanks for opportunity to testify.  The version of the bill before the committee today is not the version the Senate passed two years ago.  Most of the senate has already voted for the clean version.  There is broad bi partisan, regional support.  Rep. Millett, Sen. Garner, and Rep Tarr have all taken this bill.  All four have had wide public hearings.  My worry is multifaceted.
  1. Constitutionally, the specific item was HB 44, fear that it is being expanded that I don't think is defensible.  Should this bill pass, would it undermine the langauge of Erin's and Bree's law.  Constitutional.
  2. Process and Fairness - it's exciting to be doing this in Anchorage.  The Moores can participate without having to buy a $600 plane ticket.  But I'm embarrassed by how it looks like the process is being distorted.  None of the three other bills are free of controversy.  None have passed unanimously.  They have valid public policy points.  It's within your rights to hear things as you will, but to roll it into an uncontroversial bill could kill it.  Alaska leads the nation in abuse and violence in every category, age, race, gender.  We do not want this to continue.  Every year try to take one more piece to pull back the veil and shame of domestic violence.  Still the most dangerous place in America for women and children.  Today is an opportunity to change the culture in Alaska, by empowering the victims, who have been shamed and threatened into silence.  We've heard powerful testimony from people like David Holthouse.  David contemplated suicide and murder of his perpetrator.
Cindy and Butch Moore - this was a good bill.  The additions, I may support later, I don't know.  Millet is the Majority leader in the house and isn't sure it will pass.  If you want my support and other people's support to pass the other measures, let's talk about it.
Let's not muddy this up.

Dunleavy:  Last year Erin's Law passed 20-0.  Was Bree's Law in there?

McGuire:  No

Dunleavy:  Folks might not like what is occurring.  I've been in committees where things are amended.  Not shady, unconstitutional, illegal, part of the process.  We actually slowed the bill down so you could add Bree's Law to it.

Stevens:  I think I understand the implication to our school districts and departments, about Erin's law.  But I don't understand the teen dating violence curriculum.

McGuire:  Sen Dunleavy is right.  The bill that passed the Senate was titled Erin's law.  It was mandatory not optional and did not contain Bree's law.  The Moore family asked me to add Bree's Law in.  I agree, and both have been vetted.  I agree that nothing was shady.

We already have the Greendot program.  That is the base for the teen dating violence program and Rasmuson Foundation has also offered to help.  I believe STAR will also come forward.
You are right that many districts have already adopted and for those districts that are concerned, we're trying to offer help.

Stevens:  Can you explain the shall to may change.

McGuire:  You all require in an earlier hearing.  Should parents have the right to opt in or out.  Agreed that parental rights were retained.  Later, the bill still had snags over concerns of unfunded mandated issues, rural issues not equipped to put it in place.  Discussion for opt in language for parents and shool districts.  The genesis for shall to may.  Don't let the perfect get in the way of the possible.  Look at the most important thing - giving info to vulnerable children.  Give it to as many as you can.  If making it optional makes it possible for the bill to pass, then I'm for it.  I think the three additional parts may be a bridge too far.

Huggins:  If I were to portray you in getting legislation done, you are a master of omnibus bills.  Each piece of an omnibus bill carries it's own merit.  My standard - we aren't seeking to pass something in the house.  I'm confident it will pass the Senate and I've talked to the Moores.  What advice do you have for omnibus bills?

McGuire:  Thank you for compliment.  I've tried to bring broad base of support.  Things they are cut for me are when there is too much controversy that might jeopardize other parts.  I've even done it with my own things.  I appreciate what's been said.  I respect you all, I think you are ethical people.  You are dealing with a highly emotional issue, with frustrations about not getting it passed.  Then you add, perfectly in your right, three other bills with their own constituents, and that is problematic.

I want to see the basic part of the bill passed.

Huggins:  We all have children.  I have three.  I feel comfortable with what my kids are learning.  Some of the things in the bill, when I see opportunity to empower parents, we shouldn't miss that opportunity.

McGuire:  I do agree.  I appreciate this committee's good discussion.  You don't want to remove the right and obligation of parent to interact with schools on these issues.  Why I accepted this in the first place.  I agree, if you would poll, Alaskans, they would want parental input.  That said, what I like about it as an underpinning in school, many parents are not there for their kids, and are in fact perpetrators.
ADN's Nat Herz and Sen Dunleavy

Huggins:  We probably have as good a rapport from Matsu with superintendent and I'm sure our superintendent will take this and run with it.  Is there a difference in the Anchorage School District

McGuire:  Yes there is.  I've highlighted them in other places.  What you've done in the valley is competition driven.  ASD is more diverse - 120 languages - that's one challenge.  Politically a little more liberal.  I wouldn't say the challenges faced by kids in ASD are that much different from those in Matsu.  Repealing SAT - I'd have concern with students who might be raised in families where the families are trying to curtail the opportunities their kids have.  I've heard these stories.  Sometimes a test like this is the key for a kid to be able to follow her dreams.  I want to study these bills.  We have immigrant families who don't know about college the way others do.  Or there is a scholarship available if you score high enough on the test.

