Session Summary: Bill Review

Norm Wooten, Director of Advocacy, AASB

Following his overview of the legislature’s organization, AASB Advocacy Director Norm Wooten reviewed a number of key education-related bills that have been filed this session to provide attendees with a basic knowledge of legislation that may be considered this session.

He apologized for the lengthy list of bills, explaining that since the House has been unorganized, it is unclear at this time which bills will be taken up by the legislature.

HB 18 – Teachers NBC (Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins)

  • Public display of teachers who obtain National Board Certification
  • Bill does NOT require districts to pay for cost of program
  • NBC requires a $75 registration fee + $475 test fee for each of the four required components
  • As of 2019, 174 Alaska teachers are NBC.  Alaska has approximately 7,600 public school teachers
  • NBC teachers typically because leaders within their building

HB 25 Public School SEL (Rep. Hopkins)

  • Requires DEED to develop statewide standards for instruction in SEL
  • Districts already required to adopt SEL goals consistent with local needs -AS 14.07.165(a

Extend Special Service Education Agency

  • HB 43 (Rep. Story) – June 30, 2029
  • SB 19 (Sen, Stevens) – June 30, 2028
  • SB 19 has been heard in Senate Education

HB 47 – Council for Alaska Native Languages (Rep. Story)

  • Renames Alaska Native Language Preservation and Advisory Council
  • Council would be renamed “Council for Alaska Native Languages”
  • Council would increase voting membership from five members to seven members

HB 60 – Public School Mental Health Education (Rep. Claman)

  • The phrase “Physical” is deleted from the program menu
  • The phrase “Mental health” is added
  • Under the charge to the state board for standards the following sentence is added – “Health guidelines must provide standards for instruction in mental health and shall be developed in consultation with the Department of Health and Social Services and representatives of national and state mental health organizations”

HB 67 – Appropriation K-12 Academic Recovery (Rep. Story)

  • Purpose is to financially assist districts with making up academic losses in students due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Appropriates $20,000,000.00 to be distributed to districts

HJR 2  – Const Amend for a 90 Day Legislative Session (Rep. Claman)

  • Voter initiative previously passed to change to 90 day vs. 120 day but no constitutional amendment passed – 120 day session remains in the Alaska Constitution (Article 2, Section 8)
  • 90 day session severely limits public input
  • Legislative process is not designed to be “rushed” 
  • Legislative bills should receive multiple hearings and be thoroughly vetted with ample opportunity for public testimony

SB 8 – Pre-K, Elem Programs; Reading (Sen. Begich)

  • Also known as the “Alaska Reads Act”
  • Establishes support & reading intervention programs
  • Provides for P-K grants to local districts – implement in all districts over a period of 6 years

SB 15 – Open Meetings Act; Penalty (Sen. Costello)

  • Provides for a civil penalty, not to exceed $1000, for any elected or appointed public official who knowingly attends a meeting of a government body that violates Alaska’s Open Meetings Act (AS 44.62.310)

SB 17 Energy Efficiency – Public Bldgs (Sen. Begich)

  • Includes school buildings
  • Provides for energy audits to determine efficiency
  • Funded at $100,000,000.00 for retrofitting

SB 18 – Class Size Reduction Grant Program (Sen. Begich)

  • Local district establish class sizes
  • DEED establishes regulations for grant program
  • Grants may be used for additional staff or for addition or renovation to increase building size

SB 20 – Out-of-State Teacher Reciprocity

  • Must hold a valid teaching certificate
  • Fingerprints and background checks continue to be required
  • Alaska training requirements under AS 14.20.020 must be completed within three years
  • Alaska studies, multicultural, alcohol & drug abuse, sexual abuse, dating violence, suicide prevention

SB 32 – College Credit for HS Students (Sen. Stevens)

  • Districts would be required to submit reports on their students enrolled in dual credit programs
  • Number of students participating
  • Types of courses students are enrolled in
  • Total number of credits earned
  • Rate of subsequent enrollment postsecondary institutions
  • Postsecondary remediation rates of participating students

SB 34 – Tribal Education Compact Schools (Sen. Stevens)

  • State board would provide approval for compact schools
  • Compact schools would be required to comply with state education law
  • Compact schools would participate in funding from public education fund under rules of the foundation formula
  • Compact schools would educate children with disabilities
  • Compact schools must bargain with employees
  • Compact school has the same status as a borough or city school district

SB 42 – Virtual/Early Education; Reading (Sen. Hughes)

  • Districts to implement reading interventions
  • Reports required on employment data and reading performance
  • Implements Pre-K on a similar schedule to SB 8
  • Creates a Virtual Education Consortium

SB 31 – Prohibiting Binding Caucuses
SJR 3 – Const Amend: Binding Caucuses

  • A binding caucus requires members of the caucus to vote as a bloc on all substantive issues
  • A non-binding caucus does not bind the members – they may vote however they wish
  • It creates a situation in which a small group of legislators with a special agenda might “hold the majority hostage” in order to pass a bill such as the budget
  • In the event of a veto override attempt for an appropriation bill it makes for an even ”heavier lift” to reach a ¾ vote to override

SB 6 – RIP for Public Employees

  • Sponsor has said it is to assist public employers who may be forced to lay off off employees because of pandemic
  • Bill might also be called an “Early Retirement Plan”
  • The bill applies to municipalities, the university, and school districts (entities who participate in public retirement systems
  • It would permit an “early retirement” and is optional – the employing agency would determine employee eligibility and whether they would participate or not participate
  • Employing agency is defined as an “individual school district”

SB 16 – Equal Pay, Living Wage Act, Sex Discrimination

  • Would increase minimum wage from the current $9.75 to $15.00 per hour effective Jan 1, 2022

SB 37 – Teacher & Public Employees Retirement Plans

  • Would allow employees (including participants in TRS) to option to participate in a retirement benefits plan or a defined contribution retirement plan

SB 58 – Funding for Correspondence Programs

  • Adds additional funding to the Education Fund for increased students in correspondence programs

SB 39 – Ballot Custody/Tampering
SB 43 – Elections; Voting

  • Sponsors have repeatedly offered assurances there is no intent to limit citizen rights to vote
  • The reason for paying attention to these bills to to assure no barriers are erected for voting in REAA’s and Advisory School Board elections
  • Often difficult to find election workers and for elders to vote in person

SB 48 – Approp: Supplemental
SB 49 – Approp: Operating Budget
SB 50 – Approp: Capital Budget
SB 51 – Approp: Mental Health Budget

  • Always important to follow all the appropriations budget
  • There could possibly be a difficult hurdle to overcome in the Senate with a non-binding caucus.
  • The Senate Finance Subcommittees have already begun reviewing individual department budgets
  • The House, being unorganized, will likely be holding multiple daily Finance Committee meetings to “catch up” with the budget process and adjournment of the session