Huggins:  I feel comfortable that no one who wants to take the test will be denied.  And a number take the tests earlier.  We face budget issues.  People who want to take the test . . .

Dunleavy:  It's a program that's one year old.  If we have a low income child, they will be able to take the test.  It's easier to stop new project.
Another question.  One reason we slowed down this bill, because you wanted to amend the bill.  You were gone because of illness in the family.  But I want to emphasize that you amended this bill.
I had bills that I slowed down because of amendments.  No one on the committee will say that children should be harmed in any fashion.  I have three daughters - 22, 16, 18?    If anyone says that anyone who changes it is in favor of hurting kids or is complicit in hurting kids.  You feel adamant about your parental rights.  Part of the reason we are here is because of your unfortunate absence.  Bree's section is an amendment.

McGuire:  I haven't heard anyone question the commitment to kids.  My testimony, to be clear, is that I had two main concerns around practicality.  Not to imply motive or that it's not in your purview.  I said it was based on the Governor's call for HB 44, which contained only the Brees Law and Erin's Law.  That's my first concern.

Number 2, one of practicality.  I've never heard the bill on AZT SAT.  From a practical point of view - trying to get across the finish line.  What I amended was something closely related and had broad support.  I want to be clear on the record.  Not saying you don't have the right or the right motive.  I believe you are all great.

Giessel:  Glad you brought up issue of   children.  There is actually a centralized theme.  It goes back to central authority of parents to direct their kids education.  This right is not given by government.  It is God given.  That is the central theme.  While you may think these are unrelated issues.

Dunleavy:  We agree that Erin's law is a good bill.  Would you agree that you made it better by adding Bree's law?

McGuire:  Yes.

Dunleavy;  Most of us have been working through this special session.  Trying to find out that if we run bills they are constitutional.  Sheila, is a CS that we have before us, what did legal counsel share.

Sheila Peterson:  I work at ??? - Asked me to work closely with Doug Gardner at Legal Services.  One question I asked was whether the topics were germane to topic.  It is constitutionally required that it cover only one subject.  It would go to the court to get determination.  Legal services want to look at all possibilities.  Doug wrote the opinion and I can make copies.  he did say in a regular session, it would be germane.  One topic, public education.  In a special session, with the governor saying HB 44 - Sexual Abuse and Dating Violence - we have heard several bills 31 and 37 on the same subject.  Sen 31 - two amendments added were in 31  fingerprinting and ???.  But that is a little more complicated.  Doug said court will look at broad range of interpretation, then ok.  Nothing in the bill not about public education.  if the court takes a narrow view, there may be a problem.  Some of these do not relate to sexual abuse. 

Dunleavy:  Did Doug say it was unconstitutional?

Sheila:  No

Dunleavy:  He can't determine that, it's up to the courts.  Fiscal note?

Sheila:  Substitute was designed for zero fiscal note.

Dunleavy:  When we constructed the bill we wanted to not add any money to the budget.  No additional costs.  That's one reason the bill is in, because it reduces costs.  It's not a lot of money, but it's a little bit.  I think it's a good addition to the bill.  Still have DOE on line and Dr. Lisa Parady with Council of School Administrators.

Stevens:  Complex bill.  Part that I have concern about is testing.  High School exit exams - parents said that HS diploma has no meaning any more.  So exit exam was installed to correct that and it didn't work and we did away with it.  Now we're going to the next step and getting rid of these tests.  What does a HS diploma mean?    If we do away with these tests, what do we have left?  What is the accountability. 

 Dunleavy:  That was part of the discussion last year when we got rid of exam.  If you didn't pass the exit exam you only got a certificate of attendance.  That high stakes test was gone.  Prior to that school districts and children always taking tests - ACT and SAT.  They were aimed at kids entering college, but not to evaluate academic performance.

Stevens:  It seems to me that the Work??? is a good demonstration.

Les Morse:  Dept of Ed. Early Development - Whole idea behind the ACT and SAT to move from basic skills assessment to determine if kids with academic ed in HS, were they ready for college.  the Work Key on work preparedness.  Work Keys could be designed for all students no matter what the student's objective.  But when we put this requirement in place, concern about how many tests.  We eliminated the HS qualifying exam that too 3 or more days.  Hesitated to have everyone to take the Work Keys, we didn't want to require college bound kids who wanted to take the ACT or SAT.
In terms of student accountability - it helps the kids to think about the future and the way we do it, a lot more students have access.  Students still have to pass the local district requirements - state has minimum requirements.  That would be the individual student accountability.  None, now, are high stakes tests.  For students.

Stevens:  Where are we now?  If we pass this, what does that mean?  What does a HS grad have to do?  You said, pass their classes.  Would you have to take any of the tests?

Morse:  If passed, that part of it - removal of college readiness component - the last time they would take a statewide test would be in 10th grade and has no impact on going on to next grade.  They could choose to take the ACT and SAT if available in the community.  The Work Keys test would not be available.  Dept. of Labor isn't set up for doing that.  The funding is no longer in our budget.

Stevens:  Still concerns about this.  Especially ACT and SAT.  Probably means kids in smaller communities won't have access.  Kids would have to fly somewhere to take it.

Dunleavy:  When I taught in rural Alaska in the 80s and 90s I actually proctored the SAT.   If all children took the ACT or SAT and question of accountability came up - again, these tests aren't for accountability are they?  Are the scores posted - show what percent of student.

Morse:  They are posted in State Report Card to the public.  That's always been in place - statewide aggregate.  Also need to clarify.  There are places in rural Alaska where these are given, but not in all sites.  One district with 11 sets, offer ACT in 2 of their 11 sites.  Costs incurred.  We did increase ACT testing significantly by using a state contract.  Passage of this bill which removes the Work Keys, ACT, and SAT.  The kids would get nothing from the school, they would have to pay for it.  Access would be gone for kids.

Dunleavy:  How long has ACT been around that required ?

Morse:  Since 2010.  There was no limitation for one - the Work Keys.

Dunleavy:  Eliminating to save money was this year?

Morse:  That model was crafted to say for SAT, ACT, and Work Keys.  Now it removes all the money?

Dunleavy:  This program was not in place?

Morse:  In the past we only paid for Work Keys.

Giessel:  We eliminated exit exam because it was so dumbdowned.  Was it effective assessment to know how the schools?

Morse:  I wouldn't say completely ineffective, but the population was for the population of students who were really struggling.  It didn't necessarily tell the public how our students were doing.

Norm Wooten:  Association of Public School Boards

Huggins:  I move that the bill is moved.

Dunleavy:  Any objections?  Seeing none, the bill will move to the next committee.

Stevens:  Plan is to go to Finance committee?

Huggins [Dunleavy (sorry!!!)]:  I think it's a very good bill.  I think it's crucial that we train students in what is good touch bad touch, the Stranger Danger notion in the past is unmasked.  There are folks that kids know who take advantage of them.  I think component that we put in there after Bree is also crucial.  Especially in this modern age of cell phones.  Even great parents don't know what is happening to their kids.  I came from a family of all boys.  Not just women.  Mostly perpetrated by men on women.  This goes a long way to make sure this doesn't happen.  I think the parental rights component is crucial.  I have lots of parents who feel they are not citizens, but subjects of the state of Alaska.  It has become such a coercive relationship between citizens and the state.  This bill says, wait a minute.  We don't think this particular survey is right for our children.  We aren't ready to cede to the state that parents are not fit at best and criminal at worst.  The mandates we are taking off of school districts - as a teacher, principal - I've seen and even participated in the piling on of the greatest latest methods.  Components in training teenagers learn to relate properly.  I believe that most parents will not opt out.  I certainly won't.  I don't think I'd opt out.  I'd want to see the curriculum.  What is really happening in the schools.  We thought it was math, science and history.  We're finding out it's more.  No rush of parents saying we want to adopt common core, we want high stakes testing.  This was not done by parents.  Parents were asking me, what rights do we have left as parents.  There is no other place where people not charged with crime are coerced into doing things.  Don't do this elsewhere.  But with education it's there.  I think it's a great bill.  Any one who would vote against this bill because of some of the components in the bill, should give it another thought.  I don't want to see us knocking on doors with police officers because we want to drag off their kids to educate them they way we want.  There's a good private school  There is too much fear with government.  We talk about overreach of federal government.

Will there people having a tough time voting for this bill?  Maybe.  This is a serious bill with serious topics.  I think the passage of this bill, Alaska takes a step forward.  Parents, people expected to help them with homework, put them on the bus, their first teachers, should be part of the process.  I think this bill goes a long way to prevent that.

For folks thinking maybe not, they'll have to follow their conscious.  Public process not always easy.  Sometimes very difficult.  Thank the Senators here, including Gardner, but I want to emphasize, if you have a son getting a PhD from MIT, you have to be there.

 School supporters and Medicaid supporters in front of Legislative Information Office when I left. 

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